Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lying, Insecurity and Alcoholism

When faced with a situation where our partner feels insecure or unsure they lie. We have discovered that their parent(s) were alcoholics. What happens to us when we are raised in an environment where one or both of our caretakers are alcoholics? Is this an underlying reason for their habit of lying?

There is a group called ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) that is a 12 Step Program based on the principles of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) that has a great deal of information about behavior patterns in adult children. This is the place to begin our journey for answers.

Lying is often related to self esteem issues. That doesn't mean that there can't be more serious problems, but generally when alcoholism is involved, so is self esteem. Very often adult children grow up in constant chaos as their alcoholic parent(s) drinks themselves into oblivion in front of them. Our partner may never have felt safe or secure in their early lives. They may have lived in a home that was always in a shambles either physically, emotionally or both.

The effect of having a parent who is an alcoholic cannot be underestimated. Very often children in alcoholic homes never learn to self soothe. They don't have parents who set appropriate limits and boundaries so they never learn what acceptable behavior looks like. They may be aware that they don't have appropriate social skills but have no clue where to find out how to behave.

There is great hope in counseling for ACOA. Many have been able to recover from the trauma of their childhoods due to alcoholic family members. It may take time and a great deal of patience by both our counselor and our partner. This type of recovery program may involve us learning to set boundaries and limits with our partner as well as our partner learning to face their fears and allow themselves to be seen for who they are without the masks. Our partner has lived without consequences for lying for most of their adult life. That will have to change.

The fact that our partner doesn't react with emotion may mean that they have learned how to stop feeling. As a result of the pain of trauma during childhood, our partner has chosen to freeze all feelings rather than face them. This is common in trauma survivors. As children they needed this defense mechanism to survive. Now as adults, it no longer serves a purpose and is actually the cause of difficulties occurring in our relationship. As they defrost and begin to feel again they can become very depressed and/or angry for a while as they process all the pain and loss they have been supressing.

That can be a very difficult time for both our partner and ourselves. Recall that our partner has some very positive qualities that we value... loyalty, humbleness, deference, good heartedness, excellent business person, handsome looking. Our partner is also intelligent and capable. These are some very positive statements. We must recall that we love our partner very much. There is a question we ask partners in couples counseling...

Are we happy with our relationship at least 50% of the time?

Remember, this isn't just about the flaws our partner has... we all have some real whoppers... our partner needs to learn judgement and appropriate behavior in a safe environment.

There is much benefit for us to be found in doing some reading on ACOA. There are some excellent materials available in bookstores, online through Amazon and at ACOA meetings. Here is the link to ACOA . Click on "the problem" in the first paragraph to learn about the disease and what it feels like for the adult child. Here is a link for some recovery books.


  1. Incredibly helpful article. Thank you.

  2. Very helpful article. Thank you!

  3. Glad you found this helpful. I hope the links provide some useful information to help you better understand your loved one suffering from the effects of being an ACOA.

  4. This post is truly inspirational.