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Sunday, April 3, 2011

In the Eye of the Storm

                         Was one or both of your parents a problem drinker?

In the midst of a crisis is when some people feel most alive, at their best, competent and confident- at the controls.  On the other hand, most people are, at the least, taken aback in a crisis; they may have to take a moment to gather themselves.  It is common to experience a state of confusion in the immediate, when a crisis strikes.  Sometimes fear is felt.  It isn't unusual to be a little off-center for awhile in the aftermath of a crisis.  And yet, there are those who will always step to the forefront and take over in a crisis with no hesitation.  They will assume responsibility for others or for the situation and may even seem to overextend themselves in helping and burdening themselves with the problem.  So, while most people would rather avoid a crisis, there are some who move toward it and find themselves most comfortable in the middle of chaos.

If you have ever wondered whether alcoholism affected your childhood, these are some of the characteristics of those who have come to be referred to as Adult Children of Alcoholics.  This term comes from an idea that has been so important to people who have struggled to understand why certain problems keep cropping up in their life over and over again.  The development of this concept and understanding how children growing up in alcoholic homes can be affected has been instrumental in answering that question.  Some ACA's have felt tremendous relief when they found out there was a reason why.
"In many alcoholic homes only terror exists...Children and spouses frequently experience intensely frightening and physically dangerous situations."  The adult who grew up this way is so accustomed to drastic events, that they have become, in a sense, comfortable in them.  At the very least, we can say that it is familiar.  Taking responsibility is learned early on.  When the adults in the home are unable to take responsibility, usually one of the children will learn to do this.  They become a temporary surrogate adult, out of necessity, so it is second nature to continue to do this in their own actual adult life.
"...young Billy told me how he was taking the air out of the car tires so dad wouldn't drive when he was drinking.  His youngest sister, Ann, was putting water in dad's vodka bottle; his oldest sister was putting apple cider in dad's whiskey."  Ideally children should be focused on school and encouraged to play.  But in an alcoholic home, they learn to be very watchful and to try to manage things to prevent disaster.  They become used to feeling overburdened.  This leads to the adult who is often referred to as one 'who does too much'.  They continue to overcompensate even when it is no longer necessary.  As they say, old habits die hard.  Even though friends may say things to them such as, You work too hard!! or, You'll be burned out by the time you're forty!, they really don't understand what their friends are trying to tell them.  It is just second nature to them to do too much, to be over-responsible and to live an over-burdened life because they were trained to do that in childhood.

In fact, people who suffer these aftereffects of growing up in an alcoholic family and have not identified them do often begin to have physical symptoms earlier than their peers simply because they push too hard.  (We all need time to recuperate, time to restore our energy.)  After all, how do you know how to let go at the end of a hard day, or relax on a vacation if you didn't dare lose yourself in play as a child, for fear a calamity would occur?

+Alcoholism in a family is nothing to be ashamed of.+  There are programs and therapists who can help resolve the problems that sometimes result from the presence of alcoholism in a family.  If you think that parental drinking affected you, seek out a therapist to talk to about this.  Or, try out some Al-Anon meetings.  Help for these and other effects from growing up close to an alcoholic, exists.
Quotes were from the book It Will Never Happen To Me by Claudia Black, PhD, MSW

                There are a number of other posts on the topic of addiction and alcoholism, such as. +When Fire Water Causes Conflagration,
You can simply go to the label, Alcohol and addiction on the right and see a list of all posts on this topic or that include this topic.

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