for adult children of alcoholics


What would feel best right now?

Something has shifted deeply within me after sitting with my holiday pain. For the first time in my life, I understand fully not just THAT I should listen to myself but HOW I can listen to myself. We know we should listen to ourselves and our needs. I tell you to do this. I tell myself to do this. Our therapists tell us this is vital. But only out of this huge cracking open during the holidays do I finally see for the very first time how I might actually live each day by thinking “What do I want right now? What would feel best for me right now? How can I do this thing in a way that feels good for me?” This may sound so obvious (and it is, it really is) but only in the past 24 hours have I begun to actually understand this at a cellular level.

As a girl who was told repeatedly by her alcoholic mother that I was “selfish”, can you imagine how revolutionary this feels to me? To wake each day and check in with myself and see what I need and what I want? MADNESS. SO SELFISH. And yet: I know it is the only way. I have to listen very carefully to myself each day, throughout each day and do exactly what my heart is telling me. I trust that life will flow as it should the moment I listen carefully and act accordingly.

I’m not one for big recaps of the year that was or bold plans for the year ahead. But this year, I’m making myself a single promise. I’m going to ask myself “What would feel best for me in this moment?” and “What do I need?” and I’m going to listen and do those very things. I’m going to mother myself this year. And put myself first ahead of all others (yes! even this “I’ll put myself last” people-pleaser!) Every. Single. Day. Of. The. Year.

I cannot wait to see what living a life I actively choose will look like and feel like. It already feels far less heavy.

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.

Holidays Are Hard

Truth: I cried a lot yesterday. Something shifted in me when telling the story of Christmas Eve dinners with my grandmother. I miss her so much and there’s been so much other (more recent) loss that I was surprised by the powerful wallop. And somehow I thought baking cookies that I’ve only ever made with her would be a good thing to do: connect me to her on this holiday. But making a simple cookie we’ve only ever made together cracked me open.
And once there was a fissure, it all came tumbling out. What I wished this holiday looked like but didn’t. What I wished I had done in my life but didn’t. The people I’ve love who aren’t here to celebrate it. And the people who made every holiday awful and aren’t here either. It was a mourning of sorts for all that was and no longer is. I’m in a time of great transition and it seemed it all had to come out. So I let it. It caught me by complete surprise because I’ve been so genuinely solid on past holidays. And then I got upset that I was this upset on Christmas Eve! 🙈
So: however your holiday looks or doesn’t look, know that it’s ok to weep while baking and wake on Christmas morning with puffy cry eyes. We’ve been through a lot and these holidays with so many families cuddling and smiling in their Christmas pajamas can be really tough. And instead of becoming jaded and hard and cynical (jealous) of those families, I’m proud that I fought ever so much to stay soft and open, even after all I’ve been through. I’d rather feel all the feels than be numb.
So today I will be really gentle with myself. Morning coffee. A morning hike in nature that always always sorts me. And some writing. Every card I pulled last night, tears streaming down my face, was about unlocking my creativity to finally say what needs to be said. So it’s time to show up for that. And I’m sure all these feelings coming up just as they did, when they did, is in preparation for that.
Sending you so much love as you navigate today. Feel what you need to feel. Honor it. Even when it’s whoa. Know it will pass. Know you are not alone. Know this is part of your healing.

📷: @sociallysavvystudio