An adult child of an addicted parent shares her story
and her path to Inner Peace.
Many people go through their days waiting, hoping, and feeling frustrated that they aren’t getting what they want. Maybe they turn to friends, family, or religion for comfort, direction or inner peace. And some may look to drugs or alcohol to ease the pain that they may believe this world inflicted on them. Dealing with and avoiding pain for some is a necessary function of life. When it seemed, for me, like I had nothing else left, nothing to pull me out, I realized that my approach simply wasn’t working; it was backward.
I grew up in a pretty normal situation. I had two parents, went to a great public school, and anything I needed was provided for me. I had an extensive support system with grandparents, cousins, and friends.
When I turned 13, I started to figure out that something wasn’t right in my family. I began to notice that one of my parents didn’t act normal, often doing embarrassing things regardless of whether or not he knew people were watching. I often made excuses for him or repeated the excuses he gave me to others who were noticing as well. It was a few years later that I was able to label it correctly: drugs. As I was able to uncover more and more of what was happening in my family, I learned that my dad had been struggling with addiction since he was 14 years old.
I found out that my mom was trying her best to take care of all of us but was taking on more than she could handle. Even in spite of this new information I perceived, I was consistently being lied to or redirected from the situation, and there was nothing but confusion and frustration in my life. I jumped from friendship to friendship looking for someone to keep me afloat. I took antidepressants, eventually went to counseling. My religious life was the most satisfying, but even that had its limits. I made self-destructive decisions and became obsessed with self-image. All of that on top of the problems that any typical teenager would have to deal with: school, extra-curricular activities, friends, boyfriends, and getting ready for college.
My inner voice was trying to tell me my happiness cannot be defined by exterior motives.
But at some point along the line, I figured it out. I am not sure when it happened. I don’t have an exact date that I can celebrate the anniversary of this epiphany. But sometime, somewhere, I heard what my inner voice was trying to tell me all along. My happiness cannot be defined by exterior motives. Sure, I can get a trendy new haircut and bask in the glory of positive attention- but that isn’t sustainable. I could also choose not to eat for months, losing weight, but that would eventually only continue to cause more problems. At some point during my journey for self-discovery, I had to learn that my happiness and sense of self-needed to come from within.
It needed to come from the simple truth that I am enough and capable and that my life had meaning. There is hope for a better future. It was only at this point that I directed myself to self-loving behaviors. I am now constantly rediscovering this truth because it can be easy to forget. But it’s all I have ever needed to be able to make healthy decisions about my friends, education, marriage, and children. Equally, as important, I find myself wanting to help other people discover this truth in their lives. This path is both satisfying and fulfilling. So much so, that there isn’t room for unhealthy habits. No longer am I a slave to the outside world, but instead a director of my destiny, a person with intention and meaning. You see, my dad still struggles with addiction. That hasn’t changed. But I have changed so drastically that there is almost nothing left of the person who was suffering so much.
I love this quote from Viktor Frankl’s book, A Man’s Search for Meaning:
A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence and will be able to bear almost anything.
That’s what “dealing with pain” now means to me. In fact, I am not even sure if that’s the right phrase for it. I think it has turned from “dealing” with my pain, to overcoming it. Conquering. Finding my meaning in spite of that pain and therefore no longer feeling pain’s sting. The result is joy and peace.