During the recovery process, I have found it immensely helpful to connect with other adult children of alcoholics. They don’t have the exact same experiences or life story that you do, and that’s okay. Many of the struggles they go through on a day-to-day basis are the same ones that I go through and it makes it feel like I am not so alone.
Feeling alone was one of the biggest hurdles for me to get over. When you’re a young child, all you really know is your family and so you sort of create this version of what normal is based on how your family is. All of the different forms of abuse are normal to you simply because you don’t know any differently. Being yelled at for crying? Normal. Being hit or shoved? Normal. Being called a variety of names? Normal. Being accused of lying no matter what you say? Normal.
And then there comes a point in your life that you visit a friend’s house or talk to someone else, and you slowly begin to realize that no, your family is not normal. It isn’t normal to feel apprehensive about going home. It isn’t normal to be on-edge all the time because you never know when your alcoholic or addicted parent might snap. It isn’t normal to be threatened physically or verbally by those who are supposed to be raising you and taking care of you.
Now you are at this point where what you thought was normal is actually not at all normal. No one else seems to have a family like yours (because if they did, they would likely be hiding it just the same way you were). You feel incredibly isolated then because it seems that you are the only one who has a family like yours. And then of course you’re so frightened to tell anyone, either because you deny the effects of the addict upon you and your well-being, because you’re afraid what might happen if anyone else finds out, because you’re afraid that no one will believe you, or any other number of reasons.
And then you’re alone in your isolated world. You sort of go through the motions of life, guessing at what normal is and how you should act so as not to raise any suspicions. People think they know you. They think you’re mature, funny, perhaps a bit shy but overall a good kid. Or maybe it’s the opposite and you act out, you’re immature, and you’re stubborn because you don’t know how to cope with your parent’s addiction.
One of the realizations that helped me the most is the fact that I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone. There are quite literally millions of children out there (as well as ACOAs) who are just trying to find our way through life and coming to terms with our dysfunctional childhoods. We come in all shapes, sizes, races, backgrounds, sexual identities, religions, ages, and more. Remember that no matter how isolated you might feel, no matter your personal details, no matter the desperation and despair of your situation, there are others out there just like you.
You are not alone, but you have to take that first step and reach out or ask for help. There are plenty of resources out there for all walks of life. But it is in your power to begin the healing process. Your addict parents cannot do it for you. Your friends cannot do it for you. Only you can do it for you. If you are at all struggling with any of the aforementioned, I highly recommend that you take the first step in the recovery process. It is a long, slow road with many bumps, setbacks, and emotions, but the end result is the inner peace (regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof) that you have been searching for all your life.