addiction, addictive personality, adult children of alcoholics, alcoholism, anxiety, codependence, depression, domestic abuse, domestic violence, empowerment, health, mental health, mental illness, ocd, ptsd, self-help

Adult Children of Alcoholics and Interpersonal Relationships

Adults that grew up living in the home of an alcoholic ( or drug addict) parent tend to have some problems with interpersonal relationships. We need help to learn the things that we were deprived of learning as a child about setting boundaries and maintaining balance within relationships.

As a child the world within an alcoholic household was unpredictable, unstable and unsafe.

Children need to feel that they can count on their parents to care for them and to love them. Adult children of alcoholics did not have this type of experience.

There are stages of development that require proper nurturing , support and guidance.

Children in alcoholic households do not properly progress through these stages, particularly in regards to social interaction. We  did not develop a sense of self, and sense of self-esteem, like other children do.

Other children were growing up in families which defined clear roles of each family member. Each member had a place and a value in the family. The roles and responsibilities of the children are appropriate. The family works together as a unit and the older members teach, encourage and guide the younger ones.

This functionality and delegation of appropriate roles is non-existent in an alcoholic household.

In fact, children often take on inappropriate roles and have responsibilities that are unfair for their age. They take on responsibilities that should belong to an adult.

So, the adult coming from this kind of upbringing is truly confused about roles an responsibilities. Often they will voluntarily take on an unreasonable amount of work. They will pick up responsibilities in a relationship that are not appropriate.

A woman may pick up responsibilities that should belong to her husband because he is too sick with alcoholism to do them. A man will take over the job of mother and father to cover for his alcoholic wife.

There is a confusion in the mind of the Adult Child as to what “normal” is and what is fair.

They are often unaware that too much is being dumped on them. They perceive that they are being a helpful partner and are being supportive.

It often does not occur to them when they are being taken advantage of by a romantic partner.

Often the partner they choose is an alcoholic or some other compulsive personality, like a workaholic. Someone who is emotionally unavailable. As much as the Adult Child needs emotional support and love, they lack the self-esteem to know that they are worthy of it.

Realizing that these are common tendencies of an adult child of alcoholism can help the Adult Child to begin to look at their behavioral patterns and their relationship roles more realistically.

As Adult Children of Alcoholics, we tend to believe the emotionally abusive partner acting in a way that is understandable and acceptable. We feel we have done something to deserve it when they attack our self-esteem which is already tenuous.

Children of alcoholics are used to NOT having our needs met. We are used to people being emotionally unavailable to us.

As a children we  had to pick up the slack for the alcoholic parent. We had to make sure dinner was made and other things were taken care of. When the alcoholic parent was disabled , we had to pick up their jobs for them, especially if we had younger siblings. The younger children in the family become used to relying on the oldest child or the oldest daughter to take care of things.

It is very easy for the romantic partner of the Adult Child to take advantage of them. It is easy for them to say things to make the Adult Child feel unworthy , ashamed and obligated to take on an unreasonable amount of jobs.

There is a loss of self if the partner takes advantage of the adult child. .

It is difficult for the Adult Child to identify their own needs. But they are aware and indulgent of the partner even to the point of neglecting their own needs.

Children and especially teenagers of alcoholics have to help the parent, because the parent is disabled to perform even the most basic functions like cooking, cleaning and child care.

Adult children of alcoholics need help, to learn how to have balance in a relationship. They need to be with a partner that is sensitive to the fact that the other person is unclear on the roles. A partner that will help to maintain a fair balance in the work. Someone who is emotionally available and cares about their feelings.

If you are an Adult Child of an alcoholic you may be stuck in a relationship now with an inappropriate partner. The best thing for you to do is to find ways to build your self-esteem.

This would most likely be things that do not involve your partner. Activities that require using your gifts and your strengths and interests would be helpful to increasing your self-esteem.

In order to evaluate a current relationship or search for a new relationship , you need to build your self esteem. When we have a low self esteem, we cannot see things in perspective. We may perceive a relationship as being balanced and fair, even when all the responsibility is being dumped on us.

You need to see yourself as a valuable and worthy person. This will help you to have more clarity of mind and perspective when making relationship decisions.

Without self-esteem a person will continue find themselves in bad relationships.

I would suggest writing down a list of things you are good at. Write down things that you value in yourself and qualities that are attached to your self-esteem.

The more comfortable you become with feeling that you deserve good things, the more you will be able to evaluate situations in a healthy way.

Slowly your life can become more manageable. You will become comfortable with healthy relationships and uncomfortable with bad ones.

God bless you on your path

Namaste ,

4 thoughts on “Adult Children of Alcoholics and Interpersonal Relationships”

  1. there is also the genetics to consider. children of alcoholics likely get gift of genetics from there parents.. even though living with an alcoholic makes them not want repeat the same mistakes they grew up with, their genetic predisposition makes that difficult. while they may be able to avoid alcohol, they are predisposed to some form of addiction.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. unfortunately this is true of my son; grammy, mommy, daddy, and now sonny … he knows but he isn’t ready to do anything about it. He knew before he started that it was likely but he thought he could be careful 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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