10 thoughts on “Child of Alcoholism – Hero Child

  • August 5, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    I read with great interest your article on, Child of Alcoholism – Hero Child. BOTH of my parents were alcoholics – BOTH died from alcoholism as well. My father died at the age of 53 and my mother at the age of 57. I am now 56. I have only been in treatment for SEVERE depression/anxiety for the past 16 years, and I have currently begun seeing a new psychyatrist who believe really HEARS MY PAIN!
    Although I was the 3rd child born, I can see I was the hero child.
    THANK YOU so much for your work and future efforts. You also hear the pain of all of us screaming silently of shame and guilt!

  • August 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Reading your item on the hero child definitely rang true for me, I grew up in a very abusive household & my father was also an alcoholic. I am the youngest of three, and the hero child. You are right Erika, approval never came, still hasn’t, nomatter how well I do or how hard I have & do work it somehow never feels good enough for the family – and everyone has bought into it, others that achieve have dinner parties thrown for them in their honour, showered with recognition & gifts for their achievement, I barely get an acknowledgement & yes, it has always been that way, as a child & now as an adult.

    Facing the truth about who the achievement is for, who’s gain is it? IS it for me, is it for their approval & recognition of what? Worthiness, valuable, intelligence or what? My goals changes a few years ago on the reasons for any academic gain, those gains became for me, for my own children & I always recognise my children’s gains big & small. It is painful to realise that approval or recognition will never come from anyone in my immediate family & I struggle to overcome that pain as an adult. Still, I hope I have at the very least, learned to give my own children credit they deserve that results from their hard work & efforts.

    K :o)

  • August 7, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    “Eventually, the stress and strain of giving so much of themselves for the sake of the family – and for what?”…Huh?

  • August 9, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Both parents alcoholic. Mother died 54, Father WWII, Administrator of lawfirm, in AA starting at 65 years old.
    Oldest brother: engineer, alcoholic died at 56
    2nd oldest brother: Dr, denial or hero
    older sister: nurse, comedian, takes meds & alcohol, married to alcoholic
    me: blacksheep, teacher, let the secret out
    younger sister: nurse, suicidal using anorxia
    Everyone in therapy for years or dead

    It’s been quite a ride, interested that the DSM !v states symptoms of alcoholism are the same as symptoms of PTSD.

  • August 19, 2009 at 9:06 am

    I grew up in a very abusive household & my father was also an alcoholic. I am the youngest of three I myself have suffered with a long term alcohol addiction, I thought there was no way out, it was just one big cycle. I have now overcome my addiction and I am no longer an alcoholic, if anyone is reading this and needs help and support I seriously recommend this site Healthwise Global http://www.healthwise-global.com which is fantastic for helping manage stress, the site does have a special program to help overcome alcohol addiction ( which I used), the man who started the site was himself and alcoholic. I hope it helps any one who is reading this article.
    Thank you for writing this article, in so odd way it has made me a peace with myself

  • September 25, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Talk about sucked dry, I’ve been unemployed for all of 5 years except 1-1/2 mos. I think that not only did I try to be the hero no matter how detrimental to myself, but I thought my few suicidal thoughts in adolescence finally swayed me with multiple counselor’s, Drs. and Psychiatrists suggesting pills, I gave in. Since… I’ve actually nearly taken my life three times, have had multiple violent arguments (alcohol and antidepressants NO-NO), have admitted myself to mental hospital twice, and all the while have been misdiagnosed, prescribed overdosing amounts of pills, enough to put me to sleep for 4 days at a time and give me a new disease sleeping disorder!! I don’t actually have :-O, and meds. which should never have been combined and multitudes of side effects, I have been declared disabled by the state, and ineffectually am able to care for myself. At nearly 25 years of age I had contributed in designing and drafting, hospitals, casinos, racetracks, airports, public and private schools and community facilities,+, & was an A-B average student, working my way through school with the start of a 401k, completly dry from partying in highschool ( even cigarrettes), fearful yet looking forward to building my own family. It all started (the pills) as I drove to school from work and experienced 2 consecutive, full, panic attacks on my way to school from work. Now I can barely leave my house now at times the panic and anxiety physically hurts too much (heightened anxiety due to withdrawals for over 6 mos. to an anti-pschitsofrenic medication I was ultimatum-ed to take while last in the hospital or be detained) I came in having been delussional and hallucinated for 3 weeks coming off of an antidepressant 1yr, ADD med (high dose) 2 weeks, and a bipolar med combined (because my regular state Dr. disagreed with ADD prescription, so he told me to take all three..) I lost 20 lbs off of 127 in less then 2 weeks, not retaining and sustenance I forcibly consumed, and they told me to continue the medications, it wasn’t until they put me back on the bipolar meds in the inpatient Mental Health Hospital that I left them a beautiful bathroom wall art to my chagrin, that in all their medical wisdom they were reminded I do not lie. Not only do I not trust the State, University, or private medical or mental health doctors, my family, now I know I can not trust my own judgments as I thought once could.

