Wednesday, October 31, 2012

To My Mom and Dad--My Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am composing this letter through my website, for the world to see, if of course the world cares to look.

Just so you know, my site has gotten tens of thousands of views, and will be read by many more viewers.  The internet is forever, and so will be the words that find themselves flowing out from my fingertips this morning.

May your hearts and especially your minds be open to what your little girl feels so compelled to share.

For my readers who may be confused by this post, you should probably know that my parents did not know I was writing a book about my childhood.  They did not know that I began writing my book thirteen years ago.  They did not know that the main reason I never had it published before this year, (2012) was because I knew they would be hurt by what my child's eyes had to share.

We are a codependent family.  We do not confront uncomfortable situations, nor do we speak up for ourselves.  We deny, stuff, and suppress our emotions because we are afraid of upsetting others in our lives.

My story went stuffed and denied for too long, and until my sister's husband committed suicide in September of 2011, I was unsure for how long my story would stay squelched within me.  But when my brother in law took his own life, reality unzipped my heart as if with a razor.

Another emotional impetus for me to get my book published was the fact that in August of 2010 my heart stopped beating on an operating room table.  When a routine surgery I was undergoing went terribly wrong--I quite literally bled to death.  Six transfusions, a respirator, a medically induced coma, as well as a dedicated surgical and anesthetic team pulled me through.  That, along with what my doctor's called--the pure will to survive, kept my physical being a part of this physical world.

Recently it has come to my attention that my parents have discovered my book on line, and they have been reading bits and pieces of the first three chapters that are available free on Amazon.  I have also learned that my parents are hurt by the fact that I chose to publicly speak about my childhood experiences.  This of course--is no surprise.

Perhaps the saddest note of all is the fact that neither my parents nor I have confronted one another about my book.  Although we all know it exists, typically of a codependent dynamic--we all choose to ignore the pink elephant in the room and settle for superficial cordial exchanges.

Because I know my parents are hurting, and especially my mom, this letter is for you;

To My Parents, but especially Mom,

Because I chose to write a public story about our family, I feel it is only right and fair to offer you--my parents a public acknowledgement.  Although the opening lines in my book as well as my books dedication explains clearly enough why I wrote my book the way I wrote it, I feel that perhaps now, because the fact that the book has been published is out there somewhere between all of us, that a more direct acknowledgement is needed.  And because I also believe no one in our family will ever desire to actually read my book, none of you will be able to refer back to my books dedication page as a reference and basis to help you more fully understand why I have done what I have done.  So mom, dad here it goes...

Mom, when I was a little girl I adored you more than you could ever know.  I used to look into your blue eyes and pray for a hug, a kiss on my nose or a kind word.  I tried to be good--good enough to calm you down or to make you smile--but through my child's eyes--all I could feel was not enough.  As if you lived in one world, and I lived in another, the child I was once was--felt lost, wrong, infected, and ill.  There was no bond between you and I.  There were no silly hide and seek games, or butterfly kisses goodnight.  In my world, I felt like a specimen in a dish, and they were your eyes peering down at me through a microscopic lens, as if waiting for me to move a little too far to the left or to the right.

When I was small, I wanted nothing more than to please you and make you smile.  I experienced you as one who was rushed, nervous, angry, short tempered, and like a tornado and a volcano too.  You called me names, and labeled me early on as selfish, a liar, and a psycho too.  You said I would never have any friends--I'd be a hermit the rest of my life, you said.  Once you told me you didn't have to like me--you only had to love me.  That moment has forever been carved into my soul.

Yes, when I was little I did lie to you.  I lied because I was afraid to tell the truth.  I lied because I feared your reactions, your persecution, your criticisms, and would have done anything to try and prevent a borage of verbal assaults, none of which I as a child had any ability or right to defend against.

Yes, I stayed in my room--a lot.  And that's because I wanted to stay out of your way, and because I was getting bullied at school.  Many days I spent in my room, simply because I didn't want to bump into any of the boys who used to torture me at school.  I did my best to stay out of your way, and when I was old enough, and met friends in high school--I did.  I was never home--and inside me I though that is what you preferred--me out of your way.

As I got older, I heard you murmur that you thought that all I cared about was my friends.  Way into adulthood, I heard you say things of that nature many times.  But the truth is mom, I could never make you happy, or gain your validation.  Like a carrot hung long before a horse's nose, your acceptance was something that was always out of my reach.

When I got divorced, I needed you more than you could ever know.  I was afraid--no terrified, of being alone, and taking care of my three small children on my own.  And then you and daddy were gone.  Your move out of state, cut me to my core.  I so wished I felt like you were trying to understand why I did what I did.

I didn't want to get a divorce.  I had to get a divorce.  My codependent marriage was killing me--literally.

