7 Books for Adult Children of Alcoholics

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Adult children of alcoholics or other kinds of dysfunctional parents may still be affected by the experience, but books to overcome these challenges can help. If you're such a child, you may have some personality traits that are common to adult children of alcoholics.

Many people raised in alcoholic homes must address the repercussions of their upbringings throughout their adult life, especially in their careers, relationships, and decision-making processes.The list of books that follow offer insight into the characteristics that adult children of alcoholics typically develop as well as practical advice for learning how to make better decisions to lead healthier lives.

The Complete ACoA Sourcebook by Janet G. Woititz

This best-selling book by Janet G. Woititz was the first to address the specific problems experienced by those who grew up in alcoholic homes. This expanded version includes experiences from various dysfunctional family backgrounds who share the same characteristics.

You can now purchase a complete collection of Dr. Jan's groundbreaking books in one volume: The Complete ACOA Sourcebook: Adult Children of Alcoholics at Home, at Work and in Love.

Price at time of publication: $18

Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families by John and Linda Friel

Alcoholic families are not the only ones that produce adult children with dysfunctional characteristics. In this book, John and Linda Friel explore how perfectionism, workaholism, compulsive overeating, intimacy problems, depression, and problems sharing feelings can create a dysfunctional family system.

One hallmark of all dysfunctional families is that they try to keep secrets.

Children may be discouraged from discussing the emotional, sexual, or physical abuse they suffered at the hands of a family member. Books such as this can help children of alcoholics learn to stop hiding issues and seek support and help.

Price at time of publication: $14

An Adult Child's Guide to What's 'Normal' by John and Linda Friel

One of the characteristics that adult children who grew up in dysfunctional families have is that they must guess at what "normal" is because they have no model to follow. John and Linda Friel wrote this practical guide for adult children from dysfunctional homes to give them a better sense of what healthy behaviors, relationships, and communication styles look like.

Price at time of publication: $14

Use this book to learn how to live a more healthy life.

Lifeskills for Adult Children by Janet Woititz

Janet Woititz gives practical tips to help adult children learn basic life skills, such as standing up for themselves, making decisions, solving problems, and learning how to say "no."

The book contains examples and exercises to help readers practice their newly learned skills. Twenty-five years after it was first published this book is still relevant to those who grew up in dysfunctional homes.

Price at time of publication: $13

Recovery: A Guide for Adult Children of Alcoholics by Herbert Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden

Herbert Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden explain the journey of recovery for adult children of alcoholics. This includes making the transition from ignorance to awareness to integration and self-acceptance.

Price at time of publication: $17

The authors offer a guide to determining which issues and treatment options are most appropriate for adult children of alcoholics and dysfunctional families.

Struggle for Intimacy by Janet G. Woititz

Janet G. Woititz, a pioneer in the field, explains the lifelong journey adult children of alcoholics and other troubled parents must embark on to experience closeness in their relationships.

Price at time of publication: $11

Adult children of dysfunctional families struggle to achieve intimacy in relationships because taking the steps required to do so contradict the survival skills they learned while growing up.

Self-Sabotage Syndrome by Janet G. Woititz

Adult children of dysfunctional families tend to sabotage things just when they start going well. This is particularly unhealthy in the workplace. This book offers advice on how to find balance and develop healthy relationships and attitudes at work.

Price at time of publication: $17

What to Look For in a Book for Adult Children of Alcoholics

Practical advice

Look for books that not only validate your experiences but also offer useful information and suggestions to help you navigate your own life and decisions. These books will often also provide insight on maintaining healthy relationships with your parent should you wish to do so, in addition to talking about their issues with your own children if you have them. Lastly, they should also offer quality resources for you to connect with should you ultimately find yourself dealing with addiction.

Expert tips

With a topic as serious as this one, you’ll want to make sure the information provided is well-researched by reputable expert sources. Take the time to research authors and vet their credentials before purchasing a book. This way, you can know you’re getting solid advice and information from someone qualified to cover the subject at hand. 

Relatable experiences

Finally, you likely won’t be surprised to hear that it can be especially helpful to read relatable experiences from people who have walked a similar path to yours. This can be quoted stories from individuals interviewed for the book or anonymous anecdotes recounted by the experts. Whatever the case, these examples can help you see that you are most certainly not alone, and there is a light at the tunnel of this emotional journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What common characteristics do adult children of alcoholics share?

    Common traits of adult children of alcoholics include isolation, approval-seeking, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, adopting a victim perspective, and fear of authority. The above list of books can help you identify these characteristics and navigate how to come out on the other side with a renewed outlook.

  • What challenges do adult children of alcoholics face?

    Adult children of alcoholics often experience a range of emotional challenges. You will likely struggle to navigate relationships not just with your parent but with other loved ones.

    You may find yourself drawn to other people navigating their own emotional issues and find yourself neglecting your mental wellbeing in your attempts to help them. And lastly, you may find yourself falling into the same unhealthy patterns as your parent and struggle with seeking out help. The above books can help you identify and tackle these challenges as well.

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.