Hey, fellow children of alcoholics. Turns out, you are normal – and that’s the problem.
I really loathe the word “normal” because I have spent my entire life trying to feel it. It’s elusive.
There’s a whole lot of chatter out there that normal doesn’t exist. Everyone has issues and no family is perfect, yada yada. The white picket-fence, nuclear family has a lot of serious issues behind the pretty front door. Blah blah blah.
I had a boyfriend with this really wonderful family, stable family. I was really jealous of the absence of chaos and the presence of predictability, the constant love the parents showered over them. He insisted that his family has problems, as do all families.
Somehow that has never made me feel better. I still feel NOT normal compared to everyone else.
My mother is an alcoholic and the effects of her alcoholism had a huge impact on my sister and me.
I was an only child until I was 14 so my childhood was pretty lonely. I spent a lot of time with cousins my age but as a whole, my mother’s nightly drinking kept us isolated. My dad worked a ton – mostly at night. I wasn’t involved in sports or other activities because that would have interfered with my mother’s drinking, which she mostly did alone.
Every day after school, I’d hurry home, do my homework and then sit for hours in the basement writing screenplays and then having my toys act them out. There were several families each with their sets of problems but the characters would overcome them. I think I really loved the way I could fix the problems like I wished I could in my own family. I often used humor to break up the seriousness. The kid would be afraid to try out for the sports team because he felt the father had tall expectations about his athletic achievements. I made a direct link between the characters’ feelings and stuff caused by problems.
From those early years ago, I had extreme anxiety. I worried constantly about major stuff – my mother burning the house down with her cigarettes to there not being enough money to hundreds of little things like my tights having holes in them to my pieces of my hair not fitting in my ponytail.
I was really quiet and shy at school, sometimes too nervous to speak in class. I had friends but since I spent so much time with adults or by myself, I really didn’t know how to interact with my peers. I got teased a bit. It’s hard to be charismatic and carefree when you’re busy predicting something terrible and the solution to it. I felt such a sense of responsibility about doing everything perfectly at school and doing everything I could to cover up where my mother – and my dad – failed as the adults. I got so good at making our lives look normal, at least as I understood normal to be.
But inside I felt scared, confused and so fearful about the future.
These feelings turned into self-confidence issues in high school and college and beyond. From then on, I have never felt satisfied with anything I’ve done. Ever. I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with myself. I constantly look for approval from others – and I think this is tied to my mother and the Jekyl and Hyde situation as my father described it. I have trust issues and I’m used to taking care of everything that I push people out of my life, as if I don’t need them, because it’s easier this way. I feel I don’t time to take care of myself. Anyway, I have all of these feelings that I’m constantly battling and I feel all goofed up inside – not normal. I know other people feel these things or have other issues – self destruction, low self-esteem, etcetera. Still, I feel like there are all these happy people who wake up free of this kind of stuff. They are the normal ones and then I feel lesser, undeserving, damaged.
Someone recently commented on a video about how my ACOA brain works differently that actually, the way we are is completely, 100% normal response to the life we had. In other words, all of my issues are NORMAL. I am normal. And the people who don’t have these issues are normal, too. We each have our own normal. I’m actually not F-ed up. I’m perfectly, exactly how a 33-year-old would end up after growing up the way I did. Considering that one of 4 kids grows up in this kind of environment and they’re all feeling similar things, that’s normal. HORRIBLY sad. But normal.
Somehow, and I’m not exactly sure why, this makes me feel better. I keep the courage to keep working at these issues and re-programming my brain – to actually be ABNORMAL. I don’t want to be my normal. It’s not healthy for me.
It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I feel I deserve good things. I don’t think I’ll ever really ever be satisfied with anything I do or accomplish. But at least I’m getting to a point where I deserve good things. Man, it’s a process, you guys. Time and effort and sacrifice and getting out of my comfort zone.
While I’ve been so busy feeling like crap about myself and everything going on inside of me and wanting to experience this elusive sense of normal when, in fact, I’ve been normal all along.
Take good care of yourself.