Addiction and lack of direction go hand in hand. It’s difficult to pinpoint just which one comes first. I generally opt for starting out life with a lack of direction, booze and drugs to follow (shortly).
I grew up surrounded by a bunch of aimless, drunken, souls whose main ambitions every week were to survive and then to get blasted on Saturday night.
Nobody ever sat me down and said, “What would you like to do?” Nobody ever showed that much interest in me. The general attitudes around my childhood home were a) that I was a burden for them to endure and b) that I was a handy weapon my mother could use against my father and c) that children should be seen and not heard. Nor did anyone try to give me a leg up on life by teaching me anything (worthwhile, or not). Frankly, they didn’t have very much to offer. I was a bright kid, who could’ve done a lot if I’d been given half a chance (or even some outside tutoring). Regrettably, I had to figure everything out for myself (becoming an autodidact) and it came as a rude shock when, in the middle of the 9th grade, I realized that I couldn’t teach myself algebra. I threw in the towel on education when I hit that brick wall. I barely managed to finish high school, despite the kindness and interest of a handful of teachers. I was too ashamed to ask any of them for help.
My primary responsibilities as a kid were a) to keep up appearances in Catholic (and later, public) school so that no attention would ever be drawn to what was actually happening in my house and b) to clean up after the alcohol-fueled messes.
Consequently, I’ve never aspired to be successful. I’ve never aspired to “having a career” or even having a job that I would be remotely interested in. If I mastered something, I got bored with it. If it was too hard (i.e., it took more than a week to learn) I quickly lost interest and tossed it aside.
The same went for people. Either I mastered them overnight, or they fell by the wayside.
And there were careers and relationships. To all outward appearances, both were lovely. But they weren't. They were empty shams.
Nothing fulfilled me. Nothing gave me a sense of being. I spent most of my life being a big, empty, nothing.
Only recently have I begun to realize that all those things I failed to get in childhood (including having decent role models for healthy relationships) I was now in an ideal position to give as a sober adult.
The rooms of 12-Step programs are full of needy people, who, like me, grew up empty, desperate for loving direction, kindly help and moral support. I had the opportunity to “be” the very thing I so desperately craved. I could be the loving father and mother to others that I never had for myself.
I had a chance, at long last, to be fulfilled.
p.s. I'm watching the live stream of the California Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of Prop 8. So far I'm having a hard time pinning down the court's attitude.