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.