for adult children of alcoholics


ACoA Behavior

Denying Our True Thoughts & Feelings to Feel Safe

“The harm we received as children often sets us up for continued harm as adults. If, as children, we had to deny our true thoughts and feelings to be safe, as adults we are likely to continue to deny what’s true for us. Telling the truth feels very unsafe, a threat to survival. What a dilemma. Denying ourselves feels safer, but it obscures our sense of who we are.”

I’ve spent many years wondering why I have trouble with the truth. I’m not a liar, but I’ve had a tough time being honest with myself and others. A tough time identifying what I need and having the courage to say it. I do it with big things and little things. I say yes to a great many things I really don’t want – agreements at work, in relationships, with friends. And that creates so much angst and internal tension because now I’ve agreed to do a thing I don’t want to do but am going along with it because I said yes. And it’s been true my whole life: saying what I need, being honest with someone about how I feel, feels extremely unsafe. A threat to my survival.

The good news: I’m learning to listen to myself. I’m finding the courage to say what I need. In big things and small things. It’s scary as hell. And people in my life who are used to doormat me are not loving the new vibe. But that’s on them. Here’s to me. And honoring what I need and how I really feel and saying so.

Quote from Anne Katherine’s book BOUNDARIES. I’ve been reading and sharing these pages each night this week on stories and this one in particular resonated with all of you.

Choosing Yourself

I’ve known how to ride a bike since I was a little girl. But on my 18th birthday, I was hit by a car while riding a bike. Hit so hard I slid under a parked van, still on my bike. In those first moments of non-motion after so much terrifying motion, I was confused. Was I alive? Was I ok? What was broken? Could I move? Turns out I could, in fact, move. And aside from terrible road rash on both shins and both arms that required me to wear “second skin” patches to catch the dripping from the wounds for weeks and weeks and during my graduation speech, I was ok.

And so I don’t ride bikes, really. I don’t find it fun. My body remembers and isn’t interested in any more than a bit of a ride near a cute hotel that offers cute bikes to guests along the ocean. But I can do it. And sometimes, I get up just enough speed and the ocean air is in my windy hair and the breeze in my face feels so so good. So free.

I’ve been working on setting boundaries in my life. Saying no to what I don’t want. Holding a perimeter around where my needs are and where others’ needs are. Standing firm on what I need and saying so. It’s scary at first. Just like riding a bike for me. My body remembers every time I tried to set boundaries with my parents and was punished with yelling or silence or both. But I’ll tell you: when you really choose yourself over others and ask for what you need, say no to what does not feel good for you, it’s like ocean breeze in your hair as you pedal down a beautiful boardwalk. It feels so good. And I know it will feel even better with practice.

Here’s to more of that. For me and for you, however wobbly we may be as we start.

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop & Other ACoA Things

I’ve noticed a thing. All the planning and new year goal-setting is triggering two things simultaneously in me: 
1) Nothing we ever planned out went according to plan in our households. So we learned not to count on our plans, not to really need them. Not to get too attached to any outcome because disappointment was nearly assured. 
2) Because nothing ever went according to plan, some of us started REALLY clinging to plans in other parts of our lives – the parts that didn’t include our alcoholic parents. We made those plans and held them so tightly because they were an ocean of calm —of control—that we desperately needed outside the rough seas of home. We had a say and we could control things, finally. Of course, those didn’t always pan out either. Not because of alcoholic parents, but because: life.

And so I find this time of year to be anxiety-inducing. I’ve tried to allow so much more flow into my life. Ease. That’s not to say I don’t have goals, but the idea of mapping them all out and laddering up tons of micro steps leading to small steps leading to giant goals feels deeply unwanted right now. Lately, I’ve been saying to myself over and over: I’m just so glad I made it to this point, aware of all this #ACoA ish, that I just want to simply be. I want to have days without painful memories, without sadness and loss and anger and grief. I want to enjoy every moment of beauty and joy and wonder and non-fighting at the dinner table and at family weddings. I just want to BE. I want to fully inhabit ME now that I understand all I have been through. And that feels like more than enough for a year worth of goals. And I don’t want to be hustled into planning any more than that.