God, grant me the serenity… my views on AA.

ROCK BOTTOM is what it usually takes to bring someone to the realization that they have nowhere else to go, but to seek help. Becoming vulnerable enough to recognize that this has become a much more powerful “monster” than you can manage alone. But what was “rock bottom”? In many cases, its when the elastic band of enabling and tolerance from others in your life has finally snapped. Whether it be family, friends, workplace or in some cases – Court ordered mandate… the time has come. A local meeting is found and the beginning of the accountability journey follows shortly after.

Now don’t get me wrong, I applaud AA and its worldwide chapters, they’re the saving grace for countless. I’m the daughter of a 26+yr recovering alcoholic and have attended many meetings supporting my Dad on his annual anniversaries. Alcoholism has controlled males on both my Mother and Fathers side for generations. Unfortunately, only my Father decided to seek help. His sobriety saved his life and his relationship with myself and my siblings.

My last partner (Narcissist) was also an alcoholic – during one of our many endings where I couldn’t take anymore… he reached out and advised he was attending AA and recognized he had a “disease”. He requested, yet again, we work together to be the “greatest love story we were always supposed to be”. He must have changed right?!? (I now know without question that it was his employer that gave him a choice to seek help or be fired). I went back to him again, being his biggest support and was so proud he decided to do the work with his self care.

I could write chapters on “him” and the abusive, damaged monster that he was with or without alcohol… that isn’t what this blog post is about. This is about the damage done to those effected by alcoholism.

Now I’m aware of Al-Anon – the support to those effected by addiction…. this has more to do with AA itself. When someone makes the choice to attend meetings, chooses every minute not to give in to the addiction, this is about them. Its life altering and essential…. what I have an issue with after a lifetime of being exposed to alcoholic males, is not the support provided…. but calling it an “illness”, a “disease”, an “allergy”. This is a watered down version of what it is – which is a prior trauma, that was left untreated and became an unhealthy coping mechanism to mask pain.

Becoming sober takes incredible strength, I respect this and my father is living proof that having a strong support system with a group of peers who can relate is monumental to recovery, but it doesn’t deal with the mental health aspect of the root of the problem.

I chatted with my Dad on Fathers Day this year a little bit about this. His childhood traumas have never been faced, he buried them deep – but they’re always there…. we spoke a little about my last relationship – who used his alcoholism as a free pass for the incredible abuse my daughters and I experienced, what his ex-wife and his own children I KNOW suffered unimaginable hell because of… but as he often joked at his meetings that I went to as often as I could “I didn’t need alcohol to be an asshole, it just made me a bigger asshole”… and the room laughed, validating him. AA likely saved his career, but it certainly never made him accountable for his behaviour.

I shared with my Dad, “Its amazing support Dad, I’m so grateful it was there for you and for others, but despite the 12 steps, alcoholics in many cases can’t remember the trauma they caused others. The emotional, psychological and in some cases, physical scars their victims are left to carry. Family, friends & the workplace support revering addicts, we praise them, listen to them, but the reality is Dad… you can’t be sorry for the times you can’t remember, and you haven’t ever healed from the source of why you were drawn to alcohol as your “therapy’ of choice. We were victims, we suffered… and then are expected to forgive and support addicts on their path to recovery… but what about ours? Don’t you wonder why I’ve always been drawn to extremely dominant men, the last one being the absolute most toxic, damaged of them all? Its all I’ve ever known, to be the the “fixer”? Dad stared into the distance, his eyes welling up, fighting back tears – and his response meant everything… “Baby, you’re absolutely right, I’ve never ever thought of it this way. God dammit, you’re right. I’m so sorry”. (he also reminded me that if I want my ex “handled”, he can make it happen ” I know people”… which made us both laugh).

My point is this, ACCOUNTABILITY. Recognizing you’re an addict, seeking help and remaining sober is wonderful, and does take strength. Facing the reasons why you ever became one – is courage, and this will bring the much needed systemic change.

#3 HOME; We’re essentially, results of learned behaviors. As adults, choices often reflect this.

So back to the night of reflection, sitting in my favourite chair, attempting to figure out my “why’s” on life choices, not only did this allow me to go back and view myself as a child, through adult eyes, this process brought me back “home” again, to reflect on my childhood.

I’ve always looked back on these days, with a full heart, and countless fond memories. Our childhood was seemingly perfect. The beautiful home in the country, loving, present parents, we wanted for nothing. Dad, tall, dark, handsome and strong, Mom, beautiful, blonde, independent and nurturing. Our extended family were all extremely close growing up, many friends of our parents, we grew up calling Aunt and Uncle, also allowing many more “cousins” to share times together. Our home was always open to our friends, who rarely wanted to leave once they arrived. Mom, was the Mother everyone wanted as their own, Dad was “cool” and in my younger years, all my girlfriends had a crush on. They never ever fought, never spoke ill of each other to us, we were never to disrespect either of them. We were raised with good solid core values. It WAS perfect… wasn’t it?

Here’s the thing, we grow up, viewing our parents as just that, our Mom and Dad, unless its a toxic environment, most of us feel we had the “best parents in the world”. We were loved, cared for and protected, thats all children need. What we, or at least I, never did, was view my parents as “human”, unique individuals with their own issues and personal struggles. When I started looking back, I realized that they were once much younger then I am currently – when I was little, they were in their late 20’s, young adults attempting to figure out this whole parenting, just as I once had, raising my own, now two grown daughters.

