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.


Is my child depressed? – what all parents need to know.

My oldest daughter struggled with mental health as a young teen. For parents who want to help, but don’t know how – please learn from my mistakes and learned lessons. Kids don’t know they have depression … it’s a slow gradual feeling, like a blanket wrapping around them, peacefully and slowly, until it’s a tight constriction that there’s no choice but to just submit to the security of complete isolation and retreat.

The flags – It’s the children that aren’t talking, the ones who are always “fine”. The ones isolating themselves in their bedrooms and seem to have lost the little sparkle in their eyes. Get them to the Dr. immediately. Avoidance and denial won’t make it go away. It’s not about you – it’s about them.

Treat someone who has depression like they have a terrible flu, that’s exactly how it feels. The pain can’t be seen, the body is weak and the mind can’t rest from the feeling of defeat and worthlessness. Let them rest. There’s no “right” healing time. Nobody heals completely from depression, they simply learn effective coping strategies.

If a child advises feelings of worthlessness and general defeat in life, my advice would be not to advise them, they’re not broken and don’t want to be fixed: they want to be seen and heard. They went someone to just be there, support and empathize. They need someone to get through it with them, without judgement, advice, most importantly – not directed to “cheer up” snap out of it, walk it off.

Those we hear of that take their own life, they’re not cowards, they feel hitting the off switch is the only possible relief to make the physical and emotional heavy weight that they don’t get a moments rest from carrying. They’re tired.

Allow them whatever they need, to rest, and never stop reminding them how much you love them – even if it feels like they aren’t listening, I promise they’re hearing every word.

#4 Grief & Loss, the importance of allowing the process

Part of this “un-becoming” journey to healing, was not only being accountable for my choices, understanding the “whys’ of my decisions in life, but also, facing some significant “tough experiences” for me, that I’ve either struggled with or buried away (avoided). Just as good cream always rises to the top, eventually, so will the traumas that were never faced, to allow healing.

Sadly, I’ve attended more Funerals in my life than Weddings. A few of these, were lives that were taken far too soon. We don’t come with an expiration date (or warranty), we have the blind faith that we’re immortal, especially in our youth, but ultimately, when your times up – its up.

Losing a senior (grandparents) loved one, is hard, it hurts, however whether it be terminal illness or simply their body lived a long full life and was too weak to continue, its “expected” almost, they take their last breath, you miss them, allow the void of their absence and embrace the times you were able to make special memories, which will fill in the dark space inside. I, unfortunately lost friends, close to my own age, many actually, before I turned 28… lives taken suddenly, its not simply processed or considered a reasonable expectation, there is no way to mentally prepare or process a life that was just there – and now, gone. These were each very traumatic experiences for me, as mentioned in the “#3 Coming Home” entry, we didn’t discuss the “tough stuff” in our home, these were definitely tough, I developed a coping mechanism apparently of shutting down and tuning out traumatic incidents as never developed the skills required to effectively process them – out of sight out of mind… but they don’t go away, not ever. They’re compartmentalized, packed up, sealed tight, placed up o a “shelf in the back”, never to be revisited… but, they’re always there…..

A childhood girlfriend, her younger sister was murdered by a previous sex offender that had just been released from prison, a very close girlfriend, engaged to be married and just beginning her two weeks vacation before starting a new career, died unexpectedly in her sleep, two friends brothers were killed, one by a drunk driver, one in a small plane crash, my cousin – took his own life, (along with multiple family members and friends parents passing in between these occurrences). Two sudden deaths, were simply far too traumatic to ever accept or face, I lost two male friends, each, I had such a strong bond with, to date, I’ve never faced, accepted or allowed the stages of grief, until now.

