Excerpt from Chapter 4 – The Recovery Process in The Laundry List by Tony A. and Dan F.
Trait 8 – We Became Addicted To Excitement
As a child growing up in an alcoholic household I often found myself in the middle of a turbulent family soap opera. It was a household filled with tension, hostility, rebellion, guilt and shame. In some strange way it was both exciting and fearful, primarily because my parents’ actions were so unpredictable when they were drunk. As a result I have a tendency to link fear with excitement.
My usual reactions to the insanity in my household were vigilance followed by a rush of excitement and fear. The fear became part of my identity. I became addicted to the rush of adrenalin, the hypervigilance, the dread of a family scene going bad.
This combination of circumstances made me feel very alive and allowed me not to feel abandoned. I felt that I was in the middle of, or part of, something very tense and vital. Unfortunately as a child I didn’t understand that I was really engulfed in an alcoholic induced emotional windstorm that was making me sick.
Taken from the Big Red Book of ACA, Page xxxiv:
Tony A. sat down and wrote the original list of 13 characteristics of an Adult Child of Alcoholism in about two hours. He added one more trait when he sat down with Chris, another group member who offered to type up the list. Tony had forgotten to say anything about fear. But he didn’t think that they would admit to fear, so he called it “excitement”. We became addicted to excitement. This completed the list of 14 common behaviors of Adult Children. It was early spring of 1978.
Taken from the Big Red Book of ACA, Page 16:
Adult children use both excitement and fear to mimic the feeling of being alive when in reality they are recreating a scene from their family of origin. Gossip, dramatic scenes, pending financial failure, or failing health are often the turmoil that adult children create in their adult lives to feel connected to reality. These behaviors are examples of our “addiction” to excitement or fear.
The inner world of an adult child can be described as an “inside drug store”. The shelves are stocked with bottles of excitement, toxic shame, self-hate, self-doubt, and stress. Other shelves include canisters of lust, fear, and worry. As odd as it sounds, we can seek out situations so we can experience a “hit” of one of these inner drugs. We can create chaos to feel excitement. Or we can procrastinate on the job to feel stress. In the past we have picked relationships that triggered our childhood unrest because it felt normal to be upset, persecuted, or shamed. It made us feel alive. It represented our addiction to excitement and a variety of inner drugs created to survive childhood. Because our homes were never consistently safe or settled, we have no true reference point for these states of being. Therefore, we tend to viewed emotionally healthy people as boring or confusing.