Dad, had a very harsh, cold, abusive childhood. Adopted parents in their 50’s, a quiet, loving Mom, a dominant, alcoholic Father. Dad rebelled soon into his teens, became a “functioning” alcoholic himself. When Grandma passed, I was 4, right before my twin brothers were born, shortly there after Grandpa moved in with us, he and Dad were never close, and now he was sharing his home with a man who made him feel worthless his entire life, while his young family was just beginning. I, from a very young age, recognized the broken, hurt little boy inside my Dad. I was his travel buddy, his confident, always his “little girl”. I didn’t know what an alcoholic was, but I did know that the same eyes that looked at me with so much pride, could somedays turn, and the gaze staring back at me would be one of contempt. I remembered the moments where he would centre me out at functions, making fun or mocking me, laughing as he did it. These times didn’t last long, but they had a lasting effect.

Mom, grew up, knowing only dominant, alcoholic males, married to silent, picture perfect females, living lonely, loveless marriages – all the way back through her family tree. In Mom’s case, Grandpa (I only have the best memories of him, he loved us all so much and can till hear his hard belly laughs in my mind, even today) spent most of his free time at the town Legion, he and Nanna (who I also adored) bickered constantly. Mom however, grew up with a Mother who made her feel like she was never good enough, in every aspect. Almost resented her for some reason. Even as a young woman, a new home in the country, with a little girl and baby twin boys, not only was she never offered help, she didn’t come to visit her, mostly, she never expressed how proud she was of her, how special she was, what an amazing woman she grew up to be – I can’t comprehend this, as a mother myself. She withheld basic love, from a daughter who never for a single moment gave her a reason to not beam with pride. Sadly, she married into the only life she ever knew.

Its true, my parents never argued or disrespected each other. They didn’t communicate at all, they didn’t laugh, there was no affection, they weren’t friends, they just “were”. I remembered suddenly, all the events we had to leave early, the nights after work, Dad wasn’t home for dinner, Mom never said a word, just carried on with the evening routine as per usual and put us to bed with a kiss on the forehead. Dad came home, eventually, to sleep on “his” couch. They didn’t argue because they both chose to ignore each other, Mom, because she was angry and the attempts he made to justify wore out years prior. Dad, walked around on egg shells, knowing what he did was wrong, but wouldn’t want to ever face being accountable or actually having to discuss the problems at hand. If you don’t talk about it, it will just fade away….

Considering how he was raised, he was never an aggressive man with us, I think each of us received one hard spanking ever, we weren’t going to relive that again, and besides, the “death stare” from Dad was enough to bring anyone to their knees, it was rare that we would ever misbehave. Remembering however, some of the cruel and hurtful things that were said when the “angry Dad” side appeared, those words and actions coming from a man I adored, caused more damage and cut me deeper than being beaten ever could have. But his eyes always went back to kind again, and all was to be forgotten. The reality is, I never should have been his support system or confident. The only role I ever should have been responsible for as a child was being his little girl. Something I recognized we never did, was talk about our feelings. The “hard stuff” simply wasn’t discussed. Mom enforced, “what happens in this house, stays in this house”. We wouldn’t think of betraying our parents, we kept the secrets within the walls, however, we also kept our own emotions buried.

As a young girl, it was always advised that I was “too much”, talked to much, sang too much, got too excited about things, I was a daydreamer, didn’t live in the “real world”, I was in the way too much… always too much, but never told once, that I was enough. All of the qualities that made me unique and special, weren’t deemed as such. This continued on through adult life, I almost became a “Mothering” role to my father, especially after my parents marriage dissolved and our childhood home was sold right before my Wedding. I was there to support my Dad every time he needed me, until just recently. Mom, in her own way, passively treated me just as her Mother treated her, just nowhere near the extreme. For some reason, me appearing anything less than perfect in her eyes, would reflect on how she was as a role model, it would somehow be viewed as her fault for my short comings. I’m still uncertain who the Judge & Jury were… but she sure felt their presence.

Shortly after the night of “going home” to my past, I met with each of my parents, providing each the “Cole’s Notes” version, “the story of me”. Sharing only what they needed to know, not wanting either of them to hurt from these decades old revelations, it simply wouldn’t be fair. Dad, was visibly emotional, but no words were expressed. Just like a little boy, when confronted, he always retreats away to hide. He didn’t say the words “I’m sorry”, but I know he was. It was understood. Sharing my truth with my Mom, as difficult as this was, knowing how personally she would take all of it, proved therapeutic for us both. She saw things in a much different light, recognized her own accountability for her choices, and was able to release so much internal resentment and hurt that she has carried, her entire adult life. It hurt her how she had made me feel all of these years, but to be fair, I never expressed it, until then. I never placed any boundaries where my parents were concerned. The reality is, they weren’t idyllic figures of perfection, they were human beings, flawed – as we all are. They each, were the best parents they knew how to be, they love us very much – and thats enough.

As for me, that night, sitting in my favourite muskoka chair, thinking about life as the thunder rolled by and the rain pelted the ground. I faced the little girl inside, I held her close, looked her in the eyes and told her, “you were ALWAYS enough”, she was finally able to rest. The cycle ended that night, where the voices in the future are silenced, feelings aren’t shared and healthy boundaries aren’t set. I know I haven’t been a “perfect” Mom, I own this and have expressed such to my daughters. They’ve both, regretfully watched me a few times, become broken down to where I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back up again, but I always did, and each time, letting them know that my choices in life were just that, they were mine to make, as are accepting the results following. I’ve made many mistakes, but one thing I know for certain I managed to do right, neither of them, for a single second, ever had to question or doubt, that they were each, in their own unique, special, magical way, perfectly imperfect, they ARE enough and mostly, they ARE loved, exactly as they are. These are the best two choices I’ve ever made in this life, and that, for me, is enough.

I love you N&M, more. Momxoxo