I have a story
I'm the daughter of a man who was an addict & a woman who enabled
I know how this impacts a child's sense of self-worth.
I was a little girl who adored her dad & believed his words about
"who I was & who I wasn't".
I know the lifelong effects of emotional & verbal abuse..
I was a little girl wondering why her mom stayed silent.
I know the hurt a mother's neglect brings.
I was a teenager trying to staying true to herself while
earning the love of her parents.
I know the confusion of knowing who to trust.
I was the wife of an addict & I was the enabler - just like my mom.
I know the shame of staying in your comfort zone despite it feeling damn uncomfortable.
I'm mom to a recovered addict & the sibling who enabled that addiction.
I know the guilt that comes with passing your story to your children
She, or me, was told by my family that I was "too much". The real me made them uncomfortable. I loved them and wanted them to be happy so I started to hide the real me when I was with them. I silenced my voice and hid behind a mask. I got so good at hiding the real me with them that eventually I couldn't even see me.
My dream? To be on stage -I wanted to sing on Broadway! For years I practiced every day; just me, Streisand , my hairbrush and my imaginary audience. I could see it, feel it and taste it! The stage, was where I needed to be!
When I started hiding who I was I lost the belief that I could achieve my dream. Actually, I just lost belief in me, period! It would take me over forty years to forgive myself and start believing in me again.
In September of 2018, at age 56, I had a chance to speak on stage.
When I stepped onto that stage, I was home. I rocked it!
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LITTLE GIRL WITH BIG DREAMS?
The Story I let steal my dream!
My dad was a brilliant and compassionate man. He was a dreamer and a doer.
He took risks. He followed his heart. He believed in himself and his dreams.
In his late 30's, after major financial losses, he surrendered to a gambling addiction;
the man he saw in the mirror and the man I knew as dad turned into someone neither of us recognized. He became a sad and angry man; desperate to be who he
was once and fearful of who he was to become.
I was just a little girl when my dad's addiction reared its ugly head. I didn't understand that my dad had an addiction. I simply knew that he loved me and he said horrible things to me. The words spoken by my dad came from love - those spoken by the addict came from hate. My dad wanted the best for me - the addict wanted me to feel small so he could feel big. My dad wanted me to succeed - the addict did all he could to set me up to fail. My dad always told me "he loved me" - the addict told me "I was stupid, my ideas were ridiculous, I was crazy and didn't have anything to say that was worth listening to".
The mixed messages I received throughout my childhood left scars unseen to all, including me! I experienced a slow and insidious attack on who I was as a person. I lost my identity, my self-esteem was affected, my self-trust was non-existent. The result - I didn't believe in me. I found myself saying things like " Maybe I just imagine the way they talk to me? Maybe I'm being too sensitive? Maybe I am crazy, I feel it when I talk to my dad, my husband? They'll do anything for me, they must really love me?"
If you were raised by a parent or married someone with an addiction you'll understand how damaging their manipulative personality can be. The addict is lost and confused; their identity lost when they find their addiction. Their confusion comes from having two views of themselves. My dad put himself on a pedestal while at the same time saw himself as "pond scum". The addict says and does whatever is necessary to meet their own needs, regardless of whom they hurt. As a healed adult I understand this. As a little girl, I thought my dad's words and actions meant there was something wrong with me, not him! I loved him. I trusted him. I believed in him. He was supposed to protect me, not hurt me.
Unfortunately, my story is the story of many!
The Gift and Curse of My Story
The Gift, the Hurt
Like most stories, there is a gift in the hurt you experience. Sadly, we don't understand that as kids! Some get lucky and uncover the magic that comes from pain. I was one of those lucky ones.
The gift of my story was I turned my childhood hurt into love and acceptance for others.
I knew how horrible it felt to be dismissed, not acknowledged, not accepted, not valued. I never wanted anyone to feel that way.
So, the world became my home and strangers on the streets, my family. I made a decision to give my new family what I never got from my own family. I began a lifelong practice of doing everything I could to acknowledge, accept and value others.
This practice became part of who I am today. The gift is that without my story I don't know if I would be the person that values ensuring all people feel seen, feel heard and to know they matter!
The Curse, the "Mask"
Not following my dream was the curse of my story. There's a hefty price in believing a story that isn't yours!
That price is that I lived my life in hiding. I didn't stay true to that young girl who knew who she was. She became someone who she thought she needed to be. Again, in my story, I became a loving accepting person which isn't a bad thing. But the fact remains, I sold myself out. I gave away me in an effort to be seen, heard and valued by my parents; and as uncomfortable as it is to admit, to be seen, heard and valued by others.
Not only did believing my story deny me of my soul's purpose,
it caused me to not see, hear or value myself. This brought with it a life where I constantly felt in my gut that something was trapped inside me fighting like hell to be set free. Ends up it wasn't a something, it was a someone - ME!
putting together the The Pieces of My PuzzlE
It wasn't until 2012 that I started to get curious as to why I was the way I was. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. I could be friendly with everyone yet never had close friends. I just felt so different. The way I thought, behaved, coped with life and saw the world seemed so unlike everyone I knew. I started a search for the missing pieces of my puzzle. A couple years into my search bits and pieces
of my life started to make sense. I saw how I had spent most of my numb.
When I was in the presence of my parents and/or my husband (who by the way was just like my dad) I played possum! Dead as a doornail - numb to them and the emotional pain they brought me.
Last year my adult children and I spent one Christmas watching homes movies dating back to my wedding day. Holy shit, what an eye opener.On that screen I saw something that made me so sad, when I was with my parents and/or husband I looked like I was in some catatonic state. I kept thinking "who was that woman?" Or more accurately "what happened to hurt that little girl so deeply?" But check this out, when the scene included just me and my kids I came alive - laughing, smiling, having fun. I felt safe to "just be me" around my kids.
At that moment I realized that at the root of my story was the underlying belief that I wasn't safe. How messed up is that! I felt safe on the streets of some of the most dangerous streets in Philadelphia but not in my suburban home with my parents and husband. I realized this or numb" although I didn't feel asleep was much easier to deny my feelings than deal them. What woke me up was a book called "Codependent No More". Page after page this author was describing every thought, behavior and belief of mine. How did she know all this? I couldn't put the book down, I devoured it in less than 4 hours and reading is not one of my strengths! It seemed that I was a little emotionally unwell.
In my search for the pieces of my puzzle I found more than I bargained for! I stumbled onto a study conducted nearly 20 years ago by the Center for Disease Control(CDC) and Kaiser Permanente. It's known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study or ACES for short.
This study explained my whole life - why I always felt just "different"! I bet it will explain much of yours too.Everything makes sense now! I'm not crazy and neither are you. The way I am isn't about me or anything I did or didn't do. It's a result of my childhood experiences which left me feeling emotionally and/or physically safe. Our childhood experiences anyhow we interpreted them affects every aspect of our adult lives unless we are aware of what we keep buried deep within us.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study validates the "Science Behind Our Stories"