Forgiveness is such a tricky thing. I’ve written a little about my upbringing – I was born to a 14 year old mom and 21 year old dad. My dad struggled with alcohol (among many other things), and my mom was a teenage runaway. I was raised by my very old grandma for most of my childhood – and the occasional relative whenever she was sick, and I couldn’t stay with her. Me and Grandma…we were poor, we were different, but we did the best we could. My dad was in my life off and on, and I never met my mom. Thanks to my dad, I was exposed to so many ridiculous things as a child. I frequently sat in the passenger seat of the car as my dad drank beer and filled the passenger floor with beer cans. I watched my dad pass out from being drunk. I endured sexual abuse as a kid. I was brought to bars and strip clubs – in fact, I had a stripper try to take me away from my dad once because she felt he was being such a bad father! I was around my step mother having an affair, and I had to see my dad in the hospital …almost dead… because my step-mom’s boyfriend shot him. All of that shit…all of it…I understand for what it is and have made peace with. But there’s this whole other area in my life that I just can’t seem to get over. It comes and goes, it always hurts, and I really don’t know why.
When I was 13, I moved in with extended family – let’s call them Bob and Jan and their son Jimmy. Bob and Jan took me in when I needed it so badly. They got me out of my dad’s house and into a good neighborhood, good school, and a somewhat “normal” life. I owe what my life has become to Bob and Jan. But the thing is – even though it was a better environment – that time in my life is still a giant source of pain for me. All my life, I never felt like any place was my home. I was always sleeping on a couch, sharing a bed, staying in a guest room, or moving somewhere new. Bob and Jan’s place was no different. I was living in a guest room, and I was a source of resentment for Jan and her son Jimmy. Jan was always angry with me and constantly told me how selfish I was. Now don’t get me wrong – I WAS selfish -I was a teenage girl. They are always selfish. I was also a kid who grew up neglected and abused and always had to take care of myself. The only thing I knew was self. Jan argued with me, argued with Bob about me, and took Jimmy’s side in everything. I never felt like I had the right to speak up or stand my ground – it wasn’t MY home…it wasn’t MY family. I’m sure Jan expected me to understand how much more of a burden I caused by them taking me in, but how can any teenager understand that? I’m sure she expected me to just happily accept my upgraded life and keep to myself. But I was a teenager…a traumatized teenager. She tried to force me to face issues before I was ready, she was angry that I wouldn’t, and she wanted me to just get over myself. She was never abusive, but she wasn’t loving. She never showed she cared, even though I’m sure she did in her own way. She always seemed in a competition with me – a competition I didn’t know how to play and didn’t want to be in. Back then, all I wanted was to be loved unconditionally… and all she could offer was conditional love. All I wanted was to belong, to have a home, and to be a part of the family… and all she could offer was a guest spot.
Fast forward 20 years – Bob and Jan adore me and speak proudly of me. They refer to me as their daughter. They visit me and my husband, and we have a good time together. Me and Jan have meaningful conversations and have a lot in common. From the outside, we seem like we have worked through a few difficult years. And the thing is – up until last year – I thought we had gotten past it all (mostly). Then last year, I decided to quit drinking and EVERYTHING changed. I mean everything. Things that had nothing to do with drinking changed. For some reason, all of my relationships were back up for review. For some reason, everything I thought I knew …was wrong, different, or changing – including me and Jan. Without wine, suddenly, I hated Jan. When I thought of Jan, I just thought “how could you treat a broken child like that”? It’s like I am hurt all over again. Even though I never really drank to avoid things – daily drinking does that, doesn’t it? I basically spent my 20s-40s in a perpetual cycle of work hard all day long, then drink wine all evening long. When did I ever have time to actually address my feelings about anything? I guess I didn’t. I guess that’s why it’s still raw and painful and shitty. But how do you deal with all the past stuff? Stuff from 20 years ago? I don’t feel like she owes me anything. I don’t even feel it’s necessary to discuss the past with her. It’s something inside of me that needs to be resolved and nothing she can do or say will do that. I just don’t know how to process old feelings…how to let go…how to forgive. Maybe it’s just a time thing? What do you guys think?
4 thoughts on “Forgiveness”
Yeah, that’s what I noticed too: my idea of people totally changed when I quit. When I drank there were ‘good friends’ or ‘nice family members’ and when I quit I realised how I actually felt about them. And the thought: “Would I be with these people if they were not my family?” arose. I found that a lot of people were not all that nice and that part of our ‘dynamics’ had kept me in the loop of drinking. In being sober, a lot of work goes into deciding what you take in and what you leave out. That counts for people and the dynamics of relations too. (NB: Annastk76 filed a post on this subject today too – you are not the only one 😉 ).
I am not sure if you should even try to move towards forgiveness. I tend to think that forcing forgiveness on ourselves or others ‘nicely’ disallowes people to feel what is actually going on. It can be used as another form of denial. Being sober is about ‘being able to be with what is’. And when I read the path you have had to travel there is a lot that sounds amazingly difficult. Being with what is seems very difficult if there is an idea in the back of your mind chirping “Forgive! You need to forgive!”
One thing which does help me through difficult stuff with my parents: A person can not give what they do not have. 😦
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Sorry, not Annast76 but FunctioningGuzzler.
Thanks for this! I totally agree that this is a time where we really are deciding in what to take in and what to not. I’m not really looking to “forgive” in the sense of letting her off the hook. From what I’ve been told, forgiveness is not about the person who wronged you, but it’s about letting go of the wrong and finding a way to accept it and move on. That is what I am really in search of…a way to move past it. I dont want my life to be run by old feelings. Idk how I was able to let go of so much of the other stuff. Maybe because those things were so outrageous…maybe in some way that was easier. I’ll check out that other blogger you mentioned. Thank you!
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Yeah, funny how some things ‘stick’ to us and others just ‘wash off’. I haven’t worked it out for myself. 🙂 Time will tell. 🙂
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