Which leaves me…?

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Lately I have been having a hard time with labels.  I know theoretically, people are not “supposed” to have labels, but when I was in 8th grade I was slapped with the label: “Child of an Alcoholic”.  This label became a part of who I was, how others saw me…it became a part of my identity.  However, in my case, this label was not a bad thing.  After I was given this label, I knew I wasn’t alone.  I was a part of a bigger group.  I could check out books in the library that could help me understand myself and my father better.  Once I got older, there were online groups I could join.  That label lead me to write this blog.  Over the years, I accepted and even embraced having the label “Child of an Alcoholic” or a COA (now a ACOA).  That label made me feel like a victim, but also gave me strength.  It made me feel like a survivor.  I never used being a COA as an excuse for my behavior or treatment of others, but it helped me analyze myself, my relationships, my family.

I have a lot of roles in my life that can be labeled: sister, friend, teacher.  Up until a year and a half or so ago, I would have added child of an alcoholic to that list.  I never really saw it as a bad thing, rather just a fundamental part of who I was.  It was one of those things that if I met another COA, we had an immediate bond.

Almost a year and a half ago, my father had a stroke.  After drinking every day for over 20 years, he stopped.  Just like that.  One day he was a drunk and the next day he wasn’t.  It sounds ridiculous and impossible.  It seems too easy.  He is not a perfect father now, but he is no longer belligerent or unpredictable.  He does not verbally abuse me through email, voice mail or in person.  I’m not afraid of him anymore.  Trust me, it is so much better, but it is also confusing.  If my father isn’t an alcoholic anymore, am I still a COA?  I talked to my therapist about it, knowing what her answer would be…of course I am.  Him changing now does not erase the two decades of abuse that I suffered through.  It doesn’t just magically repair all of the damage he did to me and to my family.  I guess I am just having a hard time reconciling the before and after of who I am if he’s no longer an alcoholic.  I know fundamentally I did not change, but things do feel different.  I suppose that is the dangerous part about having labels- what happens when they change?  I mean, at one point in my life I was a wife.  Then I got divorced and the next day I wasn’t one anymore.   But that situation seems different to me.  I guess the breakdown of my marriage happened over time and I knew it was coming.  My father becoming sober was so unexpected, it happened so fast.  And although I was a wife for several years, I was (am?) a COA for the majority of my life.

There has been a part of me throughout this past year and a half that has just been waiting…waiting for my dad to drink again, to have another stroke, or even to die.  And now that some time has passed, I’m beginning to trust that this is the new image of my family.  I guess that I am still figuring out with what to do with the old one…

8 comments on “Which leaves me…?

  1. El Guapo says:

    I guess now you get to pick your own label to define yourself…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Labels are useful, and can also be constraining – my personal experience. I love what you’ve written here.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I grew up in a family riddled with alcoholics, but found my place (or label) when I married my own personal alcoholic at 25. Even after two years away from him, and countless hours of therapy and support groups, I still find myself wondering who I am. I spent so long defined by the abuse (and by trying to be “a good wife” to avoid the abuse), that I lost a bit of who I was beyond that in the process. It has been a wonderful and ongoing experience discovering parts of myself that I never knew existed before, and I want to wish you well on your own journey rediscovering yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do Nothing Daughter says:

      Thank you for commenting. I guess trying to fit the labels we have isn’t always what is best for us. I also tried too long to be a good wife (and lost A LOT of who I was). I’m glad we are both on a new journey of self-discovery!! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. cleyboldt says:

    My blog is all about labels, how we chose some and just ended up with others. Each one adds something to who you are now. If you find the little bit of “good” that came out of each one, you’ll see all the goods that are in you now. Keep writing. I will follow:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Do Nothing Daughter says:

      I love that! I will definitely be reading more of your posts. It is so interesting how we do assume roles and I like how you look at the positive aspect of that. Thank you for reading my blog- I greatly appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beleza says:

    Did my previous comment post? Is it floating around your blog somewhere? ** swears at WordPress **. Label me frustrated. Signed ~ fellow ACOA (who had a really cool comment and doesn’t want to peck it out on her tiny phone keyboard again)

    Liked by 1 person

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