33 minutes late.
Last Friday, it was 33 minutes after when I normally start the commute to the office.
It needs to be Saturday.
I tightened the lid on my travel mug, patted Rocco goodbye and hurried to my car – computer bag, lunch bag, purse and coat all swinging from my arm.
Normally by this time of the workday, I am in serious work mode. To-do list recaps. Mental prep for meetings.
Instead, that day, I drove down the road thinking only of two people: Mom and Dad.
Over the last several months, I’ve had time to consider the resentment I feel for what my parents did and didn’t do that had a negative impact on me.
See, on this adult child of an alcoholic journey, one of my biggest challenges is resentment. I’ve long held onto resentment toward my mother and my father.
I was about 14 when it arrived so it’s been with me for 20 years now. I’ve always been resentful that my mother chooses not to get help. I resented how much joy I sacrificed to clean up her messes. I resented that she treated my sister and me the way she did. I resented that my father never got help for all of us and that he allowed Mom’s alcoholism-induced abuse to occur. I resented that I was the adult of the household by age 10. I resented that my 20s were as stressful and un-free as they were because of the continued chaos that flowed from Mom’s alcoholism when my sister was still so young.
Most of this resentment was directed to my mother. But after my dad died suddenly three years ago, I have since often wondered if he’d still be alive today if he’d acted to work on his co-dependency and help all us of get educated about Mom’s alcoholism decades ago. I resented his way of dealing. I think I resented his death, too. I miss him every day.
For a while now, I’ve been realizing that I need to let go and forgive.
But I wondered, how do you forgive an alcoholic parent? Is it even possible for a child of an alcoholic to forgive an alcoholic mother or father?
Over the last several months in my ACOA journey, I’ve realized that Dad – extraordinarily good-hearted man he was – was ill, too. Only now can I see that he was co-dependent to an extreme degree and completely uneducated about the effects of alcoholism. He absolutely did the best he knew how to cope.
As for Mom, she is extremely ill. While various emotions remain, I no longer feel resentment toward her.
I never actively worked on this resentment emotion specifically. I guess it has just slowly dissipated as I’ve focused on me and my life. Forgiveness is not for Mom or Dad, it’s for me. I realized I needed to give forgiveness so that I may move forward.
Eight years ago (the peak of my resentment) – heck, even two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined a time when I could wholeheartedly forgive Mom and Dad for the effects of Mom’s alcoholism on all of us.
But that morning, it was all very clear. I had already forgiven Mom and Dad.
So I called Mom.
Me: “Hi. Don’t read into this because I’m not having a premonition about anything happening to anyone. I know life is unpredictable and uncertain and there is something I’ve realized that you need to know. The life you’ve had – it’s been very hard. I know the battles you face. For all the negative impact this has had on me, I forgive you.”
Me: “Okay. I need to hang up now.”
You know how you can tell when someone is smiling when they speak – even only one word. She was smiling.
I was not. I was on the verge of vomiting .
Yesterday, I visited Dad’s grave and declared the same message.
I wish I could report that officially forgiving my parents felt like zillions of pounds were lifted from my shoulders. But it felt more like finishing a race. I was glad to reach the milestone but I felt completely fried. It feels draining, foreign and strangely, melancholy.
Forgiving them doesn’t change the fact that Mom and Dad were dealt these rotten cards in life, which dealt me and my sister similar, rotten cards. It doesn’t change the fact that I spent my whole life wrapped up in my mother’s addiction and tirelessly trying to fix her – fix everything!
This is sad.
But recognizing forgiveness frees up energy that can now be allocated to positive energy.
It’s already happening.
Today, I realized that there is another person who deserves forgiveness: me.
I need to forgive myself for everything I’ve done and not done that has negatively impacted my life – the guilt, the endless pursuit of satisfaction, the shame, the inability to care for myself , the pain I’ve endured. I am a victim of an illness, too – a 100% normal response to the world I entered.
This is a new, exciting, challenging part of the journey. It’s a long road, my friends.
I hope you are well.