Typical Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics

Typical Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics
If you’ve lived with a parent that drinks too much as a child, there are typical characteristics of children of alcoholics that develop. 
They vary depending on your personal situation of course, so what I mention in this blog post may not be exactly your experience. Also I feel it’s important to mention that whilst some of us have had similar situations, we’ll all experience it differently. 
It can seem strange that what happened in the past may still be affecting you, but it happens to so many of us. Without therapy and working through issues, they will show up in all sorts of ways. 
Maybe you experience physical issues, which in my view is often connected to emotional problems. 

Typical characteristics of children of alcoholics

There are some great sites that outline the typical characteristics of children of alcoholics, but I wanted to highlight them in a different way, I’m sure you’ll relate. 
  • Feelings of anticipation, stomach going around, fast breathing or stop breathing waiting for something to happen
  • Loner, avoid being around the drinker or anyone that causes drama, feelings of disconnection
  • Feel different to other people, feeling weird, odd or just mis-understood
  • Confused, experienced lots of confusion, when you expressed your thoughts, feelings and what you saw you were met with “don’t be silly”, “Everything’s ok” or something similar. Which didn’t match what was happening.
  • Distrustful, the people you thought you could trust turn to be unreliable and maybe don’t support and protect you
  • Unsafe, you struggle to feel safe in surroundings and with people (new/unfamiliar)
  • Powerless, feeling like you have no control or power to change the situation, which can cause frustration

How those childhood experiences looks as an adult

What we experience as a child will still impact adult life unless we have worked through it. How that looks in your ilfe now will vary do how it was as a child. Below I’ve made the comparisons to the characteristics above. 
  • Feelings of anticipation can develop subconciously into anxiety, so you anticipate unknown situations/people which leads you to feeling anxious
  • You avoid drama, or subconciously you attract it because that’s what’s familiar to you
  • Experiencing a lack of identity, not knowing what’s important to you. You change yourself depending on the person/situation
  • You have a lot of self-doubt and second guess yourself. At times find it hard to make decisions, you spend time asking others for their opinions. At times you find it hard to trust yourself
  • When you meet new people you find it difficult to trust them, thinking they have alteria motives. You feel that what they say isn’t what they’ll do
  • You can be hyper-sensitive to your surrounding, scanning a room/place for safety, you struggle to feel or know what safe is most of the time
  • You feel most comfortable when you’re in control, the one organising, cancelling, changing something.  Not having the power makes you feel uncomfortable, anxious. Whether that’s an airport, a place which you feel you can’t escape from or relationship you feel stuck in

Other symptoms of living with a parents drinking problem

Living with a parent/carer that drinks is complex, there are so many variations, some more severe than others. You may experience some of these in your daily life:
  • Certain situations or people remind you of something in your past, you react, experience a panic attack, feel you just want to get away from the person or situation or it makes you react in a defensive way (justifying, giving reasons, shouting)
  • When you sleep you often get images/have dreams of the past and what happened
  • You don’t often ask for help, maybe seeing it as a weakness or not wanting to “put” on others (even though you haven’t asked so you don’t know if that’s how they’ll see it), or maybe others just won’t do it “right”!
  • Certain people bring out a side to you that reminds you of yourself, someone that you had a difficult relationship/experience with and you don’t handle it well (maybe you feel you hate them or are jealous of something they have)
  • You minimise your experience, play it down and say it wasn’t that bad (maybe compared to others)
I’d love to hear from you if any of the above makes sense. Maybe you’d like to share your experience anonymously by submitting your experience to me, and I can release as a blog post. Just email me!


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Next Steps

If you’d like to chat then do get in touch, I’m happy to gift you some time. Click here or email jo@johuey.co.uk or call (07732) 403305. 
Remember you aren’t alone and you can always join my Daughters of Alcoholics Facebook group, where other families of alcoholics support each other with challenges they experience from the past or present.  You may have lived with an alcoholic in your past, but it’s still impacting you in the present. 
I also run a podcast with my sister, click here to find out more. 

2 thoughts on “Typical Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics

  1. Ewa says:

    Hi Jo,
    from what you shared on your website, I’ve noticed I have problem with DECISION making, self- doubting, always asking others for their opinions, avoiding drama.
    I don’t often ask for help, I minimize my experience, others had far more hard past than me, I often don’t trust myself, when meeting new people I have problem to trust them, in general I feel POWERLESS..

    • johuey says:

      HI Ewa, I can relate to this, I spent a long time asking everyone for their opinion on my life, what I should do, what decision I should make etc. Like you I was full of self-doubt, not trusting myself and obsessed with making the wrong choice. It’s also really common to minimise your experience, I get so upset when people do this. This is my reasoning behind it.

      Of course there are always going to be people worse off than you, However, some people have more resilience, better support, healthier perspective, etc. So whilst one person maybe dealing with a more serious issue, everything is relative. It’s about how YOU experience it. If it feels overwhelming, serious etc then it is. This isn’t about minimising others issues or saying yours is more important, it’s about respecting how you feel and giving it the attention it deserves. I hope that makes sense.

      I think many of us struggle with trust too, we’ve been let down by the very people that should have protected us a lot of the time. So we can become distrustful. Our fear comes to the surfaces, worrying about getting hurt, being let down, abandoned etc.

      IF you aren’t already in my daughters of alcoholics facebook group please do join us, if you are then please do share in the group should you want support, that’s what we’re there for.

      Start to look at what you can control, what will help you feel empowered. Small steps.

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