In the Big Red Book for Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families you will find this list of 25 questions.  They can help you determine if alcoholism or other family dysfunction existed in your family.  If your parents did not drink, your grandparents may have drank and passed on the disease of family dysfunction to your parents.  These questions can offer you insight into some of the ways children are affected by growing up with a problem drinker even years after leaving the home.  These questions also apply to adults growing up in homes where food, sex, workaholism, or ultra-religious abuse occurred.  Many foster children, now adults, also relate to these questions.

1.  Do you recall anyone drinking or taking drugs or being involved in some other behavior that you now believe could be dysfunctional?

2.  Did you avoid bringing friends to your home because of drinking or some other dysfunctional behavior in the home?

3.  Did one of your parents make excuses for their other parent’s drinking or other behaviors?

4.  Did your parents focus on each other so much that they seemed to ignore you?

5.  Did your parents or relatives argue constantly?

6.  Were you drawn into arguments or disagreements and asked to choose sides with one parent or relative against another?

7.  Did you try to protect your brothers or sisters against drinking or other behavior in the family?

8.  As an adult, do you feel immature?  Do you feel like you are a child inside?

9.  As an adult, do you believe you are treated like a child when you interact with your parents?   Are you continuing to live out a childhood role with your parents?

10.  Do you believe that it is your responsibility to take care of your parents’ feelings or worries?  Do other relatives look to you to solve their problems?

11.  Do you fear authority figures and angry people?

12.  Do you constantly seek approval or praise but have difficulty accepting a compliment when one comes your way?

13.  Do you see most forms of criticism as a personal attack?

14.  Do you over commit yourself and then feel angry when others do not appreciate what you do?

15.  Do you think you are responsible for the way another person feels or behaves?

16.  Do you have difficulty identifying feelings?

17.  Do you focus outside yourself for love or security?

18.  Do you involve yourself in the problems of others?  Do you feel more alive when there is a crisis?

19.  Do you equate sex with intimacy?

20.  Do you confuse love and pity?

21.  Have you found yourself in a relationship with a compulsive or dangerous person and wonder how you got there?

22.  Do you judge yourself without mercy and guess at what is normal?

23.  Do you behave one way in public and another way at home?

24.  Do you think your parents had a problem with drinking or taking drugs?

25.  Do you think you were affected by the drinking or other dysfunctional behavior of your parents or family?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, you may be suffering from the effects of growing up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional family.  Please take the time to attend our ACA meeting or find one in your area to learn more.

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Had a Hospital Stay  — Obvious
Had to call the Police — Obvious
Had to call an Ambulance — Obvious
Guns, Knives, Blood  — Obvious
Threatened Your Life – and you believed it — Obvious
Threatened to Take Their Own Life – and you believed it –Obvious
Broken Bones — Obvious
Black eye  / Fat Lip —  Obvious
Bruises where they can be covered by clothing — A Direct Message to You
You FEEL beat up – even though you were never hit

And yet, many partners, even after experiencing several of the above situations, don’t want to believe that they are in an abusive relationship, don’t want to believe that it will happen again, and again, and again….  until they get out and stay out!

Abuse in a relationship, whether it be dating, a marriage, any family member, a job, or a friendship,  can take many forms.  Verbal, Emotional, Psychological, Sexual, and, of course, Physical.  Many times, even with broken bones and bruises, we have a tendency to minimize what is happening.  We might say to ourselves, “Well, at least he doesn’t HIT me, he would NEVER hit me.”  And that seems to be enough.   For some of us, being faithful in the relationship is our final boundary.  And again, we might find ourselves saying, “He/She doesn’t screw around on me!”  Because, that would be more than we could tolerate.  Many times, the final boundary is about money.  “My partner/mate has a job, brings their check home and is holding up their end of the financial part of the relationship.”

Are we setting the bar way too low?  Are these the bare minimum kinds of expectations?  Today, I can say, Yeah! This bar is way too low! But, there are lots of ways that abusive behavior can creep into our relationships, and depending on what we saw growing up, we don’t even have a clue that it IS abusive.   When someone confront us, asking, “Why do you let _____ get away with treating you like that?!”  We find ourselves shocked that anyone would consider it abusive.

Some kinds of abuse, usually in the beginning, are very subtle, so subtle that we don’t even recognize it as abuse.   But then what do we ACoA’s/children from dysfunctional families,  know about what is normal?  They may say hurtful things, or embarrass you just to see how you respond.  Will you tolerate the behavior, make excuses for it, or do you immediately let your partner know that you will not tolerate that treatment from them or anyone?  Here is a checklist that might help in recognizing if YOUR relationship is abusive…

CHECKLIST  (provided by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Does your partner…

  • Embarrass or make fun of you in front of your friends or family? (psychological abuse)
  • Put down your accomplishments or goals? (psychological abuse)
  • Make you feel like you are unable to make decisions? (psychological abuse)
  • Use intimidation or threats to get you to do what they want?
  • Tell you that you are nothing without them?
  • Treat you roughly – grab, push, pinch, shove or hit you?
  • Call, text, or email you several times a day or show up to make sure you are where you said you would be?
  • Use drugs or alcohol as an excuse for saying hurtful things or abusing you?
  • Blame you for how they feel or act?
  • Pressure you sexually for things you don’t want to do?
  • Make you feel like there “is no way out” of the relationship?
  • Prevent you from doing things you want – like spending time with your friends or family?
  • Try to keep you from leaving after a fight or leave you somewhere after a fight to “teach you a lesson”?

Do you…

  • Sometimes feel scared of how your partner will act?
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for your partner’s behavior?
  • Believe that you can help your partner change if only you changed something about yourself?
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry?
  • Always do what your partner wants you to do instead of what you want?
  • Stay with your partner because you are afraid of  what your partner would do if you broke-up or left?

If any of these are happening in your relationship, talk to someone. Without some help, the abuse will continue.

(Adapted from Reading and Teaching Teens to Stop Violence, Nebraska Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Lincoln, NE).
If you need help please call 911 or The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 404-688-9436