A Work in Progress: Reflections of the Adult Child of an Alcoholic

After 50 years it’s done. As a lawyer I have always stood by the rule not to put anything in writing that you don’t want coming back at you under oath. As long as it’s in your head it’s work product. Can’t be discovered. Privileged. But the time has come for me to face the truth. Walk the talk that I have been spouting for too long without facing the reality of what brought me to LAP in the first place.

I am the adult child of an alcoholic. Before that I was just the child of an alcoholic. Years of intensive therapy would probably help me truly understand what this means and how it has affected my life and continues to affect my life. At this point the years of therapy won’t help the past, but may help how I deal with the present and the future.

My professional life is, for the most part, behind me. Sliding toward retirement after a somewhat successful career, I have nothing else to prove, but I still feel as if I have much to give. I guess once you reach this age you don’t care whether others really like you or invite you to their cocktail parties. Why say this now in this venue? Because where I am now is a product of where I have been.

In the beginning, over 40 years ago, I can remember visiting my father in an exclusive rehab center, a place for the right people from the right backgrounds. I went to my first Al-Anon meeting there. Regardless of the group, I still was not ready to admit that my family had a problem because of my father’s alcoholism. Life went on, evening cocktails as usual, ruined holidays, DWIs that became other charges as was the norm back then, and finally the financial “embarrassments”.

College was a blessed relief. I ran…fast! I didn’t have a clue that what I was running to was a pattern for children of alcoholics. Then my father died. I thought it was all over, but I was wrong. Even after his death I had to excel and I did, but I was always worried that others would see that I was a fraud, that I wasn’t as good as they thought I was. This colored my entire professional life. Even when I was successful, my view deep inside was that I was never good enough. This lead to a cycle of anxiety that at times paralyzed me. I was drawn into relationships where the other party was in need of rescuing, and when I couldn’t save them, I spiraled into depression because I felt as though I had failed them. I was extremely loyal even to those people in my professional life who were emotional bullies, reinforcing my perception of never being good enough even when I was perceived by others to be quite excellent in my profession.

I have never committed these things to writing until now. Looking back it all makes sense. Did I mention that resilience is also a trait of children of alcoholics? A few years ago I found FRIENDS the mental health support arm of the LAP, now all under one umbrella called LAP. There is help for the asking. Lawyers are fixers by nature. When I couldn’t fix my own family or my clients, in my own eyes I was a failure as a person and as a professional. My focus today is on fixing myself. My message now, today, is fix yourself first. Call the LAP. Find an Al-Anon meeting. It’s confidential and there is no judgment. The serenity, happiness and satisfaction of the rest of your life may depend on it.

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