Loosening the straitjacket 

I don’t know exactly what happened. One minute I was nonchalantly listening to this podcast by the guys at addiction recovery site, Since Right Now. The next minute I was experiencing a breakthrough. A breakthrough which I am going to try and make sense of below! 

I grew up with loving parents and when I say loving, I mean I know deep down they loved me. But my version of love is somewhat different to their version of love. I was raised with very little affection, a lot of criticism, and emotional abuse. I was raised by two parents who were working too hard to make ends meet to have time, patience and energy left over for their daughter. There was a lot of anger in our house while I was growing up. I had two, much older brothers, and they were hitting their ragamuffin teens as I was starting school and beginning to notice and absorb the environment around me.   

The overall message I received as a child, was that I was insignificant. It was openly joked that I was an ‘accident’. My mother’s pregnancy with me must have been an extremely stressful time for her because she found out she had breast cancer and had to undergo a mastectomy. What a rocky start with your third, unplanned child! Growing up, nothing I did was good enough. Anything I did right, was brushed over, if acknowledged at all. Any mistakes I made growing up was leaped on and became the focus, and I was lectured on all that I did wrong. I knew all this before becoming a parent. It wasn’t the greatest childhood, but it wasn’t the worst. What I didn’t know, was how it could be any better. I couldn’t know what was missing. After all, I didn’t know, what I didn’t know. Until becoming a parent myself. 

After the birth of my first child, I had this overwhelming feeling of an exciting but scary opportunity to get it right. To parent differently than how I was parented. However, I found it seriously difficult because, I knew I didn’t want to continue the type of parenting I’d received, but I didn’t know what the alternative was! Which left me floundering.  And left me repeating the very patterns I wanted to break because they were my default settings. And as a control freakish, perfectionist, Type A person, this was unsettling to the extreme. How could I get this parenting thing ‘right’, if I didn’t know what ‘right’ was?!  

The very moment I became a mother, I reflected deeply on the parenting I’d received and became very angry. All the wounds I had experienced throughout my childhood bubbled to the surface to be treated. All those insecurities and fears of getting it wrong confronted me. The very moment I became a mother, I immediately felt insignificant and inadequate all over again. 

Now, ten years on since becoming a mother, I have come to learn what the alternative is. I now know that love to me means affection, guidance, encouragement, security, and mistakes are ok, they are simply opportunities for growth. Becoming a mother didn’t solve my wounds from my upbringing like I naively thought, it exposed them. 

So motherhood made me see myself for who I was. And it was unsettling. I didn’t like looking at myself and questioning the way I was raised. It hurt. So I turned to an escape from these unsettling and painful feelings – wine. Motherhood altered the way I treated alcohol and once I discovered its escapism, I turned to drink as a crutch whenever faced with challenges. A subtle, slow and sinister shift. 

When I became a mum I grew depressed. When I became sober I grew depressed. Both are significant milestones in my life that stripped back, have exposed the same wounds to be treated. The first time, I didn’t know what love meant to me. So I followed the same path my parents showed me, that love is criticism, impatience and frustration. The possibility of treating my wounds was there, but I wanted to escape the flawed me, so I turned to drink. 

In sobriety, I have begun treating my wounds, with the same love I now parent with. Parental love and self love is kindness, patience and acceptance. I don’t always, and won’t always get it ‘right’. And that’s ok, because with mistakes comes growth.

Like motherhood, sobriety forced me to acknowledge my wounds. Both sent me into a tailspin. Only this time, it is in recovery, I am healing them. What a gift.



Footnote: Also, I have also realised while writing this, my relationship with my SIL is similar to the relationship I had with my parents. She left me with the same feelings of insignificance, inadequacy and insecurity. As an adult, I found myself in a similar relationship to one as a child…I suspect there is more wound healing with this realisation!!


7 thoughts on “Loosening the straitjacket 

  1. ainsobriety says:

    My mom is a narcissist. Period. selfish and emotionally manipulative.
    I didn’t realize how much it hurt me until I had my own children and couldn’t understand how someone could be so unloving to their child. It made me very sad. For many years. I believed I was inadequate, awkward and to blame. Perhaps unloveable.

    I’m working through this. I am none of those things. It was my mom who was lacking. That’s her loss. I’m not carrying it any more. But it’s hard. Very hard.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Water Girl NZ says:

      Oh yes Anne, it sounds very difficult. I’ve been reading a lot on narcissistic relationships recently (trying to understand my SIL). There’s so much to them, they’re so complex! I’m glad you are working through your stuff too. Are you getting any professional help with it? I’m beginning to think of seeking help from a psychologist.


  2. Prudence says:

    Yes you have nailed it. You’ve captured your thoughts beautifully. And it’s wonderful what you are learning, and how you are growing. I think parents deserve forgiveness even if they didn’t do a sterling job, sometimes it was just the best that they could do. It is so freeing to feel genuine forgiveness, both for the forgiver and the forgiven. Perhaps you wouldn’t be the strong brave person you are without the childhood you had, and perhaps you would not have had the awareness to know what a loving and secure upbringing you want to give your own children. They are lucky kids to have you for their Mum xo


    • Water Girl NZ says:

      Oh I agree, agree, agree!! I wouldn’t be the person I am today without going through my ups and downs. I am grateful for all of it. It’s been amazing to learn and reflect upon what makes us, us.

      After I published the blog, I hoped it didn’t sound as though I blame my parents. Because I forgave them many moons ago. My mantra for a long time was ” they did the best they could with the knowledge they had”.

      Thanks for saying I nailed it! It was somewhat scrambled in my brain!


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