Living with a child of an alcoholic can be challenging. They can seem selfish and desensitized to the world around them. Thriving in chaos is seemingly more natural and arguments tend to regularly occur on a short fuse. Although living with adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) can be frustrating and sometimes confusing, it is possible to maintain happy, healthy relationships with the proper information and understanding.

What are the characteristics of a child of an alcoholic

ACOAs grew up in unreliable, erratic environments without their emotional needs being met. They are never the priority. They also were lacking the positive influence and guidance to establish healthy relationships, practice self care, and learn to cope with emotions. As a result, according to the American Addiction Centers: “Adult children of alcoholics often face a number of characteristic difficulties in adulthood. Each of these issues can make it harder to find peace and balance, and many ultimately turn to use and abuse of substances as a means of handling those challenges.”

  • They can suffer from substance abuse issues themselves.
  • Lies come more naturally than truths.
  • Impulsive behavior is common and can lead to self-loathing, confusion, and loss of control in their environment.
  • ACOAs will go to great lengths to seek attention and validation.
  • They often perceive themselves as the victim.
  • Relationships are a challenge.
  • Social cues can be foreign.
  • They crave alone time.

The benefits of living with an adult child of an alcoholic

The list goes on and on, but you get the picture … or you are living among a child of an alcoholic who struggles with these traits. I think a very important part of discovering solutions to a happier, healthy living situation with an ACOA is to highlight the assets that come from their past.

  • These people are incredibly resilient.
  • ACOAs are great problem solvers and will go to great lengths to assure an issue is fixed.
  • Can be overly responsible in certain areas of their lives and typically very independent.
  • They are extremely loyal — sometimes to a fault.
  • Since they thrive in chaos, emergencies are often handled very efficiently.

Living with or dating the child of an alcoholic

Now that we have a deeper understanding of people who grow up with alcoholics, let’s review how to share a healthy life with them. Whether you’re with them romantically, as roommates, share a friendship, or find yourself staying with an ACOA, here are some tips for success:

  1. Practice compassion. After walking through what being a child of an alcoholic means, I think this is an obvious suggestion. That being said, sometimes it is not the easiest. It will take practice to make compassion second nature, especially when it’s difficult not to personalize an ACOAs actions. Practice may not make perfect, but it’ll make a great difference.
  2. Education and awareness. Congrats — you’ve stepped into the education aspect by choosing to read this article. Don’t stop here, there are tons of resources out there. Adult Children of Alcoholics is a wonderful support program for ACOAs, but friends and loved ones can benefit from it too!
  3. Self care. If you read my other work, you know that I am a huge advocate for self care. It is literally an asset and solution for any issue known to man. It goes right along with breathing, drinking, and sleeping, but wait … that is self care … imagine that! OK, I digress. Making time to enrich your life and take care of yourself is paramount. And even more so, when you have a challenging relationship in your life. Spend some quality alone time by going for a walk to reading a book, spend time with friends, watch a movie, or get a massage. Whatever your self care of choice is, do it up. Make time for yourself.
  4. Seek professional help. Whether it be for you alone or both you and your companion, seeking professional help can offer powerful solutions to your living situation.
  5. Set healthy boundaries. Be definite in your needs and don’t let you AOCA take advantage of you. Consistency will help as well. When you set a boundary, don’t sway. Keeping a routine can be very beneficial as well, and setting boundaries is a great start to building structure in your living situation.

The takeaway

Somedays these effects may seem impossible, but the more closely you understand the ACOA you live with, the more power you’ll have to work through their past. Living with an adult child of an alcoholic comes with challenges. However, with compassion and understanding, you can make it work.

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Alexandra Ashe
Alexandra is a sober woman who loves animals, writing, nature, horror movies, fitness, and self-improvement. After suffering a relapse in late 2016, she revamped her lifestyle and has been sober since March 2017. She is also the CEO and founder of Kinkatopia, which is the only kinkajou-specific organization in the world. Alexandra literally lives and breathes kinkajous — in addition to working a full-time career, taking care of her health, and giving back to the world in other ways. She is a woman on a mission ... the Mother of Kinkajous. Follow Alexandra’s articles to relish her experiences staying sober and running a kinkajou sanctuary. There is never a dull moment, that’s a promise. Kinkatopia.org

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