Childhood Experience and Addiction – Hole in the Soul
I grew up in a family where my dad died when I was only 6 months old. My mum re-married and because of that, my brothers and I had a different surname than she and my stepdad. We wanted to keep our father’s name. All this is very normal now, but in the late 70’s it felt like I was on display in a freak show. This was one aspect of my life that I blamed for the ‘hole in my soul’. But growing up, I found many more reasons to blame for my negative feelings.
In my childhood experience, I saw myself as a jigsaw, but with one giant piece missing. I visualized it as the piece around my middle. My family members were all step-family, and were lovely, but they weren’t biologically connected to me. I just felt different no matter where I was or who I was with or how much I was loved. Sometimes, it was like I felt amplified, out of place and obvious to everyone. I also felt anatomically different and therefore, the brunt of being stared at or mocked.
Eventually my jigsaw shaped hole made me introverted and shy. I would hide in a book or just sit in my room listening to music. Even with friends, I would flit between groups depending on where I felt more comfortable (or who I was trying to impress).
I just never felt like I fit in …
Then I found alcohol. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I found sobriety that I truly realized what alcohol did for me in those days. It gave me a newfound confidence. And it gave me a group of people to hang about with – we had something in common. I had finally found my peers. As a teenager, it made me a bit of a rebel, and importantly, it filled the hole in my soul.
I found I could drink quite a lot before I became a real mess. Everyone was way more drunk than me, so I was held in some regard. Into my 20’s I continued to drink heavily, I identified with this side of myself and became a “party girl”. It was generally known that I was someone who liked to drink and have a good time.
Growing up with a gaping hole inside
I never admitted the blackouts, the regrets, and the fear of what I had said and done. I am truly grateful there was no social media or cell phones then, as I was the sort of drunk who judged everyone and everything and wanted to make sure everyone knew it.
As I grew up, I bounced through life from one drunk to the next. I joined the navy. And then I left the navy. I moved geographically many times. And when I got married and settled (and thought my drinking would slow), I assumed the hole in my soul was fixed. Because, someone loved me, we had children and a nice house. I was living my dream, but still there was a gaping hole inside me that I couldn’t fill. So, I carried on drinking.
In fact, my drinking escalated. I did everything to excess: running, partying, being a mum, and a colleague. My life was lived at such a fast pace it was not sustainable. And no one could get near, especially those closest to me. I was scared to slow down and feel anything, especially the pain, so my drinking continued until I hit a point where I couldn’t go on.
I found sobriety on the 5th, December, 2015 when I finally hit my rock bottom. It wasn’t massively dramatic, although a concussion was involved. No one else was entangled, my marriage had already ended, and there were no consequences to anyone that night, apart from myself. It was my shame and fear. And my feelings of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was done.
Sobriety has taken me in many directions, and I am thankful that I have not relapsed. My recovery from childhood experience and addiction is just down to sheer determination and working the program of AA.
It’s been an emotional roller-coaster of highs and lows and it’s been tough – the toughest thing I have ever done, but I wouldn’t change one moment of it. EVERYTHING I have learned has taught me about my childhood experiences and addiction. And about the person I am now. I have grown, and I am happy (not euphorically joyous but actually happy). I am content with my lot in life and happy with who I am as a person. My mood does vary and I can be sad, but that does not take away my happiness.
The greatest sense of self I have recently embraced is the the heady realization that I no longer have a hole in my soul. I have now filled the void born of childhood experience with self-love, self-respect, and self-acceptance. There is no need to medicate my feelings as I am not afraid to feel pain or happiness.
I have found myself. Understanding now, that by numbing my feelings throughout my formative years, I was stunted as a person and ripe for addiction. Growing up, I did not learn about rejection, connection, and joy. As humans, we have to experience and feel all aspects of being to live our best life. By numbing my feelings, I never had the chance to grow up.
Starting out on this journey was difficult and some days it still feels like there is a mountain to climb. Honestly, some days there is a mountain. But most days it’s a lovely walk in the sunshine…