Life as an ACOA

I am not a “normal” 25-year old.

No human being on this planet is “normal”, but what I mean is I don’t feel exactly feel that way.

I am an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA). ACOAs tend to not act like “normal” adults because of a dysfunctional, chaotic and unstable upbringing.

According to the study “Personality Subtypes in Adolescent and Adult Children of Alcoholics: A two part study” on personality sub types of ACOAs, it was found that ACOAs are categorized as the following:

  • The Enabler
  • The Hero
  • The Scapegoat
  • The Lost Child
  • The Mascot
  • The Placater

More information can be found in the study here

I am the “lost child.” I learned I was the lost child while in therapy years ago. I still feel that way today. I struggle with being who I am and constantly desire to be someone else. Most days I don’t want to be Jessica. I’m in my mid-20s and nearly every day I still feel like the lost child I was many years ago. I continue to work on alleviating these problems through counseling and plan to attend an ACOA or Al-Anon meeting.

We struggle with forming and keeping intimate relationships. We struggle with forming and keeping friendships because of the impact from years of broken promises and empty words. If we were teased or bullied in grade school, it makes it even more difficult to make friends and let people in.

We walk around every day with wounds that are still healing or never fully healed.

For some of us, waking up and getting out of bed takes all of our energy, because a lot of us suffer from depression and anxiety. For more information on mental illness and ACOAs, check out Psychological Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics

A lot of us are still those fearful, lost, and broken children living and functioning as adults. Sadly, some of us are still learning how to love ourselves and come to terms with the fact that we can’t be perfect and we can’t control others’ choices or actions.

Oh, we’re also four times more likely to become alcoholics/addicts ourselves. When we drink or use any type of substance that has the potential to become addictive, we’re playing genetic Russian Roulette.

In college, I was that student who hesitated to go out and get “wasted” at a frat house on a Friday night. I didn’t want to be in a situation that would cause painful memories to resurface or end up making memories in that type of environment. Also, I don’t like being around large groups of drunk people. It isn’t fun to me. It’s fun for others, and that’s OK.

There is a part of me that feels resentful I didn’t live the whole “college experience” because of my upbringing. I feared taking risks, or opening up to others and putting myself out there.

When you are hurt multiple times by people who are supposed to prepare you for our dysfunctional world when they’re completely dysfunctional themselves, you end up spending all of your energy trying to not be dysfunctional.

This dysfunctional up-bringing challenges your ability to trust. You keep your guard up and feel more comfortable spending time alone, even though the loneliness gets to you and you crave the company. Isolation is common, when you expect to encounter dysfunction anywhere else.

However, these are the thoughts that run through my mind:

But don’t let that company become too close to you, what if they hurt you?

Most people are out for themselves.

You don’t have a lot in common with most of your peers, so why even bother?

We think these things on a daily basis. We learned to dislike ourselves from a young age because of the negativity that enveloped us for so many years. We never asked for this. Nobody asks for the lives they were born into. I work every day to overcome the problems that cloud my judgement and the truth of who I really am. A lot of this is all in my head, but it was planted there during the years of critical brain development.

I’m defensive, insecure, uncertain and constantly compare myself to others’ lives, wishing I could trade lives with someone else.

I am aware there is not a damn thing I can do about my past. All I can do is continue to work on myself through therapy, positive self-talk, exercise and form healthy habits.

I have to consistently remind myself that I am worthy, loved, intelligent and capable of succeeding in life. I am not broken, damaged or worthless. Even though I am an ACOA, I have to work on not letting it take over my identity.

This quote seems to sum up the issue perfectly:

“Most of us spend our lives protecting ourselves from losses that have already happened.” – Geneen Roth

If anyone else who considers themselves as an ACOA would like to share their story, wisdom or experiences, feel free to do so in the comment section.






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