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Voices of COHP



Hi. I’m David. I’m an Adult Child of Hoarders.


That’s not how I want you to think of me. I want you to think of me as David; a loving husband and father. David; an Eagle Scout and a Freemason. David; a successful not-for-profit Executive Director with a 35+ year career. David; the neighbor who lets you borrow tools or share a cold beer on a hot afternoon. That’s the David I want you to see.


But that’s not the David I see in the mirror. All too often, I see David, Adult Child of Hoarders.


I left home right out of high school. I needed to get away. I didn’t know exactly why. Maybe I did, but I couldn't talk about it. We never talked about it. It would have been the elephant in the room if the room had room for the elephant. I came home for Christmas break my first year in college, stayed just a couple of nights, then headed back to campus. It would be more than 40 years before I went back into the house.


But I carried that burden with me around the country all those years.


I always believed the burden was the thought of cleaning out the houses; emptying the storage units; selling the broken down cars. “It will be bad, but it’s my responsibility.” Who else was going to do it?


But now that it’s happening, I’ve discovered that’s not the burden at all. My wife and a few good friends can help me do those things. It’s just physical labor.


As the saying goes, “that was just the tip of the iceberg.” The bulk of the burden was below the surface, hidden from my view.


When I did discover it, I mislabeled it. I called it anger. My almost 60 year relationship with anger made that a comfortable choice. 


I knew what to do with anger; destroy relationships mostly. Derail professional advancement. Isolate myself from those that love me.


Then my therapist said something profound. "Anger is justified, but it's not very helpful." 




Then she challenged me to re-label my hidden burden as sadness. "But I don't feel sadness." Exactly.


I had a good childhood in many ways, but I have almost no memories of our home. I stand in the room where I slept for 18 years, but I can't remember where the bed was. I know we had furniture in the living room, but I don't remember what it looked like. I remember the campgrounds, the schools, my grandparents' place, and my uncle's farm; but I don't remember my home.


Sadness is the correct label. Like my anger, my sadness is justified. But unlike anger, which pushes people away, loved ones are pulled toward me when they see I'm sad.


Hi. I’m David. I’m an Adult Child of Hoarders. That might burden me, but I won't let it define me.


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