I know most of you have heard the other phrase, “Opinions are like assholes and everybody has them”, well this can be said for expectations too. Have you ever helped someone move and then when it came time for you to move, it seemed like those same people were not “able” or willing to help you? Have you shown up at every school function, church function, game, concert, and fundraiser for your friends/ family member’s children, but when you throw a party no one comes? These are all examples of expectations, and we all have them!
Many times in our lives that we are told to have high expectations. For example, my dads always told me to expect the world from men that wanted to date me. Never settle for something less than perfection! Then, there are times we are told to keep our expectations low. Maybe we are applying for a promotion or asking for a raise. “Keep your expectations low so you are not disappointed”, was the phrase heard most often. Well, which is it? Should we have high or low or no expectations at all? If we don’t have expectations, then is there any reason to strive for better/ more?
As I stated in my first post, I am an adult child of alcoholic and addict parents. Well actually of parents, grandparents, and great grandparents (as well as many aunts, uncles, and cousins). A lot of difficult things come from with growing up in a “dysfunctional family” (our ACoA tagline for our chaotic childhoods while dealing with drugs and/ or alcohol in our lives).
Each one of us has a unique story or perspective on how our childhoods have affected us. Much like every other “normal” family, there are moments that were difficult and caused us issues or pain that has been carried into our adult lives. However, there are also many good times that have built us up into the people that we are today.
I think of my experience as a reason that I have become who I am. The good and the bad have made me, well me! I may have had parents that fought or drank but I also had an amazingly close relationship with my siblings. This is something that many of my other friends could never relate to.
I may have had a large house and many material possessions due to my parents success at work. However, I also had a complex fear of failure and an overwhelming feeling of ineptitude due to high expectations (theirs and my own!).
Now, I am not special! My experience may be unique to my family, but here may be many people that have grown up in way worse situations than myself. Many others that cannot relate to my story because they had a very different childhood than my own. Also, there are people that don’t accept either of those paths as their truth. That is ok! I am just telling my story and my experience without judgement of anyone else. I hope that my story today helps those that need it and impacts those that do not equally.
My mother has been sober for 6 years. An amazing accomplishment, but for much of those 6 years we have not had a relationship. Much of the deterioration of our relationship was due to her use during my childhood and the behaviors that accompanied that. Also, it was also due to my own issues with acceptance and forgiveness.
I would label our current relationship as a “work in progress” but it at least some sort of relationship. We continue to try every day to build our relationship and re-learn who one another is.
My mother decided it was time for her 9th step amends letter to me. We scheduled many days in advance to meet and go through this portion of the step together. For those that have not done a 9th step, (or worked any of the AA steps – please see picture below for the 12 steps) this step asks the addict to make an apology to those they have harmed.
Let me give anyone that plans on doing this step some advice; do not “schedule it”! Maybe tell someone that you would like to meet for coffee or lunch or something, just do not say that you want to read your amends to them! We did, and here is what happened…
To her, this was an emotional and satisfying release of guilt. For me, it was a general brush over deeply painful wounds. Very different experience, right?! Well, I had formed all these expectations of what I wanted her to apologize for (much that she doesn’t even remember). I had an opinion about every word she uttered. While I watched her cry and very genuinely spill her guts; I remained mostly unfeeling and wanting more. For anyone that knows me, this reaction is not like me. We hugged, shared some more thoughts together, and I neatly folded my letter and placed it in my purse. As I drove home, I tried not to think of it but the words from the page were swimming through my brain. I got home, plopped on the couch, and turned to my husband.
“Well, that wasn’t what I was hoping for!”
“Why? What did she say?” Hubs said
“Well, she admitted that she was selfish, manipulative, and cold toward me.”
“But she didn’t say anything about this one time that I…”
“but she apologized for all those things you said?” (yes he cut me off!)
“Yes, she did. But…”
“Well, that is more than you would have even gotten before. Maybe you should just sit with the fact that you even heard a genuine “I’m sorry” for a bit. That or else you can vent about it for the rest of the night, I will let you bitch until you fall asleep if you want, but after tonight, you cannot say one more negative word about it, you take your pick.” (I hate when he says smart things like this by the way!)
“OK, well then I choose to vent tonight!” (gut reactions) and then I sat there for a second and said at last, “I just wish it felt more personal! Never mind, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I am just kind of sad…”
Finally he said, “I understand you are sad but those things that she said are really amazing! Can you imagine how hard it was for her to say what she did? She said she’s sorry, she’s selfish and she’s amazed and proud of who you are, what else could there possibly be?”
He gave me a hug and let me cry for just a bit and said the next smart thing, “She finally sees what I have seen in you for the last 15 years, and she thinks you are amazing just like I do. Now it’s time for you to think that about yourself!”
The next day when I saw her at my nephew’s birthday all was right in the world (or at least in the Marvel metropolis that we had tried to create for his birthday)! We are not 100% better! We have a lot of work to do and are still discovering who each other is. But this person that was able to say what she said and move toward another healthy step in her recovery, that is the mom I cannot wait to get to know!
No recipe today..instead the tip is simple: Love yourself and forgive others! You do not have to forget the past because those hurdles have made you the amazing person you are. Forgiveness lets you move forward and end up somewhere unexpected.
Help for the Family with Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Substance Abuse. Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are complex, life-threatening issues. Our goal is to help the family, friends and those who suffer, get the help they deserve. We understand how confusing this process can be and the impact it has on the family.