Being the child of an alcoholic is like being the victim of a ransacked home. Imagine books, toys, and clothes strung everywhere. Dishes are broken; pictures are askew; cabinets are emptied. Curtains are blowing out of a broken window. The crime – a wild angry elephant tore threw the tiny home. The challenge – you have to call the police and ask for help without blaming the elephant, because you love the elephant as much as you fear it.
This metaphor of a broken home speaks of my childhood. My dad stopped drinking before I was born, but he never found real recovery. The lingering behaviors caused life-long heartache for ALL involved.
At this point in my journey, I still struggle with denial, and I’ve been in recovery for my co-dependency for almost two years now. I can check off all the items on lists like: Ten things To Know About Children Of Alcoholics, yet I deny their impact. I’m afraid of everything. I’m still too afraid to tell anyone my dad used to drink. What would the people at church think?
My denial is so deep that I often forget what my problem really is. Oh yeah, it is the disease still affecting my dad. That is the easy answer I’m never allowed to utter.
How Does The Child Of An Alcoholic Get Better?
Like so many problems with addiction, I first have to admit I have a problem. I grew up in an alcoholic home and I need to own it. It created the framework for all of my thought processes like:
- Don’t take the last of the tea without making more or I would be screamed at
- Don’t leave my curling iron out on the counter or I would be screamed at
- Never leave dirty dishes in the sink or I would be screamed at
- Don’t ask for money there wasn't any
- Don’t ask for a ride we are busy
- I couldn't miss church or I would go to hell
- Don’t make noise it will disturb someone
- Don’t be a cry baby no one wants to hear you
Because I spent 40 years being afraid, it makes sense that I’ll spend the next 40 years learning to recover from this. So far, in the rooms I’ve learned to:
- Progress, not perfection - Recovery isn't a quick fix
- More will be revealed - My mind protects me by only giving me digestible doses of the problem
- When the student is ready, the teacher appears - I'm not on this journey alone. Help will arrive just in time
I’ve learned to trust in a loving Higher Power, who is far different than the one I grew up with. I can’t rush getting over these childhood wounds. It’s going to take time and love. Until I can give myself those, it’s best for me to seek support in group fellowships. Some that specialize in these are: