From a lost child to a thoughtful adult

I have never been great at falling asleep.

Even as a small child, I struggled with taking naps and sleeping. My adverse sleeping habits have carried on into my young adult years. I’m not sure why I struggle with sleep. My best guess is a combination of genetics, habits and environment. It’s just another area of my life I need to improve.

I had one of those days where my pattern of thinking was deeper than usual. I am naturally a deep, pensive thinker to begin with, but today’s thoughts were deeper than usual.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my past. I reflected on my childhood, college years and past relationships extensively.

I’m going to open up a little bit: I experienced a lot of adversity and trauma in my childhood and teenage years. As a result, I started suffering from depression and anxiety at the fragile age of 13. Puberty is bad enough, but puberty for me was a nightmare.

The adversity and trauma derived from growing up in a home with parents who had serious substance abuse issues. The complex, destructive illness known as addiction consumed their lives and took hostage of their identities. All of us lived in hell and walked on eggs shells 24/7. My brothers and I witnessed events that nobody deserves to witness. We experienced too much “life” far too young. I do not want to go into too much detail at this time.

I think about how those experiences shaped me as a person. I look at the positive ways they did: I am very empathetic, I appreciate the small things in life, I am highly aware of my habits and surroundings, I don’t take people, places or things for granted, I am grateful for all that I have, I have a strong desire to help others

I also look at the negative ways my experiences shaped me as a person: I have a hell of a time trusting others, I struggle with letting people in, I’m highly sensitive and defensive, I dread making mistakes, I’ve struggled with maintaining friendships, I always fear the worst, I try to be perfect all the time, I struggle to relate to people who had a so-called “normal” life.

Thankfully, I am highly aware of these qualities I developed because I am the adult child of an alcoholic (thankfully now in recovery) mother and an addict (sadly now deceased) father. I strive to work on improving myself every day.

Today, I can say that I am happy for the first time ever in my life. I do have my bad days just like everyone else, but now I don’t let the bad overshadow my life like I used to. This year, I learned that I deserve better than what I had and I wanted to take on all that life has to offer me. I spent way too much time being unhappy because that’s all I knew. I only knew how to be unhappy due to unhappy circumstances. I spent three years of my life unhappy in a relationship that clearly was not healthy or right for me. I spent nearly all of my childhood and teenage years being unhappy, but that was due to circumstances far beyond my control. Too much of my young life was spent in misery, and I’m glad I finally did something about it. Don’t get me wrong, besides the relationship, my life improved drastically in the past five years, but I still wasn’t happy for three years. I spent three years pretending to be happy and going through the motions, just drifting through life, wishing things were different. I spent a lot of my young life wishing for things to be different.

Now, I don’t wish for many things to be different. I am content with where I am. Of course, there’s always room for improvement. We’re always looking for something more, something better, aren’t we?

For example, after I complete my Masters of Social Work, I would like to go spend a few weeks or a month in another country. I can only hope that I have some money saved up by then. That’s two years away, but I want to fulfill my desire to travel more, see more of the world, experience another culture, hopefully learn a new language. I want to get all that I can out of life while I’m still young. I have a lot of lost years to make up for.

If anyone else who reads this is also an adult child of an alcoholic or addict, I would love to hear your story and how your experiences shaped you. How did you cope and what are you doing today to make up for your “lost” years?

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