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November 11, 1988     The Message
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November 11, 1988

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2 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana November 11, 1988 Adult children of alcoholics Learning to live with the anger and the hurt fr00)m a troubled childhood By MARY ANN HUGHES Message Staff Writer Growing up with an alcoholic parent can leave a child with a lot of anger -- and a lot of sadness. There is anger because of the inconsistent, and often violent, environment they live in; there is sadness for what didn't happen. When these children become adults they carry all these feel- ings with them. And before they can begin to function as normal adults they must do one thing. They must "claim their history." Jan Berkey, a therapist with Family and Children's Services in Evansville, came to Holy Redeemer Church, Evansville, last week to talk about Adult Children of Alcoholics. Only in the last 10 years has it been recognized that alcohol abuse results in a "disfunc- tional family," Berkey said. The two major factors in these alcoholic homes are "unpredic- tability and inconsistency." The first step an adult child of an alcoholic needs to take is to "acknowledge" the childhood. "They must say, 'this is in my history and it's something I must deal with.'" Adult children of alcoholics must face their past and realize why they are angry and why they are hurt. "One of the things that goes on in a home is that the children don't get mrented properly," Berkey Author discusses 13 traits In her book, "Adult Children of Alcoholics," Janet Geringer Woititz discusses 13 traits that many children from alcoholic households experience to some degree and which pose lifelong problems. Adult children of alcoholics: -- Guess at what normal behavior is. -- Have difficulty follow- ing a project from beginning to end. -- Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. -- Judge themselves without mercy. -- Have difficulty having fun. -- Take themselves very seriously. -- Have difficulty with in- timate relationships. -- Overreact to changes over which they have no control. -- Constantly seek ap- proval and affirmation. -- Feel that they are dif- ferent from other people. -- Are super-responsible or super-irresponsible. -- Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. -- Are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. said, "because the parents are so busy with the problems of alcahol." In these families, there is a "great deal of denial that there even is a problem -- it is a fami- ly secret. Everyone knows there is a problem, but no one talks about it. If the family does discuss the problem, they might say, 'Dad (or mom) is an alcoholic' rather than say, 'This person drinks and how does this affect the family?'" The alcoholic home becomes "erratic and inconsistent" which is very confusing for children. They learn to walk in- to things "wary -- to see if dad (or mom) is sober." Children learn if the parent is drunk, he or she will behave one way; if the parent is sober, he or she will behave another. Berkey said adult children of alcoholics "go through life this way -- they become suspicious. ' ' Berkey said adult children of alcoholics have problems with the issue of "control." As children, being in control helped them survive because no one else was in control. When an alcoholic parent lost control, things got violent and abusive. Even when grown up, it's frightening for these adult children of alcoholics to give up control. As adults, they often tend to see things "in black and white -- there is no grey," Berkey said. "They tend to judge a per- son as either bad or good and they tend to be somewhat judgmental." As children, they don't learn to trust their own perceptions of things, and this carries over to their adult lives. "As kids, they are seeing that things are very wrong. They may see their mother getting beaten up -- but she is saying, 'It's OK.' Their perception says something is bad, but the adults are saying everything is OK." A major problem the child faces is "not knowing what nor- mal is," Berkey said. "In an alcoholic home, a lot of things go on that are not normal." Adult children of alcoholics "have to find out what is nor- mal." Often, they grow up knowing how they don't want to live, Berkey said, but part of their recovery process is discovering how they are going to live. Homes with alcohol abuse often don't have boundaries or limits, Berkey said. "People don't keep their word and there is no privacy." Adult children of alcoholics need to learn to set limits and to move away from extremes. They often become workaholics because they have never learned to set limits. Because the parents often disregarded responsibilities, the children of alcoholics often become "overly responsible." They may become overly pro- Students need homes for Thanksgiving Marian Heights Academy in Ferdinand is requesting homes for the academy's international students during this year's Thanksgiving holidays. Academy students may leave for the Thanksgiving holiday after classes on Friday, Nov. 18, and return on Sunday, Nov. 26. The academy's ad- ministration sees this as an opportunity for foreign students to visit and to know American families and to become familiar with American culture. Families interested in hosting one or more students for the Thanksgiving holiday may write or call Sister Mary Philip Berger at the academy, Route 3, Box 202, Ferdinand, In 47532. The phone number is 1-367-1431. Catholic Charities Christmas Store The annual Christmas Store will open Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at St. Mary's Social Center, Evansville, according to Tom Coe of Catholic Charities. About 20 Evansville-area parishes sup- port the store which served a total of 1220 people last December. The store offers clothing and toys as well as blankets, towels and other household items. The cost is $3 per person plus a $3 charge to purchase household items. Participating parishes take the names of needy families; these families are then assigned a time to shop at the store. Coe said a Buying Committee works year-round purchasing items for the store. Members include Judy Kirsch, Kitty Gilles, Sue Pence, Sharon Staley, Florence Malvahn, JoAnn Seibert, Cecelia Jarboe and Valada Howard. The store is coor- dinated by Catholic Charities.  FAMOUS BRANDS FOR LESS. FURNITURE - CARPET- APPLIANCES HOME OUTFITTERS ""-'  JASPER - LOOGOOTEE -WASHINGTON NEW STORE OPENING IN VINCENNES COMPLETE INSURANCE SER JICE Autol Homei Fire & Lifel Your Personal Service Agent James L, Will Ins. Agency Inc. 311 N. Wabash 425-3187 I I tective of their brothers and sisters. Berkey noted that a lot of adult children of alcoholics don't remember their childhood and teenage years. "Then, they are afraid to remember." They get out of touch with their feelings of anger and hurt. "They Will talk about feelings rather than feel. As children, it wasn't safe to feel -- they learned to bottle their feelings up inside." The effects of having alcohol abuse in a family filter down at least three generations, Berkey said. She said whatever hap- pens in the family during a per- son's childhood "they will carry over in life." "To develop a normal home takes a re-learning process. A person must be willing to learn new skills -- and that takes time." Children assume roles to diffuse family problems Children living in a family with alcohol abuse know at a very early age that something is wrong. They assume a varie- ty of roles. "to draw attention away from the family pro- blem," according to Jan Berkey, of Family and Children's Services. "It's part of the denial system." These roles allow the family to function. Four typical roles in an alcoholic family are: The Hero: This is usually the oldest child in the family, who becomes the high achiever, the "star." This child deals with the alcohol abuse by achieving or by acting like an adult, often assuming parental duties. This child becomes a perfectionist, overcontrolled and controlling. As an adult, this person is often a workaholic and has feelings of respon- sibility for everything, an inability to relax or trust, and burnout. The Scapegoat: This is often the second child in the family. This child becomes the troublemaker, the "problem child." This child is often defiant, breaks the law, gets preg- nant; he or she seeks a sense of importance outside the fami- ly, This child takes the focus of the family off the problem of the alcoholic parent, As an adult, this person often becomes an alcoholic or drug abuser. The Lost Child: This is the really good child, the "family angel." This child protects himself/herself from the family problems by isolation. Their goal is "peace at any price." The Clown: This is usually the youngest child in a fami- ly. This child keeps things funny; they diffuse the tension created by the alcoholic parent. 'Remember ForFuneral Planning HOLY SPIRIT CHRISTMAS WONDERLAND Nov. 20, 1988 - 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. i00o00ym d00ooi00 HANDICAPPED ACCESS Food and Refreshments FREE ADMISSION Door Prizes Every 1/2 Hour COME AND JOIN THE FUN!