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  • Writer's pictureSherri McCarthy

Strange New World

What an interesting time in history to be alive. Our lives as survivors of alcoholic parents is going to be so much more relatable after this. Easier for others to understand. I imagine future conversations will go a little like this:

“Remember for that 8 weeks or so during that pandemic when everyone had to stay home and not be around anyone else? Remember how powerless you felt? THAT is what it was like to grow up as a child of alcoholics. We were powerless to leave. We were too young. We were children. It was like every DAY was a pandemic.”

Imagine the dialogue a conversation starter like that can initiate. Real, authentic communication about fear and expectations. About how to keep your wits about you when folks around you are falling apart.

So much of the hard lessons I learned as a kid has given me a deep sense of calm:

1. How to survive chaos, by whatever means necessary.

2. The knowledge that peace returns eventually. Always. It may be brief between binges, but it comes back.

3. Our own resourcefulness is refined. I developed a wicked sense of humor that continues to help alleviate the weight of somber moments. I dug within myself to find any shred of a trait I could to help me make it through the hurt. Mine was humor. Yours might be something else.

4. Increasing resilience. The ability for me to recover from my childhood, from the hurt—intentional AND unintentional—that lives in my past speaks to resilience. Being able to frame it in a context of what it was: two imperfect people with a bad problem rather than seeing it as the entire force of the universe against me was key to developing resilience. I continue to build it as I go through negative situations or circumstances in life. Life hurts for us ALL sometimes. Just because I survived a difficult childhood doesn’t exempt me from difficulty or ugly situations in the future.

5. Grit. Thank God for grit. As defined by Merriam Webster: firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger. I mean, really. Most of us have come through or are coming through* memories of our past with a certain measure of grit that can’t be shaken.

*I want to emphasize the importance of feeding your own soul—through books, through therapy, through recovery groups or 12 step programs. THAT is how we come through it and get to the good stuff.

The truth is, I’m going a little stir crazy at home. Not because I like going out all the time. I actually really LOVE being home. But because of the powerless feeling of being told I CAN’T go out. I spent 18 years of being powerless and while this is entirely different and we’re all in the same boat, I still don’t like it.

That, and having two young boys who are learning to use technology for distance learning (with me learning right alongside of them), still full of energy that needs to be channeled, and STILL having the audacity to be persnickety at the dinner table is, well, tiring.

But it also makes me feel more NORMAL than I ever have.

EVERYONE is having these kinds of challenges. EVERYONE is a *newbie* at living life during a pandemic. It’s in these times we get to see who the real heroes are, which is a beautiful thing.

The truth of being a survivor of alcoholic parents is that we don’t outgrow its impact. We were raised in certain circumstances, we developed in a certain way, and we have healed to a certain degree.

Join me in considering your own strengths and employing them. The world needs what you have to offer, even if you think it’s too small. It’s not. We were made for this.

Much love and health to all of you,


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