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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.


Not an "Adult Child"

Chloe commented (with great care and deference) on Master's last post:

...My father is an alcoholic. He has been dry for many years, but as I've been reminded many times... Like the Marines, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. Anyway, my father has been dry for 22 years. (I'm 27, so I'll leave it to you do the math.)I've had many thoughts and questions and (admittedly) reservations about the path you and your family are walking to face this problem....I just wanted to take the opportunity to let you know I'm reading, even if it's been mostly silently.

From my own personal experience for my own personal reasons, I don't hold any stock in self-policed or family-policed moderation being the best path when it comes to something a person was previously addicted to. But if you can do it? If it's a better path for you to follow ...Then I wish you all the best in it, and maybe I can learn something new by watching...

 And I imagine that Chloe may very well speak for many who have simply chosen to not get into that conversation with us.  It isn't any surprise to me that she would feel like she does about this issue of alcohol addiction and approaches to recovering from that.  It doesn't really surprise me that most people would react exactly like this...  It is the way that most of us, but especially those of us who grew up in alcoholic households, are taught to view the challenges and realities of alcohol use and/or abuse.  Within our culture, the alcohol recovery and rehabilitation industry has become so entrenched and so ubiquitous, that we mostly don't even recognize it when we parrot the lines we've been given with regard to alcohol and addiction.
"They" have done such a great job of scripting the conversation that there is essentially not a person who does not immediately fall into the accepted recitation of what "everyone knows" about the subject. 

I'll be the first to validate, absolutely, the sense of disquiet experienced by Chloe as she considers the stark discussion here about alcohol use and the intent to moderate that use.  Like her, I grew up in a family with two parents who were alcoholic.  My mother was the most actively abusing of the pair of them.  Her natural bent toward meanness was exacerbated by alcohol use, and my brothers and I lived in continual terror of her.  The abuse she inflicted on me before I was old enough to be verbal left deep marks in my psyche that were only revealed when Master and I first began to delve into intense sadomasochistic play, and I'd spin off into not quite remembered darkness.  As for my father, his drinking left him unavailable and uninvolved.  She abused and he was not aware enough to prevent it.  I survived and so did my brothers.  I honor all those children, like us, who survived and grew up in spite of childhoods spent awash in the craziness of boozed up parents.

I was a very young adult, and a new wife and mother when I first became aware of the new label being applied to people who had grown up like I did.  It was 1983 when Dr. Jan Woititz, wrote the New York Times Best Seller, Adult Children of Alcholics.  The book became the definitive work describing the issues specific to those who were raised in families impacted by alcohol, drugs and the dysfunctional behaviors of others,  Woititz became the mother of the movement that would forever enshrine the concept that no one ever completely escapes the depredations of an alcoholic upbringing.  Her book elucidated 13 characteristics of adults who grew up with alcoholic parents:
1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

And there you go -- nice and neat and tidy.  Check off "yes" or "no" and if you get 7 or more positives, you know who you are...  Or something like that.  The damage is done.  You are what you are.  Ruined in your formative years and forever unable to be anything EXCEPT an ACOA.   Well, I rejected that tidy little diagnostic trick when I first encountered it, and I reject it to this day.  I acknowledge that I was a child who had the bad luck to have parents who were addicted to alcohol, and who abused it on a regular basis.  Too, I generally lay claim to the status of "adult."  I am, to be sure, the product of all my myriad life experiences, and the circumstances of my childhood are part of that picture -- but not all of it, and not, in my view, the most significant part of it. 

The checklist of characteristics doesn't describe or define me.  The memories don't disable me.  The things I missed as a child do not cause me to long for them without hope of ever being satisfied, now some 50 years later.  I am not that child, although I love who she was.  I am not that child, although I honor her strength and courage.  I am not that child, although I value the lessons she learned.  My alcoholic parents lived in their own sort of hazy hell, and because they were our parents, and because we loved them, we hovered around the edges of their torment -- until it was time for us to grow up and move on.  I don't know about my brothers -- their lives are their own, but I am not anyone's "adult child."  I am an adult -- well and strong and good.  Period.

