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Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts (ACOA)

Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts(ACOA)

Did you grow up in a family where mom and/or dad drank too much alcohol or abused drugs? If so, you may relate to the experiences of individuals who identify themselves as Adult Children of Alcoholics/Addicts (ACOA). 

ACOA’s often experienced stressful situations as children. This may include fear and anxiety about their basic needs being met, neglect and/or abuse, and other traumatic events. Some individuals had to take on roles and responsibilities that required them to “grow up quickly” such as caring for younger siblings, taking care of household chores and meals, paying bills, and cleaning up after their parents. 

Due to being in a stressful environment, many ACOA’s found themselves chronically stuck in  a trauma response state throughout their childhood and may still experience heightened sensitivity to stressors. Pete Walker describes the four trauma response states — fight, flight, fawn, and freeze — in his paper that can be found here. When the nervous system is stuck in a trauma response, individuals may experience difficulty in the following areas: relaxing, regulating their emotions, sleeping, communicating with others, and completing tasks. 

Early childhood experiences impact how adult relationships, roles, and responsibilities. For ACOA’s some common challenges in adulthood include: 

  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty maintaining long-lasting relationships
  • Fear of abandonment
  • People pleasing behaviors
  • Difficulty with authority figures
  • Substance Abuse
  • Codependency
  • Isolation

Another article that provides information about ACOA characteristics can be found here

If you struggle with any of these things, please know that you are not alone. Some studies indicate that 1 in 5 people in the United States grew up in homes where addiction was present. I was one of those people and I can personally and professionally attest to the fact that individuals can heal from painful childhood experiences. 

I enjoy working with clients who identify as ACOA or have a difficult family background that continues to impact their daily lives. I utilize a person-centered approach with clients who desire to unpack their childhood experiences and begin to improve their relationships, communication style, boundaries with others, and satisfaction in life. I believe that our experiences (and the stories we tell about those experiences) are powerful and worthy of exploration! I have witnessed clients increase their self-awareness, heal childhood wounds, and begin to find new ways of navigating life and relationships. If you are interested in working through family of origin concerns, please reach out to schedule an appointment with me. 

I believe there is healing power in owning and sharing our stories. We all have parts of our story that we wrestle with, hide, run from, or try to numb. Through my personal and professional experience, I have been amazed by the resiliency and strength of the human experience. I understand the courage and trust that is required to work through these parts of our stories. I feel honored when a client invites me to journey with them in their healing process through counseling. I am passionate about creating safe places for the individuals I work with. My goal as your counselor is to help you feel heard, seen, and valued.

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