Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Follow Up Letter To My ACoA Mom and Dad

As many of you know, I am the adult child of two adult children of alcoholics. Although neither of my parents drank when I was a child, my home was affected by the aftermath of alcoholism regardless.

My mother and I had an abrasive relationship.  I never understood her obsessive need to control every move I made when I was a little girl.

I remember specifically a moment in time that has never left my being.  So shocked and mortified in the moment my mother said, as my family and I gathered to watch television one evening, "Lisa, are you changing your underwear? I counted your panties, and there aren't many here? You don't want to smell like a piggy girl do you?"

Back in the early 70's children were seen and not heard.  But in my house I wondered if anyone could see 'me' at all.

It was the norm for my mother to hurl emotional mortars my way, and for my dad to stick his head in the sand, while I--his little girl felt like she had been blown to smithereens.

Many years later, and after much soul recovery work I have learned to unwind the codependent and toxic dynamic that defined my abusive relationship with my ACoA mom.

In the past seven months I have published two books about my life's story.

And within the next month, my third book will also be available.

Many of you know that I never told my parents that I was writing a book about our family dynamic.

I couldn't tell them because I knew they wouldn't understand why I was doing what I was doing.

A few months back my mom read the first three chapters of my book on Amazon.

I was terrified.

Like most codependent families do, my mother and I skated around important emotional topics, and settled for superficial communication instead, whenever we did talk.

ACoA have a difficult time going below the surface.  They are too busy trying to control what they see.

Fast forward;

I wrote an open letter to my mom and dad in an attempt to help ease whatever misunderstandings they may have had as the result of whatever they read on Amazon.

I asked my younger sister to read the letter to my mom and dad, which she did.

For about a week I tried not to worry about how my parents might react.  And when my mother called a few days after I sent them the letter, I didn't answer the phone.

My mother didn't stop calling, and so this past weekend, during hurricane Sandy, I answered when she called.

My stomach flipped and flopped when I said, "Hi mom, how are you?"

I didn't know what to expect when she said, "I want to talk to you about your letter."

So foreign to me for my mother to want to address an emotional issue head on--I braced myself for another pounding wave.

"Lisa, I want you to know that I am very proud of you.  I want you to know that I  understand why you wrote the book.  I want you to understand that I understand its message...and I want you to also know that I  know that everything you wrote in your book is true.  You have nothing to be ashamed about you, and I am not angry at you for telling the truth.  You are right about so many things you wrote in that book."

While listening to my mom speak, I could feel my knees begin to buckle.  Overcome with emotions I could not name, I crumbled to my uncomfortable couch below, and began to sob.

When my mom was through I said to her, "Wow mom--I wasn't expecting that from you.  You have no idea how absolved I feel."

"Lisa you didn't do anything wrong.  I wish I was educated.  I wish I went to college.  I wish I understood what was wrong--but I didn't.  If I could do things over, I would.  But you have to know I am proud of you."

My mother and I did not get into specifics about my book.  And oddly enough  I was aware that it was me who was having a difficult time getting below the surface--not her.

When I told my oldest daughter about the phone call...she said, "Mom aren't you happy? Don't you feel better now?"  I had a difficult time articulating the way I felt at that moment.

In the past few days I have felt numb--placid--and in an emotional state of limbo.  For much of my life, I have had to deflect pain that was unfairly hurled my way.  And as a result, I have had to grow invisible armors, not only around my heart, but around my mind as well.

When I was married, I let down those armors and tried desperately to reveal the real me to my first husband.  And sadly, he only knew how to pour vinegar on my raw skin.

When I got divorced, I grew blinders around my eyes and set my attention on fixing whatever was wrong inside of me--so I could spare my three children the type of programming that was conditioned into me.  In many ways I felt like a warrior--defending them--and defending me.

After I published the book, I found myself feeling on guard as if waiting for the next attack.  I knew much of what I wrote would not only be hard for others to believe, but it would be challenged by my family members as well.

When you have been emotionally abused, and chastised by the family you love for forty seven years--and you have been told that--that abuse and neglect is all in your head--you sort of get used to living in a defensive emotional state.

But when someone you love steps out of the shadows of your past--and in fact says to you..."Yes...I abused you...Yes...I emotionally--tortured you...and're feelings--nor you ever mattered to me," the feelings that surface suck the air out of your lungs.

I wonder now, 'What do I do with this armor? How do I process feeling like I am seven again, and my mother is tap dancing on my soul?  How do I climb out of this emotional limbo and stop living my life feeling the necessity to defend what has been done?'

My family put me in the position in which I needed to defend my own perceptions, and now that need is gone.

I know that soon my emotional balance will restore...and parts of me I didn't even know existed will soar...

But for now I am taking it slow...because it is quite the thing to have been emotionally abused and to have the mother that you love say, "Yes...I abused you."