The fifth characteristic on the Dr. Janet Woititz list of The 13 Characteristics of an ACoA says we have a difficult time having fun. Obviously.

Growing up in our home was not fun. No one around me showed me what fun looked like. I saw anger. I saw drinking. I saw shouting. I saw fights. I saw neglect. I saw that my needs were not as important as those who were drinking.

And because my parents were drinking, I had to assume so many responsibilities at such a young age that simply were not mine. Caring for my brother. Making food for the entire family. Ironing all the clothes. Making sure my mother got up for work on time. Making sure she showed up to things on time. Paid our bills on time. And so on. And so on. There was no time for fun.

As Dr. Woititz puts it: “Growing up with an addicted parent is not fun. Kids are not allowed to be kids. When the kids are not given this joy, the adult usually does not know how to simply enjoy life. The ACOA is constantly worrying about their addicted parent, or is in trouble for things they should not be responsible for, or compensating in some other way for the addict. The usually carefree, fun time of being a child often does not exist if the parent is an addict. The addict is the “child” in the relationship. Because of this, the child does not know how to be a child.”

I’ve been accused of not knowing how to have fun for much of my life. Only in the past few years have I understood this enough to let go enough and lighten up. I’ve even learned to seek fun. To seek joy. To find ways to have life be easy instead of ever so hard.

I’ve also seen how the “life is ever so hard” pattern can be very hard to break. We are so used to life being hard and having to take care of everyone, that we actively seek out – unconsciously – situations that will allow us to re-live that over and over again. Because the not having fun feels familiar. Sound familiar? 😉

So! I challenge you to find new ways to infuse a little fun into each day. And I like the word “fun” instead of joy because joy can feel so esoteric and big, whereas fun feels doable. Fun is silliness and that seems achievable. I’m using this list to remind myself of easy ways to get my fun in and I’ve noticed that a few of them (dance like no one’s watching, laugh to your heart’s content & hiking in nature) have made their way into my regular fun routine.