I come back to my writing every day because I cannot stay away. It is how I process life. Writing helps me understand what has happened and how I feel about it. My dad’s Norwegian stoicism and our family’s isolation caused by his alcoholism prevented much communication with anybody, in or out of the family. I turned to writing to “talk” to someone. I wrote letters to any relatives and pen pals who would write back, and who I felt were my friends.
As I now write my memoirs, every memory I write about teaches me something new about myself and how I’ve become the person I am. When I started my memoir, I began to forgive myself for self-defeating behaviors I could not overcome. Re-living events buried for years has brought tears, but it has helped me let go and be a less fearful, ashamed and workaholic person. Writing is the best thing I do for myself.
As I wrote of the chaos in our alcoholic home, I knew I must read all I could about Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoAs). This was a new term to me, and I, who had always felt different, found others like me. The distorted life vision and coping skills I had developed were like those most ACoAs develop to survive–the basic rules of don’t talk, don’t feel, don’t trust. I read memoirs of ACoAs and data from their therapists, and I came to believe I could be healed, too. I joined a church, one of my father’s taboos, and found a caring community for the first time in my life. There I was invited to be all I could be and share the talents and gifts in music I had kept hidden.
I wish I had known what I know now when I was a young adult just out of an alcoholic home, at the age most of us make important life decisions. I write my story to reach out to other ACoAs and COAs (Children of Alcoholics still living at home), that they might discern unhealthy survival skills they have learned and how it can sabotage their future. If they don’t learn to assess this in themselves, it is highly likely the home they develop will be similarly dysfunctional, even without alcoholism present.
I write to preserve our family story and all it has to teach us. I want to break the cycle for my daughters and their children. When I saw some of my ACoA patterns in my daughters, I was horrified. My husband and I gave our girls an alcohol-free home, loving and affirming, and still it had not kept the beast away. I shared my writing with my girls, and we have talked of these things for the first time ever. My writing has helped us walk together in a journey of awareness, courage, and hope that we can break the cycle and find healing together.
The writer’s name was not on the submitted manuscript. In the process of editing it, the story and the email got separated. If she sends her name in, we’ll add it.