One way for Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) to find self-love is to finally free yourself of co-dependent behaviors. This is not as easy as it sounds. I struggled with this until I was almost forty.
I believe we have learned and acquired these unhealthy traits by years of living with alcoholics or other types of dysfunctional families. I have also found that when reading articles on co-dependency, to me, they feel so scientific and without empathy. Often the reasons for the development of this behavior do not seem to be addressed as much as the dysfunction itself.
Concurrently, when I was in therapy with a counselor for my co-dependent behavior, I often felt guilty. It seemed like it was my fault that I had these tendencies when I was in my early thirties. These behaviors were already profoundly entrenched in my psychological make-up.
When the focus is always on pleasing, behaving, walking on tip-toes, hiding bottles and worse, it is not hard to understand why we became co-dependent beings. We often seek, as helpless, fearful, innocent children, to do everything we can for acceptance by our only constant role models.
When I was little, I did anything I could to get some sort of acknowledgment or approval from my parents. Because approval was never attainable, it had an extremely negative effect on my self-worth. A good example of this would be when I was told to sweep the floor and I would do so with the utmost care. However, my father would then take the broom and go under the freezer, counters, etc. to find any available crumbs to prove my job was in vain. In spite of my efforts, I would often be spanked or scolded.
I was often the one who took care of my parents when they were unable to take care of themselves. Once when I had studied extensively for an important exam the next day, I went to bed early as I was exhausted. I was awakened in the wee hours of the night by my drunken father, who told me he could not pee. He was insisting that I help him. I spent a good hour in the bathroom with him, running the warm water and placing his hand in it until he was able to urinate.
Whether or not it makes sense, doing what you are told can be a necessary survival technique to those of us who lived in constant fear of what might come next. However, as adults, this should not be an issue we are forced to deal with in our relationships. Instead, we should be the givers and receivers of love, support, a sense of safety and security.
People who hurt your heart, don’t give back or care only about their own needs most likely don’t deserve your friendship or love. If you are covering up bad behavior of a person you are somehow involved with, this too is most likely not a healthy relationship. If you believe that you can control or manipulate a person to make things better, that can also be an unhealthy sign. The only person you can truly control is yourself.
We can’t and don’t have the power to control others, nor is that a good choice for us, so instead try and be kind to yourself. In order to find your own self-worth and love, you should seek to realize your gifts, value and your own inner beauty.
You became this way because you were likely raised in a dysfunctional situation, one that you could not control. You may also not know you are involved in a co-dependent relationship. If you are seeking help from a therapist, I would highly recommend someone who specializes in the treatment of ACoA. There are also some amazing books written by people who grew up in alcoholic homes. These books were like welcomed beacons of light to me during my early recovery.
I am not a therapist but I will say this, as I believe it without a doubt – if you are an ACoA and you discover that you have co-dependent tendencies, don’t feel guilty, you likely have enough guilt already to sink a large ship. Instead, work on getting healthier and realizing how much you have to offer. Find someone who is kind, considerate and loving. By seeking help as early as you can, you will acquire ways of recognizing an unhealthy person. You can avoid years of struggling to improve relationships that you are committed to where your partner is not.
I believe that prayer and our faith can be a comfort while going through therapy and dealing with these issues. I also do believe that God is the Almighty Father that can and does change people.
May you be blessed in your endeavors to find healthy love and relationships. Never forget you are a warrior, a strong being that survived your childhood because of your strength. Rejoice in your own beauty and gifts and know that you are worthy of love, kindness and God’s beautiful grace!