for adult children of alcoholics


Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop & Other ACoA Things

I’ve noticed a thing. All the planning and new year goal-setting is triggering two things simultaneously in me: 
1) Nothing we ever planned out went according to plan in our households. So we learned not to count on our plans, not to really need them. Not to get too attached to any outcome because disappointment was nearly assured. 
2) Because nothing ever went according to plan, some of us started REALLY clinging to plans in other parts of our lives – the parts that didn’t include our alcoholic parents. We made those plans and held them so tightly because they were an ocean of calm —of control—that we desperately needed outside the rough seas of home. We had a say and we could control things, finally. Of course, those didn’t always pan out either. Not because of alcoholic parents, but because: life.

And so I find this time of year to be anxiety-inducing. I’ve tried to allow so much more flow into my life. Ease. That’s not to say I don’t have goals, but the idea of mapping them all out and laddering up tons of micro steps leading to small steps leading to giant goals feels deeply unwanted right now. Lately, I’ve been saying to myself over and over: I’m just so glad I made it to this point, aware of all this #ACoA ish, that I just want to simply be. I want to have days without painful memories, without sadness and loss and anger and grief. I want to enjoy every moment of beauty and joy and wonder and non-fighting at the dinner table and at family weddings. I just want to BE. I want to fully inhabit ME now that I understand all I have been through. And that feels like more than enough for a year worth of goals. And I don’t want to be hustled into planning any more than that.

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.

Being an ACoA

Being an ACoA is one thing. 
Knowing you are an ACoA is another. 
Understanding what that means for your behavior, your feelings, your way of thinking is yet another. 
Understanding boundaries and anger and trusting oneself again is another. 
Navigating all this while also living through daily life stressors is yet another.
And another and another and another.

Coming to terms with being an ACOA has many layers. Many levels of realization and integration. Until something else pops up and you realize you have to peel back another layer and deal with that. And learn new healthy behaviors around that. Just when you think you have it sorted, a new situation with a loved one or a work situation will elicit an unexpected reaction in you and you’ll need to notice it, pause, think through how that might be tied to your childhood and deal with it.

This is all a lot.
Like, so much. 
Even: exhausting.

To be ever aware of all these different strands of your life at play in any moment takes diligence, vigilance, a real awareness and so much courage. I know because I’m walking the same road with you. I’m proud of us for being this aware and doing the work. But I also want us to remember another strand we forget about when we are doing all of this: the fun strand.

Where can we add lightness and a little silly joy to all this heavy work we are doing? I mentioned it in a past newsletter (and if you aren’t on it yet, get ON it, link in bio) that I’m gonna start joy dancing for 5 minutes every morning. I can tell you right now: that is not anything that seems rational as I navigate heavy emotional terrain. But it’s just the kind of thing that is so silly it has an appeal I can’t quite describe. What little thing can you do every day to add some silly into all this ACoA seriousness? Share with us and let’s do it together!