Adult Child Characteristics

1. Adult children guess at what normal is.

There is no frame of reference for what it is like to be in a normal household. You also have no frame of reference for what is O.K. to say and feel. In a more typical situation, one does not have to walk on eggs all the time. Because you did, you became confused. Many things from the past contributed to your having to guess at what normal is.

2. Adult children have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.

In a functional family, the child has this behavior and attitude to model. The child observes the process and the child may even ask questions along the way. The learning may be more indirect than direct, but it is present. Since your experience was so vastly different, it should be no surprise that you have a problem with following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

Lying is basic to the family system affected by alcohol. It masquerades in part an overt denial of unpleasant realities, cover-ups, broken promises and inconsistencies. Lying as the norm in your house became part of what you knew and what could be useful to you. At times, it made life much more comfortable. If you lied about getting your work done, you could get away with being lazy for a while. It seemed to make life simpler for everybody.

4. Adult children judge themselves without mercy.

Your judgment of others is not nearly as harsh as your judgement of yourself, although it is hard for you to see other people's behaviour in terms of a continuum either. Black and white, good or bad, are typically the way you look at things. You know what it feels like to be bad, and how those feelings make you behave. And then if you are good there is always the risk that it won't last. So either way you set yourself up.

5. Adult children have difficulty having fun.
6. Adult children take themselves very seriously.

These two characteristics are closely linked. You didn't hear your parents laughing and joking and fooling around. Life was a very serious, angry business. The tone in your house put a damper on your fun. Eventually, you just went along with everybody else. Having fun just was not fun. The spontaneous child within was quashed.

7. Adult children have difficulty with intimate relationships.

The feelings of being insecure or having difficulty in trusting, and of questions about whether or not you are going to get hurt are not exclusive to adult children. These are problems most people have. It is simply a matter of degree, your being a child of a alcoholic caused the ordinary difficulties to become more severe.

8. Adult children over-react to changes over which they have no control.

The young child of an alcoholic was not in control. The alcoholic's life was inflicted on him, as was his environment. In order to survive when growing up, he needed to turn that around. He needed to begin taking charge of his environment. This became important and remains so. The child of the alcoholic learns to trust himself more than anyone else when it is impossible to rely on someone else's judgement.

9. Adult children constantly seek approval and affirmation.

The message you got as a child was very confused. It was not unconditional love. The definitions were not clear and the messages were mixed. "Yes, no, I love you, go away." So you grew up with some confusion about yourself. The affirmations you did not get on a day-to-day basis as a child, you interpret as negative.

10. Adult children feel that they are different from other people.

Feeling different is something you have had with you since childhood and even if the circumstance does not warrant it, the feeling prevails. Other children have had the opportunity to be children. You did not. You were very much concerned with what was going on at home. You could never be completely comfortable playing with other children. You could not be fully there. Your concerns about your home problems clouded everything else in your life.

11. Adult children are either super responsible or super irresponsible.

Either you take it all on or you give it all up. There is no middle ground. You tried to please your parents, doing more and more, or you reached the point where you recognized it did not matter, so you did nothing.

12.Adult children are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

The alcoholic home appears to be a very loyal place. Family members hang in long after reasons dictate that they should leave. The so-called "loyalty" is more the result of fear and insecurity than anything else, nevertheless, the behavior that is modeled is one where no one walks away just because the going gets rough. This sense enables the adult child to remain in involvements that are better dissolved.

13. Adult children are impulsive.

They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.