What I want you to know about being the child of an alcoholic

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest post is by Abigail.

I am almost 31 years old.

My Dad has been an alcoholic for 23 of those years. For 23 years my mom, brother and I loved and lived with someone who abused us verbally, emotionally and physically.

I think one of the hardest realizations for me was the day that I realized that most of my Dad’s family, my family, knew.

They all knew that he had an alcohol problem.

Their son. Their brother. Their nephew.

They all knew. Almost the whole time. But they never said a word. They never confronted him. They never stepped up to reach out to their abused grandchildren, niece or nephew, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law.

Maybe they thought it wasn’t that bad. Maybe they were worried he’d get mad at them. Maybe they thought it wasn’t their business. I don’t know what they thought. It hurts my head to try and figure it out.

I used to lay in bed at night and pray they would step up and speak. Speak for us. Rescue us.

But they never did. And now decades have passed. And I’m the adult child of an alcoholic, struggling to figure out “normal”.

I struggle with almost crippling anxiety and PTSD. My counselor says that I’m the poster child for Adult Children of Alcoholics Syndrome. I battle with anger and bitterness – towards him, towards them. It’s hard for me to function in everyone else’s normal. I’m constantly waiting for the ticking time bomb to explode and the monster to round the corner.

What child is supposed to spend their nights praying that their Mom will leave and divorce their Dad? What child is supposed to live with a monster wearing a Daddy suit?

I did. We did. Most of our lives.

I used to wish that if he was going to hurt us, it would at least leave some easily spotted physical evidence. Maybe then they would be FORCED to recognize the signs and take action.

I thought when I became an adult and could leave that it would all end. But it didn’t. A part of me is still there, in that hell hole I called home. Waiting to be freed.

They don’t talk to us now. Because we had to step back in order to find sanity, in order to heal. They say we’ve abandoned him. That we’ve cut them all off. We pray for peace and wait for redemption while they rail against us for cruelty.

They are all so blind.

We hope their eyes will eventually be opened. We hope that they’ll choose to help stop the madness.

When they do, we are here waiting. We can stand together. And maybe together we can help him help himself.

We are waiting. And we forgive them.

What I Want You To Know: The One Thing You Should Never Say to a Grieving Mom

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Lisa Qualls

Photo by: Aaron Burden 

The morning was cold and it was snowing lightly; a half inch had accumulated on the ground when we left our house on our way to the ski resort atop the Idaho/Montana border. Our daughter was going to visit friends for a few days and this was our meet up spot.

Living in north Idaho, driving in a little snow was nothing new to us. We left the rest of the family sleeping, settled our daughter in with her iPod and fleece blanket, and headed up the highway, travel mugs of coffee in our hands.

Forty-five minutes later we slowly rounded a curve and our car began to slide and pivot sideways. Early on the Saturday morning after Christmas, on that rural highway, we slid in front of the only oncoming car for miles around. In that moment, our lives changed forever.

We were knocked unconscious as the impact blasted windows and spun our car the opposite direction, finally coming to rest on its side. When I came to, my husband had his hands on my face, telling me that we had been in an accident and he was going to check on our daughter, Kalkidan.

In the impact, my arm flung out the window and was now pinned under the car; my only view was the shattered windshield and the snow-topped grass near my face. For the next hour I drifted in and out of awareness as people stopped to help and eventually emergency crews arrived.

At one point I heard my husband say, “Come on Kalkidan, you’re a fighter. You can do this.”

Hours later, in the emergency room I asked once again, “Is my daughter okay?” But this time I said it a little differently, I asked, “Is my daughter alive?”

The kind, gentle trauma doctor held my hand and answered, “No, I’m sorry, she’s not.”

That moment changed my life forever. I became the mother who lost a child. Even today as I write this, I almost feel like I’m writing a story about someone else, because surely, it can’t be true.

Our families and community gathered around us, they planned a beautiful memorial service attended by nearly 1,000 people, prayed for us, fed us, cared for our children, drove me to PT and helped me recover from my injuries, cleaned my house, and most of all, they were present with us and loved us.

Cards and gifts arrived in the mail. Flowers were delivered to our door; one florist came so often that we are now friends.

As I watched my friends care for us, I realized how little I knew about grief, and what to do when a friend loses someone they love. Often we are so afraid of saying the wrong thing, that we say nothing at all.

We see an acquaintance in the grocery store whose husband recently left her, and we turn the other way to avoid the awkward moment of trying to come up with words. We think about mailing a card to a friend who lost her father, but we’re not that close, and we didn’t know him, so really, what would we say?

We want to say just the right thing, find the perfect quote or scripture, put our thoughts into eloquent words, but we don’t have time to put that much thought into it. Or we’re so afraid of saying the wrong thing, that we avoid it all together.

The one thing you should never say to a grieving parent? It’s saying nothing at all.

Cards with the phrase, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” are lovely and show that you care. Some of my favorite cards were the ones that said, “There are just no words…,” or “I don’t even know what to say….”

The truth is, there were no words, and even I didn’t know what to say.

And do you know the amazing thing? Not one person said the wrong thing. Not one.

The people who stumbled over their words, or spoke awkwardly with their eyes avoiding mine, even they did not say the wrong thing. If you are saying you care, the exact words just don’t matter.

So write that note, make that call, hug a friend and tell her you’re sorry for what she is going through. Be with her in the midst of her suffering; that is all you need to do.

