Adult Children of Alcoholics--And Their Alcoholic Parents--The Emotional Abuse
by Lisa A. Romano
Any adult child of an alcoholic or any adult child of an emotionally manipulative parent would tell you that the slightest conversation about the most mundane thing is enough to cause a total breakdown in communication with one of or both of their dysfunctional parents.
Whether it is a conversation about the weather, or about a news story on television, when trying to communicate with an alcoholic--or emotional manipulator--even the most simple conversation topics are enough to start what feels like a cold war.
Because non-alcoholics and non-emotionally manipulative people tend to communicate clearly--it is easy to become frustrated when attempting to converse with someone whose intent is 'not' to communicate clearly.
Anyone who has had the unpleasant experience of needing to speak to an alcoholic about a specific topic, with the intent to get to the bottom of some dynamic--will tell you that it is like trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language. What boggles the logical brain is--the idea that the person before you speaks the same language you do--so it is unfathomable to imagine that communication can be so difficult. The logical mind thinks, "Why can't I make him/her understand what I am trying to say? Maybe it's me. Maybe I am not being clear enough."
The logical mind cannot comprehend the idea that what he/she is trying to communicate is being thwarted. Rather than disengage from the dysfunctional, illogical alcoholic--many people become fixated on trying to drive their point across--and in doing so--enmesh themselves in negative communication styles with alcoholics.
A truly healthy person--who has no codependency issues--would recognize that the person they are talking to is NOT interested in clear, direct communication--and would detach from the individual, understanding that the alcoholic is the one with the problem. A truly healthy non-codependent--would chalk the conversation up to experience--and in the future--would probably steer clear of having to deal with the illogical alcoholic. But when the alcoholic is your mother or your father--detaching is not always a simple thing to do.
If you are an adult--or even if you are a younger child who has wisely begun investigating what it means to have an alcoholic for a mother or a father--know that you are not crazy--although--you probably feel crazy most of the time.
Because alcoholics are addicted to alcohol--their minds are never free enough to think logically--as there are many psychological filters at play.
Most alcoholics filter all conversations with others through the lens of denial. Because on some level they may know that their drinking is an issue--especially when they are hiding their drinking habits from you--their agenda is to thwart self responsibility--so any conversation you wish to have--about their drinking--will first be filtered through the thick, obnoxious lens of denial.
Your alcoholic will tell you all sorts of ridiculous things to get you to stop talking to them. They will insult you--tell you you are crazy--accuse you of being paranoid--and call you all sorts of names--in the hopes of hurting you so deeply emotionally--that you will be too crippled to confront them any longer about their drinking.
Know that--this type of communication is abusive.
If you live with an alcoholic, your needs are not--and cannot be met by the alcoholic.
If you wish to feel seen, heard, validated, and understood--you are barking up the wrong tree.
Alcoholics tend to be defensive, self absorbed, egotistical, verbally abusive, manipulative, and selfish. They cannot see you. They will not hear you. They do not want to see or hear you. But they do want you to stick around. They want you there--but they don't want you calling them out on their drinking.
So what can you do?
- Keep reaching out. Don't ever stop reading about ACOA issues. The more you know about alcoholism, and what it means to be an adult child of an alcoholic or an emotionally manipulative parent, the better you will be able to let go of your unrealistic expectations of them, and the less frustrated you will be in your own everyday life.
- Go to a CODA or ACOA meeting. Get a sponsor. Surround yourself with others who understand what you are going through.
- Find a Life Coach who specializes in Adult Children of Alcoholic issues. Develop tools that will help you communicate boundaries more effectively with your alcoholic.
- Learn to set boundaries.
- Fall in love with a hobby. Finding ways to fulfill yourself--will help you not seek validation from your alcoholic. Learning to soothe self is crucial when you have been manipulated by an alcoholic. The more you find to love about your self--the easier it will be to disengage from the alcoholic.
- Don't start a conversation with an alcoholic--thinking you are ever going to be heard. Because alcoholics are in denial--and in addition--their brains are inebriated--and often times depressed--they cannot and will not ever be able to have a solution oriented conversation. And even if the alcoholic agrees to do this thing or that--chances are they will be unable to follow through. Don't set yourself up.
- Set boundaries with the alcoholic. Let them know that if you begin feeling frustrated you will end the conversation--and maybe even leave the room.
- If you are a young child and live with an alcoholic--you must turn to guidance counselors at school. There are many youth groups available to help you deal with being let down by your parents. There are also many online community groups that you are able to join--that will help you learn to communicate with other members who understand what you are going through.
- As a young child living with an alcoholic--the sooner you accept that your parent or parents cannot meet your needs--the sooner you will understand that you are going to have to learn how to satisfy your own sense of worthiness. Know that just because your parents are unable to afford you the sense of self worth you deserve--does not mean you are not deserving. You are enough--you are special and unique--you are worthy--and you do not have to feel powerless. Fall in love with you! One day you will be old enough to go out into life and create a happy, wonderful life--without alcoholic ruining your chances of finding a healthy relationship that is built on mutual respect.