I have been in a quandary about whether I wanted to put this out there. It’s kind of a risk for me, and it makes me a little uncomfortable.
But you know what? I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to overshare.
My mom had a bit of an alcohol problem.
Of course, that’s like saying the Titanic had a small leak. Or the Kardashians are a tad narcissistic.
I super-pinky-swear I’m not sharing this so that I can get a big helping of pity or a bunch of “awwww”. I’m not here to moan and groan about it, and I certainly don’t want to make my mom out to be the worst parent who ever lived. I’ve heard worse stories, and sadly, there’s a lot of horrible stuff in the news about the various abuses toward children. In that sense, I guess I’m lucky.
However, this is an issue that has crept up on me recently and whispered in my ear, “Here’s one of the reasons you are who you are, and you need to deal, because this could adversely affect how you raise your children if you don’t.” Nothing like some self-awareness.
So…you know…I thought I’d try to work it out. Publicly. Like a reality show with very low production value. Welcome to my diary, folks!
It is difficult enough to be a young girl. It is even more so to be a young girl who’s parent went through a case of Highland Mist scotch every couple of weeks. Making friends and dating was difficult because I never wanted to bring anyone home. I felt burdened by her drinking, and slowly acquired a fear that crept into everything I did. Or rather, didn’t do because I was too scared. Even now – several years after her death – I still carry that fear around. I guess you would call it anxiety.
I loved my mother, and I have forgiven her, but I’m still angry with her, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with that without spewing it all over my sweet little ankle-biters and my Mister.
To her credit, she did attempt to have a discussion with me about alcohol when I was a teenager. The gist of it was, “Don’t drink. Drinking is bad, mmkay?”
I think it was hard for her to even say that much. Perhaps when it comes time to have that discussion with my kids, I’ll go into more detail, like, “Don’t drink too much or you’ll end up living in a house with seventeen cats, cirrhosis of the liver and no friends”.
In all seriousness, I want them to understand how addictive it is, how it can affect their bodies and brains if they get hooked; how it can damage relationships with loved ones and how really awful it feels to puke up some salty toenails with a side of bile after having one too many.
But wait! There’s more!
Here’s some fun statistics: One in five adults in America grew up with an alcoholic parent. Four out of those five will become alcoholics as well and/or suffer from depression or some other issue. There’s even an acronym: ACoA, (Adult Children of Alcoholics). I don’t really like the idea of being labeled, but I have to say that I was grateful to find out that it’s a real “thing”, and there are many other people out there who are coping with the same kind of crap as me.
Self-awareness and validation. Both cool.
There are organizations and associations dedicated to us. There are support meetings for us. There are scholarly articles and books written about us. We have some common “characteristics”.
Here are a few of them, for your reading enjoyment, along with some humorous commentary:
Adult Children of Alcoholics:
- Struggle to understand what “normal” is. True. I didn’t know any other kids who played “Bartender Barbie”, and as far as I know, none of them knew how to mix a Harvey Wallbanger like I could.
- Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end. Come over and see the cornucopia of unopened craft supplies I’ve collected over the last few years.
- Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. See my post about Family Rule #1. I can honestly say I don’t do that. No, really, I’m not lying.
- Judge themselves without mercy. Absolutely. Sorry, I don’t have any witty remarks about this one, and I really dislike that about myself.
- Have difficulty having fun. I’m not sure this applies to me, but I guess it depends on what your definition of “fun” is. If changing 1,000 diapers a day and listening to the shrieks and cries of four kids is fun, then yeah, I’m having some trouble with that.
- Constantly seek approval and affirmation. Note that I have a blog. Please say you like it. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter. Follow me!
- Usually feel that they are different from other people. I have always felt “weird”, and I think a lot of people thought that about me as well, especially growing up. Most of the people who signed my junior high and high school yearbooks included the words “weird” or “strange” (or both), in their messages. For example, “You’re really weird, but have a great summer”. These days, I like to think of myself as “adorkable” or whatever trendy word there is for “weird” and/or “strange”.
- Are super responsible or super irresponsible. That explains all of the children.
- Are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess. Again, I have four kids. Thankful for the dog, who cleans up most food-related messes.
- Have a fear of authority figures or angry people. Darth Vader seriously gives me the creeps. If I saw him in a dark alley, I would run.
Ahhh…now THAT was cathartic!
I have had to constantly work on some of this stuff so that my kids will have some sort of a normal life, but I’m still trying to figure out what that means. Thank goodness for Google.
I could say something contrived like, “Join me on my journey as I try to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to do with these kids when I’m so damaged”, but that’s not really it. I think I’m already doing an “okay” job. I already know what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to love them, teach them, guide them, and never neglect to do their laundry so they end up in public with dirty underwear.
So far, so good.
I will say that every day is a new challenge. What I do today, I need to maybe do differently tomorrow, because today’s shenanigans didn’t work out the way I planned.
So, I guess I just want to reach out to others who are dealing with something similar.
Oh wow. That sounded lame.
I suppose I’m blowing off steam. Cleansing the soul. Purging the emotions. On you, dear reader. Sorry about the mess.
I should also say that I understand that alcoholism is not a laughing matter at all. But using humor is how I cope.
Any other ACoAers out there? Any with kids? Has your upbringing had any effect on how you live your life or raise your own children?