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Growing Up Sober: A Challenging Journey for Adult Children of Alcoholics
- Increased likelihood of becoming alcoholics
- Higher rates of mental disorders, such as depression, rage, and fear of responsibility
- Higher rates of marrying into alcoholic families
- Higher rates of becoming separated or divorced from their spouses
- Romance—Trust and security, two necessities for successful long-term relationships, do not come easily for many ACOAs, who grew up in insecure homes and may choose to isolate themselves from others. In addition, because many alcoholic parents were—at least sometimes—more devoted to drinking than to affection for their children, ACOAs often have a strong need for affection, which can manifest itself as possessiveness, jealousy, and oversensitivity.
- Parenthood—Their strong desire to be loved can lead ACOAs to inspire dependency in their own children. They may also use intimidation, which is never effective in the long-run, to maintain control in the home.
- Work—Because of their powerful need for acceptance, ACOAs may not provide enough structure for employees, who can then capitalize on their employer's weaknesses. Also, ACOAs may suffer from the "impostor syndrome"—no matter how impressive their achievements, they never feel worthy.
- Money matters—ACOAs need for approval can lead them to overspend, buy dinners they cannot afford, or otherwise pay beyond their means to please others.
- Reading—Find the latest books and research, both in print and online, about alcohol abuse and the way it can affect family life.
- Talking—Confide in a close friend or family member who can understand your feelings and respect your privacy without judging you.
- Counseling—Meet with a psychologist or certified social worker who can help you focus on your future, not the pains of the past. Sometimes talking with a stranger can be more therapeutic than talking with a friend.
- Joining—Become part of a free support group that meets in person or in a private online chat forum to find out how other ACOAs have overcome barriers to happiness. Twelve-step programs, such as Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), can be particularly empowering. Suzanne credits her 12-step support group, which she calls a "clearinghouse for coping skills," with much of her recent progress.
Accentuate the Positive
Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc. http://www.adultchildren.org/
Adult Children Anonymous http://acainnerpeace.ncf.ca/
Alcoholics Anonymous Canada http://www.aacanada.com/
Adult children of alcoholics. Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association website. Available at: http://www.fadaa.org/services/resource%5Fcenter/resources/JTF/acoa.pdf. Accessed January 18, 2011.
Al-Anon is for adult children of alcoholics. AL-ANON Family Groups website. Available at: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/pdf/S69.pdf. Accessed January 18, 2011.