Thursday, July 28, 2016

ACOA Characteristics and Self-Identity

While recording a podcast I needed to look up the characteristics of an ACOA or an Adult Child of Alcoholics. For whatever reason I clicked on a link that I didn’t recall seeing before. The wording was a bit differently and seemed more “broken down” or specific. I liked the way it was articulated, but I was suddenly overcome by some of the things that were staring me in the face. Things that I know in general, but the way it was presented, while I’m going through a transition in my work life, hit me pretty hard.




The way I’ve seen this example in the past is: Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
The way I see this worded in the above article is: Tendency to see everything and everyone in extremes, when under pressure….


There are other examples but this is the one I’m choosing for now.


When I look back at my life of anxiety and codependency, even before alcoholism, I see someone who overreacted. I didn’t have the internal “thermostat” to regulate my external reactions. Part of that, I believe, is “defective wiring” in the form of a chemical imbalance of the brain. The other portion was the environment during my formative years which, if nothing else, fed into that chemical imbalance. Adding fuel to the fire.


Remove either of these and I might be more highly functional that I am thus far.


In my current work situation, I think I’ve finally come to terms with it being just a “bad fit” for where I am in life now. I have become increasingly aware over the last couple of years that I am seeking order rather than chaos. Or to put it in more common terms: peace instead of drama. In a recent podcast I likened it to my alcohol use: I NEED sobriety, but had a craving for alcohol. By comparison, I think God has shown me that I NEED peace, but crave chaos.


This “revelation” was no small thing, either. I don’t want to be someone who seeks out drama. I don’t want to be a person who sees “everything and everyone in extremes” Thinking that this might be true is disheartening and humbling. At the same time, I avoid other people’s drama like the plague!


  • I am also a nervous extrovert who would just as soon isolate.
  • I am passive in my expression of feelings WAY past the point of being healthy, but when I decide I’ve had enough, I can get spun up pretty quick.
  • At this age I can speak calmly, when upset, but I can feel my voice shake and my face twitch.
  • I’ve been told (and I believe) that I am a “black and white” thinker, but my mind finds a million ways to over-analyze and ridicule myself for everything.


I’m a walking friggin’ contradiction!!!!


I usually have to breathe and back away from this kind of thing. We are ALL susceptible to this kind of run away thinking. Especially those with anxiety/depression issues. Addicts too! Many times we self medicate BECAUSE we can’t get our minds to slow down.


I don’t want to be this guy. It reinforces what I’ve heard over and over again in recovery and have paraphrased as: Being sober is only a PART of being sober minded. We have a lifetime worth of crap to overcome and it doesn’t happen overnight. I know that. I try to give myself grace.


For whatever reason, overreact to changes didn’t hit me as hard as seeing everything and everyone in extremes. I really do think this is something I need to look at, but it would be much easier to look at it if I could convince myself that it was everyone else’s problem!


This is the blessing and the “curse” of recovery for me. If I can look at everyone else and recognize their garbage, then I have to be able to look at my own or be a hypocrite. Looking at it, dealing with it, recovering from it and being free of it, is what brings peace. It brings serenity.


Serenity can beat addiction.


Addiction can come from anything.


It’s referred to as compulsion.


I need to work on these compulsions of thought. Of judgement.


Here is how I choose to combat this. I need to back off of myself and the world at large and look at what my Higher Power has said that I am…..


  • Bought with a price; I belong to God - 1 Cor 6:19-20
  • I am God’s workmanship - Eph 2:10
    • I was being prepared long before I knew it (same passage)
  • I am a minister of reconciliation - 2 Cor 5: 17-21


Those are from Freedom In Christ Ministries www.ficm.org


One of the most significant things I saw on a popular bookmark this ministry has created, especially as it pertains to this topic is:


Satan’s lies tell me that my behavior tells me what to believe about myself. So if I overreact and get angry and seem people in extremes and show little grace, I’m screwed up and a “bad person”. But that’s not me!!! I love people until they give me a reason not too!
Well, next to Satan’s lie, there is a comparison column called God’s truth.  The truth is My belief about myself determines my behavior. SO it stands to reason that if I go off of my opinion of myself, I’ll see what a mess I am. All of my faults will take the forefront and any good that I do will be either pushed into the background or will never even come to mind.


Thing you wouldn’t do that?


Try it sometime. With someone else holding you accountable, try making an honest pro and con list of who you have been to this point in your life.


WHen making an honest assessment of who you are, you will mostly likely come up with a ton of faults and few good qualities, if you are an ACOA. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you will soon find that you have a pretty bad outlook on yourself. Almost everyone else in your life gets a pass, in your estimation, but not you.


So how do you combat this? Stop trusting you assessment of your worth. Yes you can make a list of deeds and misdeeds in your life, but you cannot assess yourself objectively. That’s God’s job. HIS assessment can be trusted. He says, you have done A and B and C. He’s glad that you can own up to it. Not so He can say, “Told you so”, but so you can see reality and then HE can tell you, “you did those things, but there are reasons. Not excuses. Reasons. There are hurts you have been through and hurts you have caused. You live in a fallen, screwed up, imperfect world.You were raised by flawed, inperfect people. You admire flawed imperfect people. In your work and school you were influenced by flawed, imperfect people. You cannot trust another person’s assessment of your worth or who you are. I alone can.


From that same website:


Satan's lie - Your identity comes from what you have done. God’s truth - Your identity comes from what God has done for you.


If I can find more peace by listening to God’s assessment of me. Then, over time, I can not get so keyed up of feeling like I’m failing. Either in my job, with my kids, or at home. Then I can combat seeing everything in extremes, because I can lay aside my unrealistic expectations of the world and people around me. This takes pressure off of me. This allows me to not feel a compulsion to control or be perfect all of the time.


Zoom out. Look at what God thinks and stop grading yourselves on what you perceive others are thinking about us. You are too close to you to evaluate yourself. Others have an imperfect perspective of you as well.

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