Author: Anonym/Monday, September 1, 2008/Categories: Family System
“Sooner or later we must give up all hope of a better yesterday.”
Ashley Brilliant wrote that, but I wish I had,because it says so
perfectly what I want to write to you.
I have such sorrow that we, your parents, failed you. When you were
growing up, one of us was alcoholic and the other was trying to change
that fact. Most of what we did, thought, and felt was influenced by the
disease. We loved you and wanted you to have a happy childhood, but what
was “wrong” with us made that impossible.
As the disease progressed, we made more efforts to keep our family
life free of pain for you. We failed, but not because we didn’t care
enough. We simply did not understand. We didn’t want any of what was
happening to be true, so we lied to you and to ourselves. You grew up
with a law of silence because we hoped if we didn’t talk about it, you
wouldn’t know what was happening. But the terror continued, as did our
hopes that no one would notice our problems.
I feel so sad that you grew up unable to trust easily, wary of people
and situations. I know now that we could not give you what we ourselves
did not possess: a feeling of safety. The preoccupation with the
addiction drained our energies and left us unable to focus on you. Yet
still we loved you deeply – I’m not sure you knew that.
You say you have a problem with feelings: having them, respecting
them, showing them. Yes. Our family survived liked that. There seemed to
be no options to numbness. At least, no options that we thought we
could live with. But I remember loving you.
This is the part of your heritage, to our painful regret. But there
is more to our history than that; there is our slow recovery as a
family. Each of you has your own story. Jennifer James wrote: “Pain is a
great teacher, but most of us would rather learn some other way. We
think that happiness comes from a perfect childhood and avoiding
mistakes. We don’t like that patched up feeling that comes with each
survival. We would like to be seamless, with no patches. Cherish your
hard-won depth and understanding. Some pain is required for the
journey. Patches bring strength, whether on our knee or in our hearts.”
There are patches in my heart from our suffering, most particularly for yours, but I believe in our strength too.
Ashley Brilliant is right about yesterday. The past is fixed and we
can’t forget it, or perhaps, forgive it. What we can do is accept it,
and separate from it, until the grief loses its power over today.
My hope and joy are that, as we continue to make better days, they
are turning into months and years. They will be the new past that will
feel good to remember. Today will become a better yesterday.
This Comment was first published in Alcoholism & Addiction
magazine in 1981, in a regular column called Family Forum. Stephanie
Abbott, MA, specializes in family aspects of addiction, teaches at
Marymount University in Arlington, VA, and is editor of the NETWORK.
This article was provided by NACAO, the National Association for
Children of Alcoholics. Visit their website at http://www.nacao.org.
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