Thank you so much for reading. I write about parenting, adoption, faith, grief, and life at Thankful Moms

What I want you to know about healing after horrific events

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Melissa Moore.

I am no stranger to lingering despair and isolation. On an ordinary spring afternoon in 1995, the father I relied on as a provider, who read me bedtime stories as a young girl, was arrested and would forever forward be known as the notorious Happy Face serial killer. As the chaos and crises erupted all around me, I promised myself that I would find a way out of the darkness-despite the circumstances thrust upon me. I knew instinctively that I had resources and choices that could lead a path out to divinity and lightness.

One step at a time, one choice at a time, I consciously began to create something new—something healthier . . .Despite this shift, however, hidden deep inside where no one could see—where I wouldn’t let anyone see—a sinister black hole lurked. It refused to be filled, no matter what I did. Food didn’t fill it. Material goods couldn’t touch it. Relationships and religion sometimes shifted my focus, but eventually that raw, nagging darkness would intrude unbearably into everyday life. Like black holes in space that suck energy from the surrounding universe, my life was being robbed of joy and passion from within my own self.

Then quite suddenly, before I could prepare myself, before I was ready or even wanted to be, my seven-year-old daughter Aspen ignored the nails and locks and buttresses of my secrecy. She asked an innocent question, expecting an honest answer.

“Mommy, where is your daddy?” my daughter asked, her eyes full of open curiosity. “Everybody has a daddy. You have to have a daddy, too, don’t you?”

I did not reveal anything to Aspen that day about her grandfather, but my mind couldn’t stop racing. How can I become wholehearted so my daughter could have the mother she deserves? I couldn’t find a single book on the subject. The few people I entrusted with my inner battle seemed as bewildered as I was….and it was then that everything began to change.

The answer came slowly through my journey over five years after Aspen’s question. Little by little, as I listen to a still small voice within I collected shreds of my emotional spiritual fabric and started to piece them together.

The first step was to break out of the shame by sharing the secret of who my father was-which left me completely vulnerable. I had to face possible rejection, loss of clients, and my husband’s employment in a fortune 5 company. With the support of my husband, Sam I spoke the truth and broke out of my silence. On Father’s Day 2008 I flew to LA and met with Dr. Phil to begin my healing journey in front of millions.

Another step I took privately: I prayed for a complete healing -believing it would be possible. I believed that I was powerless to help myself alone, that I needed the love and guidance from a loving God. I found that the more I asked to feel God’s love for the day in my daily prayer, the more I felt wholeness, and peace.

Then slowly, over the months I wrote out everything I believed to be absolute truth I had gathered about my life, myself, weight, my past, my relationships, money, my parenting..everything on pieces of paper. I decided to question each truth one by one. Surprisingly I found that some of my beliefs really weren’t true at all! That they were just beliefs I borrowed from the people around me.

I needed to start writing a new belief, a new story.

Over time this changed everything. I now feel whole, free from the past shame of keeping my father’s identity a secret, to being a wholehearted mother and person. We truly can be healed from horrific circumstances, abuse, and trauma. I see that we are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but the love we’re not extending to ourselves and others in our current moments.
 

What I Want You To Know About Body Image And Breast Reduction Surgery

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Cheri.

Starting a new High School isn’t easy. It’s especially hard to make new
friends, ‘fit in’, and have everyone like you. Well that was my goal
at least. At the end of Freshman year I had grown, and so had my
assets. What I want you to know is that life with bigger breasts isn’t
necessarily a better life. I lost my name. I was no longer Cheri. I
was the girl with big boobs. It seemed like every guy wanted to hook up
with me because of my breasts, and every girl hated me for being
noticed. I felt so objectified, and I didn’t want that kind of
attention.

Every year my breasts seemed to get bigger and I felt
more insecure. Shopping for bras and bathing suits was impossible! I
couldn’t fit into anything. I used to wear baggy tops, or I would
button my sweater over my chest. I just wanted them to go away. Where
did they come from anyway? My whole family is small-chested. I also
had lots of back, neck, and shoulder pain from the weight on my bra.
The
constant comments from boys led me to eating disorders and obsessive
exercising. The breasts remained large while my body shrunk away. I
hated them. I hated the attention I got from them. I hated the pain. I
wanted a name.

I went to see a plastic surgeon who told me that I
was large but maybe not enough for the insurance to cover the surgery
for a Breast Reduction. He snapped some photos of me and sent them to
the insurance company. One week later I got word that the surgery would
be covered. At age 18 I knew this is what I wanted to do. So I had
the surgery. At first I felt very small at a 36 C, but the doctor
assured me that I would fill out over the next year. I had a lot of
itching so I went back to see him. He said that my body is rejecting
the stitches and he needed to remove them by hand. It was painful but
not quite as painful as the scars it left. Due to my body rejecting the
stitches, I developed Keloid scarring which resulted in bright red
puffy scars. I had two rounds of laser treatment to help the scars but
it did no good. Once again I couldn’t wear a triangle top bathing suit,
but for a different reason this time. And I was still very embarrassed
of my body.

I had to look at myself in the mirror and declare that I
was truly beautiful, scars and all. I told myself that one day I would
find a man who would look past them and just see me. I made the
decision to believe that I am unique, beautiful, and made just the way
God wanted. I’ve been able to breastfeed all three of my children and I
found a man who loves me for me. I have a name now. What I want you
to know is that big breasts don’t always lead to a happier fuller life
but sometimes just the opposite. I’m glad I had it done, scars and all.