Q: I am
an adult child of an alcoholic, and have many unresolved issues.
What should I do?
A: One of the interesting components of growing up
as an ACoA (Adult Child of Alcoholics) is the feeling that
"no one else knows what this feels like." In reality,
many know, because many have grown up in similar situations.
It doesn't really matter whether or not the parent suffering
with addiction was our mother, father, and even a sibling
or uncle, aunt, etc. The damage is still the same, and includes
lots of what I call "abuse and abandonment issues."
Abandonment can occur even if the parents stay together and
do not divorce or leave the house. This kind of abandonment
is called "emotional abandonment." Likewise, abuse
can occur even when there is no physical abuse, and manifests
itself as emotional/verbal abuse. Co-dependency is always
present, in one form or another, within the addicted family
unit. In my book Prodigal Song: A Memoir,
I write about what happened to my two sisters and me, how
we split apart rather than bonding together when addiction
began destroying our home. This “lonely in a room full
of people” kind of family existence is a lonely place
indeed, and I can certainly relate to your pain.
Two things are very important regarding our recovery. First,
although much can be gained from working with a professional
counselor, I personally feel strongly that those of us who
suffer from this particular disease dynamic need to connect
with other recovering people... people just like us. A counselor
might be well-trained in his profession, but none of this
can substitute for having lived through the experience ourselves.
I would urge you to try and locate a counselor who is a recovering
addict, and familiar with ACoA, etc. I can tell you that this
is not a philosophy embraced by everyone who works in my profession.
But I believe it to be true.
Second, simply seeing a counselor once a week, though potentially
very helpful, won't get the job done. Your issues will continually
try to creep back into your life. It is never "cured."
I have to work on my recovery daily, never forgetting to do
the things that are healthy for me, and never taking the destructive
nature of this thing for granted. The main way I do this is
through FELLOWSHIP-ORIENTED RECOVERY GROUPS. This can be
ACOA... there is a long list. I recommend you look
in the phone book for 12-step meetings like these in your
area. If you've never done this before, it probably sounds
a bit scary. But I cannot stress strongly enough the importance
these meetings in my own life.
It's critical for you to break the satanic illusion that you
are alone in this. You are NOT alone! Christ waits to heal
you, to free you from the leftover shame and hurt and heart-woundedness
that come from your life experience. And He does this, often,
through the loving embrace of others just like you and me.
Don't be afraid to reach out.