Tonight’s piece has been written by John. If you want to share as a child of an alcoholic then get in touch, and if you feel affected by what you read, Nacoa offer amazing life saving love and compassion.
I’m feeling annoyed. That’s surprising because when I was growing up in my alcoholic family we didn’t learn to share feelings very well, and as a result I didn’t learn how to connect with my own emotions well. After decades of recovery, I have become very good at identifying and describing my emotions. It’s still work, a challenge, but good enough. I’m feeling annoyed reading 140 characters by children of alcoholics who only seem to complain about how bad it is to be raised with an alcoholic parent. I don’t deny that it’s painful. But it’s painful in so many different ways that 140 characters is not enough to describe what that pain is like for each of us who have had this experience. We deserve more. We deserved more. Understanding what I had as a child, and what I deserved, has been quite a journey.
A common trait for us, we on this journey, is to pursue love only to find that it isn’t there.
This is summed up in the phrase, “Going to the hardware store to get a loaf of bread.” I found myself doing this for most of my adult life. I would expect someone to be more loving toward me, only to be disappointed that they didn’t feel the same. I suspect this is due to my mother’s emotional unavailability due to alcoholism. Of course I should have expected my own mother to be emotionally available, and assumed that she was, but the truth is that her emotional engagement was sporadic and unpredictable. I couldn’t know this as a child, I normalized her emotional disconnection. It was the way it was. As a result, when pursuing relationships in my adulthood, I found myself in relationships with people who tended to have a similar lack of emotional engagement as my mother. I was comfortable with them. I knew what that was like, because I lived with it.
But something was always missing.
I felt puzzled. As a child, I assumed that something was wrong with me, not the other person, that somehow I was misreading the situation and that it was my responsibility to fix it. But I really couldn’t fix it, because it wasn’t always about me. Someone once suggested that perhaps it wasn’t about me, that maybe the other person played a larger role in the situation. As a child, that was too large for me to see. How could a mother not be emotionally available to her own child? I couldn’t fathom that. But it fit. Some people are not emotionally available to us, and they may never be. But we don’t have to tolerate a loveless life. We can become agents of change and make a more loving life for ourselves. But how? Well, for me, it is about becoming a better parent to myself, to become more of the parent I wished I had as a child, and that’s a lifelong journey. That’s enough for now.