for adult children of alcoholics


People Pleasing

Recovering People-Pleasers & New Year’s Resolutions

The end of a year and the beginning of another year can be a really potent time. I’ve worked in wellness for nearly 20 years so I know all too well the huge ramp up to messages about new year, new you. And though I think we’re all doing a bit better about that exact messaging, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how tough it is for us as ACoAs to listen to our own needs and how much more difficult that can be during this explosion of wellness messaging: what is your word of the year? it’s the full moon, do this! it’s the new moon, do this! here are fifty templates for instagramming your 2019 goals, here is what this year is all about according to the stars so here is what you will experience, this is how you should eat, this is how you should marie kondo your life before this month ends…and so on and so on.

As recovering people-pleasers who are highly suggestible, this tidal wave of shoulds around wellness and spirituality and your supposed journey to actual healing as told to you by any number of people on Instagram can be overwhelming. Triggering, even. So I’m being really careful with myself. This is the year we listen to ourselves — really listen — and do what feels best to us. I repeat: do what feels best to US.

Rituals and time-markers and planning are all wonderful ways to set intentions and check in with yourself. But choose wisely. And maybe choose only a few. If it’s the new moon but you are really tired, maybe skip that 3 hour goal planning session, spend 30 min on it and use the remaining time to rest. Do a little. Do a lot. Do none of it. Do all of it. It’s entirely up to you because it is only about you.

You have worked so hard to get to a place where you are ready to listen to your needs and choose you. Honor yourself by doing exactly what would feel best. I’ve caught myself feeling that I “should” do this new year thing or that new year thing and then realized: you know what? i’m experiencing a lot at the moment and what would be truly best for me right now is ___________________ . Even if that’s not part of any new year ritual or get-ahead plan. What would feel so good right now? Today? What do you need? Trust yourself and do that.

A People-Pleaser Setting Boundaries

I’ve made it no secret that this holiday week was hard. Among the hardest. And I know enough now to let the tears come, let the pain inform me, listen to what all the sensations in my body are telling me, and just be patient as it moves through me. And it did. And I listened. And here is what that particular storm revealed: I’m angry. So so so angry.

As an ACOA I became enmeshed in a codependent relationship with my parents. I learned that in my house, my feelings were not valued. My needs were not important. And when you express your basic needs and desires again and again, without being listened to, you begin to behave the same way outside your home. Presuming your needs will not be met. Knowing your feelings don’t matter. And when you think your feelings no longer matter, you do what is asked of you, you people-please, you say yes when you really wish to say no and you eventually stuff your wants, needs, feelings…YOUR ENTIRE IDENTITY…down, down, down as you become a seemingly solid person to many (someone people grow to love, even) but you are no longer you.
And when life cracks you open as it did for me 3 years ago, and you really start holding all of these tiny stained glass pieces of you up to the light, a dissonance so grand is revealed that you can become (as I have) deeply fucking angry.

Why is no one listening to me? I’ve been clear on my needs. Why is no one valuing me? Oh, wait. Because I am not valuing me. I am not listening to me. I’m not actually saying what I want (I’ve learned from childhood that’s useless) and then I’m furious when no one hears me. I’m so ready to assume they won’t honor my needs, my wishes, that I’ve forgotten to ask. To state. To say: here I am and this is what I need even if it upsets you.

There’s so much more here to unpack. I’m writing a longer post on the blog today. But know this: it’s terrifying to realize you’ve got a well of anger deep within, especially when it comes out in crazy ways and inappropriate moments. Honor it. All of it. Let it inform you. And know that I’m adding some anger tools to the blog as well. For now, I’m breathing deeply and enjoying nature which is the ultimate healing salve.

What Do YOU Want?

Growing up in an alcoholic family meant hiding secrets. Pretending things are fine when they are not. Not acknowledging dysfunction when it exists. Covering for the alcoholic parent when others ask what’s happening. It’s easy to lose yourself as you deny reality to yourself.

All of these behaviors stick with you into adulthood if we don’t address them. The mind is so powerful it’s amazing what situations we will find ourselves in or what reality we will convince ourselves of as adults without even realizing it. And, oh, the people pleasing we engage in just to make a bad situation ok only to realize we’ve just said yes (again) to a thing we didn’t want to do.

What do YOU want? What life do you want? What kind of work do you really want to do in this world? What do you want in a partner? Friends? My coach Gwen Dittmar has a great tool called “Ideal Scene” which requires me to get super clear on anything I want for my life. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What are some tangible parts of the ideal scene that you can write down and hold in your mind? This is so helpful for so many, but I find it’s particularly powerful for ACoAs as we often don’t know how to ask for what we want, don’t feel we deserve to ask for what we want and certainly don’t feel we will ever get it. And because we don’t feel we are worthy or it will ever happen for us, we settle for situations we don’t want. We say “ok” to the job, the relationship, the trip, the whatever and set about convincing ourselves it’s good enough. I want more for you. I want more for me. I want us to live the lives we’d love to live, not just the lives we’ve managed to cobble together on the other side of so much trauma.

If you find yourself living in a story you don’t want to be in, you can change it. No matter what you learned growing up. You deserve everything you hope for in this life. Everything. Let’s envision our “ideal scene”, let’s write it down and then make it come true. We deserve to live in a story of our own making, rather then acting in a small part off to the side or behind the scenes, in the shadows. We deserve magic.