So, I understand when people like Chloe lead with the story of their alcoholic parent.  The experiences of having a drunken, unavailable, unreliable, abusive parent is frightening and sad.  There are any number of ways to HAVE a parent who is less than ideal -- who is ill or uneducated or poor or crazy or preoccupied or old or overweight or selfish or...  Most of us grow up anyway.  And if we are lucky and strong, we grow up to be OK in spite of whatever befalls us. 

I knew, when I met Master; when I agreed to be His, that He drank.  I knew that He drank a lot -- and I knew that He drank at a level that was not considered to be healthy.  I saw His drinking behavior, and I saw how He managed His life and affairs, and I believed that His alcohol use was a part of His life that was under His control.  I chose, with full awareness, to accept those realities and join my life with His.  For all the years we have lived together, that has been our way of living and it has been good.  I have not one single regret, nor do I give any credence to those who simply write me off as a co-dependent enabler in an alcoholic constellation.

And then He had His bariatric surgery.  When He resumed drinking after the prescribed months of alcohol avoidance, everything was different.  At first I had no idea what was causing the wildly out of control behaviors that became the norm.  It wasn't that He was drinking more than before, but things were spiralling out of control.  I watched and worried and I talked and talked to Him in His sane and sober hours, trying to make Him understand what I was seeing and experiencing.  Although He occasionally reacted to my efforts with scorn, accusing me of exactly that ACOA damaged goods thing, He also listened to my reasoned arguments, and in time we reached some agreement as to how we'd proceed with the problems I'd identified. 

What we are engaged in now, with our power based approach to regaining control of the drinking dynamic in our lives, flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom that we share in our culture about alcohol addiction and recovery.  We have rejected the "facts" of the situation as promulgated by an industry that rakes in millions of dollars in fees for the treatment and management of alcoholism, and chosen to strike off into relatively uncharted territory.  We have no guarantee that the path we are following will lead us to success, but we are determined.  We've lived by our own rules and our own lights to this point, He and I.  This will be no different.  I know that will make many people nervous and uncomfortable.  I am grateful for those, who like Chloe, have been willing to sit with their own discomfort and follow our journey though this. 

We are encountering a number of challenges that we did not anticipate.  He feels disoriented and unsettled.  He feels unsure about the role that alcohol played in "who He is," and is unsure "who He will be" in a more sober life.  He is grieving.  He is sad.  While, intellectually, He understands that I've pushed for change out of concern for His health and our relationship, He FEELS that I've taken control, and that He is now in the position of submitting to me.  Our accustomed relational dynamic is changed, and neither of us knows what to expect going forward.  We are, each of us, coping with a tidal wave of feelings and fears.  We are working to be honest with one another.  We are trying to remember to listen to how the other one feels.  We are holding on to each other.  We are trying not to hurt each other.  Some will notice a distinct lack of regular or normal or recognizable BDSM or M/s related material in what we are posting.  That is the simple fact of our lives just now. 

We will go forward.  Perhaps it will be next week or next month or next year before we find ourselves in some sort of accord and alignment in our new life together.  When we get there, we will be who we are with one another.  I don't honestly know, today, what that will be.  For those who have followed us BECAUSE we were M/s, or BECAUSE we have practiced BDSM, I completely understand if all of this leads to a choice to read elsewhere.  This web log has never been primarily about the kink we enjoy, and it has never been mostly about our poly lifestyle.  We've always written frankly about our lives and our ups and downs.  That will not change.



  1. Anonymous2:59 AM

    The title, Adult Children of Alcoholics, has in my mind always refered to the child of an alcoholic who is now an adult. I don't see anything offensive about the phrase (or the content for that matter). Most of the time parents continue to refer to their offspring as their "children" well into their adulthood. What other word would you use? I'm pretty sure you have used the same word to refer to your own children.

    The concept of drinking in moderation is something that anyone with a drinking problem would love to embrace. And as has been mentioned here, the result of drinking moderately isn't often achieved. I wish you luck in that. But in my book, the drinking that was described was certainly not "moderate". It sounded more like a kid let loose in a candy store, running excitedly from one variety to another.

