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What Happens When We Felt Unloved as Children

And that something is fundamentally wrong with us

By Melissa SteussyPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
What Happens When We Felt Unloved as Children
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Some of us were born into the perfect families, with a mother and father who smiled adoringly at one another over the perfectly square breakfast. They engaged with one another and you could feel the love in the room. When the children spoke up they were given eye contact and their full attention; their heads bobbed up and down with every new inflection in their child’s words.

There was always enough time and money. We always had enough. There was never any fear or lack, we wanted it we got it.

The parents showed up to every conference and sporting event, took us kids to the park and played with us, read us stories at night, and then tucked us in with a kiss and a hug. We felt safe, warm, and attended to. The siblings never fought and everyone got along. It was “one big happy family.”

How many people can say this is true for them?

I might be from another planet, but it is very rare that as children we felt like we were seen, heard, or valued.

Remember the old adage that children should be seen and not heard and spare the rod spoil the child. That was my parents’ and my parents parents generation.

I think I was born right into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I was the spawn of a night of heavy drinking and drug use. I was born right into the opposite of my illustration above.

I do hear people recollect fondly of their childhoods and it always throws me for a loop. Yes, I believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they know and for some of us kids we may have gotten the short end of the stick.

I struggled in school because of my tumultuous childhood and then drugs and alcohol filled that dull ache. I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t living in fear of my caregivers and had enough of my needs met would I have become an addict?

Dr. Gabor Mate says, “It isn’t the trauma that makes us become addicts it’s being alone with that trauma.”

This is how he defines trauma:

"Trauma is a psychic wound that hardens you psychologically that then interferes with your ability to grow and develop. It pains you and now you're acting out of pain. ... Trauma is not what happens to you, it's what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you.” (Gabor Mate)

By Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

Many of us grew up feeling alone. I know I did. We didn’t really know who to go to with our issues and then we sought love elsewhere in people who we believed could really see us and hear us. They cared about our lofty dreams and ideas, and for me, those people liked to party just as much as I did. My brain didn’t have an off switch. I was always thinking. I could never just rest and relax. So when I found weed, and alcohol, even psychedelics, and later cocaine and meth I was hooked from day 1. I needed to feel different and I did. I felt invincible and tough. I felt like I fit in, and I didn’t really worry about much at all while stoned or high.

When the addict life came crashing down on me fairly young and I was forced to quit by a court-ordered agreement, UA’s, and probation, I could finally see that it wasn’t my life that made me need to drink, it was drinking that was making my life so shitty.

I was drinking to cope. I heard myself think, “If you had my life, you would drink this much too.” But as my sobriety built up, I realized being drunk and hungover all of the time and planning out my drinking was exhausting. It was a full-time job. I was ashamed of the things I had done while intoxicated and it was truly uncomfortable. I wanted to crawl out of my skin.

As time went on things got better. As more time came between me and that last drink the shame started to dissipate. I learned what it meant to have integrity and I started to feel less alone. I started to get to know myself, but if it’s true what they say that we are emotionally stunted when we start drinking young then I was dealing with a teen in a woman’s body and I honestly still feel that way sometimes. This healing journey is no joke.

I am here to say that life does get better on the other side and that when I got sober I was all alone, as far as my friends were concerned, but over the years most of my friends have either died or joined me in sobriety. When you drank as we did there are only a couple of options.

Most of my family is gone. Alcoholism and drug addiction came in and stole my family.

I look back to my younger self and I sometimes wish things were different for me, but then sometimes I am grateful to have broken this long-ass cycle of addiction and family dysfunction.

Speaking of, I wrote a book about it

Let Your Privates Breathe-Breaking the Cycle of Addiction and Family Dysfunction-A memoir

Sorry about that little plug.

I feel now like my life’s work is showing others it can be done. We can heal. We can spread awareness so that others don’t have to feel alone.

It wasn’t until sharing my story that people began to come out of the woodwork with their stories of “me too.”

It helped to heal them and it helped to heal me.

When we resonate with another's story we no longer have to walk this road alone. But we must share our story and not let the shame take us down. We will believe we aren’t worthy or good enough and that everyone else has it together. That people will think less of us if they knew, but I am here to tell you that everyone has their stuff. We all fight our own personal battles. Healing is possible. Our childhoods and traumas don’t have to win. We can overcome and help others along the way.


About the Creator

Melissa Steussy

Author of Let Your Privates Breathe-Breaking the Cycle of Addiction and Family Dysfunction. Available at The Black Hat Press:

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