Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAS)

Overview of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAs)

When a parent abuses alcohol, it can have a profound effect on the whole family. Being a child in an alcoholic family system means learning to relate to the world and the people in it in ways that are not necessarily healthy or adaptive. If you are a child of an alcoholic family, then your emotional and psychological well-being may have been affected. You may even consider yourself an "Adult Child of an Alcoholic" (ACoA).

It is not necessary to diagnose your parent. An "alcoholic" family is any family disrupted by alcohol abuse. It is this disruption of consistency and predictability, and the resulting confusion and chaos that are important - not a medical diagnosis of your parent.

Claudia Black, a leading author and theorist regarding ACoAs, has identified three rules that are characteristic of alcoholic homes:

  • Not trusting. In alcoholic families, promises are often forgotten, celebrations cancelled and parents' moods unpredictable. As a result, ACoAs learn to not count on others and often have a hard time believing that others can care enough to follow through on their commitments.
  • Not feeling. Due to the constant pain of living with an alcoholic, a child in an alcoholic family must "quit feeling" in order to survive. In these families, when emotions are expressed, they are often abusive, and prompted by drunkenness. These outbursts have no positive result and, along with the drinking, are usually denied the following day. Thus, ACoAs have had few if any opportunities to see emotions expressed appropriately and used to foster constructive change.
  • Not talking. ACoAs learn in their families not to talk about a huge part of their reality - drinking. This results from the family's need to deny that a problem exists and that drinking is tied to that problem. From this early training, ACoAs often develop a tendency to not talk about anything unpleasant.

What Can Be Done

  • Learn skills and techniques for relating to others in a comfortable and responsible manner.
  • Become aware of your unhealthy habits and try to change them, for example, do not judge yourself harshly
  • Become aware of the things you do well and build on them.
  • Reward yourself for your accomplishments.
  • Whenever someone gives you a compliment, think positively.
  • Take time out to become socially active.
  • Join a support group.

How We Can Help

SHCS provides acute care, drop-in services, brief individual therapy, group therapy, and referrals for on-going therapy

You can schedule an intake with a counselor at North Hall by calling (530) 752-2349Acute Care drop-in services are available on the first floor of the Student Health and Wellness Center.