Putting down the drink is not enough and it’s not just about staying sober. We are here to thrive and fulfil our potential. That means we have to process and deal with the stuff that was weighing us down, the underlying issues that fuelled our drinking. This is not about ‘dwelling on the past’ but taking the learning gifts from paste events so we can then move on.
The following is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom.’ It’s part of a series of posts I’m doing called ‘Sober Solutions’ which looks at the issues alcoholics need to be address to achieve quality long-term sobriety.
Healing past relationships: parents
Whether we had a good or bad experience growing up, our parents have a profound and long lasting impact on our lives, often without our realising.
We will always be their child, no matter how old we are, and our task is to become independent of them: free of their baggage, which we inadvertently picked up.
Even if your parents were absent, you will still have to deal with your experience of not being parented adequately. Co-dependency can often occur in adult and child relationships, and can continue into the child’s adult life.
Without realising it, parents can convey strong messages: that the child needs to please the parents in order to receive their love, or that the child exists to provide the parent with the love they never received.
This can be when the seeds of co-dependency are planted.
We can grow into adults who are never free of the unhealthy chains that bind us to our parents’ approval. Often, our parents don’t realise what they are doing, and may never recognise their behaviour, so we have to be responsible for ‘unchaining’ ourselves.
The words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are two of the most powerful words we have in our vocabulary, and are usually the first words we learn.
They are powerful because of the meanings we attach to them.
The word ‘mother’ in our culture generally means: love, comfort, support, tenderness, safety, gentleness, caring etc.
The word ‘father’ in our culture generally means: discipline, order, authority, power, fun, guidance, leader, etc.
When you take these words away from the person, all you have left is a person who is trying to do the best they can, however inadequate that may actually be.
The words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ are powerful because of these meanings; we project onto them an image of perfection.
No one can live up to what the word suggests.
Like you, mums and dads are works in progress.
So, one of the keys to freedom is to let go of your parents, and what they did and didn’t do to you. They are just people after all. Have a relationship with them, but stop getting angry or frustrated with them. Stop blaming them. You only keep yourself chained if you don’t.
Now here’s the deal: your parents are human beings too and they were doing the best they could with the tools they had available.
Now the next bit is really important, so pay attention:
All their behaviour was about them, and not you.
This is very important. The way your parents behaved didn’t have anything to do with their loving you or not loving you. Their behaviour was just a manifestation of how they felt, just as your behavour is.
Have a think about that.
This stuff can be very complicated, not to mention painful, so I’ll try and make it as simple as possible. At some point, we do have to ‘let go’ of our parents. You may have had an absent or abusive parent – sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically –or an inadequate parent. You may have had a parent who wasn’t fully ‘present’ because they were so wrapped up in themselves.
You may have had a parent who couldn’t express love.
It’s important that you know that these were their failings, not yours!
Abuse of any kind, especially by a parent, is a terrible thing.
However, it wasn’t your fault, and it certainly wasn’t because you weren’t good enough.
However, this is the interpretation we come to, because when we are children we take everything personally.
In fact, as adults we still take everything personally.
We interpret the world personally. We interpret everyone else’s behaviour to mean something personal, especially that of our parents. Knowing this is enormously freeing. Our parents were caught up in their own ‘stuff’, which sometimes had an impact on you.
So now it’s time to see your parents as the flawed human beings they are. There’s nothing bad about that; maybe they worked on themselves, maybe they didn’t.
Whatever their failings were, don’t take responsibility for them. They’re not yours. Put them down and experience what it’s like to be free from that baggage.
We pick up lots of unwanted stuff from our parents: guilt, shame, feelings of not being good enough and so on. Now is the time to recognise this: ‘uncover, discover, discard’.
Love your parents if you can, understand they did the best they good even if it was inadequate and then take the steps you need to be free.
This is your life to live, not theirs.
This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom’ available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.