Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dreams? What're those?

When I was a couple of months sober somebody I respected and looked up to said to me:

"Now that you're sober you're free to follow your dreams."

I looked at him like he was from another planet. "Dreams?" I thought. "What the f*ck are dreams?"

This is what happens to people who grow up in alcoholic households. They don't have dreams. They don't know "how" to have dreams. All the "dreaming" got knocked out of them when they were very little kids. That's what happened to me.

ACOA's (adult children of alcoholics) don't have dreams. They have anger. And lots of it.

When you grow up in a family with an alcoholic in it everything, absolutely everything, revolves around the alcoholic and their needs. You're constantly walking on eggshells, because you never know what least little thing will cause a nuclear explosion out of the drunk. The whole dynamic of a room will change when the alcoholic walks into it. Everyone will become instantly subdued because of fear. Fear that the drunk will blow up.

I spent a lot of time as a little kid cowering under the covers of my bed, wondering if "those people" downstairs, or in the next room, were going to kill themselves because they were drunk and so angry with each other. Worse, I used to wonder if they'd kill me instead, because they seemed to spend so much time arguing ABOUT me. I used to think that their lives would be so much better if only I hadn't come along to f*ck things up.

Yes, I used to think that.

And as for "plans," forget about it. Whatever yesterday's "plans" were are out the window today. One day I could've been promised a pony or a trip to the New York World's Fair and the next day it was the same old sh*t..... only worse. The same went for household rules. Yesterday's rules are moot. Today we have all new rules, so please memorize them and adhere to them religiously, if you know what's good for you.

So I learned pretty early on to not believe in promises and to never pay any attention to plans. In fact, I pretty much become a cipher, a zero, a nothing, barely surviving the lack of oxygen in my life because all of the available energy, including mine, was being poured (literally and figuratively) into the centerpiece of the house, Their Majesties, the Family Alcoholics! I just kept my head down and my powder dry. I didn't have many friends because I couldn't risk bringing anyone into the "chaos" which reigned supreme at home. I didn't participate in many school activities because, well, that could lead to friendships and friendships could lead to someone wanting to "meet the parents." And that could never occur.

I spent my teens pretty much shut up in my bedroom, awaiting rescue. But, of course, the cavalry never arrived. But I kept hoping. Rescue finally did arrive, in the form of a draft notice from Uncle Sam. He wanted me to go die in a rice paddy in southeast Asia, but I got a brighter idea and enlisted in the Navy, instead. That's what it finally took to get me out of the House of Horrors where I did a credible job of raising me, if I do say so myself.

Oh, and you also never learn how to ask for help from anyone, either. There's no help available at home, or even in the extended family (who are all busy looking the other way so that THEY don't have to confront the drunk, either). I thought I had to do everything on my own. Worse, I thought I had to do it perfectly, in order to try to help keep the peace at home. So I became a neurotic, nervous-wreck, perfectionist who was mostly self-taught.

It's no wonder I became what I always swore I would never be. A drunk, just like my mother and grandmother. Believe me, by the time I had my first drink, I really needed it!

Those drunks of my childhood are long since dead, but their "melody lingers on" in my life. I'm still not able to sit down and come up with "plans" for anything. Oh, I can get it together to do things, fix things or be somewhere. I can hold down a job, or I can make a date for dinner and keep it. But to come up with some sort of reasonable, realistic, long-term plans for a career, or college, or even a relationship, are things which elude me and remain, in many ways, alien concepts.

A childhood spent "living from moment to moment" very easily translates into an adulthood spent living from day to day.

Fortunately, for me, that concept worked perfectly in early sobriety, where the idea of staying away from a drink is reduced to doing it "one day at a time."

Unfortunately, it's robbed me of one of life's greatest gifts, the ability to have a dream.

Anybody want to lend or sell me one?


Bev Sykes said...

Ellen Degeneres is encouraging people to make a "life list," of things that you want to do in your life before you die. Do you know I can't think of a single thing....?

Bev Sykes said...

P.S. That doesn't necessarily mean that things are all bad. I've accomplished a lot of what I wanted to do in life (and more than I ever dreamed), but when I look ahead to the future, I can't think of a possible thing (meaning a thing that is possible) to put on my life list. I can think of a couple of impossible things.... (and you know what they are!)

JoyZeeBoy said...

Well, that was my point. ACOAs just don't think in terms of unfinished business.

Our business is always finished because it's always "right now."