Adult Child of an Addict. My Top 3 Traits:


I said let’s do this thing, so here we go.

Here are the basics.
Children who live with people who are addicts or alcoholics typically experience various amounts of some, or all, of these types of dysfunction:

inconsistencies (in all areas)
unclear boundaries/roles
physical/sexual/emotional abuse

These things change us.
As children, we see, feel, take-on, and cope with, situations that the majority of people don’t.

We grow into adults who seem to have common characteristics.
The original list of 13 characteristics was written by Janet Woititz, author of Adult Children Of Alcoholics.
(Find the full list here:

Of the 13 characteristics, I have at one point or another, identified with all of them.
With the exception of #’s  2, 3, 9, & 13,  I can say that I relate to a lot of these in my life now. This list has allowed me to do a lot of reflecting from different angles.

The 3 characteristics that I identify with most: 

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
Yes. It has affected every single area of my daily life and has been a large part of what I mean when I say ‘re-learning’ how to live life.
So this. A lot of this.

This has been an ongoing thing throughout my 8.5 years in Recovery.
From a very young age I recall feeling & knowing that the behavior that I witnessed was wrong.
I knew a certain someone in my life had lost her sh*t, and had checked-out in a huge way….
but I also wasn’t really sure what the right ways to do things were, either.
I just knew things at our house was not like things at my friends houses.

What was (unintentionally) modeled for me are no longer behaviors that are my goto’s.
There are still certain instances that I find myself in, where I simply don’t know what to replace the behavior with. In those cases, I have learned to just take my time and feel it out.

Over the years, I have also come to believe that ‘normal’ isn’t an absolute thing.
I have learned that for people to become our own we must decide on which truth we are choosing to build our foundations on …and go from there.
From that point, navigating life doesn’t have to be so much  ‘normal’  as it needs to be healthy.
I like healthy choices, not normal ones.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
As a child I caught on quickly. I had no other choice but to be quick-witted and self-sufficient.
I pushed through alone. I couldn’t rely on the adults around me for anything. I couldn’t trust or rely on anyone. My feelings never mattered & weren’t validated. I felt abandoned by my parents and also by the other adults in my life who either overlooked, ignored, or weren’t aware of my living situation.
I grew accustomed to resentment, and  fending and fighting for myself and the things that I needed.

Until I found this list of common characteristics, I had always just assumed that my personal struggle with addiction was the culprit behind ruining my ability to feel.
I thought that my apathy toward the idea of growing close to others stemmed from tendency to isolate because of my addiction.
I have toyed with the idea of identifying as shy, or as in introvert. I am not shy, but I suppose I do fall into the introvert category.
I have also considered that maybe I am just anti-social or have social anxiety, but have learned that I am not and I don’t.

The idea that I am unable or uncomfortable with the concept of allowing myself to feel vulnerable or to trust in order to form long-lasting and intimate relationships totally made sense.

It is evidenced in my life by the friends who I am close to and the strong relationships that I do have. (All older women and my husband.)

Still a work in progress, but I am content with knowing this about myself, embracing it and learning how to allow myself the time to make progress as I feel more comfortable.

3. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. Please. Continue sucking the life out of me while I stumble all over myself trying to hurdle over all of the mistakes I have made to tirelessly cater to you. That’s how I like it.
This was true for me, but  I am no longer a slave to my own need to support people who don’t like even like me, let alone love me, and who are certainly not loyal to me in any capacity or interpretation of the word loyal.

Sadly, I am a reluctant quitter (imagine that) and has taken me a very long time to quit valuing empty loyalty.
I do believe that loyalty is something different from forgiveness or love.
I love people and have forgiven people who I am no longer loyal to.

Loyal to me means dedicated or faithful to.
Which really means time committed to- which is something I am not anymore.

This one is why I am so big on setting and committing to my own personal boundaries. I need them. I appreciate them. I am grateful to have them.
Left to its own devices my loyalty springs back up when I least expect it. I have to actively remind my (heart) that it’s not good for me. This is all part of being a codependent.
This kind of relational interaction is usually the only kind a child gets when they are living with an alcoholic or a drug addict.

The best part about all of these traits is that they are all things that we can observe within ourselves. They are things that we can see and change.

So there ya’ go.
Do you relate to or identify with any of the 13 characteristics of adult children of alcoholics?



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