As a child I was always so happy to be by the ocean, the sand, the waves, everybody always seemed so happy. I had no sand buckets to play with but I loved to run into the waves and try to beat them. Getting wet was bad idea as we had no change of clothes it inevitably happened. I always got burned but I loved it. But then I had to go home. Was he there, was he in the pub what mood would my mother be in? Would he shout at me, who else would shout at me about wasting time at the beach when I could be working? Why was nothing I ever said okay? Why was there always somebody ready to criticize me, mother, father, or sibling? My brother was always ready with some new sickening idea which was usually a form of torture. He would suggest holding my sunburned arm at the fire as it would help, when I screamed in agony he would just laugh and call me stupid. Everybody else found it very funny. It was those early days that my drive for perfection took hold and ruled my life for many many years.
What I never understood was why everybody was so cruel. There was a spoken and unspoken harsh demand that everybody should be perfect and never make a mistake. Today I know that we were all driven to survive whoever got the upper hand got to be more like my father and therefore less likely to come under his criticism and wrath. Everybody was looking for his approval which due to his own diseases was never going to come. My mother became part of the process. There was never any praise, no encouragement just a constant unspoken rule that if you messed up there was a punishment usually verbal and often physical. The really sad thing was that the goal posts as to what was wrong or right moved all the time. There was a standard of perfection which was never explained but still we strove for this even though we did not understand it. I realize today we were striving for the impossible. You cannot have a healthy relationship with sick people. Striving for perfection as an imperfect human sets us up for a very discontented and anxious life.
The effects of this childhood dynamic dominated my adult life, I had to know the answer to everything or “get found out” so when I did not know the answer I made it up. Then I had severe anxiety wondering when I would get found out. This is how my alcoholic father’s disease ruled our home and my childhood. Locked in his own fears, his own need to always be right he demanded it from us. I was often frightened, confused and terrified the disease ruled my life. I grew up this way, I became my father. I am also an alcoholic and the cycle was complete. The drive for perfection almost drove me insane. I rampaged through life looking for approval never being wrong and terrified that I would mess up. I found my way into AA and the gentle loving steps that helped me unravel the mess and see how my childhood ruled my life with false beliefs and a genetic disease of alcoholism which gave me all the character defects my father had. I am not sure where I would be today without recovery. I am so very grateful that I got the help I needed to separate the truth from the false. I am the person God wanted me to be today totally imperfect and human but loved unconditionally despite that. It took me a very long time to accept this, to surrender to my disease and my humanness and give up trying to be perfect. Yes I am my father’s child that will never change however, I do not have to be my father or my own disease in my behaviors. I had to have additional outside help to address the abuse of my childhood but I got the truth about my alcoholism in AA. I learned that the perfection and unreasonable unrealistic expectations of myself and others are part of my disease of alcoholism. It was much easier to forgive my father when I learned about my own disease I could accept that he was sick just as I was.
Today I can let go of the need to be perfect I work on it daily as it is a part of the disease and unless I take care of the disease on a daily basis as my program calls it will come back and cause the anxiety and depression that dominated my life before recovery.