So #COAweek2017 is all but done! Huge thank you to everyone who’s taken part in some way. In many ways it’s felt like a huge week, and with the launch of the UK’s first ever manifesto for children of alcoholics at Nacoa’s David Stafford Memorial Lecture on Wednesday, I truly believe that change is coming!! If anyone hasn’t yet signed the petition, then please do now, it takes seconds online, and gives you a chance to be part of the change we want to see.
In some ways, I think we all want to be seen as strong or brave. We want people to see that we have it together, that we can rise above our ‘demons‘ and be stronger people because of it, and I guess I’m no different from that.
For me, on a personal level, the biggest thing I have taken from this week is that it’s ok to struggle. One of the most consistent lies I’ve told throughout my life is that ‘I’m ok‘. For most of my life I would have told you that ‘I had a perfect upbringing. Sure my dad drank a little, but there’s much worse off people in the world’. I would say it, and I would believe it. It’s how I coped.
I denied my true feelings, burying them as far down as I could, covering them with a much easier story to accept, while creating the appearance to the outer world of someone who had triumphed in spite of his troubles.
It’s no wonder I spent my life feeling disconnected from the world. My days were numb. I couldn’t allow myself to feel any of my emotions because the pain was too much. You thought I was ‘happy-go-lucky‘, that I could just ‘take it all on the chin‘ and I liked that you thought that. But the truth was, that when I was alone I would cry myself to sleep, these huge out-pours like a dam bursting that I couldn’t stop. I had no idea where these bursts came from, or even what emotion they were attached to. In some ways I enjoyed the relief I felt from it, but in other ways I felt shame and disgust at my inability to hold it together.
I saw a counsellor for a while when I turned 20 and he said people’s minds are like libraries and our thoughts are the books. He said that in a healthy mind all the books are in their right place on the shelf, but that my library had been trashed, and I was too scared to even open the door and look at the mess, let alone begin to tidy it. That made sense to me. Some days it felt like the door was fixing to burst open at any minute and I spent my days doing whatever I could to keep it shut.
With this blog, and the other more public ways I’ve shared about being a COA, I have been taking some of the more difficult to read books out and sharing them with you, and it can be very easy to throw them back over my shoulder once I’m done. That’s how I’ve always coped right? Avoid feeling those difficult emotions at any cost.. ‘I’m ok, I’m ok‘….
The point I’m trying to make is that ‘getting over’ my dads alcoholism isn’t something that’s ever going to happen. It’s shaped the man that I am today. It’s made me strong and resilient, and I am damn sure we all know about how much of that that’s needed just to make it through to adulthood, but feeling these kind of emotions is never going to be easy… and there is nothing wrong with that.Struggling doesn’t make me weak, in fact, accepting my struggles and learning to go through them and feel my emotions is exactly what makes me strong today. Instead of desperately trying to keep the door of my library of thoughts shut, I’m able spend some time in there when I feel comfortable, and allow myself to feel emotions I’ve spent my life running away from.
I still get upset when I think about my dad, I still have those moments when the dam bursts and I have to let it all out. I still have those moments where the feelings and the emotions are all bouncing around inside me and I feel like their going to burst out of me and leave me naked to the world and vulnerable. I still have those moments when I wish I could remember. I still have those moments where there’s shame and anger and guilt and hate and love and I have no idea which one is rolling about in my chest…I still have moments when I’m just the child of alcoholic trying to make my way in the world… and that’s why today I am strong, because today I know who I am, because today I haven’t beaten my struggles, I’ve just simply owned them.