Codependency and Adult Children of Alcoholics

Don’t just wish for a better life…
make it happen.

This section of our website contains general information about different types of therapy. This information should be discussed with your individual therapist.


There is nothing like being a member of an alcoholic family to make someone feel like they are going out of their mind.  Alcoholism in families is not just one person’s problem, it is the whole family’s problem.  Children from alcoholic families tend to take on roles in order to survive in alcoholic families; roles such as caretaker, victim, clown, perfectionist, avoider, and many other roles.  As these children progress from childhood to adulthood, they carry these roles into new relationships and many times even into marriage.  Frequently, it isn’t until we form these new relationships that we learn that these roles are not constructive and many times encumber the relationship.  It can be a real confusing time where we feel like we are doing the right thing but our partner feels as if we are difficult, or controlling, avoidant or always depressed. This is normal for adult children of alcoholics (ACA’s) although many ACA’s feel alone.

The two topics of ACA’s and codependency usually go hand in hand.  On the Adult Children of Alcoholics website they list the following as definitions of codependency:

  1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you.
  2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you.
  3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain.
  4. My mental attention is focused on you.
  5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you.
  6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way.
  7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems.
  8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain.
  9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests.
  10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.
  11. Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.
  12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
  13. I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume.
  14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you.
  15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do.
  16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do.
  17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship.
  18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you.
  19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you.
  20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own.
  21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours.

As an ACA you learn to function with these beliefs in order to survive family life but unfortunately as you progress in adulthood you realize that you don’t know who YOU are because you have been satisfying the needs of others your whole life.  This is particularly difficult when you form relationships outside the family and can leave you feeling very depressed, angry or even anxious.

It is crucial to seek help and educate yourself about your own roles and functions within your family.  The insight you can find is incredible and it can change your entire life and how you relate with others.  You are not alone.  Look at these statistics.

Seventy six million Americans, about 43% of the U.S. adult population, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family.

  • Almost one in five adult Americans (18%) lived with an alcoholic while growing up.
  • Roughly one in eight American adult drinkers is alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol.
  • There are an estimated 26.8 million Children of Alcoholics in the United States. Preliminary research suggests that over 11 million are under the age of 18.

If you suffer from depression or anxiety or you just want to understand these issues better, please call for an appointment to see one of the independent therapists who is affiliated with Soultenders. We offer day and evening appointments available at your convenience. Don’t suffer alone.