for adult children of alcoholics


Angry People Live in Angry Bodies

Angry people live in angry bodies.
Frightened people live in easily frightened bodies.
Worried people live in worried bodies.
Tense people live in tense bodies.
Defensive people live in defensive bodies.
Traumatized people live in traumatized bodies.
Everything you experienced as a child of an alcoholic gave you the body you live in now. Every yelling match. Every “pack your bags” in the middle of the night rush. Every frightening and muffled sound from beyond your bedroom door. Every time you were not seen, heard or cared for in the way you needed. It all lives in your body.

The only way to heal is to get in touch with our bodies. To become aware of the sensations in our bodies as they happen. To make our bodies our cherished friends. To undo years of being disconnected from our bodies as a way to survive what we were living in.

Try yoga. Hiking outside. Breathwork. Massage. Dance. Running. Climbing. Inhabit your body and begin to notice the sensations. It is the only way to move traumatic feelings out of you for good so you can fill your body up with new and wonderful memories.

As Bessel van der Kolk so powerfully states in his wonderful book “The Body Keeps The Score”: “In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step to releasing the tyranny of the past.”

I’m going to practice yoga and go on several hikes this week. Tell me how you plan to get more in touch with your body this week to begin to heal the past. We’ll do it together.

Healed by Love

I’ve never really been into love with a capital L. I eschew hearts – in necklaces, on sweatshirts, on greeting cards, in cookie form. I’ve always found girls who seek love or talk about love to be somehow silly, frivolous, unserious, unlikely to make a big impact in this world.

But a funny thing happens when you are utterly healed by love. Transformed. Not just romantic love and not just love directed at you, but every kind of love, including the love you have for others and yourself. Once you experience that kind of power, you see why people wear heart necklaces and bake heart cakes and collect heart-shaped rocks on hikes.

And of course the very notion of love has confused me for most of my life. As an ACoA, any love given came with other things. Shouting. Embarrassment. Secrets. Lies. Shame. Love from alcoholic parents didn’t feel super good. Didn’t feel transformative. Certainly didn’t lift me up to be my best. The love I knew growing up asked me to shove my needs aside, bury my feelings, deny my true self and people-please to not rock the otherwise very rocky boat that was a home with two alcoholic parents.

So it makes sense that I proudly turned my nose at heart things. At love things. But even in the loss of my dear dog Paco I see it: I loved him all the more because he helped me heal from a greater love lost when my English bulldog Oscar passed. And my remaining dog Stella is now the recipient of yet more love, as am I from her. And I love my chosen friends and family fiercely – which the sudden loss of Paco also made me revisit. I’ve been making plans to see all of them more. To love on them more. Our time together is so fleeting. And the love we have for one another—and ourselves—can truly heal. Can truly help us be the best versions of ourselves. So why the hell not celebrate love in all its forms?

When You Heal Enough to Wear Your Cute Shoes Again

I have a lot of incredible shoes. I have a really beautiful wardrobe. I used to love getting up and getting dressed for my day. Or working in workout gear until it was time to get ready for an evening event. I don’t wear my pretty shoes much anymore. I rarely pull out a favorite piece from my closet to wear. I’ll get dressed up for a week of meetings in NY, but even that has become a bit of an easy uniform.

The last four years of my life have cracked me wide open. The death of my grandmother (who was my stand-in Mom after my mother passed when I was 18) and my stepfather, the ending of my marriage, the ending of a decade-long job I adored and then didn’t, and my father being diagnosed with Parkinson’s has been leveling in the truest sense of the word. Level the ground type stuff. Clear it all off and start over type stuff. It’s been a bring her to her knees few years. And I’m so grateful for it (now, not then) because it required me to finally deal with the giant hole in my body, heart and spirit that was growing up with alcoholic parents.

When you do this amount of self-reflection and healing, you don’t have time for outfits. Or showers. You do the best you can to do life while also navigating your challenging internal terrain. While trying to understand it all and put yourself back together in a new, stronger way. And so I’ve been ever so chuffed to find myself reaching for my cute shoes again. Grabbing a lovely coat instead of the one I wear every day. Without guilt. But in full awareness of: my goodness it feels good to like myself enough to carefully dress in a way that is about joy vs surviving the day. It’s progress. And I’m here for all of it.