As an adult child of two alcoholic parents, the sister of of an addict, and as the mother of two addict kids, you could say that I’m grateful to have survived the insanity but have by no means come through unscathed. I have probably been the ‘poster child’ of co-dependency and self-sacrifice with an arsenal of unhealthy coping mechanisms at my disposal.
A State of Crisis
My whole life from my earliest childhood has been spent in a state of hyper-vigilance, learning to avert crisis and living in constant fear of what was around the corner. Trying to take control of my environment was the only way I knew to cope. The fact that I somehow escaped being an addict myself has always been a mystery to me and something I’ll be eternally grateful for. But to think that I had miraculously escaped the clutches of addiction was to deny a lifetime of pain, fear, confusion, and unhealthy relationships.
Was I Worthy?
It wasn’t until after both of my parents died as a result of their addictions and after my son and daughter were well on the path of recovery, that I felt I could breathe without fear of impending disaster. But instead of happily settling into a life relatively free of chaos, drama, and dysfunction, I slowly realized that I had no idea how to live such a life. The peace and joy that seems to come naturally to healthy people appeared to have eluded me. All those years of just surviving each day rendered me incapable of believing in true happiness for myself. Not that I felt unworthy of it, I just felt it wasn’t in the cards for me, kind of like a life sentence that was pre-ordained. I honestly believed that happiness for me was not a choice that I was free to make. After years of taking care of my family members, I think I believed I was just an extension of them. If they weren’t ok, then neither was I. If they were happy, then I was too. I had no idea who I was or what my own happiness meant.
Thank God for my daughter, my brother, and one of my closest friends who are all sober after beginning their recovery in addiction treatment centers – they recognized what I didn’t – that I need to be working the 12 steps every bit as much as they do. Gratitude for all the miracle of their recovery isn’t the same as working towards MY own recovery. For that I need Al-anon as well as therapy which will give me the tools and the support that I need to set boundaries and make the choices for myself that will ultimately lead me to a life of joy and contentment and heal from the pain of the past.