Adult Children of Alcoholics: Info & Help

It can be hard having a loved one who is an alcoholic. If one or both of your parents were/are alcoholic, you may have deep scars as a result of their dysfunctional behaviors. You are not alone! The Christians in Recovery Web site is loaded with information and resources to help you and your loved one.

Common Characteristics of People who had an Alcoholic Parent(s)
Adult Children of Alcoholics:

  • guess at what normal is
  • have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end
  • lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
  • judge themselves without mercy
  • have difficulty having fun
  • take themselves very seriously
  • have difficulty with intimate relationships
  • over-react to changes over which they have no control
  • constantly seek approval and affirmation
  • feel that they are different from other people
  • are either super responsible or super irresponsible
  • are extremely loyal even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
  • look for immediate rather than deferred gratification
  • lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious
  • consideration to alternate behaviors or possible consequences
  • seek tension and crisis and then complain about the results
  • avoid conflict or aggravate it; rarely do they deal with it
  • fear rejection and abandonment, yet are rejecting of others
  • fear failure, but sabotage their success
  • fear criticism and judgment, yet criticize and judge others
  • manage time poorly and do not set priorities in a way that works
  • well for them

In order to change, adult children of alcoholics cannot use history as an excuse for continuing their behaviors. They have no regrets for what might have been, for their experiences have shaped their talents as well as their defects of character. It is their responsibility to discover these talents, to build their self-esteem and to repair any damage done. They will allow themselves to feel their feelings, to accept them, and learn to express them appropriately. When they have begun those tasks, they will try to let go of their past and get on with the business of their life.

The Problem
Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic household.

We had come to feel isolated, uneasy with other people, and especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same, we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat.

We either became alcoholics ourselves or married them or both. Failing that, we found another compulsive personality, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.

We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an over-developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We somehow got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative.

We were dependent personalities –terrified of abandonment–willing to do almost anything to hold onto a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic parents.

These symptoms of the family problem of alcoholism made us “co-victims”–those who take on the characteristics of the problem without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.

This is a description, not an indictment.

The Solution
Talk with others who are in recovery. Learn how they overcame.
Get active in the Christians in Recovery® Message Boards Communicate with others who are helping loved ones and with those who have recovered. Ask questions and get answers from people who can share their own experience, faith, strength and hope. Go to CIR online meetings. Meeting Schedule

The Solution is to become your own loving parent. As CIR becomes a safe place for you, you will find the freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.

Find a Christian counselor to help you: Associations of Christian Counselors

The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.

This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is the Higher Power, Jesus Christ. Although we had alcoholic parents, Jesus gives us principles for recovery.

This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps, we use the meetings and we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting to healing to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.

By attending recovery meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism for what it is and how it affected you as a child, and continues to affect you as and adult. You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting.

You will not do this alone. Look around you and you will see others who know how you feel. We will love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to accept us just as we accept you.

This is a biblical program based on action coming from love. We are sure that as the love grows inside you, you will see beautiful changes in all your relationships, especially with God, yourself and your parents.

More Common Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics
The following are some of the characteristics, agreed upon by one Alanon-Acoa group, that result in problems in our lives.

    We become isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
    We become approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

    We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
    We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

    We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relations.

    We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our faults.

    We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

    We become addicted to excitement.

    We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue”.

    We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much.

    We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

    We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.

Alcoholism is a family problem and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of an alcoholic even though we may or may not pick up the drink.

Read everything you can get your hands on regarding recovery. Use for added recommendations.

Christians in Recovery Workbook & Meeting Guide

Twelve Steps for Christians

The Twelve Steps a Spiritual Journey
(Workbook with guide for leading a group)

Power to Choose, 12 Steps to Wholeness (excellent workbook)

A Practical Guide to Victory in Christ
Order From:
Overcomers in Christ
P.O. Box 34460
Omaha, NE 68134

Celebrate Recovery Participant’s Guides

Celebrate Recovery Curriculum

Victory Over the Darkness
Book and Study Guide
Neil T. Anderson / Harvest House

Bondage Breaker

Neil T. Anderson / Harvest House

Bondage Breaker
Study Guide
Neil T. Anderson / Harvest House

A Hunger for Healing

Then look under “Where to Start” at

We suggest any Christian who is in recovery or trying to recover from ANYTHING get copies of these Bibles:

Life Recovery Bible

Published by Tyndale House Publishers.This Bible is specially annotated for
recovering Christians and is a wonderful source of support and healing.

Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery

(New King James Version- New Testament Psalms & Proverbs)
by Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Dr. Richard Fowler

Recovery Devotional Bible

(complete Bible-NIV version)
Includes 365 meditations and extensive notes
Zondorvan Publishers

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