I met Dan, when I was 12yrs old, he was 13, at one of my twin brothers BMX races, just by our house. He was scruffy, nervous, awkward, and we knew, the moment our eyes locked, that we were supposed to be friends. As life has it, I applied at a local golf course just down the road, during my orientation, while walking the grounds, there stood Dan, stopped right in his tracks. Turns out, the golf course belonged to his parents… we became inseparable. As we grew older, I knew he hoped our friendship would turn to more, I only saw him as a brother, the friend zone. He was a “wild child”. Private School, Sports Cars, living the “high” life, was how he was made up. Drugs and alcohol didn’t fall far behind. I was the country girl, lived simply and (likely because of my Dads issues) never got into any “trouble” never mind reckless living styles. Dan’s graduation from College was approaching, he asked me to please come with him, being a private school, it was far away so I’d have to go for the weekend. In all those years, he never had a girlfriend, said he was waiting for me. I was 18, had a boyfriend and didn’t feel comfortable going away. That Sunday, I was working in the Club House Lounge when a friend showed up and asked to talk. I KNEW, just from the look in his eyes… something happened to Dan.. I could feel it. I flew down the stairs and ran over to his Mom’s house on the property… His Step Dad met me at the door, he didn’t have to say a word. Dan was a passenger in an SUV, there were 4 others in the truck, they were all impaired, the driver lost control, crashed into the side of a mountain, Dans body was ejected from the vehicle, everyone except the Driver were killed instantly. My Mom took me to the funeral, beforehand there was the service, as I approached the casket, I noticed the lid was open? I’d never attended an open casket funeral prior. I remember kneeing beside him (oh god.. I’m typing through tears here…) I put my hand on his, it was so cold, he looked like a wax figure from a museum. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t his date, I will miss him and love him, he wasn’t there, I couldn’t feel him there at all. I was in shock. Following this, at the burial, I remember being calm, until they began to lower him into the ground. Complete terror and fear took over, I started screaming and two people had to hold me back from jumping in after him. We drove home in silence, it was never discussed again. I visited him mom a few times in the days to follow. One night, I’m sure she must have had a couple of drinks, she looked at me and said “Why didn’t you just go with him, he loved you, he always did. If you went, he never would have been in that truck”. She sobbed and all I could do was hold her – as the guilt and the “what if’s” filled up my entire soul. Not a single day has gone by following where I don’t think of him, where he’d be in life, would we eventually, when he smartened up, have ended up together… I can’t speak of him without tearing up. I did reach out to his sister via email just last week (I searched for her contact) as was hoping to connect with her Mom, told her I haven’t ever healed from losing her brother and would be so happy if she could pass on my message. She never responded.

Another loss, I’ve never accepted, was my childhood neighbour and friend Steven. He was the first friend I made when we moved to the country, he lived right next door. This tall skinny blonde cutie was 7 and I was 5. He was the older brother I never had. Steven chose a very toxic path in life, much different from mine. From 19-45, he was in and out of prison. When he ws out, he was back in my life, when he went MIA, I knew why. But he was ALWAYS there. 4 years ago, he developed an infection in his heart, I drove to the hospital, we reconnected without missing a beat, I was going back to see him the next night, he passed away peacefully before I could make it. Here’s the reason why its SO IMPORTANT to allow the 5 Stages of Grief…. I didn’t attend his funeral service or the burial. My family did. I simply shut it out of my mind. Wouldn’t accept it, face it but mostly, never said goodbye, even if it was at his final resting place. I hurt his Mom also by doing this. It is without question, the single worst decision I’ve ever made. I live with horrible regret and guilt, and I can’t ever get the chance back again to rewrite this. His Mom knows how difficult it’s weighed on me, but my avoidance of losing his, has left a large dark void in my heart that causes physical pain when I think about him. I am going to drive out to meet his Mom and go to the gravesite together before end of Fall this year to make peace with not only losing him, but to atone for not saying goodbye. I feel both Dan and Steven with me regularly. Part of me believes they need me to let them go.

Grief isn’t easy, its not supposed to be, if it didn’t hurt, their lives wouldn’t have been significant in your life. The more it hurts, the more relevant they were. Hurting means you’re feeling. The stages hurt like a SOB, but allowing them, learning to cope with the pain and working through each as they present – is the only way to be able to fold up everything special, into the memory box piece by piece, blow it a kiss and THEN, place it up on the “shelf”, to revisit should you want to view a happy prior memory. The alternative, when it decides to surface, I promise you, it will – is far more painful and damaging than any healing stage of the process. Its like losing them over and over again with every memory. Their spirit needs to rest, and so does yours.

#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