When I think back on past years – years before I fully understood all of the profound ways being a child of alcoholics affects you – it seems to me now that I was living my life well below the surface. I worked hard at a prestigious and well-paying job, I had lovely friends, I took amazing trips and I made great dinners and threw great parties for those in my life. All outward signs of a life well-lived. But it is the strangest thing: I realize I was so many layers below the surface that I never really connected with anyone in a way I could have. In the way I do now. In full awareness of my ACOAness. In full knowledge of who I am as a person. I was so out of touch with myself after doing whatever it took to navigate my alcoholic home that even in my dearest relationships, I could not fully express what I needed or even understand who I was enough to know what I needed that it breaks my heart a bit. Lovely humans whom I adore were meeting me with their above the surface selves and I didn’t even know how much space there was between us because the distance I had to travel to heal – to pierce through all the layers of pain and understanding – was too great. And I didn’t even know. I had a wall of damage around me, a sound layer of protection I wasn’t even aware I carried around. And so when you met me then, when you loved me then, even when I was giving everything back, even when I seemed to be up at the surface with you, I was still deep in the depths of my own unknowing. I did not realize I wasn’t meeting you at the surface. I thought I was.

The good news: I’m at the surface now! The sun on my face, the light reflecting off the water, fresh air in my lungs. I know who I am. It has taken me years to sort, but I’m here.

The less good news: without ever understanding why, I lost wonderful relationships. I lost people I adore. I could see in their faces a confusion, perhaps even an understanding on their part that I wasn’t quite ready for life in the way they were. And I didn’t know. And it wasn’t my fault. But I’ve carried the shame of this inability to be pre-healed for so long now, I’m wanting to speak it so I can finally let it go.