I was so tragically glib about how evolved I was; how I’d managed to escape my past unscathed. I called myself the Energizer Bunny, joked that I was made of Teflon, and marveled that someone could grow up as I did and become a mostly functional adult child of two alcoholics.
My home life as a child was far from simple. I pretended my family was like those I saw on television because in the television, the mothers loved their daughters every SINGLE day. Those children had meals cooked for them, had parents they could talk to, parents who took them to swimming lessons, parents who cared about them, parents who loved them no matter what.
They had what I wanted: parents who behaved like parents.
I had the illusion of a family, two parents, a much older brother, some cats and dogs, and then there was me. Caregiver. Cleaner-upper. Parent to myself. In reality, I was alone and I knew it.
I learned what so many of us children of alcoholics do, trust no one but yourself. It became a way of life. Carefully, I constructed a facade that even I began to believe. A life that I so desperately wanted, I could attain if I lied enough about it.
Eventually, I grew up. Waiting for the day when I itched to have a drink, and then another, and then another, I was surprised when it never came. I had a child out of wedlock, a happy accident, I changed my life around to accommodate that of a single mother, then I got married. I had another child. Then another.
I knew that I bore some of the scars of my past–who doesn’t?–but it twenty years for me to realize that I’d grown up to do the precise thing that 8-year old Aunt Becky always swore she never would do: I put myself in the same position that I would have done anything to get out of.
I married an addict.
We always joked about it, The Daver and I, his addiction to his work–Workahol, we called it, back when we still joked around about it–but for the past five years I’ve watched as it went from working to live to living to work.
It was all that he ever wanted to do, work, that is, and that’s where he got his joy, his rush, his feelings of accomplishment, his ego, and we were just periphery. Background noise. Particularly loud and unbelievably adorable background noise, but background noise nonetheless.
As he worked more, he needed more and more to feel that rush, that thrill, and his hours grew until he barely saw us. When we’d dare interrupt him for something like, oh, maybe the HOUSE being on fire, we’d get a terse, snappy reply, and stung, we’d walk away hurt.
I consoled myself that he was working so hard to support us, and when I’d bring it up, he’d swear that he was doing it all for us, but it wasn’t quite the truth. What we needed was a husband, a father, a friend, and someone who didn’t place something else above us every second of the day.
I’d never considered it a real addiction, not like gambling or drug addiction, because it was one of those things that we did, you know, NEED to do.
But there it was, from Adult Children of Alcoholics:
We either became alcoholics ourselves, married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.
When I read that, I dry-heaved, and then I bawled my eyes out. It’s a bitter pill to swallow to realize that your past is never as far away as you thought it was.
I finally brought it up to The Daver, and this time, rather than trying to pass it off as something else; my problem, money issues, whatever, he listened. He listened and he realized that it was a problem.
I explained that I had lived my entire life with addicts, always walking around on eggshells, and that things in our house had to change. I simply couldn’t–and wouldn’t–put my children through what I had been through.
We both started individual therapy this weekend. He’s looking for a balance, and I’m, well, I’m looking to put the ghosts of my past to bed. For the first time in many, many months, I feel hopeful about the state of my union.
Perhaps this is where the sidewalk ends and a road begins