“It requires a tremendous leap of faith to imagine that your own childhood—punctuated with pain, loss, and hurt--may, in fact, be a gift. Certainly the unhappiness you felt was not, in itself, a blessing; but in response to that pain, you learned to cultivate a powerful intuition, a heightened sensitivity, and a passionate devotion to healing and love that burns deep within you—and there are gifts that may be recognized, honored, and cultivated. You are not broken; childhood suffering is not a mortal wound.”
Alcoholics Anonymous started in 1935 and has spawned over 200 different types of twelve step meetings. One of the first to deal with feelings was ACOA-Adult Children of Alcoholics. It was a formula designed to touch on a lot of emotion–adult, children and alcoholic. Our reality is in our feelings. Our emotional patterns are established in our childhood. I believe that addiction starts from these patterns begun in childhood.
Codependency means being part or dependent on someone else for our emotional completion. Being reared in a home with frequent emotional strife means being reared with emotional healing issues.
At some level we have each experienced feelings of abandonment, difficulty trusting others, having boundaries, trouble standing up for ourselves or feeling shameful because of others’ actions. We may have learned these emotional choices in our family of origin.
I have included an excerpt from some of the ACA blogs that I enjoy:
1. Adult Children of Alcoholics/ACAs ACOAs Blog:”Digging Deeper- The Child Within”
“Have you ever experienced intense feelings yet could not identify their source? Many Adult Children of Alcoholics have trouble knowing not only what they feel but WHY they feel certain emotions.”
“The answer may lie in your past. A current situation that triggers a powerful reaction most likely is tied to an old feeling. This feeling may have become almost like an instinct. It has become ingrained, like a reaction that happens without much thought.”
“Take anger for example. There are certain times when it is appropriate but often it is used as a defense. It is a SECONDARY emotion that is protecting something else. Many people get stuck in angry reactions because they are unable to identify the primary feeling- hurt, shame, fear, etc., that underlies the anger. So the the angry person continues being reactively angry and the true issue never gets resolved.”
When I sought out to find an Adult Children of Alcoholics group, I knew what I needed. I logged on the the ACA world site and searched for groups within my home state. My then-fiance drive me all over our state so I could experience different groups. Turned out the one I felt most at home with was the one nearest to my home—that was helpful! I was ready to travel over an hour to find the group I felt was right for me.
But, just like a church community, even though we would like things to stay the same, the people that we’ve come to know and trust eventually leave. And, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Coming to recovery means you are supposed to be a part, take part in the studies, do your own work, share that work with the community, and grow up, and eventually away from the group. We are supposed to outgrow the group when we feel we don’t need it anymore.
An occasional check-in is fine.
I checked in almost three years after I had left. The group met now in a different room in the church. The table was a different height. The coffee didn’t taste the same. I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew, but I did. I instantly recognized three or four people, and they recognized me.
Here I was, back for a refresher. But I couldn’t help but wonder, had these people never left? Why?
Does a part of our recovery have to be stunted? Or, perhaps we find such a home coming and the group replaces, in a way, their real family—the family that brought them to seek out ACA recover in the first place. I don’t know. But, I do know after my few years of faithful attendance I was better off heading out into the world, armed with the knowledge and wisdom my ACA family brought me, and feeling I would be welcomed back to that home base, anytime for any reason, no matter what.
Have you ever attended an ACA support group? If so, what was your experience like?
Abuse survivors know this all too well. Society likes to imagine that we know evil when we see it. That there are “good guys” and “bad guys”, just like in the movies. The good guys always do the right thing, and the bad guys are always out to hurt everyone else. Real life simply doesn’t work that way. The person who volunteers at the hospital, or works with a youth sports league, can be the same person who goes home after having a few and beats their kids. The teacher being fired for molesting a young child can be the same woman who has spent her free time and dedicated herself to educating those same children.
On the other hand, many survivors so want to cling to that belief that their abusers were totally and completely evil, that they create heroes of people who have done good things for them. Suddenly authors, or famous figures who fight against abuse, become their heroes, the people the model their lives after, because those are the “good” people. Eventually though, those heroes prove to be unable to live up to these unrealistic expectations, and disappointment ensues.
The truth is, there isn’t another human alive who is perfectly evil, and there isn’t one who is perfectly good. There are a great many people who have done things that we can admire. We should attempt to emulate those behaviors, and we should allow them the grace to have faults as well. At the end of the day, Joe Paterno was a great coach, and a great teacher to a large number of people. He was also someone who did not live up to his responsibility to the children who looked up to him within the State College community. He, like all of us, was a great number of other things as well, some good, some not so much. His good deeds were admirable, his faults came with consequences, end of story. He wasn’t a hero, nor was he a monster.