Taking The First Step: Reflections on Powerlessness from an Adult Child of a Non-Alcoholic Family (and Citizen of a World Gone Mad)

L and RyBy Lindsay Airey (right, with nephew Riley), on the occasion of working her First Step, prodded by the context and struggle of Beloved Detroit…

Admitting our powerlessness may be very difficult for us. After all, we are the competent ones who held the family, the job, or the world together while the alcoholics in our lives created chaos. How can it be that we, the responsible ones, are powerless?
Pathways to Recovery, AlAnon Family Groups

It is so true. I thought my being “good,” “perfect,” “responsible,” “aware,” “sensitive,” and “insightful” would all be what saved my family and stopped the chaos I felt. If I just figured out what was wrong, what was hurtful, and told them, they would surely change. They just didn’t see it (I told myself), and when they do, they’ll change! But all my tears, insight, responsibility, “goodness,” and withdrawing never saved a single one.

So now come the tears. Tears for my little one, who did the best she knew how to survive. For all her efforts to “save” others, which turned out to be deluded and wasted, unwitting cooperations with the very system she labored in vain to change. Sadness for the little girl who took it upon herself to stop the chaos, instability, and hurt she sensed.

Sadness for the time she spent focused on all that, to the neglect of her own spirit.

Sadness for the harm done to her (often unwittingly), which she grew to inflict upon herself (also unwittingly), buying into the lie that the pain, anger, and distress of those close to her were more important than her own… and, perhaps, might even be her fault?

Sadness for cutting off from her own spirit-wisdom (some might call it “self care”), in order to vigilantly self-protect against all these threats to love and trust.

Sadness for the adult, who still carries the open wounds of the little girl, and still deludes herself into thinking she is alone and must be all-powerful in order to ward off the chaos.

Sadness for how she inflicts this violence onto others now, fooling herself into thinking this will keep her safe, and just maybe, save them? “Them” extending far beyond her own family, finding all unwitting victims who look like they might need her unsolicited “help,” “reform” or “insight.”

Tears for her Dad, who once woke from a deep sleep in the ICU to stare his eldest daughter in the face (even as he stared down death, itself), confessing through tears,

I was the hardest on you, Linds… I was the hardest on you. I used to have your sensitivity and creativity… but I’m afraid it was all beaten out of me.

Sadness for the terror and abandonment his little one faced at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and cherish him.

Sadness for all little girls and little boys who grow up having to ward off (too often alone) the threats of a world gone mad.

Sadness for the isolated families who shoulder too much of this burden.

Sadness for the wounded and isolated adult children—now parents, teachers, mentors, coaches—who do their best to help these children fend off the demons they face.

Sadness for the battle that still rages within those adult children, as they face (too often alone) the same demons.

Sadness for a “civilization” that has detached us all from Spirit—in-ourselves, in each other, and in the great web of life (now hidden) teaming all around us. A civilization that has squeezed us violently into the mold of human producings and consumings, rather than fellow beings—sisters, brothers, comrades, friends.

May the groans, wails, and deep grief of Mother Earth make their way into our own souls. May they pry open our locked-down spirits. May we be healed by natural rhythms and the wisdom of old, both human and non-human alike. May we once again touch spirits without bristling, balking, flinching, striking out, or turning away. Now is the healing time. Let us go there. Together. Connecting back with our little children and their spirits that were buried, through no fault of their own. Let us resurrect them if we dare and follow them into the better way they have been longing to show us.

Can we find the humility and courage to follow these precious children?

Or has that vulnerability, humility and courage all been beaten out of us?

Surely, if we can find any reserves left, it is these children who can show us the way.

One thought on “Taking The First Step: Reflections on Powerlessness from an Adult Child of a Non-Alcoholic Family (and Citizen of a World Gone Mad)

  1. Here is a response from Lindsay to a responder to this post on social media…which she felt was a needed addendum here (as 12-Step rigorous honesty-type work might often be misread to be placing “blame” on parents or isolated family members… which, of course, is not in the spirit of the 12-Step Tradition…nor does it ring true to Lindsay’s experience of her own family):

    “… I should clarify that I am speaking within the rigorous honesty of the 12-Step tradition…but that my upbringing was no where close to “dysfunctional” (as you say)…it was actually extremely loving & stable. I was privileged to get most of what I needed, but still, live within a culture where even the parents who do their very best (and are economically well-resourced, etc in order to be in a privileged enough position to give their children everything they need)…violations of love & trust inevitably still happen. ‘Cuz none of us are perfect…and (AND I HOPE I MADE THIS CLEAR IN THE POST) nuclear families (within the way our late-capitalist society is organized) should never bear the whole burden of raising children… it is more a diagnosis of our entire culture (which of course, we all experience most intimately within our relationships in our nuclear families) – BUT WHAT I DON’T MEAN TO DO is point the finger at parents, especially my own! My parents are models to me, and if Tom and I were ever to feel called to be (or be so courageous as to become) parents, they would be a reliable & exemplary model for me to draw upon (one of the best I know). Like I said in the post, I believe most parents do their best, but that we live in a world that has fallen apart…and it is too much to put on isolated families to give children all the support & safety they need. We, as local communities & society at large (from the policy level to the “policing” level to the parenting level) need to do much better. And I think one of the best places to start (thought it will take MANY diverse, creative alternatives at every level – social, political, neighborhood, family, personal, etc) is with OUR OWN healing…so that we pass on the least amount of pain we can.”

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