ACOAs will never blame their alcoholic parents

Adult children of alcoholics

Almost one in five (18%) adults in the United States lived with an alcoholic (commonly known as Adult Children of Alcoholics, or ACOA) during childhood. Some fail to recognize the signs and grow up with invisible scars and deficits without realizing that they are not alone and that help is available. Others in families with severe dysfunction struggle to create a better life by using their intellect to figure it out or by imitating their peers who appear "normal".

Regardless of whether the family problems were moderate or severe, most ACOAs will at some point find themselves in a crisis where their lack of emotional balance and relationship skills catches up with them.

Maggie, 36, sought counseling after her divorce from an alcoholic. She worried that the possible negative consequences of alcoholism and the ensuing divorce could hurt her 6-year-old son and their own future relationships. Maggie grew up with an alcoholic father and a passive mother. Despite her determination never to live like her parents, she fell in love and was blind to the first signs of addiction in her husband.

She eventually reached out for help and was determined to break the pattern by looking at her childhood before entering into another painful relationship. It is not uncommon for ACOAs to seek help when their children reach an age that reflects a period of pain from their own childhood. They can also seek help if they notice a recurring pattern in their relationships.

Most adult children of alcoholics want to forget their past. Some never talk about it and assume that they can move on and let it go forever. Unfortunately, the shadow of a troubled childhood follows us until we find the courage to face it. The Healing Process From Trauma Growing up in an unsafe environment takes time, but it's worth the effort and the tears. The quality of life improves dramatically when you are able to leave old patterns behind and remove the blind spots that influenced your decisions.

Not all alcoholic families are created equal. Some are more serious than others and have multiple problems. ACOAs may have loving but inconsistent parents, making it difficult for them to speak negatively about their childhood to anyone.

Effective therapy ACOAs do not include confrontations or blame on parents. It is possible to love someone and be disappointed and hurt at the same time. These conflicting feelings can be expressed and addressed in therapy, which will ultimately help heal relationships with parents and adult siblings.

Important elements of effective ACOA treatment and recovery are:

  • Development of a support system. Knowing that you are not alone gives you courage and reduces the fear and shame you can bear.
  • Learning about the nature of addiction and the impotence that plagues the addict. It's not your fault and you can't fix it.
  • Understanding the natural tendency to be an enabler when you love someone and the fear that, as an enabler, holds you in a pattern that can prolong the problem.
  • Examine how you adapted to a dysfunctional, or for some abusive, environment and how this is visible in your life today.
  • Give yourself credit for the good things you did as a child, especially your elasticity, determination, and strength.

Although we cannot change the past or the people we love, healing and recovery are possible with support and guidance. Experience therapy with ACOAs has been shown to reduce shame, improve self-esteem, and provide tools for healthier relationships.

The Breakthrough ACOA One Day Experience Workshop provides a foundation for understanding the effects of growing up with alcoholism and provides a proven path to becoming the authentic, safe, and confident adult you are meant to be.