“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.” – Katharine Hepburn
It’s true. We are always quick to blame, quick to cite the past experiences as the reasons why our lives aren’t the way we wish and quick to forget the power we have to change a lot in this life.
I’ve met many angry ACOAs. They’re angry for good reason. A loved one’s addiction caused horrific things. Abuse. Neglect. The list goes on. As adult children of alcoholics, we are all screwed up with issues…and almost all of them can be traced back to stuff that happened or didn’t happen when we were children, teenagers and young adults.
I don’t know how old I was but when I first heard about Al-Anon meetings but the idea of going to a meeting enraged me. Why should I spend time going to meetings when my mother is the one with the problem?! Oh, how I wish I’d thought differently back then. It would have helped me when I really needed it. I blame myself for that. I felt I was the martyr – the holy caregiver – the loyal daughter. In reality, I was cleaning up my mother’s messes and holding the family together, preventing her from ever reaching rock bottom. In the process, I sure as hell wasn’t taking good care of myself, which hurt my sister, my dad, my friends and everyone in my life. But if you had pointed a finger at me back then, I can’t imagine how I would have reacted.
Sometimes I still feel angry, too, that my mother’s alcoholism robbed me of so many good things as a young person. I feel angry that I’ve spent most of my adult life completely preoccupied with my mother’s alcoholism. It’s really screwed up. Unfair. Addiction is to blame. People in my life are to blame.
But now I’m 33 years old. All of these terrible things happened years ago. I can continue shaking my head and replaying all of the unbelievably traumatic stuff or I can put in a bunch of work on myself and be free – or closer to freedom.
This photo with this post was taken 4.5 years ago, just before my book was released (ALMOST FIVE YEARS…unreal). That day, I distinctly remember feeling like I’d finally made it over some rugged, slippery roadblock the universe had placed in my path since childhood. From then on, I thought, I’d skate on a clear, smooth path in the land of grownup freedom. Nearly five years and a few more wrinkles later, I know that there’s no clear, smooth path. Life is unpredictable, painful and difficult. I felt very wise on that sunny day – somehow, far wiser than I do today. There are things I’m realizing that I cannot change and other things I only now seeing that I can and should change.
At some point in the ACOA journey, we have the ability to unload what we’ve carried our whole lives and if we don’t, we have no one, nothing, to blame but ourselves.
Yup, it’s incredibly hard.
Take good care of yourself.