Parenting Parents

It is really, really important for it to sink in to my thick skull that this path is my own, that others will cross it in ways that are both magnificently helpful and harrowingly painful, but that all such crossings are teachings, especially in that they are transient, uneasy, and ownerless. It is good to be free of illusions, no matter how painful the uncoupling.

Because of my father’s alcoholism, the severity of which killed him at age 45, I have a sense of self that is codependent, which is normally the case for children of severe, abusive alcoholics. I grew up parenting my parents, and that perversion of the normal direction of basic protection means I pitied my parents. I have lived by parenting my parents.

There is nothing scarier for a child than to pity her parents. I developed a twisted form of compassion that is based in and bound up with my own fear of abandonment and unworthiness. I’m aware of this pattern metacognitively and have been since I read the AA literature in my early teens. So nothing new here, yet it is amazing how insidiously
codependency can worm its way into otherwise straightforward relations. Surprise! Gotcha again!

Not that the recent difficulty stemmed only, or even mostly, from my past. It stems from Daniel’s own private difficulties, too. But now at least we know, and knowing the truth, as usual, leads to freedom.

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