Children of Alcoholics

I hope this page gives you understanding of characteristics of COA.

Alcoholism in the home has long-lasting effects. Children of alcoholics often learn to cope with an unhappy childhood in ways that cause problems for them later in life. Learning about how alcoholism affected your past can help you build a better future.

Childhood Characteristics, Beliefs, and Patterns

Children of alcoholics often act in one of the following ways:

  • Become super-responsible, like a miniature adult
  • Become a trouble-maker
  • Become able to adjust to any change, without noise or fuss
  • Become a family clown or peacemaker, smoothing over troubles

Children of alcoholics often believe they are all alone, that no other families have these problems or that it is up to them to cure the parent. A child may take the blame for a parent’s alcoholism – or the parent may blame the child. As a result, many children of alcoholics not only feel unloved, but unlovable. Some of them suffer physical or sexual abuse, which reinforces this feeling. And because life at home is full of disappointments, broken promises and lies, the child learns not to trust, not to get too close to anyone and not to communicate in healthy ways.

Problems in Adult Life

Adult children of alcoholics often retain their childhood patterns. The super-responsible child may grow into an adult who demands perfectionism. The child who is the family’s scapegoat may have legal or financial troubles throughout life. The child who used to adjust to anything may be passive and withdrawn as an adult. And the family clown may group up to be entertaining, but irresponsible.

An adult child of an alcoholic may be anxious, may try to control events and relationships, may have trouble being intimate, may be chronically depressed or have stress-related health problems. Tragically, many children of alcoholics either become chemically dependent themselves or marry alcoholics.

If you grew up with an alcoholic parent:

  • Find out more about alcoholism and its effects on family members of alcoholics. Just remember, if you had cancer, you would find out all you can. You would become an expert. This is no different. Do not pretend it doesn’t exist.
  • Talk about your feelings and experiences with friends, relatives, and people in 12-step programs or health professionals. Check with your local chapter of AA to located meetings for ACOAs.
  • Remember you didn’t cause your parent’s drinking and no one but the parent had any chance of controlling it or curing it.

Center For ACOA Phone Number 301.534.1815
National Center for Drug Dependenacy 301-366-6880

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