for adult children of alcoholics


Childhood Trauma

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.


Making Peace with What IS

I have been working so hard on myself for so long now. I’ve also been working hard on big life things like selling my home (it’s not selling rn) and sorting big debt with my ex (a years long thing that feels like it’s crushing my chest). And I’m at my edge of “manifesting” something to happen. I show up every day to my meditation practice and my affirmations. I am doing the work and I keep trusting that things will shift. That light will shine through these clouds – the house will sell, the debt will be paid off – and I’ll finally be out from under some heavy things I’ve carried around for too long. I want that freedom. I’ve envisioned that freedom. I’ve inhabited that freedom in my mind. Measured its floors, its nooks, its dimensions. And still here I am and I’m losing faith.

And so I return to any unconscious beliefs I’m holding as an ACoA. I’m revisiting codependent behaviors. I’m revisiting my people pleasing. Where might I be holding on to unhealthy thoughts? Where might I be self-sabotaging? I’m also reminding myself that we are worthy of pleasure and joy. I’m taking care of myself (and my deeply scared & annoyed & impatient inner child) and doing my best to limit negative self talk. But I don’t feel joyful and connected. It doesn’t feel easy or light. I am moving through mud. With ankle weights.

All I can do is trust. I can find little joys in moments every day. I can exercise, take long walks, spend time in nature. I can find yet more patience and yet more strength. I can continue doing all the human work to move this forward (hiring the experts, listening to their advice, filling out all the things.) I can remain open to possibility. And I am and I will. I share this because I want you to know what healing looks like. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens alongside bills and debt and marriages ended and impatience and worry that this won’t change. It’s not all yoga and light and girl power with a side of evening face-masks. Sending you patience and peace and beautiful surrender to what IS while you are working to create a new IS. I’m humbly offering the same to myself. We will find our way through to the light.

📷: @annielangloisyoga

I Am Not A Trauma Expert, But I Am An Expert In My Own Trauma

If you’ve followed Change of Air for the past year, you know that both of my parents were alcoholics. My mother died of cirrhosis of the liver when I was 18. My stepfather died of cirrhosis of the liver 2 years ago. Growing up in an alcoholic home shaped the woman I am today. As a young girl, I sought out as much help as I could possibly find. Books, therapists, Al-Anon, any adult in my life who would listen. Most adults who should have protected me didn’t believe me and didn’t help me. Not teachers, not church leaders, not other family members, not group therapists, not Al-Anon disciples.

I’m 45 years old. It has taken me my entire life so far to sort this because I wasn’t able to readily get the help I needed when I needed it most. I created Change of Air so you would have a safe place to share your own experiences and see you are not alone. I created Change of Air so you could have access to the experts and tools I didn’t have access to, whether that’s a recommendation for a great trauma-informed therapist, a great book about how nature is scientifically proven to soothe us, or amazing breathing techniques that have helped me with fear and anxiety.

If you’ve done any work to heal your own ACOA childhood and work through your own trauma, you know how tough it is to even arrive at a place where you feel comfortable enough to share. Where you feel safe enough to share. After decades of weekly talk therapy with a licensed therapist, a lifelong yoga and daily meditation practice, daily time in nature, and after reading hundreds of books about all of these things while working alongside top doctors and wellness experts throughout my career in the wellness space, I’ve arrived at a place where I want to share so others can benefit from what I’ve personally & professionally experienced.

I want to be very clear: I am not a therapist or trauma expert and I do not pretend to be. But if sharing what I’ve learned over the last 30+ years of inhabiting my own trauma means I can help one person feel less alone or get help from the right expert so they can begin their own understanding of their trauma and begin to heal it, I’ve delivered on the Change of Air promise.