Have you ever felt you have trouble with your impulse control or coping skills? Do you get anxious easily? Do you have difficulty accepting help from others? Do you self medicate and don’t consider yourself an addict or alcoholic? These are some of the symptoms of being an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA).
The media spends so much time on alcoholics and addicts because let’s face it, celebrity addiction is scandalous news and it goes along with a generation of “celebrity worshipers.” However, there is a whole population of others that suffer along with the addicts and alcoholics? They are known as Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s). Their issues are just as painful and as you may already know, addiction is a family disease. Growing up as a child in a family of alcoholics and addicts can be extremely traumatic.
If you answered yes to most of the questions above, you may be dealing with the after effects of growing up in a chaotic family system. Other symptoms of ACOA’s can include having a loss of trust in others and yourself, always feeling helpless, self-destructive behaviors, shame, intimacy problems, isolation, and somatic issues.
I have one client who had been self sufficient, a high achiever, raised two children, and when she decided to retire, she developed a host of problems including panic attacks, severe depression, and fibromyalgia. She was experiencing trauma frozen in her body. Now all her childhood pain being raised by a mentally ill and alcoholic mother was expressing itself physically and emotionally.
· If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms, there is help out there. See a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, a chemical dependency counselor, a spiritual advisor, and most importantly go to an Al-Anon meeting. Al- Anon offers strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers and Nar-Anon is for families of addicts. At least four other people are effected by someone’s addiction or alcoholism. Another helpful program is Codependents Anonymous (CODA). I started my road to recovery in the rooms of Coda. It is a program that helps individuals who have the tendency to be people pleasers and excessively caretaking focusing on others.
· When you are continually dealing with the trauma of having an addict and alcoholic in your life, the continual focus on them can have an extremely negative impact on your own relationships and quality of life. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are being codependent because you were so invisible growing up in a family where your own needs weren’t met. You were too busy taking care of your sick parents in their disease of alcoholism or addiction and never learned to take care of yourself. Take care of yourself now. You are that important.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach. She is the author of “The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery.” She is the Life Coach and go-to expert on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab and has created a seven step program for uniting the concepts of the Law of Attraction with one’s authentic self for a powerful recovery.