The Laundry List – 14 Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic
- We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
- We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
- We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
- We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
- We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
- We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
- We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
- We became addicted to excitement.
- We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
- We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
- We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
- We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
- Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
- Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
Tony A., 1978
Note: The Laundry List serves as the basis for The Problem statement.
The Flip Side of The Laundry List (healthy part)
- We move out of isolation and are not unrealistically afraid of other people, even authority figures.
- We do not depend on others to tell us who we are.
- We are not automatically frightened by angry people and no longer regard personal criticism as a threat.
- We do not have a compulsive need to recreate abandonment.
- We stop living life from the standpoint of victims and are not attracted by this trait in our important relationships.
- We do not use enabling as a way to avoid looking at our own shortcomings.
- We do not feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves.
- We avoid emotional intoxication and choose workable relationships instead of constant upset.
- We are able to distinguish love from pity, and do not think “rescuing” people we “pity” is an act of love.
- We come out of denial about our traumatic childhoods and regain the ability to feel and express our emotions.
- We stop judging and condemning ourselves and discover a sense of self-worth.
- We grow in independence and are no longer terrified of abandonment. We have interdependent relationships with healthy people, not dependent relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.
- The characteristics of alcoholism and para-alcoholism we have internalized are identified, acknowledged, and removed.
- We are actors, not reactors.