From "Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses," Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 2007, page 61:
"If we were in the role of defending or protecting other family members, we may have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility for those around us. Blaming ourselves for the alcoholic's behavior can weaken our self-esteem and lead us to believe that every conflict is our fault. Likewise, if we assume others are out to hurt us, we might habitually guard ourselves against real or imagined threats.
'I felt personally responsible for everyone's unacceptable behavior.'
Often the coping mechanisms we learned as children in order to survive get in the way of our developing meaningful and trusting relationships as adults. Identifying how we were affected by alcoholism is not about blaming the alcoholic or other family members for all our problems. Rather, it's about taking responsibility for our struggles so we can begin to heal. As children, we may not have had the power to change our circumstances. Now that we are adults, we can make that decision for ourselves."
I could take the above statement, "I felt personally responsible for everyone's unacceptable behavior." a step further and say the I felt personally responsible for everything that went on in my world and for everybody that was in my world. Because of my dad being a dictator when I was a child, I felt so out of control of my life. The result was that when I left home, I stepped into that dictator role and became a control freak. When I first started working on myself in Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) and Al-Anon, that was the first thing that I discovered about myself. I was a control freak.
Where did the control freak come from? She came out of my feeling responsible for everything and everybody. She came from my fears of failure of being responsible. For the first half of my life or more, fear was the main emotion in my mind and in my body. Fear was in control of my life. I certainly wasn't.
Responsible wasn't what I was. Super-responsible was what I strived to be. That meant if you came into my sphere of life, I tried to fix you and whatever your problems were. I didn't do it in a mean way. I just wanted to help. That was what I told myself and you, if you asked. You see, my feeling good about myself came from helping you. If I could fix you then I had some value in this life other than just taking up space. I didn't know that I was telling you, by my actions, that you were too stupid to think and act for yourself. Al-Anon taught me that, when I was ready to hear it.
That was the day that I stopped doing everything for my children and husband. Of course, being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic that meant I went to the other extreme. Instead of doing everything for them, I did nothing for at least a year or more before I realized that wasn't healthy either. Of course, I wasn't home much either. When I wasn't working with my husband on a parking lot, I was probably in an Al-Anon or ACA meeting or reading a book about being an ACA. Going to meetings all of the time was also an extreme, maybe a healthier extreme but still an extreme. I went to a lot of meetings over the next 10 years. Finally I realized that there were some things that I could do that weren't me being controlling or super-responsible. They were appropriate things for a parent to do for their children. Doing extremes of behavior and feelings is a characteristic of being an Adult Child. It is called All or Nothing Thinking.
I am talking about my life from the view of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, but these issues are the same for an Adult Child of any kind of dysfunction. Dysfunction is always fear-based.
Let Go And Let God---Al-Anon Slogan
Boundaries And Inappropriate Behaviors
Growing Up With Alcoholism In The Family