Sunday, July 18, 2010

More Thoughts about "Notice Me!"

Yesterday I wrote that my addictions might have been a subconscious and inappropriate way of saying "Please notice me" to my parents. Today I'm wondering what did my parents notice about me back then?

We were a family of 5 kids, me being the first born. The youngest, my only sister, is 16 years younger than I. At the time of my growing alcohol, smoking and love addictions, I was 23-26 and my sister was just a child at 7-10. The brother next to me was away (college and military), leaving two other brothers, ages 15-18 and 12-15, at home. So, they had a youngster and two teenage boys, plus me, at home. Both my parents worked full time in demanding, professional careers.

I don't know if this is a factor or not... My biological dad was killed in a car accident when I was 5. My step dad and mom married when I was 7. So the siblings at home were my step sister and brothers. I didn't think of them that way; nor do I think I was ever any less family to my step dad for not being his own biological offspring.

My mom was more of a disciplinarian in our family than Dad, who I remember as being more easy-going. My brothers did not smoke or drink at that time. My dad smoked when he was in college, but quit when I was about 10. Mom never smoked. While I was living at home, neither Mom or Dad drank, except on special occasions, when they would have a bottle of wine at dinner. I do not have any knowledge of alcohol problems in my grandparent's generation, but my Mom's only brother, a WWII veteran, was said to be an alcoholic. My parents always seemed to have a stable, loving marriage.

In 1965-8, while living at home, working and attending graduate school, I began drinking regularly with co-workers after work. Once or twice a week, we closed the bars at 1 AM. Sometimes we continued to drink at a co-worker's apartment after that. Once in a while we started drinking during our lunch hour and never made it back to work. I was having occasional blackouts where I would continue to talk, walk and drive but without any conscious memory whatsoever. I smoked... 2 or 3 packs per day. I was having a bit of a romance with a married co-worker.

I did not smoke or drink at home. However, I came home drunk, sometimes while my parents were still up, slurring my words and stumbling to bed. And, of course I must have smelled like a smokestack. How could they NOT notice?

Sadly, my dad died 4 years ago. I can not ask him about those years now. Nor can I ask my mom, as her memory is nearly gone. The only thing I know is that maybe 5 or 6 years ago, Mom said that they had worried about me and my drinking a lot back in the 60s. I wish I had asked her what reasons they might have had for not talking to me about it then.

Ten possible reasons why my parents didn't talk to me about my addictions while I was living at home:
  1. They didn't know what to say.
  2. They felt more comfortable by pretending everything was OK.
  3. They thought drinking and smoking was just something college-aged kids did, more or less normal.
  4. They knew I was holding my full-time job and getting good grades in graduate school. So they figured my drinking was a minor problem that didn't affect my work or education.
  5. They had their own careers and three young kids to manage. So they didn't have remaining energy to deal with me.
  6. I was an adult, over 21. Maybe they didn't think they had the right any longer, as parents, to correct or discipline their adult offspring.
  7. My behaviors at home must have seemed decent, normal and in character to them. Therefore, they may not have realized the extent of my drinking and smoking away from home.
  8. They didn't know about addiction, thinking (as I did until recently) that addicts were homeless, street people who drank every day until they passed out. So they may have seen my drinking as a passing issue of a young adult of the times.
  9. My mother had to hide cookies. I would find them and eat many of them over a period of days. She must have known somebody was taking them, because she would always hide them in ever more clever places. She never said anything or asked who was "stealing" the cookies. Could she have suspected my brothers?
  10. Maybe to talk to me would be to admit "publicly" that they had somehow failed as parents.
I'll never know for sure. Nor can I know how it might have changed my future path into addiction if they had chosen to talk to me about it back then. I feel sad that they didn't say anything; I wish they had. But I can't change the past, theirs or mine. What I can do is to notice my present food addiction and care enough about myself to stop.
I forgive my parents. I open my heart in understanding and forgiveness to them for not talking with me about my actions and to myself for my behaviors during those years.


  1. I have heard a lot about the power of forgiveness. I imagine for most of us it is easier said than done. And maybe forgiving one's self is hardest? I am impressed with the clarity that you now have as you look back and consider your parents actions.

  2. I tried a 10 step program once...Emotions Anonymous. I couldn't relate it to my problems. I couldn't get into the higher power aspect.

    I can see that OA is helping you to sort out your past and present. I hope you continue to find the way to find peace and happiness.

    Funny how I can see how some of the issues you have talked about have certainly powered your addictions, but don't understand that about myself.

    My brother lived and died an alcoholic. I don't ever remember my mother acknowledging it. If anything she enabled it. I know my father and brother had heated words about it a lot. No one ever did anything to help him. I am sure they didn't have a clue how to help. Back then, things just weren't like they are now. Not many knew these problems were an illness, but thought them to be a weakness.

    Best wishes Robin. I'm pulling for you to work all this out.

  3. I'm sorry your folks didn't notice, or didn't realize, that you were having so many problems. I think that maybe all the reasons you listed had something to do with that. The fact that you can forgive your parents and yourself (and that's the hardest of all) and then be here in the present to notice yourself and take action is an amazing thing and speaks to your inner strengths and willingness to grow and change.

    This lights up a lot of my family stuff... My folks never, ever noticed me. I was generally ignored through my growing up years, and I have to admit, it kind of suited me. I had a lot more freedom than my friends did. But I also got no encouragement in anything. It seemed normal to me at the time, but looking back, I can't help but wonder, "what if..." In spite of my mom's and step-father's alcoholism, or maybe because of it, I never drank much and don't drink at all now. If I'm addicted to anything, it's probably books, art, beads, and fibers, and I can channel that into good things, I believe.

  4. There are probably many other possible reasons why your parents didn't say anything. One that occurs to me is that they did not want to give you the impression that they disapproved of you or the way you were behaving. Perhaps they were aware of your negative self image and didn't want you to think they saw you in a negative light.

    Sometimes my husband and I choose to not to say something to his sons. Our concern is that if they think we disapprove of certain activities, they won't feel they can come to us if/when they want to talk to us about it.

  5. When I get to thinking about what might have been, I try very hard (for both myself and others) to believe that I did the very best I could at the time, knowing what I knew then, and being the person I was then.
    For me, the best answer to past regrets is to make choices today that I will not regret in the future.

  6. I am the oldest of 5 kids, too, though not so much space between siblings. I know my mom worried about my weight when it became apparent that I took after my dad's side of the family. she was supportive of my dieting attempts (and my dad's) without being judgmental. It really didn't make a difference in the long run.

    I think if you are like me and just plain didn't get enough attention and nurturing and found solice in food, pointing out the errors of your ways would not solve them. Maybe it would make you look at them...but you know it is more complicated.

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