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  • Writer's pictureSherri McCarthy

TRAIT 2: Project Incompletion

Updated: Feb 11, 2020

According to Janet Woititz 1983 landmark book, Adult Children of Alcoholics, one of the shared traits among us ACOA/SOAP is difficulty following a project through from beginning to end. It’s no wonder I’ve not found a book written by the son or daughter of an alcoholic—none of us have been able to finish the damn thing! I say this as I’ve already lived through months of stops and starts writing a memoir about resilience as illustrated by my life as a daughter of alcoholics. I find this admission somewhat embarrassing and overwhelmingly frustrating. [By the way, if you know of a book I'm missing that is written from the perspective of a child of alcoholics, please, add it to the comments below--I'd love to expand my book list]


Honestly, this trait has impacted me my entire life. I used to just think I was a procrastinator because I would wait until the last minute and then write an entire research paper in one sleepless night, but now I see it goes deeper into how I was raised. When I read this on the list of ACOA traits, my answer was an easy “yes” with 14 asterisks beside it. Yes, I DO have difficulty following project through from beginning to end.

According to the American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 20% of adult Americans lived with an alcoholic during childhood, so that means I cannot be alone in this. That number adds up to 50 million people—twice the number of people I’ve seen other statistics site (it would be ideal if there were ONE place all the data on these figures could be kept, but I haven’t found that yet).


Discovering there isn’t something “wrong” with me when I learned this trait was a common one among ACOA/SOAP was a relief. Although, of all the traits, I think this one frustrates me the most because it’s not as easy to overcome without putting in tremendous effort.

However, it is important to note that DIFFICULT does not mean IMPOSSIBLE. It means that with some extra effort, this trait can be tamed. Well, at least made a little less poisonous to your life’s peace. And the effort it worth it for the sense of accomplishment.

Again, my husband helped open my eyes years ago when I would finish a house project, and immediately start planning the next. He asked me something along the lines of, “Can’t you just enjoy the fruits of your accomplishment before demanding more of yourself?” Well, truthfully, that’s just not the way I operate.


I have always been driven to learn, to read, to grow. So moving forward in this most challenging arena, I knew I needed some outside help. What I discovered is this:

I was not broken--my SYSTEMS were broken. What I needed to flip the switch and turn this trait around for my benefit was to implement SYSTEMS that work for me and my life.

Because of my childhood, I didn’t learn appropriate systems for achieving completion of tasks, big or small. So, I looked around for help. I found Mel Robbins, the author, speaker and life coach who has a bit of a potty mouth (so, don’t listen if that offends you), but in a kind, wise-auntie kind of way can help kick start my action forward.

I also found James Clear, author of the bestselling book, Atomic Habits (if you haven’t read that book, do yourself a favor and read it.). His book expands on the importance of systems and he breaks it down to easy steps I can take to rewire my systems.

Thankfully, I have recently chosen to start showing up for myself. I sit in front of that keyboard DESPITE the inner turmoil of feeling like I have nothing to say of interest to a single other person in the world. And, even though it’s not DONE yet, I have been able to make some progress towards accomplishing and I know that since I have addressed the SYSTEM for getting it done, it will happen eventually.

The point is, we all have a choice. We can move forward into a better life or we can stay where we are and reap the chaos of failed systems. I choose forward. Join me.

I wish you peace.

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