While on vacation last December in Saint Maarten, I came across a article online that spoke to me in so many ways. The article is titled 10 Things The Adult Child Of An Addict Wants You to Know and it spoke about many things that most adult children of addicts had to deal with and how it affects them in their lives now. In the article, the author outlined 10 things that we (adult children of addicts) want you to know and 3 of those things that the author laid out really hit home for me and I decided to post about them individually. The 1st point that I posted about last month was “We had no peace in our childhood“. Today, I want to touch on another point that was talked about in the article….
We don’t know “normal.” Normal is a relative term, yes. But our normal is not on the relativity scale. Normal for us can include instability, fear, even abuse. Normal might be a parent passed out in their own vomit. Normal might be taking care of your household, your siblings, your parent(s), and very rarely yourself. This profound lack of understanding leads us to the conclusion that normal = perfect, and less than perfect is unacceptable. Perfect is a non-negotiable term — there are no blurred lines. It’s all or nothing.
I’ve read that paragraph at least 20 times while shaking my head in agreement! I never knew what normal was as a child… hell at 46, I am not sure I know what normal is but I am slowly creating my own sense or normalcy.
As a child, my normal was waking up in a home where there may not have been heat in the winter or air in the summer. Waking up in a home where the electricity may or may not be on. Waking up and going to bed in a home where some days all you’ve had to eat was a slice of bread with some mayonnaise on it (if you were lucky). Food, love, and the basic necessities were very inconsistent in my childhood home. That was my normal!
I can’t remember ever getting help with my homework or sitting and reading with my mother or father. When I sit back and think about my childhood school years, I can’t remember anything that happened in school between kindergarten – 7th grade. Can you imagine that? Not one damn memory! I can’t remember any of my teachers name or the name of a friend that I may have had in school until I reached my 2nd year of 7th grade. Yes, I failed the 7th grade the 1st time, then when I moved to NY with my grandmother, I repeated that grade and passed with flying colors.
Normal was seeing my mother passed out on the sofa, bed, floor, kitchen chair…wherever. Normal was not having proper supervision when you and your younger brother are home alone. Normal was getting beatings (not spankings) but beatings with a thick leather belt because you ate the last cookie in the cookie jar, or just because your father came home and had nothing better to do. Normal also was being woken up in the middle of night at the age of 8 to your father coming in to the room and…….
I have always heard and read that the first five years of a child’s life, often called the formative years, are absolutely critical for the development, performance and success of the child throughout his/her life. Well, if that is true, I am/was truly lacking!!
Years of talk therapy, years of medications, years of depression, anxiety, needing reassurance and OCD are the results of what my ‘normal’ childhood led me to. I know there’s a saying: “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”… and I have to say that God must think that I am one hell of a strong person because I handled so much. I tried to ‘check out’ a few times but I doubt that is what I really wanted to do because I am still here. What I am now left with is a woman that wants to be loved, wants to be secure within herself and her surroundings and wants to create a ‘new normal’ for herself.
I remember one psychiatrist telling me that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She said that it was the direct result of living with the traumatizing effects of addiction. Even years after my father died, and after I left from under the care of my mother and I no longer was surrounded by abuse, drugs and alcohol, I still carried the impact of living with and being raised by abusive, drug addicted parents. I had so much unresolved pain and unanswered questions that still seep into my daily life as an adult. There is no doubt that pain from childhood actually gets stored into your mind and body and becomes part of our psyche well into adulthood. My job now has been to grow, adapt and change into the person that I wish to be. I face that pain, deal with it and work through it in healthy ways so that I can learn to live with it and not allow it to rule over my life. It hasn’t been easy for me, or those that love me, but it is what it is. I find myself explaining and re-explaining myself to people so that they can fully understand what makes me tick. I ask for patience when my anxiety is heightened and understanding when I am feeling insecure. I know it is tiresome for all parties involved but there just isn’t much more that I can do.
Many people often wonder how or why I write about my painful past and believe me, it isn’t easy. I tear up and break into the full blown ‘ugly cry’ from time to time while typing parts of my posts but I know that it is a healthy practice. It is good to get these thoughts, feelings and life experiences out so that I can face it, address it and not run from it. Also, I never know if it may help someone else who is going through the same thing.