As I drove home from the grocery store at 9 PM, two police cars blared their lights at 12-year-old Miss L's house. The mother in me wanted to run over there and take the 2 kids home with me, but instead I prayed and waited for morning, not knowing if someone was arrested or what happened.
Miss L.'s mother is an adult child of an alcoholic, but her parent stopped drinking when his grandchildren were born, or there about. In her thirties now, Miss L.'s mother leads a self-destructive life, with her two children knowing no normalcy, safety, or hope, especially now that their grandmother has died.
Late the next morning the kids knocked on the door. I heard the whole story about the inebriated adults and the arguing and threats, and the eight-year-old brother calling 911. The police were not much help; no arrests were made, and a violent, angry boyfriend came back after the authorities left.
Lord have mercy on these kids, who only want normalcy and real love--love that tucks them in and reads them stories and doesn't smell of alcohol or drugs. Every child, Lord, deserves to be a tucked-in, prayed-for child, covers all lovingly arranged and kisses deposited generously on a freshly-bathed face.
But our world is broken and the enemy wins more than Christians would like to admit. Too many of us born again by his blood, pursue the wrong things. Our hearts don't weep enough for the unsaved, the broken, lost, and wretched.
I remembered Jeremiah and acted boldly, when later the kids came back and Miss L. expressed pain and worry over her mother's threat to commit suicide, after learning that money was gone from her purse. Her poverty drives many of her decisions--spiritual and financial poverty both.
I had a messy house to clean on a deadline before a 4 PM children's Bible study, but I remembered Jeremiah. "Come in and play while I write a letter to your mother."
I sat at the computer and amazingly, wrote amid the chaos of three neighbor kids and my own four. I told her about my upbringing and alcohol's ugly presence. I told her about all the battles the adult children of alcoholics face, and how we feel ashamed and less-than and isolated. How we don't know how to have fun or play because our childhoods were too short and too serious. As such, there's potential to find all the wrong people to attach ourselves to, finding love in all the wrong places, and never knowing our worth or potential.
I pleaded with her to end this path and mark out a new one--one full of hope, love, peace, wholeness. God can redeem all this and he loves you, I wrote. You were wonderfully made by your loving Heavenly Father, and he wants to bless you...give you hope and future.
Decide right now that you will no longer cling to people who can't take responsible care of themselves. I ask this out of love for you and for your children. You were created for so much more than dysfunction.
I directed her to the literature from Adult Children of Alcoholics (or of dysfunctional families), copying and pasting as much of it as I could in the letter.
There's an estimated 50 million adults who come from alcoholic or dysfunctional homes, needing to find their way. Please, have a look at this literature below, and know where to obtain it when you meet a self-destructive mother, failing her kids and continuing the ugly cycle of addiction. It is spiritual--it's about God, but doesn't lock the sufferer into believing in God right away, or having to be a Christian to be healed. Some people go through twelve-step spiritual programs and do become Christians, but others do not. This literature is still valuable--you can add in the Bible's perspective yourself.
As he did for me, God will give you an opportunity to participate in someone's transformation. Don't take it lightly...don't get too busy or too preoccupied, but do help with boundaries in place.
Bless you as you work to bless others through His holy name.
I don't know the outcome for Miss L's mother. There's free will and not everyone chooses wholeness and love. But I took the opportunity given me, praying with the kids, writing a letter, opening my door. That is what the Lord expects from us...nothing more, nothing less. He puts people in our lives, and we must respond.
Adult Children of Alcoholic's Literature: found here:
Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.
We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.
These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us ‘co-victims’, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.
This is a description, not an indictment.
Adapted from The Laundry List
The solution is to become your own loving parent.
As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.
The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.
This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic or dysfunctional parents, our Higher Power gave us the Twelve Steps of Recovery.
This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps; we use the meetings; we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting, to healing, to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.
By attending these meetings on a regular basis, you will come to see parental alcoholism or family dysfunction for what it is: a disease that infected you as a child and continues to affect you as an adult. You will learn to keep the focus on yourself in the here and now. You will take responsibility for your own life and supply your own parenting.
You will not do this alone. Look around you and you will see others who know how you feel. We will love and encourage you no matter what. We ask you to accept us just as we accept you.
This is a spiritual program based on action coming from love. We are sure that as the love grows inside you, you will see beautiful changes in all your relationships, especially with God, yourself, and your parents.
We admitted we were powerless over the effects of alcoholism or other family dysfunction, that our lives had become unmanageable.
Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand God.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to our selves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry it out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others who still suffer, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.