When I first started in Al-Anon, I thought that there was a different language being spoken. There are a lot of phrases that are used such as "One Day at a Time", "Let go and let God" "How important is it?" and many others. One of the acronyms that I could identify with was F.I.N.E. which means F--kedup, insecure, neurotic, and emotional. How true those adjectives fit me!
I came into the program after a lot of years of frustration, anger, self-pity, denial and low self-esteem. I always thought that I was a bit of a loner, although I like people. Now I've come to realize that I didn't let myself get too close to people for fear that they would know what kind of life I've had.
Denial is all about covering things up. In my childhood, one of my early memories of fear came when my dad had an automobile accident as a result of driving under the influence. I can still remember the police coming to the door and having my dad walk through with his arm hanging in a crooked way. He had broken his shoulder in the accident. Because my family was well known in the small town where we lived, there was no ticket or fine or anything. My dad had some beers and then drove his car too fast, spun the car out and broke his shoulder. End of story for the police since it was a single car accident. At that time, the local doctor who was a family friend, came to the house and splinted the arm. It never set properly and always there was a look of dislocation to his shoulder. I can remember the fear that I felt when the accident happened. Was my dad going to die? Why was he acting so different? These kinds of things were very scary for me.
As I grew older, I began to see that my dad would sit and sip whiskey on the weekends. He always went to work, always had a good job and was well respected in the community but something was obviously sad for him or why else would he hide a bottle and sip from it? I knew where the booze was hidden and thought many times about pouring it out. I hated having to be around the slurred speech at dinner time. I would retreat to my room and try to shut everything out by reading books or listening to music. I had friends but felt embarrassed to bring them over on the weekends. I never knew how my dad would be. He wasn't often brutal to me, although he would take a belt to me occasionally. Those times were painful for me because I didn't think that I deserved the punishment. I remember waking him once when he promised to take me to see some horses. I got the belt for waking him up. He also would issue a lot of orders to me, telling me to behave a certain way or to not "spill my guts" to my friends because they would then know as much as I did.
All of these instructions and the emotional strain at home pushed me towards perfectionism. That is a common trait of adult children of alcoholics. I began to develop a lot of anxiety over my school work. I loved first grade because I was popular and enjoyed playing with other kids. By fourth grade though, I was eaten up with anxiety. I had to make straight A's and had to have the teacher and others like me. It was no doubt the manifestation of my co-dependency: Be perfect, manipulate others for strokes, and hide the sadness with a facade of false smiles. I had a fourth grade teacher who didn't fall for my stuff and it was the first time I remember being hard hit by rejection. I was to have a lot more of that as the years went on.