I don’t know what it is like to be an alcoholic. I don’t know what it is like to fight that battle every single day. And I certainly don’t know what it is like to tell yourself each night you are going to stop only to do it all over again the next day. I don’t pretend to know the struggles of being an alcoholic, but I do know what it is like to live with one. I do know how hard it is to watch somebody you love fall down the rabbit hole every single day. I do know what it is like to wish, hope and pray that they could/would change. I do know what it is like to blame them for your own life.
My alcoholic parent is currently in rehab, which isn’t a sentence I ever thought I’d write. My dad has had a drink every day of my entire life. And every day of my older sibling’s life. And every day before that, too. His journey into sobriety is just the beginning, but already he is thriving. He has energy, he’s productive, he’s joyful. He’s still him, but a more present him. It’s very exciting, and also a little uneasy. I admittedly feel like I am on a hidden camera show, and at any moment I’ll be told it was just a joke, that my dad is far from sober.
You see, when you grow up with an alcoholic or addict of any kind, it’s hard to believe or trust in anything they say. Alcoholics are unreliable. Promises are constantly broken. What they say almost never matches what they do. So you can understand my reluctance to believe this is actually happening, right? Trust issues are just one of the many characteristic traits that children of alcoholics have.
According to verywellmind.com, adult children of alcoholics CAN develop these 13 characteristic traits. Adult children of alcoholics…
- …guess at what normal behavior is.
- …have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
- …lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
- …judge themselves without mercy.
- …have difficulty having fun.
- …take themselves very seriously.
- …have difficulty with intimate relationships.
- …overreact to changes over which they have no control.
- …constantly seek approval and affirmation.
- …usually feel that they’re different from other people.
- …are super responsible or super irresponsible.
- …are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
- …are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
*I’m very aware that these traits can pop up in any home, alcoholic or otherwise.*
Reading through these makes me realize that I, too, am on a journey to recovery. While I don’t identify with all of these, I know I do several of them. Alcoholics don’t (usually) just wake up and just stop drinking. They need detox, counseling, rehab. I, too, won’t just wake up and be a changed person. Years and years and years of feeling a certain way won’t go away overnight. It takes work to be different, but I have to be for my kiddos.
I don’t ever want my children to feel the way I did growing up. I don’t want them to come into adulthood heavy. It’s heavy enough on its own; they don’t need mom to have burdened them with something from her childhood. And so I join my dad in recovery. I know that breaking the cycle starts with me. Through friends, family, counseling (which I admittedly don’t want to do), prayer and God, I will face past hurts head on. I will forgive. I will love. I will change. I have to.
My husband always says we have to be better than our parents. He says it’s not because our parents were awful examples, but because we SHOULD be better. We have firsthand information on how to be better, so we should take advantage. And our kids should do the same. As I take on this journey of my own recovery I promise to my children and my husband that I will be better — and you can, too.