ACoA: When Childhood Isn't Even a Memory
Frederick A. Levy LCSW

June felt strangely uneasy when friends shared their childhood memories. Somehow, she drew a blank when recalling her life before twelve, as though she had sprung into the world whole without parent or past. Stifling a shiver, she shrugged, shelving her attempts to remember.

Yet, sometimes at night, her dreams would carry her to a Hell beneath terror or hope. Bolting upright, screaming, she could still feel the faceless man inside her, as she helplessly tried to ward off the blows that struck her four year old frame.

Fumbling with the light, she heard her own tiny voice echoing through the past. And peering in the mirror of her memory, she saw daddy's gin-stained eyes glaring through the haze. Desperate, she prayed her streaming tears could wash away his face.

June, an adult child of an alcoholic, had suffered abuse that had wiped away her memory. Trapped in a bell jar of booze, she would flee to the secret shelter of her day dreams. Then, her memories would rise like smoke rings, disappearing in the breeze.

But a child of an alcoholic pays a price; what the mind forgets, the body remembers. Time may bring her mysterious physical symptoms, and "flashbacks" like a survivor of war.

Nightmares, "cold sweats," panic attacks, and sensations of sexual abuse may come without warning, as traumas from the past re-emerge. Lacking clear memories, she may secretly fear she is slowly losing her mind.

Driven, she speeds up her pace, with no room for rest or renewal. She cracks, "I can't relax; my tension is holding me together." Feeling hopeless, she longs for release from her treadmill trap. Caught in a silent scream, she feels an ache barely beyond the reach of a hand.

Excitement seeking can also charge her heart. Rescuing loved ones with kindred pain gives her purpose. Running through their revolving door disasters, she relentlessly seeks their solutions, but seldom sees her own. Depleted, she disappoints them, and stays a riddle to herself.

Gambling with money, sex, alcohol and drugs, or her own physical safety quells her fear with a rush of adrenalin. The thrill of the big bet, the next night out, or life risking chance can send her spinning like a junkie in search of the next score. And when she "comes down," she dies inside, waiting only for tomorrow to "jump start" her own dead battery.

Eventually, her lifetime rollercoaster ride leaves her battered, tired, and depressed. Broken, she despairs of finding an end to her pain and her gnawing emotional hunger.

But searching within herself may finally provide the path back to her life. Every feeling and body sensation tells a story; each dream can shed light on a memory locked inside her past.

As a child, her family discounted her feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. Today, she can learn to validate her own reality. Lending a compassionate ear to her "inner child," the adult bears witness to her suffering, and guides her through the pain towards lasting health and healing.

The adult child may find many ways to unlock her hidden doors. Keeping a daily journal of feelings, experiences, and insights, and a separate log of dreams, can help her recapture her memories.

Joining a support group, combined with a circle of loved ones and friends, provides safety and nurturance; therapy can give additional guidance and direction through the fragments of her past. The adult child need not recover every memory, but taking the steps to heal her abuse can lead to a life of recovery.

Copyright Fred Levy, LCSW all rights reserved