Three years ago, I’d relapsed in my ACoA recovery, triggered by my father’s sudden death. Years of study and learning erased from my mind in those horrific seconds after I discovered my father’s lifeless body. I thought, “Oh my God, my dad is gone.” Punch in the gut. Then I thought, “Oh my God, now I’m 100% responsible for Mom.” And the following statement may only be understood by fellow children of alcoholics: That second thought terrified me more than the first.
Within three weeks of that worst day of my life, I had moved out of my apartment and into my parents’ home because I had to be there for my sister…and I feared something horrific would happen without me there (i.e. Mom would burn the house down, drink and drive or intentionally or accidentally kill herself). All the while, I was working full time and spending the rest of my time figuring out my parents’ financial mess. It was all on me. Mom spiraled out of control. I didn’t sleep. I cried all the time.
My aunt and uncle urged me to see my counselor so I reluctantly set up a series of appointments with the husband of their yoga instructor (yeah, random). I was too miserable to refuse. My previous experiences with therapy were not helpful. But this counselor was an ACoA and an alcoholic with several years of sobriety. He just got it…and his questions made me think differently about my life and my whole situation. After three months in the extremely toxic environment with Mom, my sister and I packed up our stuff and moved out. I got back on the CoA healing journey.
I didn’t need the counselor’s visits after awhile. But I still think of his questions and suggestions years later. He once suggested that I place a photo of little-kid me on my bathroom mirror. This way, every morning, I would be reminded to be good to me now that I could be free. I needed to think of the little-kid in me to ensure I was taking good care of myself. This would guide my healthy decision making, he said.
I laughed. It seemed so ridiculous, so corny, so Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey. 🙂
“Please just try for me,” he said.
So I did. I taped a photo of eight-year-old me onto my bathroom mirror.
Every time I saw that photo, I didn’t see me. I saw a little girl who’s counting on me. I remembered that little girl’s diary entries that detailed grand plans for grownup life. I remembered her immense hope, powerful belief in freedom and excitement about doing “something new every day, even if I have the flu.” I felt anger that she had to grow up so fast and take on adult responsibilities. I felt sadness. She’d be so disappointed in how grownup felt.
That inner-little-kid stuff – corny as it may seem at first introduction – is powerful. It inspired me. Maybe it will for you, too.
Today, I put little-kid Jody back on my refrigerator. She smiles for the world without trepidation or shame and wholeheartedly believes in her light.
I must live in the way that tiny girl intended to live these grownup years. I owe her that.
I hope you are living for little-kid you, too, and if you are not, I hope you find the courage and inspiration to start your healing journey.