For the last three years Ryan and I have been living in the UK.
But last Friday our happy adventure abroad came to a heartbreaking end. At 2:00pm we boarded a British Airways flight at Heathrow Airport and headed back to the USA.
I’ll admit I’m being a bit dramatic here but we both loved living in London so much. When we got the news back in March that we’d be relocating we were, as I said, heartbroken.
Believe me, I’ve had several pity parties for myself over the last six months but now I know it’s time to pull my socks up and get on with this new chapter.
Anyway, before I had my UK cell phone disconnected, I made sure to record my friend’s phones numbers.
I have to tell you that I only had three numbers to take with me. Out of all the people on my phone, including UK and US people, I only had three true friends!
Not too long ago this number would’ve really bothered me. Like many ACOAs I’ve had my fair share of trust issues. Over the years, in relationships, I felt constantly let down, disappointed and was treated like crap by people who were supposed to be my “friends”. I didn’t believe I could trust anyone so I figured it was safer to just be alone.
Unfortunately, this outlook didn’t stop the assholes from plowing into my life but it did keep me desperately lonely and isolated.
Trust is a huge issue for ACOAs. Many of us are hard wired to welcome the most emotionally unavailable, destructive people into our lives – only to get burned. If you’ve been there or are there right now, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Today, I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about being an ACOA and having trouble in relationships. This includes 4 insights that may help you understand why you feel so alone and frustrated in them.
A heads-up here. I’m serving up some tough love. So, just as I had to pull up my socks and get on with my move back to the US, it’s time for you to pull up yours and take today’s post with an open mind. I know you can do it:)
Also, relationships are complicated. If you’re in one that is abusive or threatens your safety or your family’s safety – please get professional help.
After you’re done reading tell me…
What’s your biggest obstacle with meeting and keeping real friends? Or, if you’ve figured out a way to work through your relationship issues, how did you do it? What new idea or insight could you share with the rest of the community?
Meet me in the comment section and tell me your answers.
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read. And that someone could be you.
Thanks for reading each and every week.
Until Next Tuesday,
xx – dawn
#1 Yes, It’s An ACOA Thing
If there’s one thing that nearly every ACOA struggles with – it’s trust.
So if you’re an ACOA who has trust issues or feels frustrated by the lack of connection in your life, don’t worry you’re not alone.
It’s not just a YOU thing it’s also an ACOA thing.
The key to developing any healthy relationship is trust. You’ve got to know how to trust and who you can trust. You’ve got to be able to trust yourself and feel safe enough to risk opening up to other people.
But in alcoholic and highly dysfunctional families, trust is not a lesson we learn.
As kids, instead of learning how to trust we learn that it’s not safe to.
Unfortunately, unless somewhere along the way we’re shown otherwise, we become adults with trust issues. And as a result we end up in hollow relationships that can leave us feeling,
- Constantly let down
- Used and abused
Now, I know the picture I’m painting here is grim but remember there’s nothing that says you can’t, with the right support, learn how to trust.
I just want you to see the possible connection between your past and what you’re experiencing today.
I want you to realize that trust is a huge issue for ACOAs.
I want you to trust that you’re not alone with this.
But remember, regardless of what happened in your childhood though it’s up to you to fix what’s busted and broken.
#2 Unavailable People Are Often The Safest Option
Anthony was a guy I met through a mutual group of friends. For our second date he offered to make me dinner at his place.
I couldn’t believe my luck. After years of dating nothing but coke heads and alcoholics I thought I’d finally got it right. But I was wrong. Once dinner was over, the only item on the dessert menu was a blow job.
And for a guy that I’d barely knew, that wasn’t a dessert I felt comfortable ordering.
When Anthony realized that a bj wasn’t happening, he grabbed his car keys and drove me home.
After he dropped me off and peeled away from my building. I stood at my door, looked up to the sky and said,
“That’s it God, I’m fucking done.”
And I meant it.
In that moment I finally realized that I’d been bringing the most unavailable people into my life simply because I wasn’t available myself. I realized that although I desperately wanted connection, I was scared to death of being vulnerable. I was scared to death of true intimacy.
By constantly chasing after the most emotionally, mentally or physically unavailable people, I was taking the safe option.
How about you? If you feel like you’re constantly disappointed by people, if you tend to let people treat you like crap, feel like you have no support, or feel used by people, it may be worth it for you to take an inventory of the kind of people you let into your life.
How available are they really? Is there a pattern that you can see among the people you date or the friends you keep? Do you keep getting burned in the same way?
Are you taking the safe option to avoid the risk of learning to be truly vulnerable and intimate with the right person?
For now, I just want you to explore this idea. Be honest with yourself. There’s no need for shame or drama. You don’t have to go into hyper-analyze mode here. Just stay curious with whatever you discover.
