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Adult Children of Alcoholics: 10 Keys to Go From Dysfunctional Family to Thriving

Adult Children of Alcoholics

I am writing today about adults who grew up with one or more alcoholic parents. Growing up in a family like this means usually that you grew up in either some kind of chaos or neglect or both.  Since that was the family you grew up in, it may feel “normal’” and it may at first be hard to notice the effects.  However, here are just some of the possible effects of living in an alcoholic home:

  1. You are very controlled and have a hard time letting go. 
  2. You have a hard time trusting others.
  3. You have a hard time trusting your own feelings and tend to rationalize them away treating them as if they (and you) are insignificant.
  4. You set poor boundaries with others.
  5. You do anything you can to avoid conflict.
  6. You may have adopted some of the style of the alcoholic and drink too much yourself or on the other extreme you may be a teetotaler who reacts negatively to those who drink at all.
  7. You have a hard time knowing and asking for what you want.

What can you do about these tendencies and overcome the limitations of your dysfunctional family?

  1. See a qualified therapist that could help you on your journey.
  2. Do any process that will help you get more in touch with your own body and feelings. These processes can include Yoga, meditation and any other kind of therapeutic approach that is body based.
  3. Do an inventory of your current relationships. Do they give you energy and are they nurturing? Or are they draining and leave you empty?
  4. Practice locating feelings and desires in your body.
  5. Take baby steps and begin asking other people for things you want from them.  For example- “Could you do me a favor and just listen to me?  I have a lot on my mind.”   You can even begin by asking someone to make you a cup of tea.  Just start asking.
  6. Pay attention to how you avoid conflict.  Think of a person whom you disagree with about something.  Express yourself and let that person know you disagree.  Practice being the separate self that you are.
  7. Look for any extremes in your life and try finding the middle way.  For example, if you are very inhibited and shy, take a chance and express yourself more.  Of course if you are truly an alcoholic, the middle way may not apply here and you may need total sobriety.  However, in general look for ways you can express the opposite tendency sometimes.
  8. Be more playful if you tend to get too serious.  Skip, jump and play childhood games that maybe you even did not have a chance to do when you were a child.
  9. Find a creative outlet such as playing a musical instrument or learning how to draw or paint. These creative outlets are important ways for you to experience more of your deeper and true self that may have got lost in the family of origin.
  10. Say “NO” to people that you do not want to be with and to activities you do not want to do.  Life is not about just “killing time” and existing.  It is about thriving and you need to choose how to use your time well.

Like I said in number one above, it is helpful to practice #’s 2-10 under the guidance of a qualified therapist or coach. I will be happy to be that person if you like whether we do it in person or virtually. Life presents opportunities to change the trajectory of the life we are living. Don’t settle. Become more of yourself. You deserve it.

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