Tag Archives: inner child

Remembering Our Inner Child

We hear a lot of talk, both in and out of recovery circles, about “finding our inner child”, “nurturing our inner child”, comforting or parenting our inner child.  Many of us have forgotten who that child was, and that’s too bad for both the adult us and the child.

001d2smOne of my morning readings suggested keeping a photo of us as a child in our wallets, to remind us of who it was and who we were.  I don’t carry a regular wallet, just a Crabby Wallet®, so that’s not really an option for me.  However, I do have several photos of me as a small child.  Most of them echo the unhappy kid that I often was, but there is one that shows me as the happy child that I should have been all the time.

I think this one’s going to get scanned, printed, framed, and put in a prominent place in my workspace.  The happy child deserves to be remembered, as well as the less happy version.

The Need To Control

We can’t control other people.  We can force them, but we can’t control them.  Nor can we control love; to love is to let go.

How often have we pursued another person, determined to “make” them love us…and how often have we been disappointed, or had to use emotional — even physical — force to attempt hanging on to someone who didn’t want to be with us, or to escape the clutches of someone who wanted us too much?

This need to control ourselves, our feelings and other people, to live in a little world of our own making, to want to get our lives exactly right and have them welded shut, is the basis of addiction.  We believe deep down inside that we are unable to get, or unworthy of getting, what we need through our own self-esteem and feelings of wholeness, and yet we crave the love and acceptance that should have been our birthright.


The “hole inside” can only be filled from inside.  We can’t fill it with alcohol and others drugs, with sex, with food, with busyness, or with the dozens of other ways we may try.  We can only do it by facing our deepest want and desire: to be accepted and loved for ourselves alone.  Getting past the fear of rejection, of lost trust, of compulsion and digging deeply to discover and nurture the child inside that was convinced it was unloved, unwanted, unworthy — a nothing — is the only path that will eventually lead to the sense of wholeness that we desire in our deepest heart.

We do this by developing relationships and the trust we need, seeking out people in our recovery groups who seem trustworthy, and then slowly, slowly learning to give that trust.  The big mistake that many newcomers to recovery make is to mistake style for substance.  The quiet woman in the corner who shares seldom but who always rings a bell with us when she does speak is far more likely to be “that” person than the loudmouth who spouts lines from the Big Book or Basic Text, parroting what he has heard or read. 

We have learned to be careful in bestowing our trust, and need to be careful in our fellowships (after all, we aren’t there because we’re all healthy).  But if we look, and watch, and move cautiously, there are many folks who can and will help us to learn that we, too, can be trusted and loved.

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Old Me

Yesterday, upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away….

~ William Hughes Mearns (1875-1965)

My dear friend Pierre, a powerful influence on hundreds of people in recovery, is fond of remarking that “the Old Me will drink again.” Old Me — the “man who wasn’t there” — plagues us throughout our early recovery, and is even known to poke his (or her) head out of hiding from time to time when we think we are pretty far along in our journey.

Human beings go through clear stages of emotional development, from prenatal to adult. When we are traumatized — by abuse, unresolved grief, prolonged stress, severe illness, injury, or drug use — our emotional development is interrupted and stalls at whatever point we were when the trauma occurred. Essentially, we stop growing up. That’s when Old Me is born.

As we progress in our addictions, Old Me develops along with them. Old Me is the character who lies when it would be easier to tell the truth, ignores ethics, hurts loved ones and others — the part of us that did what we had to do in order to further our addictions. Old Me is all the bad habits and sick ways of looking at life that we developed as we denied, justified, and tried to ignore the erosion of character that accompanies addiction of all kinds. Old Me is the aspect that throws all those memories and feelings that we couldn’t stand to face into the closet, out of sight.

As much as we might wish it otherwise, Old Me doesn’t just retire and head into the sunset when we get clean and sober. Instead, it hides in the closet too. Since the closet holds all the garbage that we chose not to deal with in our active addiction, it gets putrid in there after a while. If we don’t deal with the closet after we become abstinent, it isn’t long before nasty stuff starts seeping out beneath the door. If we ignore it, we are likely to return to our addiction or transfer our addictive impulses to new pursuits.

We have two choices: we can get some help cleaning the closet, or we can decide we don’t need help, open the door, and let Old Me come out and play with our heads while we try to handle emotions, problems and urges that we were unable to handle to begin with. The easy solution, drinking, drugging or other behavior that relieves the pressure — that turns on our “forgetter” and helps us shore up the closet door — is only a short step away.

We need to be extremely careful that we work on all the old stuff, and that can be terrifying. Those of us who don’t, however, will inevitably discover — perhaps far into our “sobriety” — that we were in fact nowhere near the level of recovery we fooled ourselves into believing we had. It is simply not possible to board up the door and stuff feelings underneath to stop the seepage. One way or another the garbage and Old Me will eventually escape, unless we insure that the closet is cleaned out.

What we are really doing, as we clean the closet and learn to live life on life’s terms, is allowing the emotional development to occur that was stifled by our addictions and other traumas. We are growing up, all over again. Some do a better job than others.

Pay attention.