You can imagine how my childhood was like born to a heroin addict and raised in a family filled with the disease of addiction. Or, maybe you can’t. Physically, I was well provided for. In fact, I had more than most, materialistically speaking, but emotionally I was completely neglected and deprived. What most of the world doesn’t seem to know is that, regardless of monetary capabilities, children need love and acceptance and the sense of belonging and emotional security that comes with those two things. Without unconditional love and emotional support, children don’t grow up. Sure, they will grow taller and older, but they will be stunted as far as emotional development goes. This is the very reason children of addicts are eventually referred to as adult children rather than simply adults.
Me, the Adult Child
In my personal experience of being an adult child, it was like an ever-increasing weight of the world was pressing down on me and I had the overwhelming burden of carrying a heavy heart. The pain was unbearable and there was no one who could intervene and rescue me. In fact, I rotated in and out of dysfunctional roles and often found myself playing the hero by getting good grades, participating in extracurricular activities, going to church, etc. Still, the baggage my dysfunctional family had passed down to me was like a ball and chain. I knew that if I was to survive and thrive, I had to face a choice: to check out and take the baggage into the next life or stay put and sort through it. Thankfully, when my rock bottom came, I chose the latter. The process of shedding emotional baggage was no short episode for me. Just as it took years to build up before I finally did something about it, it took years to shed. What helped me through it was a 3-step process that led me to the other side of healing. Hopefully, these steps will also help you begin the process and shed the weight of the world and the heaviness that surrounds your heart.
1. Face the pain.
The first thing I had to do was confront the darkness I lived in for so long. I had tried everything to escape from it, even often considering suicide. Yet, it still remained. And avoiding it only seemed to worsen and prolong things. So, I sought counseling and spent several years dealing with my painful past. Sorting through the baggage with the help of a trained professional was the best and, honestly, most terrifying thing I ever chose to do. I am alive today because of this vital step.
2. Love yourself.
During my counseling sessions, I was learning to love myself. It was obviously a significant part of healing and emotional recovery. And, though I had already taken the most important step toward loving myself by seeking help in the first place, I still had a long journey of learning forgiveness, unconditional love and acceptance ahead of me. However, I realized that without loving myself, there is no change in a successful recovery from anything.
3. Reawaken the spirit.
The final step I had to take was to reawaken my spirit which had been all but destroyed and certainly remained in hiding for fear of being annihilated. The experience of facing my pain and learning to love myself, completely and unconditionally, is what led me to the spirit within me. Once I rediscovered myself and the spirit within, I began listening to and trusting my intuition, my spirit, and speaking my truth and sharing my story without fear of reprisals. That experience of reawakening is what lifts me today, keeps me from being weighed down or anchored in the past. The culmination of these three steps leaves me free of the burden of my family’s choices. As a result, today, I walk with a sense of light I only experienced in fleeting, magical moments, as a child.