On and off for the last few months, I’ve been slowly trying to work through the chapters of Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents: An Evidence-Based Workbook to Heal Your Past by Kara Lissy, LCSW. My sister recommended this book awhile back and I really like it as a guide. It is a lot of work, mentally and emotionally, so I’ve only done bite-size bits at a time. Sometimes I settle on one part for longer if I need time to think and come back to the prompt… and sometimes I just skip them.
That was the case with this prompt. I read it and immediately knew, nope, not now. And I moved on. I didn’t even feel bad for skipping. I knew I would need to be in a special place to be able to go into those emotions, thoughts, and feelings. It lingered in the back of my mind and I knew I needed to make space for this activity. Enter spring break and I found myself in a coffee shop a little more out of the way than my normal Starbucks for reading and writing. I needed a sacred space, a place that would allow me to step into an uncomfortable space.
The prompt: “Write a letter to your alcoholic parent, expressing in unfiltered words how you feel about the things you experienced and what was taken from you.”
That was step one. I think it was the word “unfiltered” that terrified me the most. I don’t even know if I’ve let myself think unfiltered thoughts about my dad, much less put unfiltered words to those thoughts. Written and spoken words bring the thought world into reality and I was unsure I was ready or even wanted to welcome this darkness just yet… But the reality was that it was sitting in me whether I was ready or not, so purging it out seemed like the right thing to do. Part of me welcomes the hard parts of exposure because I know that things can be sorted out and healed when you can see clearly… but there’s a subconscious part of me that has avoided it for a very long time because I know it’s going to be uncomfortable and more than likely hurt.
And so I sat down at a convenient corner table facing outside the coffee shop and procrastinated with the help of Pinterest. I opened the book and read the prompt again. I knew the gist of it. Write an honest letter. And I already knew that this was not something I would ever give to him, so I opened up a little.
I’m really tired. I’m really tired of you texting me, keeping me tied to the past. You weren’t there for me as a kid, so now, please let me be. Leave me alone. Stop agitating old wounds.
It started off simple enough. Though still filled with emotion, I thought at this point that it would be something I could share here. With that in mind, I continued writing.
You were selfish then and you still are. You only think about yourself. You don’t actually care about my life.
And that’s when I stopped. I held back my pen from writing the next words that came so quickly out of nowhere that it scared me. Tears pooled and heavy drops rolled down to my mouth. I couldn’t write that. Suddenly my desire for brutal honesty was no longer appealing. More like frightening and appalling. I simply couldn’t write it because it made it real. I wrestled. I fought. But in the end, self-preservation gave way to hope for breakthrough. And so I wrote.
I hate you.
Those are strong the strong words that accompanied the strong feelings that made my body tense. And before anyone tries to remind me of that and how it’s probably not good to hate… the truth is, that was in me and I had no idea. Whether I say the words or not, the sickness of that has been locked inside of me. I was shocked at my own very strong feelings. I was broken at the realization of how much it hurt. It was at the back of my throat and in the pit of my stomach. I kept wiping tears.
You’ve caused so much pain and stress in my life.
The rest poured from inside of me almost faster than I could write. Words were being put to vague feelings, concretely validating my experiences as I wrote more memories and details of the way I’d also seen him hurt my sisters, my mom, and even his parents and siblings. I quickly realized that this letter would not make it’s way public for now and went on to write another full page and a half of moments and other things.
I was struck by the deep pain I felt when I wrote about my sisters. I was angrier with him about that than anything else. I wiped more warm tears away, grateful for the table of solitude in the corner, figuring most people were unaware and leaving me to just be. Grief. So much grief. Why did he do and say the things he did? How could any grown adult? It hurt me that he did that to them and there’s a sadness and powerlessness when I realize I couldn’t stop it.
You had/have problems and don’t want to face them or deal with them. But I’m tired and don’t want anything to do with your issues anymore. They’re yours, not mine.
It ended the way it began. I’m tired. I spent the majority of my life bearing the weight of consequences of problems that were not mine. As scary and revealing as this activity was, I think it will be only the first of more to come. I found it healing to rid myself of the disgust I have had locked away for so long. It’s harder than we think to be honest with ourselves because we’re inclined to protect and shield ourselves from harm and pain.
It wasn’t until later that evening that I noticed that there was another part to the prompt: “If you are able, feel free to add a section about forgiveness. You might use this letter as an opportunity to move forward. However, this is not necessary. Some wounds are too deep and we may not be ready to forgive them yet. In this case, a letter explaining your feelings is enough.” I appreciated the sensitivity it gave to knowing that everyone has a different timeline, but it did begin to tug in my heart.
Forgiveness. Repentance. My heart aches.
I want to learn. I want to know how. I want to be healed.
But it’s a process.
With no intention of sending it, have you ever tried writing a letter to help you process something?
Leave a Reply