I have a snapshot of myself around age 4 with fat cheeks, a big smile, dark hair, and bright eyes. Lately this photo has been a touchstone. A touchstone to remember why I have to do the things I have to do. Because sometimes I still feel the drive to do the reckless thing the 17, 19, and 21-year-old did.
Not with the same regularity or intensity, but in flashes. Set it all on fire; watch it all burn. And then I think of that little girl and what I’d do to protect her. Anything and everything. She has such a big heart. She trusts so completely. No defenses, no walls, no filters. No self consciousness or urge to self-destruct. Not yet. She trusts she will be loved, cared for, nurtured. I must be the one to do that for her now.
On Sunday night I looked up the characteristics of adult children of alcoholics. In all these years of dancing around the themes I’m not sure I’ve ever actually looked at the list before. It felt like being probed for a strep test with a swab down the throat. It was painful and shone a bright light on the source of so much. Fear of abandonment, approval seeking behavior, victim mentality, harsh inner critic, inability to process criticism, super responsible/super irresponsible, addictive personalty, etc, etc.
This week as I struggle to stay true to the boundaries and bottom lines I’ve set for myself, I call this child to mind. Would I let her drink poison? Would I throw her to the wolves? No. I hope not. I hope with all my heart I will always protect her fiercely and with great love. I really do.