Daughters of Alcoholics Doomed, New Author Claims

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Growing up in an alcoholic family handicaps a daughter in choosing a mate. She will probably marry an alcoholic and maybe more than one, without knowing why.

It is commonly known that daughters of alcoholics tend to marry alcoholics, often more than one. As women tend to do, they are partially seeking to find their fathers in their husbands. But in their case, Father is a risky model in picking out a mate, Dr. Heyward Ewart warns in a new book.

Nonetheless, such a young woman will recognize certain personality traits that seem not only familiar but somehow enticing. Her own father, always inaccessible, seems available in another body. Seeing her father in such a one, she sees a chance to have her father at last, after all those years of being deprived, Ewart explains.

There can be a conflicting need for such a daughter to gain her "father" but also at the same time rebel against him. She can develop an unwieldy relationship in which both love and hate vie for the same space in her heart.

In such a dilemma, she will seem to hold on too tightly and be prone to extreme jealousy. Yet, at the same time, she will be subject to the sudden powerful urge to reject or punish her mate.

She retains the deep and powerful need for her father along with an equally powerful need to vent her rage against him. Yet these emotions will be pushed aside when the alcoholic drinking pattern in her husband emerges (if the marriage lasts that long), and she will undertake again what has always eluded her: getting him to stop drinking.

When she fails, it is her fault, she believes.

A girl growing up in an alcoholic family will often be doomed to failure regardless of which parent is the drinker. She will be the peacemaker and the one who tries to protect one parent from the other. All during her developmental years, she hopes that if she tries harder, then Mom or Dad will change.

Any child caught up in such a bind will eventually take on the self-appointed label of failure. Trying the impossible over a sustained period of time will produce this kind of self-condemnation, and she will likely spend a lifetime trying to overthrow the verdict.

The theme will be played out on the eventual spouse and on the children, who will find that they also have a parent who cannot be made happy.

The failure identity very often leads such a child to over-achieve, first in school and later in most other kinds of challenges. She will have a tendency to become a people pleaser, having failed so miserably with the most important people in her life: her parents.

She will also be prone to relationships of bondage with unreasonable, demanding, inconsistent people, sometimes tyrannical people, just like the ones at home during childhood. Sometimes she works out her early maladaption by setting the goal of becoming the ambitious, successful, family "saviour," the one who finally brings some dignity to the family name.

This course is the most frightening of all, because it consumes nearly all of her energy. Failure is always right behind, no matter what the level of success, so to stop running would be unthinkable.

Because an adult child of an alcoholic has not learned what normal existence is, she must guess at it as she tries to make her way through life and possibly establish her own family. But there is no normal way for anyone to adapt to craziness.

Such a young adult--or even a middle-age one--will be further done in by nondirectional counseling approaches that forever ask, "What do you think?" The patient is missing some vital information about what normal is, and it doesn't matter what she thinks as much as it does what she needs to learn. Thus, the therapist must be a patient teacher who is directional in his treatment.

These victims have difficulty following projects through to completion. They tend to shift priorities and feel that whatever they are working on at the time is the wrong thing. They have not been taught how to establish priorities because have been raised in a home where there has always been but one priority: keeping the peace to avoid further disaster.

They tend to judge themselves without mercy, not a surprising practice since they have almost never felt the pleasure of reward. Such a tightly-wound individual is not always pleasant to be with because life is too serious a problem with complications never-ending.

To say the least, they have grave difficulty in intimate relationships, having felt the terror of abandonment on a regular basis, and obviously they cannot trust but instead have an insatiable need for approval and affirmation.

Working with people on the job or in other cooperative efforts is difficult in that they have no idea what to expect from the other people; they must guess at what the reactions of others might be. Nonetheless, they try extremely hard to please and remain very loyal to relationships.

If ever they find a relationship that works, it is a treasure to be worried about and protected at all cost. However, some have managed to develop a "science" of knowing how to please even the most impossible people and will do so endlessly at great cost to their own personhood.

These and other issues surrounding child abuse are discussed with remedies in Ewart's new book, THE LIES THAT BIND: Healing the Scars of Abuse.

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