And then you gotta look in the mirror and ask yourself….
“How available am I really?”
Now here’s just one more point before we wrap this idea up. If you’re at that point where you’ve just had it with people and you find yourself saying things like,
- No one is good enough for me
- I hate people so much
- Everyone is so annoying
This could also be a way that you, perhaps unconsciously, keep people out of your life to avoid having to risk letting someone in. Hating on people and thinking that everyone is shit is just another way to take the safe option.
Believe me, I can totally relate. I used to hate everybody but once I realized that it was just a tactic I used to avoid getting hurt, I started to reconsider the idea. And for me this is huge progress. Let’s face it there are some annoying people on this planet but can you really say that everyone is?
So maybe you really don’t hate everyone, maybe you’re just too afraid or guarded, right now, to take a risk and let the right people in? It’s just something to think about.
# 3 You’re Not A Special Snowflake
When I was a little girl, I believed that I was the only one in the whole wide world that had alcoholic parents.
I believed that I was the only little girl who got smacked around and called names. I believed I was the only girl with two drug addict brothers. I believed…I think you get the point.
As ACOAs, we can falsely believe that we’re the only people that life happens to. We’re the only ones who get hurt, lied to and disappointed.
But here’s the deal. That shit happens to everyone. It happens to people who come from “normal homes.” It happens to people who go to Harvard, have loving parents and it happens to the filthy rich and famous and to people who are dirt poor.
We’re not special snowflakes. I know this may seem a bit harsh and I’m certainly not trying to minimize whatever pain you’ve experienced in your life. But I think it helps to know that life is happening to everyone. Pain, whether it’s emotional or mental isn’t something that’s reserved just for people who grew up in chaos and dysfunction.
I used to believe that I was cursed because I just kept getting burned over and over by people until I got to the point where I hated everyone and felt that my life would be better off spent alone. But now I can truly say that I see things differently. And I think this is just another benefit of being willing to trust and let people (the right kind of people, of course) close enough to love you. You get to see that they hurt too.
#4 Every Relationship Starts With You
Now you may feel super resistant to this idea. I know that I did when I first heard it but once I gave it a chance it completely changed the way I saw my relationships. And that idea is this,
Every Relationship Starts With You
When you meet a guy or girl or start a new friendship, you are the first person in your life to either say yes or no to that person.
People just don’t happen to you. Now there are some exceptions to this, of course. We don’t get to choose our parents or the members of our family but outside of that, we are choosing the people we let into our lives.
So if you keep bringing people into your life that let you down, lie to you, abuse you, disappoint you or just plain suck, you’re saying yes to those people. You are, for whatever reason, saying yes to people who have little to offer you.
At first this idea really pissed me off because I didn’t want to believe that I was making some really shitty people choices. And at the same time, I felt like I was being blamed for the crappy things that other people did to me. But that’s really not what this is about.
This is all about taking responsibility. It’s about knowing your worth and having boundaries and standards. It’s about feeling correct about whatever it is that you want, need or desire.
Here’s an offbeat example. When I first moved to Manhattan I paid $340 dollars to rent a bedroom that was barely big enough to fit a cot and my cat’s litter box. The place was infested with roaches, drug dealers frequented the corner and people pissed in the hallway.
I didn’t feel like I deserved any better than that. In fact, if you would’ve asked me where I wanted to live and in what conditions, I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question.
But as the years passed and I began to recognize my worth and give my needs and desires space, I started to take what I truly desired seriously. And I realized that it was my responsibility to say yes to the things I wanted.
Eventually, I moved into this beautiful, drug and roach free bedroom in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. But guess what. My room was still the size of the one I had in Manhattan and this bothered me. I wanted a bigger bedroom. I wanted room for a dresser and a mirror and a queen size bed and a nightstand with a curvy lamp.
I realized that in order to get that bedroom, I had to stop saying yes to the little ones. I had to stop settling for less than I wanted and say yes to something new.
And guess what? When I finally had room in my budget for it, I moved to a spacious apartment with a bedroom that could’ve fit two king sized beds.
I finally said yes to what I really wanted and I made it happen.
The same idea applies to relationships. Realize that every relationship starts with you. Whatever or whoever you keep saying yes or no to is what or who you’re going to get.
So if you don’t want to be treated like crap. Stop saying yes to people that treat you like crap. If you don’t want people in your life that only come around when they want something, then stop being around when they come around.
Easier said than done? Of course it is. Remember there are no magic wand solutions when it comes to life but there’s definitely room to experiment, to consider new ideas as well as opportunities to say yes to something or someone new. So get to it. Make a shit load of mistakes, fall flat on your face, get up and reset and start all over again. As Guy Finley says,
“Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over.”
Remember it all starts with you.