    Tom, I realize you are trying to sort this all out and find a solution that works for you. I don't doubt that you will. My problem isn't alcohol but rather, food. Many people addicted to food find it impossible to eat certain foods in moderation. I can attest to the fact that, sadly, it's often an all or nothing situation.

    Addicts of all persuasions would love to continue to use their drug of choice in moderation. Maybe you are not an addict. I have no idea. But for the true addict, "moderate" use is for the most part a pipe dream.

    Good luck...

  2. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I understand how the term ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) could irritate-I am one myself. I actually have that book myself. It is tough to read but unfortunately true. I went to Al-Anon for a while and definitely need to go back/do a 12 step book programme. I'm not saying that is the answer for everyone but it definitely works for me. There is nothing wrong with being an ACOA at all though-its not your fault that you had to witness alcoholism as a child. I always knew this intellectually but not deep down in my heart until a few years ago. Up to then, I had blamed myself for the drinking, thinking I could have done more etc etc. Once I accepted that it was in no way my fault, I could begin to recover. I'm still in "recovery" stage.

    For me, its not a big deal-its just something I treat, like I'd treat depression or diabetes or any other disease. If I treat it, then my life is much much better. A sibling had gone to a therapist who outlined the ACOA thing and from that, we were able to "slot" each person into their particular role in the alcoholic family. That's how I first became aware of it.

    Dealing with alcoholism is tough and why wouldn't it affect you afterwards? It is like trauma-I began to look at it that way and the fact that you got out of that childhood makes you a strong survivor.

  3. I am responding to Anonymous Commenter number 1. We generally do not respond to anonymy, and have, most often in recent months, deleted the comments of most respondents who have not identified themselves in any way, but this one just so begs the question I can't resist.

    I was curious about your statement that moderation is rarely achieved and that "in your book" what I did was not moderate drinking but behaving like a kid in a candy store. My curiosity Mr./Ms. Anonymous, since you have become the arbiter of what is, and isn't, moderation, how have I fallen short?

    As I resume my drinking tomorrow evening I will be into this process 39 days. At that point I will have completely abstained from drinking 37 days and have drank two days. In those two days of willy nilly like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store binging, I will have consumed 9 drinks. So let us review. I abstained entirely from all alcohol for 37 days. I drank two days during which I had the equivalent (and yes I did measure the drinks carefully)of 9 drinks or 4.5 drinks per day. Another way of representing this is over 39 days I consumed on average 0.23 drinks per day. So I wonder, how many drinks were I to have been moderate, would I have consumed? Would I be permitted maybe 1 drink per hundred days to be moderate? What would that criterion be? Perhaps if over time I were to average 0.1 drinks per day, as opposed to my currently profligate average of 0.23 drinks per day, then I would have been moderate. I am interested to hear more of the obvious wisdom that issues forth "from your book." Please enlighten us further. I think it shoud be educational for us all. (By the way, as I write this I have had no alcohol for four days, just in case you were wondering if this was prompted by a trip to the "candy store.")

    All the best,


    Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

  4. Anonymous7:04 PM

    Wow....I have also been following your struggle with alcohol, and have great empathy for your search for moderation, and I truly am hopeful that all will work out for all. I also felt that anon was not trying to be unkind,or nasty in any way, simply his (or her) point of view. I did feel however, that your reply was quite defensive and way off the scale for what, I sort of felt was a message of personal struggle with moderation, and not in any way meant to be anything but a personal point of view.

    I think your struggle touches a place in many of us..and a real hot button for some.

    I wish you the best in your journey, I have admired your family for many years and your strength this past year in the face of much pain and turmoil.

    All my best,


  5. Karen, it is always good to hear from a sincere reader and someone who supports us, whether that be with well wishes, or confrontation. Thank you for your concern for all three of us and for taking the time to write.

    You are right that this subject is a "hot button" for many. It is for me, after the last month and a half which has engendered a good deal of physical and emotional hardship on the part of the three of us, and in large part, for ME..............VERY MUCH A HOT BUTTON! AND MOREOVER, THIS IS MY BLOG, AND I HAVE NO PROBLEM IDENTIFYING OR SHARING IN VIVD DETAIL EXACTLY WHO I AM, AND HOW I FEEL, UNLIKE THESE ANONYMOUS COMMENTERS!

