Gaining Understanding Vs. Playing the Victim

My parents are alcoholics. Admitting that is almost as hard as it was to first admit that I am an alcoholic. My mother is an active alcoholic and my father is dry (I think?) but not recovered or in recovery. It is stupidly hard to admit that I grew up with parents who put their addictions before me. I feel so guilty about it, like I am saying that they were bad parents. I still love them even if they WERE bad parents, and feel fiercely protective of that. They did a lot of good things, especially in my early formative years- travel, cultural events, books, extra-curricular activities, family dinners- but our lives gradually grew more and more out of control as I grew up. I adapted the best that I could with my limited skills and abilities, but I really needed more help learning how to navigate the world around me.

Part of my recovery process is learning why I ended up where I did. Gaining knowledge and understanding is one of the main things that drives me. I want to know WHY. Not just about this, but about everything that sparks my interest. In searching for answers I have been reading a lot of literature geared towards adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs). I have found that I fit in with this group better than any other groups I have found (not the support group, just generally). It is so comforting to finally understand why I do some of the things that I do and feel the way that I feel. This article, Adult Children of Alcoholics ACoAs: Qualities and Traits, is so right on. I exhibit almost ALL of the qualities and traits outlined in the article. It is interesting that being an ACoA is comparable to experiencing PTSD, and that it can be triggered by beginning a family of your own. I have felt traumatized, like something BIG was happening in my psyche, since my son was born. It is gradually getting easier and easier, especially with the clarity that comes from sobriety, but I totally identify with that. I am really thankful for this validation. Feeling “off” is the pits.

What do I do with this information now that I have been awakened to it? It is tempting to dive into a blaming, victim role and live there for a time, but I know that isn’t very healthy. I can’t really talk to my parents because they are not ready to face their denial or the ramifications of their actions. My brothers are stuck in an addictive hell that I can’t enter. (The article I referred to has an interesting section on ‘survival guilt’ that is already becoming an issue for me.) I think my husband finds my story increasingly sad as I make further realizations about who I am and where I come from, so I don’t want to heap too much on his plate. I put a lot on his plate anyway, as he is truly my best friend. My good friends have their own lives, struggles and family problems, even though they are always willing to lend an ear. I have decided that what I want, what is best for me, is to find a therapist who is experienced in these matters to help me sort it out. It seems like a big task to do alone, and since part of my family is still stuck in the cycle of addiction, it will be an ongoing struggle. I want to talk to a professional who understands what I am talking about. Also- self-care is where it’s at these days.

I think it is so helpful, regardless of where you are with being sober, to remember that you are not alone. xx

** Writing this post was really hard for me because so many people have had childhood experiences that were much worse. I have been pretty lucky overall, so who am I to complain? I am gradually realizing, however, that I have to tell my story and own my life experiences to truly move past them.

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14 thoughts on “Gaining Understanding Vs. Playing the Victim

  1. My mother has been an alcoholic my entire life and is still to this day. My father will and will not openly admit it that he is addicted to alcohol but has been a drinker since I was a kid. My father unlike my mother took care of us and raised us while my mother was homeless, drunk, and was horrible to my brother, dad and myself. I know how hard it is to write it out. I had a tough time too when I first wrote about it. But as I am finding out there is a welcoming community out there. I suffer from anxieties and I have the worst OCD. I never knew where it came from but as I began to read articles out there that it stemmed from my alcoholic mother and the unstableness. Thank you for sharing. The more blogs and articles that I come across I begin to feel more humble and comforting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jen, I think it’s important for you to tell your story. Just by talking or writing about it, you can get some psychological distance from it, and that’s a crucial step in healing. Getting a grip on why things went wrong and how to live your life is not the same as complaining! One of my brothers goes to AA, and he also finds the ACOA stuff really helpful. I spent years (years!) in therapy dealing with old family stuff, all the while repeating “but really, I didn’t have it so bad.” Now I see that all that talking helped a lot, and seeing the patterns in family can help make better decisions now. Best of luck finding a therapist and working through this. You’re doing so great, its a treat to see! xo

