My recent interview with Dawn over at Growing Up Chaotic (to listen click on the play button at the end of this post) inspired me to put into words, what it is like to be a child, growing up in a family that struggles with addiction.
As a little girl I felt responsible for my parents. If they were having a bad day, I thought it was my fault. There was a lot of tension in our home. I became hyper-vigilant. My antenna was always up. I knew EXACTLY how everyone else was feeling – everyone that is, but ME!
I learned never to trust anyone. Ever!
I learned to avoid conflict by saying what I thought YOU wanted to hear, instead of what I was really thinking and feeling. I became a chameleon. I learned that what people say and DO, are two different things. I learned that my emotional well being, was dependent on YOU. If you were having a good day, then I was too. If you weren’t, then it was my JOB to try and make you feel better.
Because we never acknowledged problems in our home, I never learned how to work through them. Instead, I avoided problems and conflicts, growing more bitter and resentful as the years passed. I blamed others for my difficulties, nothing was ever my fault. I, was a victim.
I viewed everything as good or bad, black or white, right or wrong, Without knowing it, I was rigid. If you didn’t agree with me, you didn’t love me.
I felt less than. If you liked me, you gave me permission to like myself. But then, I’d lose respect for you – for liking me.
Q – What happens to a little girl who has no self-worth or self-esteem?
A – She grows up into a big girl, who does a lot of damage to herself and the people she’s in relationships with.
By the time I was in my teens I had developed a relationship with substance. It made EVERYTHING better. Trouble was, it was only a band-aide for what was really going on.
I revelled in the attention I got from my friends. I LOVED the attention I got from men. I liked men better, than I liked woman. I was needy and emotionally starving. The men I chose had an endless job – trying to make ME feel better.
I craved intimacy – into me you see – and then scorned you for giving it to me. I was ashamed of my tears. I thought emotionally healthy people, were weak and embarrassing.
I NEVER wanted ANYONE to know how badly I NEEDED them.
When someone said “I love you” I didn’t believe them. I was suspicious and jealous and mistrustful.
And then, I got married and had a family and passed along all my ‘wisdom.’
To say it went badly, would be an understatement.
Yet, we were all doing the best we knew how.
So how does one, undo this mess?
Slowly, and with help. You can’t change what you won’t acknowledge. Putting down the bottle, letting go of crack, that was easy. Try saying…help!
I thought I would die. I really did. My emotional discomfort, or dis-ease, was intense.
I spent my whole life avoiding feelings. I was numb and now I have to thaw out.
But I didn’t die. As a matter of fact, I got relief. Relief, from years of pent up pain and grief. I learned that there was a child who was hiding within me. She has spent her whole life waiting to be seen and heard. She was a scared, neglected and angry, little girl. I pictured this ‘little me’ and became willing to LOVE her, the way she’d always deserved and needed. I learned that sometimes, we have to go back and parent ourselves. When my ‘little me’ was able to get her needs met, the ‘big me’ grew up.
I stopped running. It was exhausting and futile. After all, everyone I went, there I was.
I learned that recovering from codependency and addiction, is a little like having the flu. It’s all gotta come out, before it’s going to get better.
I learned that HOPE is every bit as addictive as crack cocaine, without the horrible, nasty consequences, that go along with it.
I made a promise.
I called upon whatever it was that was out there, to help me. Call it Higher Power, or God, or the Universe. Call it LOVE.
I promised I would be there for people, to share my experience, so that they would know they weren’t alone, or crazy, or bad. I promised that if this ‘entity’ was willing to save me (I was thinking of ending my life) I would let people know there really was HOPE.
I truly believe if I can recover, you can too.
The question isn’t if, it’s when. Only you can answer that one. There are many of us here, waiting for you. You only have to do the hardest thing, you ever will. But you can do it.
I learned something profound, and life-saving.
You see, asking for help wasn’t a sign of weakness, or failure, but rather one of great courage.
But most importantly, I learned what Dorothy Bernard has known along. COURAGE is simply FEAR… that said it prayers.
To listen to the show, click here. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/growingupchaotic/2014/09/02/gracies-secret–a-book-for-children-of-addicted-parents
A song that touched my heart. https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCsQtwIwBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D0l772kLwKj4&ei=sSAGVN3nN-_EiwLb3IGQAg&usg=AFQjCNFVsq8KdZjsScVOr9xFl-d4sBqGzA&sig2=uLzvKAStUxFOvfzcwYQ7eQ