Co-NNections Recovery Stories

Letter to My Boys – January 31, 2023

The following is a letter I wrote to my children a few days ago that may or may not ever be given to them, but it was a letter I needed to write. After starting CoDA fifteen months ago, I finally feel free and more myself than ever before. My sponsor, my meetings, and reading morning meditations from In This Moment have changed the course of my life. I acknowledge that my codependency is ever-present and must be managed. Participating in the CoDA program is a daily habit and has saved me from remaining in a toxic loop. There is hope for me…and for my boys.

Dear Boys,

Your dad and I are getting a divorce, and with that decision comes a breaking of unhealthy generational patterns. I’m scared of how this divorce will affect you, but my fear of staying with your dad is greater.

What you don’t know is that I grew up in a household ruled by my father’s unhealthy emotional outbursts. I grew up in a household that walked on eggshells because of my father’s unpredictability and his mood swings. He was hilarious. He was aggressive. He was sentimental. He drank…a lot. He was also a walking contradiction:

Getting angry at smokers in the non-smoking area – but then being a closeted smoker himself. Telling us that family means everything – but choosing hunting over family time. Leaving mom notes of affection all the time – but putting her down and getting angry at her often. Saying prayers at dinner and pretending to be a Christian – but never going to church, cussing like a sailor, telling dirty jokes, drinking every night, etc…

I loved my father, but I didn’t like his behavior. I have come to the realization that my dad was a narcissist. He was overly concerned about who he knew, who was important, putting down others, feeling like he was better than others, getting aggressive with people, being the center of attention, etc… BUT, if you ask his patients or community members, they rave about my dad. They knew him to be hilarious, giving, kind, affectionate, caring, and thoughtful. He was both.

I grew up confused about who my dad truly was to others and to me. I grew up with a fractured mind trying to put together pieces of a man who had no matching parts.

My mom was the complete opposite. She was patient, loving, kind, calm, and stable. She was also the ultimate codependent. She never stood up to my dad in front of us. She did not show me how to have boundaries with an aggressive man. I learned to be complacent, to be hypervigilant in order to feel safe, to placate my father’s reactivity, and to stuff hard conversations down deep. As a result, I began having panic attacks in my early twenties. I was anxious and felt unprepared for life.

I’ve been in a relationship with your father for 22 years. Our 20th anniversary would have been this June. I married someone very much like my father, and I became like my mother, codependent. I have tried to stand up to your dad’s aggressiveness, his narcissism, his shaming, and negative parenting strategies. It has been a losing battle. I tried so hard, boys, to give your father resources to help him. I passed on books about positive parenting. I asked him to go to counseling for his anger management. I asked him to stop drinking. I asked him to put down his phone and be present. Nothing helped. I now understand and accept that I have no control over your father. He is on his own journey.

All this to say, my love for myself and for both of you helped me gain the strength necessary to move on after he decided to move out. I am finally whole. I am emotionally healthier than I’ve ever been before. I don’t have to accept the anger and unpredictability anymore. My goal now is to help you both navigate a relationship with your father in a way that is safe. I promise to model how to set boundaries, how to have self-compassion, how to detach, and how to hold space for someone without compromising your own self-worth.

Boys, you are enough. You are loved. Your feelings, whatever they may be, are okay. They do not define you but flow through you. I am a part of your being and woven into your soul. Even when I am no longer next to you, my hand will entwine yours. My fingers will brush through your hair. My arms will surround your body. My song will swirl in your mind. I am with you.

With ever-present love and peace, Your mom

A.W. 12/02/22

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