QUESTION: I am experiencing old wounds flaring up around my family and my parents, with a depth that’s really taken me by surprise. I had a long talk with my dad last week - mostly about my mom. We’ve been having the same conversation for 20 years. He listened and was warm and made halfhearted promises to "be better". I really saw how weak he is in this way, how he has paid lip service but never taken firm action, how he’s failed the family and me by enabling my mother. 

But he is who he is. And I can’t change the past or other people. I pretty much had a meltdown, went totally primal, just screaming and freaking out on my bed and shredded my vocal chords. I want to be done with this stuff. I have been in a 12-step program for years and see how all of these issues have led to my addiction.

I’m on the grip of fear and feel like a prisoner of choices I made long ago, and don’t see a way out or forward. I know my fear is blinding me. And that there are lessons to learn here - taking bold action may be one of them. Open to any and all insights and suggestions.

ANSWER: Feel the pain, let yourself be scared. Feel and face the fear. Hitting bottom is not easy, but the only way. Your addiction was not the only issue, it was covering this pain. Face it head-on and be Sober with a capital “S”. That is part of the healing, not a setback.

When we have fathers or mothers that were not taught to be men or women, or shirked the responsibility through their own wounding/narcissism/lack of internal connection, we offspring end up carrying much that does not belong to us.

An important step is to put down the fantasy, and face the fact that on some level we are emotional orphans. Yes, we can not change the past, but we also have to let the story go that we can. Why have the same conversation 20 years on? Because the little child hopes for a different outcome. One that most likely will not come. Living in this truth gives us room to find a center within, instead of without. We can set a different destiny instead of carrying the wounding of the lineage.

In situations like yours, which are common, the parents have made an unconscious decision early on in their relationship to exchange whom carries what wounding. So even if one person is the “sweet” one and one the “mean” one, both are responsible for the drama and ensuing trauma. In such cases, neither can really break the cycle, as both have an unconscious vested interest in the status quo.

Taking blind action for the sake of relief from fear and pain will only lead to more fear and pain. Learn to feel what you need and start giving it to yourself. Learn to father yourself. Learn to mother yourself. Allow that space to inform what needs to happen next. This too shall pass.