Raised by a rageaholic mother, I was not only terrified of her; but I was even more afraid to parent like her. Trauma, alcohol, and anger ruined my childhood. I refuse to pass this on to the next generation.
Joni Edelman’s article, Ten Things To Know About Children of Alcoholics, explains:
“We are afraid to have children and when we do, we are afraid to wreck them, like we are wrecked. If we can acknowledge our own damage, we definitely don't want to inflict it on anyone else. We don't really know how to be a parent. It's actually panic inducing. We will second-guess everything we do and may over-parent for fear of under-parenting.”
My Mom Was A Rageaholic
My mom's anger was intense and unpredictable. One time I didn't dry the spoons completely and they had spots. I had to re-wash all of the dishes while she screamed at me. One morning before school, I accused my brother of lying. We sat in the drop-off lane at my high school while she screamed, I sobbed, and my friends stared in disbelief. After I was married, I took an old dresser she was throwing away. She showed up on my doorstep unannounced and accused me of stealing it from her. She ranted for 30 minutes in front of my neighbors. This all left me feeling alone, unwanted, and unlovable.
How I Coped As A Kid
When I was a kid, I spent hours in my room wishing I'd never been born. I tried to hold my breath, hoping to die. Other times, I put anything she gave me in the corner of my closet, determined to never use it. I wouldn’t wear the clothes she bought me. Most of all, I’d dream of running away and even left once. I promised myself when I was a mom, I would never yell at my kids.
My Life As A Mother
To right those wrongs, I promised myself I would never hurt my child the way I was hurt. If only it were that easy. My wishful dreams of always speaking to my son with a kind tone were just that. When he dashed across a busy parking lot, my gentle tone was gone, and I yelled. I felt so badly about it I immediately recommitted to being super nice. The result was my rebellious child refused to pick up his toys, or get dressed, or do homework. By vowing to never hurt my child’s feelings, I’ve inadvertently raised a spoiled kid who thinks he can get away with anything at all.
I thought loving him and doing things for him was being a good parent, but I was really trying to re-parent myself. I need to care for my inner child. We all do.
Healing Comes With Understanding And Accepting
Through the help of counseling and recovery, I’ve learned four important truths:
- My mom mistreated me but didn’t break my spirit or change my inner self.
- My mom's unloving nature didn't make me unlovable. It reveals more about her character than mine.
- My dad's drinking made her life difficult, too. AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder, or alcoholism) is a family disease that damages everyone.
- Children raised in unstable and hurtful environments can learn new ways of coping and become healthy
Instead of giving my son the mother I wanted, I can give him the parent he needs, and take care of myself at the same time.