    My brother who I was told to protect has been to jail, and is now a steady alcoholic, yet functioning a bit more actually going to school, & working.
    I’ve had more then 28 “professionals” tell me to leave my folks and never look back, actually to convince myself they are dead if it will create the separation. My parents did not hit me..though the pain may have seemed more justifyable with physical evidence, I know better or worse it’s taken all from me what ever I provided. Not only am I horrible at choosing people to be in my life, I am to expect myself to be grieving the ones given to me, in order learn to love myself essentially!
    There are no materials in life that can replace people, and when asking for help, esp. when not competent to help one’s self proves nearly detrimental, it’s easy to give up…I did not choose easy, nor to quit, and those who have been helpful (kept me from dying) have been psychics/ the suicide helpline, personal blogs about meds, my ex-fiancé once, and most often that which I cannot see… believe me, that has me further questioning my sanity. 😉 God bless strangers and strange things, and moments of selflessness even by those close to me.
    This article is a very fundamental description of the formula of this family type/role is that I have experienced. Thank you for your output.

  • April 23, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Wow, this just explained my whole life. I remember coming home to my alcoholic mother after taking the PSATs in high school. At that time, there were 5 categories. I was in the 99th percentile in all 5. My mother was furious. She told me I failed 5x, and couldn’t I have gotten at least a single 100? I explained to her that 99th percentile is as high as you can get. No good! I was punished. She told me that now she would have to lie to everyone, and say I got 100’s on the tests.

    This became my life pattern. I graduated summa cum laude from college, with a double major. Still not good enough.

    I know my life is always better when I’m away from her, but how do you actually make the break? She’s getting older. The guilt trip for walking away from an older parent is horrible, yet she sucks away my very soul when I’m around her. Any advice for making the break?

    • December 3, 2012 at 5:13 am

      Hi Candice, what great insight you have. Your academic accomplishments sound AMAZING.

      It sounds to me like you have several options, and as though (if I understand you correctly), you’re perhaps willing to find a middle ground where you want to offer caring to your mother’s needs if you can do so without sacrificing yourself. I think this is a very kind and caring response, for both her and yourself. However, please consider that your first responsibility is to yourself. As selfish as that may sound according to our dysfunctional society, it is indeed true. You need to be okay if you are to (a) take care of yourself and enjoy your life, and (b) be able to help anyone else (such as your mother). If you find that you are unable to help your mother without sacrificing yourself, I personally think it is completely understandable for you to take that space from her. As sad as it may be that your mother lacks help or is without the support she desires, this is not your foremost responsibility. You may choose to help her, but you are not obligated to. Or perhaps there may be other ways to help her that allow you to maintain the space you need. Bottom line: Your well-being is of utmost importance and concern, and should not have to be sacrificed.

      I’m not an expert, but it also sounds to me like your mom is still a very strong trigger point for you. Anytime I hear something like this, it also seems to me that whatever issues arose from the relationship are still alive and have not been entirely resolved. I think many of us find ourselves in these circumstances, as the issues of dysfunctional/abusive childhoods take a lot of time, energy, and processing to resolve. But I’m always amazed when someone wants to find ways to find peace and healing from painful experiences they’ve had. GOOD FOR YOU! Truly.

      I know how difficult it can be to be faced with the impossibility of getting what we desire from our parents. It hurts and it is understandable that we may feel angry about it; deep down we tend to want for our parents to not fail us in such deep capacities. At some point, the responsibility shifts from them to us to take care of ourselves. I think we need to take care of the little child (or children) within us, and to tend to our wounded emotional selves in very real ways, teaching ourselves how to deal with the hurts we couldn’t deal with as children (because we didn’t know how, or because surviving meant accepting and normalizing the conditions around us). It becomes essential that we engage in accepting ourselves, validating our feelings/perspectives, and forgiving ourselves. We must accept what happened, and take the space and time to go within to deal with this, to honour the needs that may not have been honoured when we were younger, to find ways to express the feelings we felt and continue to feel without judging ourselves or judging those who were involved in the situations that brought the feelings about. Committing to a position of compassion for ourselves and making love for ourselves a priority can help with some of the feelings of anger, confusion, self-invalidation, fear, anxiety, helplessness, and self-pity that can come up. The way we respond to ourselves and to our experience of all of this will also depend on the expectations we have of ourselves. If we approach these exercises with a committment to love ourselves and to *not* demand from ourselves (in the form of expecting certain results and judging outcomes with anything else than compassion) but rather to love ourselves and respond with appreciation for our effort and courage. It is not easy to face all of this. The choice to make the decision to come to terms with our feelings, experiences, and personal histories is incredibly courageous and deserves to be celebrated with respect and acknowledgment of that courage and strength.

      Liberating ourselves from the disapproving grasp of our parents or memories of them might look different for each of us, and I’m not a professional so I’m not sure I know specifics to recommend. However, I think self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, self-validation, and a committment to respond with curiosity (instead of judgment, fury, assumption, stubbornness, or impatience), a patient approach (understanding that it will take us time, perhaps much time, that these issues may be revisisted time and time again because they are multi-layered and complex and we may find nuances of feelings and responses embedded within them that may only be revealed with each time we return to the issue and realize something new about it), trust in yourself (you can do this, you don’t need anyone’s approval or agreement — you are a person, too. your opinion matters and YOU have the foremost authority and permission to speak to and make decisions about your emotions and your perceptions of yourself and the world as you see it), and an understanding that life is unfair and we can find ways to deal with adversity actively (as empowered individuals) or by feeling sorry for ourselves and that life has been unfair to us, victimizing ourselves (perpetuating our former victimhood) by blaming others for making our lives crappy, and generally holding ourselves in a state of self-pity. I think temporary self-pity or “this isn’t fair” is okay and understandable; but I’m not sure what can be gained or benefited by staying in that state.

      What you are doing is wonderful. You are looking for ways to take care of yourself and attend to both your desire to be caring to yourself and another person (if I understand correctly), and simultaneously to address the reality of the past. It takes honesty and committment to do this; and I hope you have a sense for how admirable and courageous this is. Again, good for you.

      I hope these ideas are helpful. If not, keep searching for what makes sense and what helps. And whatever the case, do know you have every right to make taking care of yourself a priority; this is not selfish but in fact taking responsibility for ourselves. I wish you a sense of peace and genuine self-approval that is rooted in self-respect. All the best.

  • February 7, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    You didn’t mention the abuse that heroes perform towards the family scapegoat. This is very rarely mentioned but is prevalent, along with attitude of being better than others. Because heroes follow rules so well, and because they look so good (in whatever area they excel in) their manipulation of others is very rarely mentioned. Even in therapy they are treated as heroes. A description of other roles usually consists of problematic behaviors. Descriptions of heroes rarely go into their many problematic way of manipulating others, bullying at times, climbing to the top ruthlessly. Heroes are not poor victims trying to do what is right (when without treatment.) They can be the ones who are invested in keeping siblings “below them” and are highly treatment resistant. They are excellent at amassing acquaintances who are not able to put their finger on their manipulative ways of behaving. All members of an alcoholic family are negative impacted.

  • October 5, 2017 at 3:13 am

    I wish the article had focused more on the underlying anxiety related mood disorder rather than just the symptom. In.my family history with workaholics and alcoholics, I see the addiction as the symptom, with the problem the unrecognized mood disorder.

    In my family of high performing workaholics, I see the nature of workaholism as the addiction that typically leads to alcoholism.
    Workaholism is a self punishing addiction that leads to spiritual annihilation. The alcoholism or drug abuse typically comes later, as the workaholic uses alcohol or drugs as a comfort seeking behavior, or an escape from the social isolation and emotional deprivation that workaholism and codependency create. I believe recovery is only. possible when a person can face the truth of their childhood and embrace their shadow. They may not restore their childhood spirit, but they can find a spiritual connection to heal their fragmented self. PTSD runs in my family, of high performers, not just from the alcoholism, but from the inability to recognize anxiety spectrum behaviors. We are high performing in our careers, highly educated and intelligent, but typically suffer lifelong emotional pain in our personal family relationships. I believe this obsession with high performance is not only promoted in families like mine, but the schools have become cold and callous places where children are experiencing chronic stress that is leading to an epidemic of anxiety and depression. We need more education about how to relate to young children’s social and emotional needs, and a complete revision of the current school system. It needs to be a healthy environment where children can feel safe and thrive, and not a place of fear where they have to function in a state of hyper vigilance, which research shows changes brain chemistry and leads to mental illness. We need to wake up America.


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