I’ve learned through these past 13 years of being in Recovery, from alcoholism, that a lifetime of blaming others and myself was hardwired into me from the start. The first time I realized the responsibility I carried, and the weight of it, was when I was watching my parents give my 15-month-old twin sisters their bottle feedings in the middle of the night. I was watching because I was holding my month-old brother giving him his bottle and I had no idea how to do it; I was seven.
A bigger part of me, bigger than the fear of doing it wrong, was proud of myself that I could show my parents how helpful I was. As we grew up, my siblings and I were terrified most days on what mood either of our parents would be in. As a direct result of untreated mental illness on our mom’s part and untreated alcoholism on my dad’s there was a lot of tiptoeing around them and doing as much as we could so they wouldn’t be mad or overwhelmed.
The most wonderful part of being in recovery is learning how to do life without resentment. There is no relief from our inner emotional pain if we are blaming someone for how we feel. However, back in the day where being the oldest of all of these kids, they had my sister Dina when I was 14, left me in the position of being of maximum service to them yet right in the line of fire of blame when things went wrong. They had to blame someone.
The hell of their years of being children in horrible situations came flooding out and down on those of us too vulnerable and innocent to know that none of what was going on in front of us was our fault. Yet, it has taken 28 years of heavy drinking, coming to a bottom where I finally found the gift of desperation, without killing my self, and was shown an amazingly new way to live. Was it unfamiliar in recovery, hell yeh. But nothing I did to get sober would be from anything I had learned ever in my life before.
Without blaming my parents for one second of my childhood and adolescence, I learned and am learning not all that happened back then was bad. There were great days and great kindnesses. Now, as I approach my 60th birthday, I wouldn’t change one second of it. I am who I am because of each experience of feeding, changing and bathing my four younger siblings. I also learned compassion and empathy as I attempted to calm the inner turmoil of each of my parents who struggled with seemingly insurmountable odds.
Free from most of the guilt of being blamed for just being me, I find others in recovery, my work and my personal life who finding their own journey towards acceptance. It’s okay to feel the way we do, to be who we are and continue to seek more. Let’s talk about it.
Debra Whittam is the author of “I'm I Going to be Ok?" For any media inquiries or questions please contact: Contact@DebraWhittam.com