Fellow adult child of alcoholic Dawn Clancy of the Growing Up Chaotic blog recently asked me this question: How do you know you’re doing it [recovery] right?
There’s nothing easy about this journey. I have no idea what I’m doing. There’s no playbook. No universal ACoA recovery plan to master.
It sucks and it’s difficult and it’d be way easier if I could just leave everything all screwy. Oh, how effortless life would be if I remained thinking and behaving the way my brain naturally directs me to (due to its programming back in the ‘80s and ‘90s).
But at the risk of seeming dramatic, I don’t think I’d live to see 50 if I did that.
So I must keep at this journey.
When my father died suddenly in 2014, I lost my healing-journey marbles. It was as if I was a kid again – 100% trapped, scared. Within three weeks of his passing, I had moved out of my apartment and back in with my sister and alcoholic mother. That began the worst three months of my life. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I was on the verge of vomiting all day long.
One day during this 90-day hell, my friend made me go out to lunch with her.
She asked, “What the #$& are you doing?!” – a blunt but loving message that only a true friend can deliver.
“I can’t help it.” Tears fell from my face onto my chicken gyro sandwich. The construction worker guys shifted uncomfortably in the booth next to us.
“You. Are. Not. Your. Mother’s. Mom.”
My friend was right. Two weeks later, my sister and I moved out. Mom came home from work and the movers had been there. All our stuff was gone. She wasn’t angry – more relieved and surprised. She had freedom to do whatever she was going to do. That made it way worse for me. I sobbed in her living room, in her driveway as I placed the remaining boxes into my car and the entire drive to the Lamb sisters’ new apartment.
Moving away from my mother felt like I was abandoning an ill child, leaving her to die. Can you imagine what that would feel like? Yet I couldn’t stay there. It was killing my sister and me.
It was the best, difficult decision I’ve ever made.
When it feels wrong, it’s probably the right thing to do.
I do try to live for little-kid me. That’s how I know I’m doing this right. I owe it to the girl who had grand plans for grown-up life. The girl who looked forward to freedom from the grownups who let her down. The girl who looked forward to the way she believed grownups should live.
Did I live well today? Often the answer is a clear no. I put others ahead of me. I allowed myself to be controlled by anxiety. I took on too much, that martyr me. I tried to change and control things I know I can’t change or control.
But when the answer is yes, I know I’m doing it right for me.