COMMUNITY, SUPPORT & HEALING
for adult children of alcoholics

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ACoA Behavior

A Change of Air Will Do You Good

If you know me at all, you know that I tried all the things. All the programs. All the groups. I’ve read all the books over and over again. While all of these things gave me really important bits and pieces about how to navigate a home with two alcoholic parents and the lasting damage it might leave me to wrestle with, none of the available groups or systems clicked for me.

No group felt like it understood me. No set of tools moved me meaningfully forward in my healing. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. The language was all about recovery and I was not the alcoholic. I understand now, all these years later, why that language is used in many systems but I was seeking something that was wholly my own. Something that was about me, designed for me.

As my mother would return from her AA meetings and talk of the steps and “recovery” it felt wrong to me that those were the same words in my own meetings. The system and language felt lifted, second-hand. Which is how the effects of her drinking felt — I was not the smoker but I inhaled all the smoke.

When I got the call at age 18 that my mother had died (cirrhosis of the liver), I wept in the shower though I had rehearsed this scene with myself a dozen times because some part of me knew this was coming. Through all the emergency hospital visits, I could tell we were on borrowed time.

As I stood in the shower in my shared dorm room bathroom at UCSD a few days before taking the Spring finals of my Freshman year, I thought to myself: this will not be in vain. Her death will not be in vain. I have not experienced this in vain.

It took me twenty years to navigate the trauma, confusion, low self-esteem, toxic relationships and workaholism that were my “inhaled smoke.” I was lost and then found and then lost again. Each time, I gained a bit more understanding. A bit more insight into what it has meant to grow up in a home with parents who were neglectful, verbally abusive, scary and inconsistent. Each time, I tried another group or system. Each time, none of them felt like me.

I started Change of Air two years ago as a return to that commitment I made to myself at 18. I have not experienced this in vain. I also know that I’ve learned so much through the incredible yoga teachers I’ve had the pleasure to work with professionally over the years and the many incredible doctors and wellness professionals I’ve worked with throughout my career. I am not an expert in how to heal from trauma or having alcoholic parents, but I am an expert in my experience. And I am an expert in going to every existing group and system and club and community for ACoAs and not finding what I needed.

I created Change of Air because it’s what I needed. I created Change of Air because there was no place that combined movement and story telling and hiking and nature and shared stories and the really honest, vulnerable ways we are learning ourselves every day, with every new trigger. I created Change of Air because I could not find a safe place to share all of these things and find others who were navigating the same terrain. I created Change of Air because I know that Vincent Van Gogh and so many other artists did their best work – the work of their lives – when they decided to move away from the stagnant air and busy cities they’d become so familiar with and instead moved to the sea or the country. They literally changed the air around them and saw things from an entirely new perspective.

The dictionary defines “a change of air” as “a different place from where one usually is.” And that’s exactly what I hope Change of Air becomes for me and for you and for everyone who is new to understanding they are an adult child of an alcoholic and those who have known and have struggled under the weight of it for their entire lives.

I chose the name Change of Air for this reason. I wanted a change from what existed. I wanted to consume a different air that I could not find in those meeting rooms and groups. I landed on the name and I bought the URL and I set about working on some early designs. Only then did I realize that Change of Air, abbreviated, is CoA for children of alcoholics. It was auspicious. It was not an accident. We are just getting started. I hope you will join me on this journey.

 

It’s Time to Come Clean

I’ve been keeping secrets.
I’ve been hiding truths.
But it’s time to come clean.

My mother and grandmother used to take me shopping. Not often, but when we did, it was really special. I got to spend time with them — just me and them. Trying on dresses and cute jackets and beautiful shoes.

We didn’t have a lot of money and my mother rarely bought things for herself. But they seemed to love giving me this kind of attention. And as the girl living in the home with the alcoholic parents who screamed and fought and threw things through windows, it felt so good to be out in public, pretending we were normal, buying pretty things and having lunch.

A seemingly simple thing on the surface. I loved those shopping dates. But I had no idea how they imprinted my brain with the idea that love = cute dresses. Love = beautiful shoes. Love = shopping. Love = spending money.

As you might imagine, I am the proud owner of a lot of beautiful shoes.

