What she said touched on something so painful and raw inside me. I remember holding my breath, lest someone see I was about to cry. I remember putting on my very best poker face. I remember wanting to thank her for helping me not feel so alone but I didn't, because then everyone would know.
My whole life was about not letting anyone know.
I lived in a chronic state of shame.
If only I were more lovable. Smarter. Prettier. Perfect. I might be able to change the sickness wreaking havoc on my family.
Then came Suzanne Somers. She'd been a huge star on the television show Three's Company and followed that success by writing a book called Keeping Secrets. In it, she shared her own story about growing up in the shadow of her father's alcoholism. It was probably the first memoir I ever read. It wasn't a literary masterpiece, and it didn't matter. It was honest. It was helpful.
It put a huge dent in the stigma I felt.
I hope to do the same for others with my memoir, Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar.
Years later, as the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I continue to be inspired by Suzanne Somers. She questions doctors and takes her health care into her own hands. I have had to do that for my child, and I do believe we kids of alcoholics often become strong this way.
We learned early to question authority, because the parental authority in our homes was questionable. We developed very good intuition, and if something is amiss, we smell it a mile away. We don't wait for our doctors to look out for us. We look out for ourselves, and using professionals for their services, we remain the authority.
Some people have never been able to accept how Chrissy on Three's Company turned out to be the brains of the operation. Say what you will about her Thigh Master, Home Shopping Network, etc. She is a smart, solid business woman with her own empire. As people make fun of her, she's laughing all the way to the bank.
And she's been happily married for over three decades. So there.
Like Keeping Secrets, Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is not a literary masterpiece. I didn't write it to impress the critics. I wrote it for you. For anyone who has ever felt they had to hide what's going on in their family.
If you've been blessed to have a life where you were treated like the precious child you were, I am truly happy for you (and I still think you might glean plenty from my story).
If you were not treated with the respect every human child deserves, I hope you'll read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar. Together, may we leave behind our shame.