Attribute #1

1. “Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal is.”

Now that I am a mother and wife, this attribute has become more and more evident. I don’t remember specifically feeling this way as a child. I knew that my family was very different from my friends’ families, but I never felt like I was guessing at what normal is. Now I very much feel like I am just a big faker – I have no freaking clue if my life, feelings, or  behaviors are “normal”. 

  • “They get concerned and confused about things that they believe other people do not get concerned and confused about.”

I look at other people and how they respond to certain situations, and I am baffled by their responses! When you add in a huge dose of co-dependency, things become even more muddled. I worry every day about things that other people don’t even register as things to worry about. My anxiety levels are often out of control. An example of this would be how clean my house is. I have no pictures on my walls, or paint, or matching furniture and cute knick-knacks – and all these little details make me wonder what is wrong with me: Why can’t I put my house together? It’s not “normal” to live this way. How is this going to mess up my kids? What does this say about me as a woman? I think most people would just give themselves a break – after all, if they can’t afford paint, or furniture, or cute knick-knacks, then they shrug and know they will buy them when they can afford them. For me, even something as small as the state of my house becomes a problem of epic proportions, and a judgement on my worthiness as a person.

How about parenting? It is isn’t like I grew up in a home where there was time for crafts, fun projects, outings, etc. and even when those things happened, it always felt a little forced – like we were all pretending really, really hard that we were just like everyone else. Normal at our house was one extreme or another – and you just never knew what the emotional climate of our house would be. I don’t know how day to day life as a parent is supposed to work, or what it looks like.

I;m sorry this post is so disjointed – just not feeling it tonight…might put some more time in tomorrow on this issue.  🙂

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Childhood Craziness…

The first chapter of the book talks about childhood, and growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent – I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but there are some significant portions of this chapter that stood out to me.

  • “You looked like a child, you dressed like a child, to some degree you behaved like a child, but you sure as hell didn’t feel like a child.”
    •  When you are a kid, you don’t have a “reality” that exists outside of your parents. Somewhere in my nursing textbooks, there was a section on how children see themselves as an extention of the parents – they just don’t have the ability, or the life experiences that would allow them to seperate themselves from the parents. So when one or both parents are inebriated, the child is placed in a very awkward position – not able to leave the environment, and unable to affect a change in the adults around them. So, still a child, but having to take on the role of an adult to be able to protect him/herself – without the benefits of adulthood.
  • “It was difficult to make friends for a couple of reasons. One, because it was hard to believe that people really liked you. And even if someone’s good feelings toward you were real, it was a little scary to know that if they got to know you a little better and found out, they wouldn’t be your friend.”   AND
  • “As you grew up, it became harder and harder because you reached a point where you simply didn’t know how to make friends. ‘What do I talk to them about? Why would they be interested in me? I’m not a good person. Why would they want me for a friend?'”
    • Both these quotes just rip me up, because that is where I live. I absolutely love people – I want to be one of those women with a plethora of good friends, but honestly, I struggle to have one or two good friends. There are periods in my adult life where I didn’t  have one friend who really knew me. I just cannot believe that people can find anything in me that is worthy of their time, attention, or affection; and if they do, I cannot trust it. I think, they just need time to really get to know me, then they’ll leave. It is a really crappy thing, feeling unworthy of other people’s love, and it started in elementary school for me. I am starting to learn that these thoughts and feelings are untrue – that I am worthy, but it is truly a struggle.
  • “Your alcoholic parent was always making promises and never following through. But he didn’t seem to be lying when he made the promises. What was real and what was unreal got very distorted in your household.”
    • I don’t believe that children have the emotional or mental tools to deal with this distortion of reality – and it hurts on such a deep level. So many mixed messages and broken promises litter my childhood, and it feels like walking on broken glass inside my heart to remember. And I think, dear God, I was the oldest when most of this went down and as unable as I was to deal with it, I wonder how it was for my younger siblings! The wounds from these broken promises caused permanent spiritual/emotional “disability” – I have an intense dislike, nearly a hatred,  for people who lie or play games, and I have a horrible time trusting people. It is like living in a constant state of expectency – just waiting to be let down again, and again. So, what happens is…
  • “You learned how not to want”
    • I finally figured out that if you don’t want anything, then you can’t be lied to or disappointed. About two years ago when my therapist asked me to tell her what I would want to do for a day if I had no restrictions, my response was, “Is that a trick question?” and I meant it. At thirty years old, I did not understand how to truly have wants, or personal desires – and being a mother made it even easier to sublimate those silly little things called wants. Frankly, it has always seemed safer to me to bury myself in what other people need/want, then to have needs/wants for myself.

In a lot of instances I have learned to identify these issues and sort of push my way through them, but it is still difficult to make friends and not feel as if I am always the outsider in any group I am in. I wish I could say I have made leaps and bounds of progress, but that is not the case; I’m pleased to at least identify my problems and work on getting better.

Starting at the beginning…

I thought it might be helpful to start with some basic info on alcoholism,  just so that you can understand how prevalent it is in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “in the United States, 17.6 million people–about l in every 12 adults–abuse alcohol or are alcohol dependent.” The effects on family members and loved ones are huge and long-lasting. I’m now 33 years old, and still struggle almost daily with repercussions from growing up in an alcoholic home. There are some unique survival mechanisms that are developed by children who grow up in alcoholic homes, and even when the alcoholic parent is no longer in the picture, those survival mechanisms have developed into life-long habits. The skills I developed as a child, while necessary and helpful at that time, now cause frustration and problems in my life as an adult. My goal is to evaluate my behaviors, feelings, and thoughts and weed out those survival mechanisms that are no longer of benefit to me. My next post will start with the first of 13 common traits of adult children of alcoholics, and my own thoughts on, and experiences with, these traits.

My very first blog

Apparently when I get bored I find funky things to do on my computer like create a blog. I have no idea what I am doing with this,  but maybe I will figure it out as I go. I seem to have a million thoughts swirling in my brain, I’m sure some of those might have value to other people too.

My newest project is reading through Adult Children of Alcoholics handbook, and I am finding that so much of it is relevent to my life, but I don’t just want to breeze through it like I read all my other books. I want to take the time to analyze and apply it, and knowing me, if I don’t write it down, it won’t get done – hence the blog. And who knows, it might help someone else too.