    You know, I don't think we have ever received a truly supportive and well-intended comment from anyone who identified themselves simply as anonymous. That is why we typically simply delete their comments. I realize that it is difficult for many to understand how to post comments here, or to have the registrations necessary to do so, etc., but it is vastly different when someone, like you, comments and then signs an identity. Thank you, once again.

    I am disappointed that my comment fell so short of the mark as to be characterized simply as "quite defensive and way off the scale." I was trying to be virulently ascerbic, excoriatingly sarcastic, and bitingly and brilliantly satirical. If all I acheived was mere defensiveness, and a degree of disproportionality of scale, I have really failed in my intent, and feel that, perhaps, I should redo some key aspecs of my undergraduate degree in English literature and composition. Damn, I really was way too wimpy. I'll do better next time.

    All the best,


    Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

  6. Perhaps I was not clear enough about my objection to the almost universal acceptance of the tenets of the ACOA movement. I am not "offended" by the term -- I simply don't buy the premise. Of course, there are times when I refer to "my" adult children, as the ubiquitous ANONYMOUS person posited -- the limitations of language. The man and woman who were once babies in my arms are neither "children" nor are they in any real sense "mine." They are their own people with their own lives. They came, as Kahil Gibran wrote, "through me but not from me." So the construct is flawed but sometimes workable.

    If we accede to that Adult Child of Alcoholics diagnostic model, then we must posit a whole world of "adult children" with a range of debilitating parental influences:

    ACOP -- Adult Children of Presbyterians
    ACOD -- Adult Children of Doctors
    ACOF -- Adult Children of Fatties
    ACOR -- Adult Children of Republicans
    ACOM -- Adult Children of Ministers

    Really! We who are adults were all once children, infants, fetuses. All the people with whom we come in contact influence and shape us. That is the reality. I simply reject the notion that there is something identifiable and classifiable about those of us who had parents that used alcohol -- and that that magical set of characteristics somehow give us license to opt out and / or judge based on that experience.

    I think it makes way more sense, in terms of living a whole and healthy life, to take the good and the bad and weave a good life out of the threads that come into our hands.

    I don't believe in the "religion of alcohol" that is so casually accepted in our society. I challenge the accepted belief that so many hold. I don't care if those beliefs seem true for anyone else, they aren't mine and I won't live my life driven by that set of constructs.


  7. Alcohol will kill you, either slowly or quickly. The slow death involves having the joy of living sucked out of you. Alcohol, that subtle and welcome accompaniment to life's pleasures, suddenly takes center stage, when the physical and emotional obsession with it overtakes its secondary role. I watch non-alcoholics drink and they actually leave some in the glass when they have had enough. I never, ever did that in my drinking days.
    For me, the mental obsession with alcohol kept me drinking, long after I knew it was slowly destroying me.

  8. OK so David7, I am sorry you have ruined your life and killed yourself (which causess me to question how you posted this here?) This must be a mystical blogospheric afterlife experience, likely fueled by the Higher Power to whom we Must turn when we accept we are powerless in the face of alcohol. If the tenor of this comment is any indicator of the degree of satisfaction or happiness a recovery lifestyle affords, thank you, but I think I may pass.

    But anyway, what does your having done this to yourself have to do with me, or us?

    Thank you for commenting and I hope your, Higher Power, however you conceive Him/her to be, has, since you are already destroyed, taken you to His/her bossom for a glorious eternity. I/we intend to tarry here for a while.

    All the best,


    Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

  9. Since it is your blog and you are free to use sarcasm, I should not be surprised when it figuratively oozes out of the computer screen. Your concept of civility does seems fairly one-sided however.
    If you want the drama in your triad to continue by your continued drinking, that's your triad's problem. I am suggesting that life can be pretty good without alcohol. It might make things easier and you all would be free to find a newer and, possibly less destructive, source of drama.
    Where did I mention any higher power in my comment?

  10. Anonymous7:51 PM

    in Boston in the 90s, there was a band called Adult Childrenof Heterosexuals.

    BTW, anonymous is easiest for casual readers.


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