How Did I Know That My Primary Addiction was to My Family of Origin?

I realized that I was an alcoholic and went to AA on Nov. 24, 1976. I never drank again nor did I ever think that alcohol could help any problem I had. From that day, I knew that I was a pickle and could not go back to be a cucumber. Or, as I choose to interpret that change, that I was a butterfly with no desire to be a caterpillar again.

However, it wasn’t until June, 2009, in my 33rd year of recovery, when my husband left me for another woman that I hit my emotional bottom. Bill W., the co-founder of AA, wrote in a letter reprinted in the Grapevine dated July of 1956 that he believed the next frontier of AA would be emotional sobriety.

The main emotional support system I had in June, 2009, was my ex-husband’s large extended family. The night he left, 60+ people left my life. I had no warning of this complete abandonment. Today I am grateful for this experience. I finally had to give up my “prideful self-sufficiency”. As Bill W. wrote about in his letter about emotional sobriety, I had become dependent on the family and gave up that complete surrender to the God of my understanding.

After I completed a 5th step about my part in creating the abusive marriage that I was in up to June, 2009, I realized that I still wasn’t getting to the source of the matter. I no longer feared abandonment—I had survived. But why didn’t I feel completely free?

“Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.” Jane Middelton-Moz

In taking another 5th step, I realized that I had recreated the home of my childhood. I had the good mommy role and my husband was the bad daddy. He acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.

Dennis Thombs believes that we used our addictions to combat feelings of anxiety (fear) that we never learned to process.

PTSD, codependency and addiction began when as a child. I didn’t know how to deal with anxiety and fear. Instead I used feelings of power over people to feel better about myself.


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