Dear Dr. Bill,
I heard you on the radio talking about some of the personality traits of people who grew up with an alcoholic parent. I grew up in a home like that, and I wonder sometimes if some of the challenges I face today are related to my upbringing.
Can you talk about that topic again, and then direct me to some resources to where I can get some help?
Many children with alcoholic parents grow up be adults who have difficulty expressing their feelings. Instead, they tend to “stuff” so-called “negative” emotions like anger or sadness.
They may also have an over-developed sense of responsibility, often because they needed take care of a drunk parent when they were young, or emotionally care for their other parent, who was married to the alcoholic.
Some adult children of alcoholics have difficulty relating to authority figures, and may become “people pleasers”—unable to stand up for themselves even when they are being taken advantage of.
They may be terribly afraid of abandonment, and will do anything it takes to hold on to a relationship, even when they are being neglected or abused.
Adult children of alcoholics may end up marrying an alcoholic or becoming an alcoholic themselves. Even if they don’t drink, they may have an extremely “Type A” personality and display workaholic tendencies.
Of course none of these characteristics fits every person who grows up in an alcoholic home. Each individual and situation is unique, but the good news is there is help.
Many larger churches offer support and recovery groups for individuals with backgrounds like yours. There is also a national organization called Adult Children of Alcoholics that sponsors 12-step groups in most communities. You can learn more about it by going to adultchildren.org. Thanks for writing Misty. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.