Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA)

Many children of alcoholic/dysfunctional families do not fully realize the long-term impact their upbringing has had on them until they have reached adulthood and have created families of their own. Many appear to lead highly successful, joyous lives. They believe they have freed themselves from their childhood and have resolved past hurts. Due to many being overachievers, they often go unnoticed by professionals, as they are resilient and appear to be coping well. These children are often misidentified as not needing help and as a result, a great injustice occurs in that these kids do not receive the support they so desperately need.

Few people recognize that these same individuals, now adults, are often plagued by self- doubt, guilt, feelings of emptiness, anxiousness, a need for control, mistrust, and anger. The individuals themselves may feel disconnected from their own emotions—having been creative survivalists as kids and learning to discount all that they saw, heard, and felt while growing up.

Some common characteristic of ACOA’s as identified by Dr. Janet Woititz:

• Have difficulty having fun
• Judge themselves without mercy
• Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
• Overreact to changes over which they have no control
• Constantly seek approval and affirmation
• Are either super responsible or super irresponsible
• Feel they are different from others
• Low self esteem and low self worth
• Fear of abandonment
• Have difficulty with intimate relationships
• Are extremely loyal, even when evidence indicates loyalty is underserved

These suggested readings help highlight common patterns that emerge in the children raised in chemically dependent/dysfunctional families. Many of these kids assume certain ‘roles’ within their home, which is often influenced by age and sibling order. Some of these roles include: The “Hero”, the “Scapegoat”, the “Placater”, and the “Adjuster”. These children often maintain these same roles into adulthood, even when the roles prove limiting, exhausting, and unhelpful in their present lives. Growing up in such chaotic environments greatly impacts a person’s view of him/herself, his/her view of others, and can significantly impact one’s sense of self and right to happiness. These books can help generate personal insight, normalize past experiences commonly endured in such households, and give hope for an improved future.