10 Things the Adult Child of an Addict Wants You to Know

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I’ve been working with a client whose father was an alcoholic and I read with great interest this article printed in The Good Men Project.

“Our self-esteem is exceptionally low. Our addicted parents were unable to provide the love and nurturing we required to form secure attachment.”

There are many adults among us—many of whom you might not recognize—with intimate knowledge of what it’s like to grow up with an addicted parent. Sadly, there are also many people who love those adults and don’t know what it is like to have become an adult who was once a child raised amongst chaos.

For many of us, our entire childhood was swathed in dysfunction. As development goes, the severe dysfunction of our childhood probably resulted in severely delayed or stunted emotional growth.

Being the child of an addict is complicated, and we can’t always verbalize how so. Even if we’ve had enough therapy to buy our psychiatrist a boat, we still may not even know we are dysfunctional. Bear with us as we continue the work of figuring it all out.

Here are the 10 things we’d like you to know—even if we can’t articulate them:

1. We don’t know “normal.” Normal is a relative term, yes. But our normal is not on the relativity scale. Normal for us can include instability, fear, even abuse. Normal might be a parent passed out in their own vomit. Normal might be taking care of your household, your siblings, your parent(s), and very rarely yourself. This profound lack of understanding leads us to the conclusion that normal = perfect, and less than perfect is unacceptable. Perfect is a non-negotiable term—there are no blurred lines. It’s all or nothing.

2. We are afraid. A lot of the time. And the fear is hidden—sometimes very deeply. We are afraid of the future, specifically the unknown. The unknown was our reality for many years. We may not have known where our parents were, or when they’d return. We might not have known if there would be dinner or drunkenness. While we may know now that those things aren’t likely to happen, that doesn’t make life any less terrifying. This fear may express itself in a number of ways, everything from anger to tears. We probably won’t recognize it as fear.

3. We are afraid (part 2: children). We are afraid to have children and when we do, we are afraid to wreck them, like we are wrecked. If we can acknowledge our own damage, we definitely don’t want to inflict it on anyone else. We don’t really know how to be a parent. It’s actually panic inducing. We will second-guess everything we do and may over-parent for fear of under-parenting.

4. We feel guilty. About everything. We don’t understand self-care. We don’t have clear-cut boundaries. If we stand up for ourselves, we feel guilty. If we take care of ourselves, we feel guilty. Our life is built on a foundation of I give to you and receive nothing. We don’t know how to receive. –

See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/10-things-the-adult-child-of-an-addict-wants-you-to-know-kt/#sthash.6IlalvNK.ZeLjAQ4M.dpuf

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