Dear ACOA – A poem for those who grew up in homes with an alcoholic parent

It’s a four letter word
and it’s not kind
or love, or hope.
The word that best describes
growing up with
an alcoholic parent
is shit.

And it lingers for years.
Stalking you into adulthood.
Smearing itself on the edge
of broken promises
making reality hard to grasp.
Silencing speech.
Scapegoating smellers.
It’s shit.

The unspoken rules.
The sense you get
that you’re second
to a substance
because they’d rather booze-up
than buy you shoes
or a basic meal.
By the way, ‘best go to bed,
they’re still at the bottle shop.
It’s shit.

And all the ways you blame yourself –
performing through perfection
for attention
then swinging to rebellion,
anything
anything to be seen
and loved
and held
more than a bottle
for the beloved you are
and your heart is bleeding.
It’s shit.

And I’m sorry.
And I’d love to tell you
it doesn’t matter
but it does
because you do
and always have.
And that deep anger
and sadness that seeps
from your scars are normal,
and they exist
because you know
deep in your love-seeded soul
that you did nothing
to deserve the neglect,
or the harm or the shame
from that parent
who may have loved you
but failed terribly
at loving themselves
or parenting themselves
with any maturity.
It’s shit.

And I’m sorry.
And I’m praying
that you keep walking
towards the light
of healing
and wholeness
as slowly as you need
with guides
at your side.

David Tensen ’21

This is poem 18 in a series I am writing to Instagram followers who DM me their stories. Several wrote in with a stories of growing up in homes with alcoholic parents. This can be so hard to not only come to terms with, but also heal through and walk through, later in life. It’s complex, and a quick search on characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) can be alarming at first. It’s something that has affected my own world through marriage. My heart genuinely goes out to all those who grew up trying to make sense of the world with carers and parents who suffered addictions.

Pic Unsplash: Michał Parzuchowski


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Thanks – Dave

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