I’m also the owner of a heart and brain that transferred those experiences to larger financial investments. Purchases. Ways of living that were expensive. And it was ok because I worked hard to earn a lot. So I could “love” myself and everyone in my life a lot. So I could make them feel special in the exact same way I’d been made to feel special.

But a divorce and two big family deaths later and those choices can catch up with you. And if you are a good ACoA, you learned to never look at the truth at home and so I didn’t look at my mounting debt. Sure it kept me up at night, but I shoved it down. For a long time. So long it involved the IRS. Payment plans. Credit scores gone awry.

I’ve got the financial bit mostly sorted, but I’ve never addressed the behavior. The way I learned to love myself with spending. It’s so hard to look at. I’m embarrassed. Ashamed.

But this childhood wound has become a cage. I need to finally look at this and all I’m afraid it says about me. I need to learn new ways to love myself. It begins today.

I’ve been hiding truths.
But it’s time to come clean.

My mother and grandmother used to take me shopping. Not often, but when we did, it was really special. I got to spend time with them — just me and them. Trying on dresses and cute jackets and beautiful shoes.

We didn’t have a lot of money and my mother rarely bought things for herself. But they seemed to love giving me this kind of attention. And as the girl living in the home with the alcoholic parents who screamed and fought and threw things through windows, it felt so good to be out in public, pretending we were normal, buying pretty things and having lunch.

A seemingly simple thing on the surface. I loved those shopping dates. But I had no idea how they imprinted my brain with the idea that love = cute dresses. Love = beautiful shoes. Love = shopping. Love = spending money.

As you might imagine, I am the proud owner of a lot of beautiful shoes.

I’m also the owner of a heart and brain that transferred those experiences to larger financial investments. Purchases. Ways of living that were expensive. And it was ok because I worked hard to earn a lot. So I could “love” myself and everyone in my life a lot. So I could make them feel special in the exact same way I’d been made to feel special.

But a divorce and two big family deaths later and those choices can catch up with you. And if you are a good ACoA, you learned to never look at the truth at home and so I didn’t look at my mounting debt. Sure it kept me up at night, but I shoved it down. For a long time. So long it involved the IRS. Payment plans. Credit scores gone awry.

I’ve got the financial bit mostly sorted, but I’ve never addressed the behavior. The way I learned to love myself with spending. It’s so hard to look at. I’m embarrassed. Ashamed.

But this childhood wound has become a cage. I need to finally look at this and all I’m afraid it says about me. I need to learn new ways to love myself. It begins today.

Saving Your Fancy Skincare for Fancy Face Days

I caught myself doing a weird thing last night while washing my face.

Backstory: I’ve started taking much better care of my skin. That’s how it goes when you start taking care of your inside. You start to prioritize all kinds of care. Realizing you are worth it. And so I’ve been learning all about the multi-step Korean beauty process of double cleansing, toner, essence, serum, oil. Morning and night.

It has become a wonderful ritual for myself. A time to look myself in the mirror, see myself, honor myself, lovingly take care of me. And my skin has never looked better. I feel amazing.

I’ve even gotten so into it that I recently bought several new items to try – sometimes swapping them for the original line of skincare I bought. Just to see if they did more for my skin. Had any extra, cool benefits.

When I travel, I always take the same kit with me as I’ve noticed the original line of skincare works best on my skin. I look amazing when I use all those products in the right order.

I recently got back from a trip. Haven’t unpacked my “best” skincare yet and so have been using the backup stuff. And noticing that my skin doesn’t look as amazing as it does when I use the best stuff.

And this is what popped into my head last night: “I’ll just keep using this backup stuff and save to best skincare for special occasions. I don’t need to look great all the time. No need to waste it.”

THIS IS A THING I SAID TO MYSELF.

It’s ok to have my FACE be for special occasions? Uh uh. No. Not even a little bit ok.

I share this with you because that’s how #ACoA healing works. We start taking care of ourselves, doing what feels good. And even in the taking care, those awful judgy voices sneak in. It’s my drunk mom calling me fat, or unworthy of an award I just got at school. It’s her telling me I should put more blush on before I leave the house because I look like a ghost. These comments still live in my body and creep in unexpectedly.

GOOD NEWS: I caught myself. Reminded myself of what’s true. And you can too.

And of course: I used the good skincare this morning! Because I am ever so worthy.