I was looking through old journals this morning for the first poem I ever wrote when I was 8. I know it’s somewhere written down, but I haven’t found it yet. Instead, I went to 2001 (high school for me – 10th grade) and I found a worksheet from my mom in the closet about CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS by some guy named Tim Cermak. I don’t know the date it was written, but the font looks very “art decco”.
There are a total of 19 bullets of these characteristics and by 6 of them, there’s a faint penciled check mark next to the ones I must have exhibited:

1. Fear of losing control – ACoAs (Adult Children of Alcoholics) maintain control of their feelings, their behavior, and try to control the feelings and behavior of others. They don’t do this to hurt either themselves or others, but out of fear. They fear that their lives will get worse if they let go of their control, and get uncomfortably anxious when control is not possible.

2. Fear of Conflict – ACoAs are frightened by people in authority, angry people and personal criticism. Common assertiveness, displayed by others is often misinterpreted as anger. As a result of their fear of conflict, ACoAs are constantly seeking approval, but they lose their identity in the process. They often end up in a self imposed state of isolation.

3. An over-developed sense of responsibility – ACoAs are hypersensitive to the needs of others. Their self esteem comes from how others view them, and thus they have a compulsive need to be perfect.

4. Harsh, even fierce, self criticism – ACoAs are burdened by a very low sense of self-esteem, no matter how competent they may be in many areas.

5. Fear of abandonment – ACoAs will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience this pain of abandonment.

6. Suffering from a back log of delayed grief. Losses experienced during childhood were often never grieved for, since the alcoholic family does not tolerate such intensely uncomfortable feelings. Current losses cannot be felt without calling up these past feelings. As a result, ACoAs are frequently depressed.

Looking at this now, I don’t know how old it is, but can only guess by the late 70’s early to mid 80’s and as a teenager when I found this I assumed (as most teenagers do) that it was about me. Now looking, I’m not sure. I’m not sure who those faint pencil check marks were in response to. And maybe not even me, but a fear of how someone might be? But I think a lot of people have these characteristics – not just “ACoAs”. It’s like a horoscope written months in advance: On this day someone you love will do something you don’t love and next month you’ll find some energy you didn’t think you had. the whole point of them is to find pieces of yourself in them – that’s what people do.
But if this isn’t about me, than who? All I can say is maybe I have more in common with someone than I thought?

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