On being the neurodivergent child of an alcoholic parent

This article is an anonymous guest post

I was informally diagnosed with C-PTSD in 2017, aged 41, then formally diagnosed aged 46. I self-identified then was professionally diagnosed Autistic aged 42. I self-identified ADHD aged 44 and diagnosed aged 47.

But, how old do you think I was when I truly believed that I finally understood my own mind? 

I was 31, and off sick from work with depression, working my way through this self-help book: Adult Children of Alcoholics, by Janet Geringer Woititz Ed.D, and making notes in a notebook (I still have this, it is full of signs of autism).

‘This book has all the answers’, I thought at the time. ‘I now realise it is my dad’s fault that I am like this’, I thought, oblivious to the fact that my brother was not the only one in the family struggling to cope with Autism and ADHD, and oblivious to the impact of my dad’s undiagnosed neurodivergence and his circumstances in his formative years. This was only one piece of the puzzle.

So sure was I, aged 31, that my recurring depression was ultimately my dad’s fault, I even asked him to pay for my psychotherapy. Yes, my beloved dad, who had been sober for 20 years then, but still described himself as a recovering alcoholic (and still does now). His reply was something like, ‘it is not that simple, we all have our baggage’.

My late diagnoses of Autism, C-PTSD and (in two weeks) ADHD have led me to completely rethink, to accept how what I know and understand is only the tip of the iceberg, and to reject the moral model of addiction.

Let’s not just de-stigmatise neurodevelopmental differences and mental health conditions, but also addiction, which is a human reaction to circumstances, NOT a moral failing! Addiction does not make us inherently bad people.

And one book cannot hold all the answers. Self-awareness is a journey, not a destination, and we each carry baggage.

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