Sep 21, 2017 | By Tim Stoddart

10 Unspoken Patterns I’ve Adapted Growing Up With An Alcoholic

Personal Addiction Recovery Stories

Ever since I can remember I’ve had a “functional” alcoholic Father.

My Dad was the best Father – when he wasn’t drinking. He went to work in the morning, picked me up from school, made dinner, and somehow between dinner and dessert, the madness began. I’d watch my Father sway back and forth like a metronome, as time went on, the metronome got heavier and heavier and he could no longer hold his balance.

My family and I would sit on the couch and watch TV – usually the world news or another new episode of “60 Minutes.” After my weekly glimpse of Andy Rooney’s eyebrows, (which were probably the most consistent thing in my life at the time) my Father would herd my Mother and I upstairs and say,”It’s time for bed.” I sat in bed in another world, one story above his nightly stupor.

Would he wake up with a black eye? Would there be another dent in the wall? Would he even be alive in the morning? As a child, the anxiety of the unknown crippled me and the thoughts of my Dad’s drunkenness were as intrusive as I wished he could have been at the time. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to understand that there was nothing I could do as a child or as an adult to cure my Father of his Alcoholism.

I wanted to save my Dad. I wanted him to stop, and I wanted to be enough for him to stop. But I simply couldn’t. Although rationally in my mind, I know all of this, there are still some scars and after-effects of my Father’s addiction that have lasted until my adulthood – patterns that are still alive and well in me today. It wasn’t until I pursued sobriety that I was actually able to see these behaviors in me. There are 30 million children born to alcoholic parents, and I’ve come to know many other out there like me who have grown up in an alcoholic or addict home. Here are some of the effects I’ve come to see in myself: (Sidenote: Not all of these I still believe or act out in full daily, however I’m always working on myself.)

I’m a control freak

I couldn’t maintain control of my Dad or home-life when I was a child, so why not use the next best thing and control myself? If I let go of control, I get afraid my life will progressively get worse. If I can’t control a situation or an outcome I tend to feel anxious and the fear of impending doom looms over my head. For a long time, I felt responsible for my Dad’s addiction, so I’ve learned to keep a tight leash on my own feelings and others around me.

I’m Constantly Seeking Approval

I am definitely my own worst critic and even harsher enemy. Sometimes I drive myself crazy with my need for perfection. Lacking self-esteem, I’ve always wanted the approval of others around my that I’ve violated my own morals and rights to do so. When my Father was drunk, his lack of recognition made me judge and criticize myself harshly. I go out of my way to please others when I’m really not taking care of myself.

Don’t leave me!

Don’t say the A-word! In the past, I’ve had an absolute gut-wrenching fear of being abandoned. My Father was so emotionally absent when I was younger that if I do have your approval and perfection, I’ve been deathly afraid to let go of that – I’d rather step on 1,000 Legos than endure the pain of letting you go, hence my control-freak-isms.

I don’t bare my soul

It’s me, it’s not you! Failed relationship after failed relationship shows repeat patterns of almost getting vulnerable and intimate with my feelings and then running away – where I’ve ended up hurting so many people. Why would I want to bare my soul and open up to you if I’m only going to get hurt in the long run; at least that’s what evidence of my past shows. While a secondary gain by hurting someone is a silent and almost unconscious vengeance at someone of my past who has hurt me. (Gee, I wonder who?)

I have sky high standards of myself

I take myself way to seriously and once again, am on a never-ending quest for perfection. For so long, I beat into myself that what I was doing with my life, or with just a simple easy task wasn’t good enough – hence my low-self esteem. It’s all a never-ending cycle that sometimes can only be improved by a professional or clinical intervention.

I have trust issues

The famous unspoken words are “Don’t trust, Don’t feel” and I’ve come to learn that they haven’t been spoken in many alcoholic homes like mine. When the missed softball games and missed chorus concerts have an empty seat filled with a broken promise from mother-nature’s first “supposed” intimate relationship how could I have trusted anyone?

I’m an addict myself

Like Father, like Daughter! I learned my unhealthy habits and coping skills from the best. Thank God for sobriety! (Which I also learned from my Father) However, it doesn’t just stop at alcohol and drugs. Food, gambling, sex, video games, shopping, work, chocolate, etc, have all been a downfall for me when I do them to excess. #posterchild

I like to play the victim

At some point I’ve wanted the pity of at least someone, because nobody gave me much attention as a child. Often times the feeling of feeling bad for myself was never enough, and I wanted external validation that my situation sucked from someone else because I never received it.

Don’t come to me with conflict

I would rather curl up in a ball and hide for a week than deal with a confrontation or a conflict head-on; which in the long run, ends up hurting myself. My life is ran on fear, and I don’t want you to get angry, so I’ll just deal with my avoidance and the problem internally than working it out the correct, smoother way. I tend to misinterpret confrontation with anger and am constantly seeking your approval because I’m afraid that you won’t like me or get mad at me – sometimes I’m afraid that it could turn physical.

I suck at having fun

I tend to be workaholic and often feel very anxious in social situations, so sometimes I just stay away from them. In an effort to perfect myself, I fear that having fun will make me spin out of control and make me look like an idiot. Sometimes I have felt it to be more of an effort to relax and have a good time.

2 responses to “10 Unspoken Patterns I’ve Adapted Growing Up With An Alcoholic

  • Vicki J ??️‍???️‍?

    5 years ago

    I don’t recall writing this, but it sure sounds like me.

  • Lisa Barrett-Gerardi

    5 years ago

    Got ptsd from my dad coming home and beating on my mom. Always starting a fight when he was drunk. Thankfully he never hit us kids. Thankfully my mom was strong enough to say get out after being with him for 13 yrs. it made me not trust. Unfortunate I married my father!! He didn’t ambush me physically but all the time mentally! But found out while I was working was abusing my eldest son so I told him to leave! He hates his father for this. They don’t have a good relationship to this day but they talk. It messes with everyone’s mind and screws your life up for good when a parent is an alcoholic! My sons are alcoholics and o drank a lot and no longer do. My brother and sister are alcoholics and my brother did drugs and ended up doing heroin! So it kind of ran in our dna! I tryed alanon but it was not for me I just talk to my therapist about it. My dad came to live with me for 15 yrs because no one in his family would take his bull and now he’s in a nursing home. I love him and have bad feelings about him at the same time! So it does something to you!!

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