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Alcoholics and addicts often come from dysfunctional families; sometimes, that dysfunction includes parents or other relatives who are also addicts. If that was your situation, chances are you have developed a kind of persona or character to deal with your family situation that is completely out of touch with your authentic self.
Living a life of authenticity is one of the steps in the Law of Sobriety. When you are living authentically, the energy of who you are on the inside will be expressed on the outside. This is the only way for your true self to emerge. But for some of us, authenticity does not come easily.
Parents who are caught up in their own problems are not emotionally or even physically present for their children. They leave little room for their children to discover who they are, how they feel, or what they want. The children are almost invisible when they are at home.
Families of addicts build a wall of secrets around them to sustain their dysfunction. The children are then forced to buy into the idea of putting up a front that “everything is okay.” The secret is sustained thorough threats and shame. Any family member who tries to bring attention to the problem is ostracized and made to feel guilty.
Children in these families have such anxiety about what might happen if the “family secret” ever got out that their true self remains hidden away. There are no opportunities for them to discover their true essence because they are too busy taking care of their parents’ needs and protecting their secret. They become children who have to act like adults way before their time, leaving very few opportunities to go on the journey of self-discovery that is vital for emotional growth and maturity.
Children in this situation develop a false persona as a way to both protect the family secret and deny to themselves how dysfunctional their family really is. They learn to slip into this false self without even being aware of it, and bury their true self someplace inaccessible.
Adult children of alcoholics may continue living this false role because it seems easier and safer. But this lack of authenticity comes at a terrible price: honesty and a clear sense of identity are sacrificed. Eventually, the adult children of alcoholics become the false personas they have created. They are out of touch with who they really are. Living inauthentically may feel easier to them, but in reality, their true self is always fighting to emerge. The effort of keeping it hidden can become too much, and they end up as addicts or alcoholics themselves.
That’s why the recovery process is always a journey of self-discovery. The effort you put into hiding away your true self zaps all your energy and makes sobriety just about impossible. When you set yourself free and life a life of authenticity, sobriety is just the beginning of what is possible.