Growing up in a household where the adults around you struggle with substance use disorders can be traumatic and continue to affect you later in life. Younger children might not realize their parents’ behavior is self-destructive, and may unconsciously pick up unhealthy coping mechanisms from imitating what the grown-ups do. Family dysfunctions like communications breakdowns, toxicity, excessive criticism and a lack of empathy may follow you into adulthood, perpetuating a trauma cycle.
Recognizing Family Dysfunction
As defined by the American Psychological Association, a family is dysfunctional if “relationships or communication are impaired and members are unable to attain closeness and self-expression.” Children who grow up in these environments may struggle to process complicated emotions and express their feelings in a healthy way.
If your childhood was marked by substance abuse or related instabilities, you likely had few to no adult role models to teach you how to manage conflict, and you might now feel that you can’t be assertive or independent. You could also be carrying a significant burden of guilt for your parents’ behavior.
Are You an “Adult Child?”
An “adult child” is the term for someone who learned to doubt or second-guess themselves during childhood. As a result, their decisions and relationships suffer. You may meet the criteria for being an adult child if you answer yes to one or more of these questions.
- When dealing with your parents, do you ever regress to your childhood role?
- Do you live in fear of angering people?
- When you encounter criticism, does it feel like a personal attack?
- Do you find yourself wondering if your behavior is normal?
- Do your parents constantly argue and expect you to pick a side?
- Can you recall the adults in your life abusing drugs or alcohol or doing any other harmful activities while you were growing up?
- Have you ever taken responsibility for a parent’s dysfunctional behavior?
How to Break the Chains of Family Dysfunction
Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families is a 12-step, 12-tradition program for people who grew up surrounded by maladjustment, abuse and neglect. These groups gather nationwide to share their experiences and discuss how their childhood experiences continue to affect various aspects of their adult lives.
ACA is a leading organization helping adult children heal from the lasting effects of substance use disorders or other family dysfunctions. In attending regular meetings, you’ll find a fellowship where you can freely discuss your concerns without judgment or criticism. Nobody will pressure you to share until you are ready to do so, and the members of your group will keep anything you say confidential.
Since each ACA group operates independently, you’ll have different encounters and experiences at each one. As a result, it may take some trial and error to find a group that feels like the right fit for you. Fortunately, with dozens of ACA fellowships meeting in and around the Laguna Beach area, you can quickly find a meeting near you.
Discover a Life of Purpose and Meaning
At Pillars Recovery, we empower young adults to walk a path to health, wellness and sobriety. We understand adult children of alcoholics may grow up inadvertently imitating their parents, and we are here to help you break that cycle once and for all with our comprehensive treatment programming. To learn more or verify your health insurance, contact us today.