For children of alcoholic parents, our thought processes when forming relationships are often illogical. We aren’t always aware of this. We spent our lives distanced from normalcy. We were taught to fear it. We were taught to avoid it.
1. We carry things that do not belong to us.
It is as if we have been fitted with a backpack, full of poisonous snakes, permanently attached to us, unable to be removed. We did not purchase nor ask for these snakes, but were forced to carry them. We are vulnerable. We can be bitten by these snakes, unprovoked, with no prior warning, at any given time. In fact, we have grown so used to the backpack we carry, sometimes, we forget it’s even there at all. Other days, it feels so heavy to carry that we can barely move. Occasionally, we are debilitated by the fear of being bitten. Sometimes, we grow so used to the bites we cannot tell when we have been bitten.
We accept these drastically changing, unsteady emotions as a part of ourselves. We blame ourselves for these emotions. We are defective. It is our own fault. We carry things that do not belong to us and there is nothing we can do but accept the weight.
2. We are not controlling but need complete control over our own lives.
We live in the shadows of our parent’s (parents’) negligent loss of self-control. We can never let this happen to us. This is the worst thing that could happen to us. We are so focused on maintaining control over our own lives, we don’t realize when this thinking makes us irrational. We are affected by even the smallest changes in our plans.
It may not seem like a big deal to call us on our way home from work and ask us to stop at the grocery store to pick up a dinner item, but doing this would mean that our original plan to drive straight home, the one that we created, the one that we’re in control of, would have to be changed for a plan that isn’t our own. This makes us feel anxious. This makes us uneasy.
3. We are fearful of a pattern of love comes and goes.
Yet, we are drawn to it. We cling to those who are toxic or unable to love us wholly. We are unworthy of unconditional love, after all. We don’t deserve it. But we desperately need it. We seek it from those who are unable to give it to us, because letting go of this desperation would feel unnatural. Accepting love, without contingency upon circumstances, or restrictions, is almost impossible. Because it is not meant for us. Because it does not belong to us. But we don’t ever want to be alone. At times we think we do because it seems easier than sharing our self with someone else. We are different from the rest of the world. You wouldn’t understand. No one could understand.
4. We are hurting.
We are in a kind pain that we would never share with you. We are grieving all of the forgotten birthdays that went unacknowledged. We are grieving the loss of enjoyable childhood experiences that never happened. We don’t want you to know. It is our role not to burden anyone else any more than they may already be by their day to day life. We shouldn’t want you to know. We must keep our feelings secret and silent. In fact, it is best for us not to acknowledge we feel this pain at all.
5. We won’t leave you. We can’t.
We will love until death because we don’t know any other way. We have sailed through storms of toxicity, abuse, abandonment and neglect. We are molded to continue to try and try in our relationships, even under the worst of conditions.
We can’t always judge clearly when a relationship has been or is becoming unhealthy for us nor can we tell if we are harmful for someone else. Our compass was broken at some point during our childhood and we are just guessing at the direction we are heading. If there are fundamental problems in the relationship, you will likely notice them long before us. If the relationship is harmful, you must leave us. Even though that is our biggest fear, if it has to be done, you must, because we cannot leave you.