You can talk to a dozen experts, read a dozen books and get a dozen different interpretations of ACOA co-dependency.
Many accept it as a disease in as much as it has an onset, is progressive, predictable and in time is potentially fatal, although other causes of death are generally cited.
It is assumed that all Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s) are co-dependents, but we each act out this illness in a different way. Basically, there are two general concepts:
- As children growing up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional home environment, we learned to hide or divorce our feelings, our true selves (also knows as the “Inner Child”) and we adopted a survival role in order to cope with the stresses.
- The experts in the field of alcoholism have identified five main roles which although not always mutually exclusive, seem apparent in all children from dysfunctional homes.
The five roles are:
- The Hero,
- The Scapegoat,
- The Mascot
- The Lost Child
- The Little Enabler.
Most of us discover that we identify with one or more of these roles, and find ourselves in the process of trying to separate our true selves from our childhood role.
In relationships, many ACOA’s find that, as a result of the traumatic bonding with our sick parents, we are now drawn to relationships with alcoholics or addicts of one sort or another.
We become addicted to these dysfunctional people to the point that our own lives revolve around the addict, to our own detriment.
We have difficulty in “letting go” because we convince ourselves that we are “in love” and that we need this other person in order to feel fulfilled.
In short, co-dependents are “people pleasers”. We have lived our lives focused on significant others in our lives rather than living from our own beingness, adapting to the wants and needs of others rather than from our own agenda.
In A.C.O.A. we give up this “other centredness” and begin (perhaps for the first time) to be “self-centred”.
Not in the narrow, egotistical or narcissistic sense, but in a healthy way that builds self-esteem and self-confidence.
We learn to love ourselves. This is sometimes referred to as “re-parenting or self-parenting”.
We are re-programming our inner child, giving up the “old tapes”, the beliefs and the projections of our parents.
We grieve our losses and become the ones we are, rather than what someone else tried to make us.