COMMUNITY, SUPPORT & HEALING
for adult children of alcoholics

JOIN THE COMMUNITY

Shame

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.

Shame

Since I shared my shame last week about not knowing I was far from healed when I tried to interact with people, I’ve been a little shaken. Speaking these things are so important. Getting them out into the light is important. But oh my goodness has the speaking of it brought up so much more shame. This is what they mean when they say you can only heal by going “through” instead of around it. Through is not easy. Through hurts. And the patience and intelligence and self-love it takes to sit with the pain and really understand it and feel it is on another level. I’m exhausted.

So two quick notes:

  1. You see the Insta quotes about it and you like them because they are true but I doubt if we do it enough: be ever so kind to yourself as you are doing the work of getting the pain out of your heart and mind and body. Be patient. It may feel like many steps backward. But trust me – sticking with it will slingshot you forward into an entirely different understanding when you have finally healed what you are currently facing.
  2. Pay careful attention to the thoughts and ideas you have about yourself. I immediately assume I’m the bad person in any situation. That I’m selfish. Awful. Undeserving. It’s an automatic response. I realized this week (again, amazing how I keep forgetting) that my mother used to call me fat and selfish. And every time my Dad was late picking me up, she told me it’s because he didn’t love me. Well NO WONDER I think I’m bad and unloveable. FFS. In my heart I know I’m good and worthy just by being me, but the “I’m bad” programming is so automatic, it’s tough to catch, no matter how many Insta stories I screengrab to remind myself.

This is slow work.
This is hard work.
It is the necessary work of healing.

I’m off to care for myself by doing something in nature I love. I hope you find time to take care of you today, too. I see you. I love you. We’ve got this.

The Only Path to Healing: Self-Forgiveness & Radical Self-Care

I’ve been away for a bit re-learning the truest lesson I know: self-love and self-forgiveness are the only path to healing and abundance and joy.

My alcoholic step-father passed two years ago and this month has been a rough time of upheaval and regret. Not because of how I handled things with him per se, but because of how I handled all the other things in my life during that upheaval. And the one before that with my separation. And the one before that when my grandmother died. And, really, the original one, all those years ago: when my mother died.

Life is messy. And I got very messy with it. Finances unmanaged. Relationships not where I’d like them to be. Friendships with great women that I did not nurture because I was so worried about showing up a mess. Again and again.

And if I’m going to do Change of Air—if I’m to really give it everything I have—I have to love myself through all the things I wish I’d done differently. All the times I wish I’d made a different choice. Chosen a better path. Been more authentic to who I actually am and what I actually want. Not allowed the story of my alcoholic parents to drive the narrative of me.

And so how to do this? How to make Change of Air the transformative place for every child of an alcoholic? How to do this while also doing the most important thing: not letting their alcoholism define me while also illuminating how growing up with alcoholic parents might be affecting you?

It’s been a month of soul-searching. Of unearthing what’s true and holding it up to the light. I want this to be amazing because of all I’ve learned and all I have to share that I know will help others. I don’t have all the magical answers today. But I do know this: we must be ever so kind to ourselves. We did the best we could and we will do better now that we know ourselves better. Sending love to everyone who needs it. Be as kind as you can while you navigate life on your own terms. It is the only way.