I came across this book called, Perfect Daughters: Adult Daughters of Alcoholics about a year and a half ago…towards the beginning of my recovery. It’s a book that has been around for awhile and is written by Dr. Robert J. Ackerman. I thought the subject as well as the title was fascinating. The author explores the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA) phenomenon from the female perspective…or the perspective of being an adult daughter. In my own experience, one of the aspects of being an “adult daughter” is this need to be perfect while simultaneously feeling inadequate. So the book’s title and subject matter was very appropriate for me in my life.
Although the book was obviously appropriate for my journey, I chose to purchase it and bury it deep down on my Kindle reading list. I wasn’t ready for it in the beginning of my 12 step recovery. I had a feeling that the level of connection that I would feel with the author’s research and conclusions would be too much for me to handle in the beginning of my recovery.
I would later find out that I was right…
I recently dusted off the electronic spider webs on the book, thinking that I was much stronger in my own emotional healing and recovery, and thinking that I could handle the book now. I figured I could handle the possible emotional unraveling from the possible spiritual breakthroughs I would have while reading this book now. So I began reading the book a couple of months ago.
It turns out that I could handle it, I just wasn’t expecting the level of emotional baggage I still had to work through. Some parts of this book had me in tears. Other parts brought up deeper discussions in my therapist’s office.
I wasn’t prepared for anything new. I mean, I know that I am an adult daughter. There are certain character traits that I have because of that experience. I mean, an adult child is an adult child. How different could the experience be from the perspective of being an adult daughter? I have exhausted all of the perspectives of that experience…right?
“No experience is ever finished or exhausted. New and fresh meanings are forever in the world and in us.” -Clark Moustakas (1995)
The book, Perfect Daughters is more than an “understanding of the reasons why I am the way I am” kind of book. This book goes beyond that in explaining the reasons why, showing us (adult daughters) the positive sides of our adult daughter characteristics, and giving us hope for the integration of those traits in recovery.
With that being said, there are several “gems” that I found in this book (from my own perspective):
- The fact that this book is written by a male author. For me, the fact that my father was the alcoholic and I received most of the affection growing up from my mom, knowing that many of the loving and affectionate messages in this book were written by a man was very soothing and healing for me. For example, in the chapter on relationships, Ackerman writes, “Your quest for a healthy relationship and being in a positive relationship must always come in addition to your health and not be a substitute for it…Take care of yourself and have a positive relationship with yourself. You deserve it.” ‘You deserve it.’ There is something emotionally healing for me in knowing this statement…saying that I am deserving…was written by a man.
- The concept of Longing. Ackerman opened up my eyes to this concept of “Longing” from the adult daughter-alcoholic father perspective. He writes, “…alcoholic fathers usually created ‘longing’ in their daughters. Longing is a plea to be accepted and loved. Longing is a hunger, an emotional need that is not met. Above all though, longing is not love.” This concept resonated with me so profoundly. For me, “longing” is a familiar feeling. Until I read this, I’m not sure if I realized there was any other way…especially in relationships. I think I equated the longing with love, all the while thinking that the “longing” was really all there is.
Other positives of this book are:
- The chapter on relationships.
- The separation of the adult daughter phenomenon between adult daughters-alcoholic fathers and adult daughters-alcoholic mothers.
- The integration of the seemingly negative traits (or weaknesses) of being an adult child into strengths or positive traits.
- Ackerman’s use of the “mixed methods” approach to research gives a more holistic view of the phenomenon.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you are a woman and identify with the adult child experience. You can find this book on Amazon.com.
Ackerman also wrote a book called Silent Sons: A Book for and about Men that tackles similar subject matters from a male perspective.