An adult child is a term used for someone who grew up in a home with at least one alcoholic parent, guardian or caregiver. It is a term also used for those whose family of origin had other ongoing dysfunctional addictions, relationships and behaviours. Parental alcoholism or family dysfunction is seen as a 'disease' that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult. At the Hanly Centre we 'treat' the 'disease' very successfully through group work and counselling.
The list of characteristics that describe people raised in alcoholic homes include isolation, fear of authority figures, fear of abandonment, uneasiness with other people, clinging to dysfunctional relationships, and an addiction to excitement in which there is a preference for continual upset rather than workable relationships. Many people who have suffered childhood trauma have found that these characteristics describe their life experiences even though they were not necessarily raised in an alcoholic home.
The most significant characteristic of adult children is their confusion about what 'normal' is. "Their dysfunctional childhoods provided them with little or no 'normal' life experiences, so they guess at what correct behaviour is to stop others from discovering that they genuinely don't know how they should act, react, talk or simply be". (Suffer the Children Report, UK)
Adult children, without help, are more likely than the general population to become alcoholics or take on other compulsive behaviours such as gambling, drugs etc. and often marry someone with an addiction problem. That is what they know. They often have relationship difficulties because they matched their current relationships with the childhood relationship they had with the alcoholic or dysfunctional parent.
The symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism can make the adult child 'co-victims' i.e. those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. They learn to keep their feelings down as children and keep them buried as adults.
If you recognise yourself in the characteristics above and you would like support in changing the messages in your head and the isolation of your heart, the Hanly Centre offers the Break The Cycle programme for people like you. Ring us now for more information.
The Hanly Centre is a registered Irish charity CHY6340 committed to breaking the cycle of alcohol-related harm and the long-term effects of family-of-origin adversity.
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