I just wished you acknowledged that then.

It's thirteen glorious years later, and I am happy to announce that my life has turned around.  I am engaged to a wonderful, kind, stable, healthy, empathetic, responsible and handsome man--who 'sees' me, who 'hears' me and who validates me for the being I am.  But better than that, I have learned to 'see, hear, and validate' my own self.  And that happened long before my fiancee and I met.

As I mentioned above, I held onto my book for twelve years before I published it, because I worried how you all would receive it.  But after my surgery, and after J's suicide, I knew with all of me, it was time to let out all that I had for so long stuffed inside.

I know you are hurt, and unfortunately because our family does not know how to tell our emotional truths, we may never be able to discuss these issues fully.

I don't know how to say, "Mom and dad, you hurt me," and neither of you know how to say, "We never intended to hurt you, and if we did, from the bottom of our hearts, we're sorry.  We did the best we could", so we all just do what we have always done.  We skate around issues, use M as a go between us all, and stuff our emotions for one another.

You don't know how troubled I was as a teenager, because I was afraid to tell you.  You don't know what I went through when I was married, because I was afraid of your criticisms, judgements and with disappointing you.  Instead I pretended to be happy when I wasn't just like I did when I was little and when daddy would come home from work.  I stuffed my emotions because I learned early that our family considered 'feelings' inconvenient truths.

When my asthma, migraines, and panic attacks got so bad that my doctors worried I might die, my spirit was forced to look you, daddy, and my ex husband and his family in the eye, and let go.

I had to let go of needing to make you all happy.  I had to let go of trying to pretend.  I had to let go of taking care of everyone else at the expense of myself.  And if you think that was easy--you are so, so, so wrong.

When I went into therapy and my therapist told me I was codependent, I was confused. But the more I opened myself up to the idea, and the more I learned about codependency the more I understood what was wrong in our family.

And more importantly--what was wrong with me.

You should know that the greatest thing I learned about codependency and Adult Children of Alcoholics like yourself is--that it's not 'us, or me or you' that is wrong--it's the disease of alcoholism that has affected and infiltrated our ways of perceiving ourselves, our worlds and others.

Alcoholism hurt you mom and daddy too.  You are both ACo A, and in spite of your denial about how you two have been affected by it--you have, and so has our family.

I know with all of my heart you two did the best you could--and if you read my book--you would learn how I was able to transcend my own childhood wounds so I could get to a point where I could truly see you and daddy as children, and understand how much of an amazing job you did with us compared to what your parents gave you.

Mom--I know  you didn't drink because you wanted to show us differently.  And with all of my being--I publicly thank you for being a better mother than your own.

I appreciate your sacrifices.  I know you cleaned our house so masterfully because you lived in filth.  And I know that was your way of loving and taking care of us.

I am so thankful for all the dentist appointments you took us on.  Our mouths were a great priority of yours, and you made sure daddy spent money to get us the surgery we needed--and I know that sacrifice was great.

I know you tried in your own way to please me--and I am sorry the adolescent child I was--got cold and shut down.  But please know--that if I hadn't grown that armor--I probably would not be here today.

Mom, I have watched you manage a home, a business, a husband, and three children all while cooking great meals, and sheet rocking walls too.  I have watched you go out in your mid forties and secure a full time government job, when daddy went out of business.  I watched you research bible studies and turn pastor's on their heads with your inquisitiveness.  I have watched you care for the sick, and elderly, and have seen you cry while praising God.  I have seen you smile, no matter what life has thrown at you, and have marveled at your resilience.

And today I want you to know, that in spite of it all, I am proud that you are my mother.

My book isn't about you and its not about me.  It's about helping other people who have been affected by alcoholism--understand.

It's about helping other little kids like me, like I was--heal.

It's about helping ACoA moms calm down--turn within--and learn how to be gentle with themselves and their children.

It's about women who are in enabling marriages--who fear their husband's wrath learn how to honor themselves.

It's about helping confused people, who hate themselves and don't know why understand that at their core--in spite of what has ever been done or said to them--they are worthy.

It's about teaching families how to--forgive--understand--unconditionally.

It's about helping others learn how to stop lying to themselves--and how to begin telling their own truth.

It's about teaching the world--one word at a time--how to find inner peace--and ultimately learn to love 'self'.

Mom, you have taught me more than you realize.  You did your job.  You were a far greater mother than your own--you have nothing to be ashamed about.   You have nothing to feel guilty about.  You--like me--like all beings--made mistakes--and that is forgivable.

But it was my job to learn from your mistakes--and to do better.

And my books, and my website, and my Skype sessions, and all the other work I do--is part of the way I have chosen to do better.

I love you...