Anxiety is Normal For Adult Children of Alcoholics

Anxiety is Normal for Children of Alcoholics

My journey from a state of unconsciousness to the transition of being awake is greeted by the muffled sounds of two people arguing. As I slowly begin to open my unfocused eyes I can begin to see miscellaneous shapes within my bedroom. I can start to make out the decorations and space ship posters that cover the walls. There was one in particular that I was very fond of because of it’s super sonic speed. I would imagine that I could fly away in that spaceship. Fly away to a place far, far away from where I was. My imaginary trip was abruptly interrupted by the sound of breaking glass. If I was not fully awake as of yet the sounds of breaking dishes assured me that I was not longer dreaming. No a dream would not be an accurate description of my household growing up. A living hell would be a better depiction of my childhood home environment. See this was nothing new, but more of what was the norm while living in my alcoholic father’s home.

It is estimated that at any given time, around 13% of the population will suffer from an anxiety disorder of one kind or another. This number greatly increases when we start talking about those that grew up in a home with alcoholic family member and surely even more so when we drill down to an alcoholic father in the home. National Association for Children of Alcoholics reports that almost one in five adult Americans (18%) lived with an alcoholic while growing up.

In the past, psychologists who studied the development of children would mainly focus on the child’s relationship with their mother’s role in nurturing, but with recent studies most would agree that the father also plays are larger role in a child’s development in this area. This was not a major discovery for those of us that grew up with an alcoholic father. See the words nurturing and father are seldom used in the same sentence when we are asked to describe our fathers. This is because in most cases terms like “I love you”, “You did a great job”, “Come give your Father a hug” are replaced with “I wish you were never born”, “You always screw something up” and “Get out of here”. Growing up hearing words of hurt instead of positive affirmations can greatly affect ones view of themselves as well as the rest of the world.

Children of alcoholics are often affected by their dysfunctional up bringing long after they have left the home. This is most noticeable through anxiety. For some of us when we think of anxiety this means panic attacks and possible uncontrolled behavior. This is not always the case. Anxiety is a complicated general term which includes many disorders which cause fear, nervousness, apprehension, and often times worrying. These disorders range from mild to debilitating and can affect how we feel and behave on a daily basis. A fear of being criticized or a constant need of approval and affirmation can be signs of anxieties from growing up with an alcoholic Father. A need for positive affirmation that you did not receive growing up or an anxiety about be criticized often stems from some form of abuse, verbal, emotion or otherwise. The need to be perfect can also be an anxiety from living in a home with an alcoholic father. This is because even as adults we know that one screw up or even just one part of a job that we are doing goes wrong, then the alcoholic of our childhood might explode in anger. This deep-rooted fear can often time last a lifetime.

This however does not mean that you have to live with these anxieties. You can lower your levels of anxiety and fear by following these tips.

  • Stay in the present – Anxiety is often caused by what we fear is going to happen. Try to focus on the task at hand and not focus too much on the future or your past for that matter.
  • Know the facts – Uncertainty is a key factor in most anxiety. It is this fear of the unknown that can be demobilizing for most of us. This fear of not knowing the outcome of a situation is often fueled by a lack of facts. So do your fact finding to avoid this anxiety from appearing.
  • Watch your mindset – Keep a watchful eye on what your own thoughts are telling you. A great way to keep our minds off of worry is to focus our thoughts on things that are good, beautiful, and positive. Allow you to dream, wish, and imagine the best that could happen. What you think is what you are, so be positive.
  • Quality sleep – If you aren’t consistently getting enough good, solid sleep then you will be short on energy and open to stress. Stress is a direct route to anxiety so make sure you get plenty of restful sleep to keep those stresses at bay. This is probably the biggest stressor and anxiety causer for me. When I am sleeping regularly my overall healthy is much better.

Self empowerment is the first step to recovery for the alcoholic and the children of alcoholics alike. The process of recovery is just that, a process. This means that chances are you will always be a recovering child of an alcoholic father and that it can be a lifelong process. The key is to focus on the process itself and not necessarily the end result. Fighting off those demons of your past can not only become rewarding, but actually become something that you look forward to conquering. And who knows maybe you can even start a website to help others start the process of recovery?

If you have never been to a 12 Step Support Group meeting I encourage you to check one out. It has really helped me a lot and enabled me to meet many people who truly understand me. You can check out the Find a Meetings page to find a meeting in your area.

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  1. JS says:

    Excellent article and thanks for sharing your story and excellent tips for overcoming anxiety! I really like this phrase you wrote “The key is to focus on the process itself and not necessarily the end result. Fighting off those demons of your past can not only become rewarding, but actually become something that you look forward to conquering.”

    …and conquer them we will.

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