    • Thank you! I think therapy will be a good experience. I learned a lot when I went for a year in my 20’s. Time to revisit some things and keep on growing. This is such a learning experience, wow. xx

  3. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I feel you and I have so much in common that I am stronger and better for just having your blog in my life. Therapy has helped me. I have gained acceptance of ME. I still have resentment, but I am a work in progress. My goal is to be able to let the past be the past, and to embrace life today without the past dictating my choices.

    You are such an intelligent, amazing person! I know that you will come out of this a strong soberista! Thank you for having the courage to write this and to share your resources. Sending you hugs and well wishes always – Heather

    • You are so sweet. Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that sober blogging brought us together. ๐Ÿ™‚ I really loved therapy when I went beofe, but now I realize that I had HUGE blindspots during that time…things I wasn’t ready to admit to myself or anybody else. I think I will be able to do some good work this time around. Hugs right back atcha. Hope life is treating you well today. xx

  4. It is important to realize where we came from. Not in a morbid, depressive way, but in a way that helps illuminate our past and perhaps where we see where the paths have led us…or where we have created our own paths. I don’t see why you would need to feel guilty about having decent, loving parents when perhaps others have had a tougher slog at life. My story is fairly dull, from an outsider perspective, but the inner turmoil was enough that drinking seemed the only solution. Suicide wasn’t far from that. But again, my folks were good and did the best they could – clothes, house, hugs, encouragement, etc. No abuse. No cops at the house. Pretty good, eh? But I did blame them for some things, and was able to work it out in therapy and in my own 12-step work. I felt bad for doing so, but learned that they did the best they could in that time of their lives. As I do today with my kids. Am I “screwing up” my kids? Who knows…lol.

    But I am glad you found some connection with ACOA. I know a few people in that program, and the work they do is wonderful, deep and revealing. it’s tough for some of them, but I see the relief and release it gives them.

    Telling your story is what helps us and others. It might be tough, but there might be someone out there who reads it and says “yes…I feel that way too”. There is no judgement in our tales…just truth *as we see it*.

    Thank you for sharing,

    Paul

    • Ah, thanks Paul! You guys are just swell. I feel better about sharing this after reading such kind comments. I have to get used to separating myself from the past, and keeping secrets in alcoholic families is NOT helpful. You are right too…it is the truth “as we see it.” There is no fault in sharing that. Thanks again. xx

  5. You are important and unique and should never feel ashamed that someone might have had a more difficult time. If it was difficult for YOU then it needs to be addressed. YOU are important. It’s ok to complain about your situation and to seek help. We all complain, it’s our nature, and we all seek help in our own way. Parenting is the hardest job in the world.

  6. …because so many people had a worse childhood experience than mine? I feel quite indignant about your saying that! Your experience was YOUR experience, and needn’t be compared to anyone else’s. Your parents failed you in some of the vital parts of good parenting, from initial mirroring to not providing you with safety and unconditional acceptance. That said, it is also true that they undoubtedly did the best they could at the time- and that they also carried the burden of patterns from generations before them. You have the strength and will to derail that generational pattern, and that is something to be very very proud of!

  7. Well written! My boys are teenagers (15 and 18) and I’ve only been sober 18 months, so this is insightful for me. I want to be mindful to the way they experienced their lives. I have made my amends to them, and both were kind and receptive, but it’s the living amends that I work on everyday that I see having the most impact. Like the alcoholic, we all do recover. ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep writing & sharing, please.

    • Thank you for sharing about your boys. I would be forever grateful if my parents would get to the point of making amends…heck, just seeing past some of the denial, rationalization, and minimization would be good for now! You humbled yourself and were able to admit you were wrong- that is so huge. I am trying to focus on my own life and letting go of things that I cannot change. xx

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