Roots of PTSD, Codependency, and Addiction

3291628045_03efb76f53_zMy 33rd year of recovery from alcohol addiction began Nov. 24, 2009. Needless to say to anyone living a spiritual quest, many emotions are stirred up during an anniversary.

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. As I have stated here, he acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.

This experience has led me on the path of healing my childhood wounds. I was the oldest child–or rather–I was the youngest parent in that home. I took my duties so seriously that I taught myself to deny myself anything that would challenge my mother. In return, the power connected to this role of being the boss was my first addiction. One that I am only now giving up. That is why I call codependency the addiction of power. And I believe all addicts must go through this 2nd recovery–the recovery of codependency. I will always be codependent. It is about loving too much. But I know my pattern now and know when I need to redefine my boundaries.

What is PTSD? HelpGuide. org defines it:

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a event that threatens—or appears to threaten—your safety. Most people associate PTSD with rape and battle-scarred soldiers—and military combat is the most common cause in men—but any event (or series of events) that overwhelms you with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can trigger PTSD, especially if the event feels unpredictable and uncontrollable.”

“PTSD can affect people who personally experience a threatening event, those who witness the event, or those who pick up the pieces afterwards, such as emergency workers. PTSD can also result from surgery performed on children so young they don’t understand what’s happening to them, or any event that leaves you emotionally shattered.”

In reading about Iraq veterans and PTSD, I identified immediately with the social isolation. I have done this all my life. Although I am a loner and am suspicious of anyone not content being alone, extreme isolation leads me to paranoia and discontent. I am learning a balance finally because I have now freed myself to talk about these feelings.

I have also identified the brain chemistry associated with my codependency. I have a separate blog about Codependency Recovery. Codependency recovery basics are: having healthy boundaries, learning assertiveness, identifying your core issue, finding out what hooks you, knowing that caregiving is a control issue, developing compassionate detachment, adding self nurturing activities, using relaxation techniques, developing mindfulness techniques to live in the moment, and identifying your triggers.

So I have begun learning how to reparent myself. I have created a separate blog about reparenting: The Free Road: Reparenting Ourselves.

I was thrilled to find Dennis Thombs’s book, Introduction to Addictive Behaviors. What I identified with was his belief that we used our addictions to combat feelings of anxiety (fear) that we never learned to process.

I will continue researching PTSD, codependency and addiction as I know that my addiction began when as a child. I didn’t l know how to deal with anxiety and fear. Instead I used feelings of power over people to feel better myself. Therefore, I believe codependency to be the addiction of power. By feeling control over others’ lives, I felt better able to control my own.

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Codependency is the Breeding Ground For Addiction



“The psyche cannot tolerate a vacuum of love. In the severely abused or deprived child, pain, dis-ease, and violance rush in to fill the void. In the average person in our culture, who has been only “normally” deprived of touch, anxiety and an insatiable hunger for posessions replace the missing eros. The child lacking a sense of welcome, joyous belonging, gratuitous security, will learn to hoard the limited supply of affection. According to the law of psychic compensation, not being held leads to holding on, grasping, addiction, posessiveness. Gradually, things replace people as a source of pleasure and security. When the gift of belonging with is denied, the child learns that love means belongin to. To the degree we are arrested at this stage of development, the needy child will dominate our motivations. Other people and things (and there is fundamentally no difference) will be seen as existing solely for the purpose of “my” survival and satisfaction. “Mine” will become the most important word.”
Sam Keen, The Passionate Life: Stages of Loving

Because I believe that codependency is the breeding ground for addiction, I would like for everyone interested in helping addicts to be aware of the characteristics of children growing up in families with addiction. I also believe that that applies to most of us. Understanding that addiction can be about money, power (which is what codependency is about), religion, sex, etc. as well as substance abuse (food, legal drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, etc.) shows how wide-spread addiction is.

Anyone who has worked in a workplace with a “good daddy/mommy” or a “bad daddy/mommy” knows this experience also. I have trouble with rage addicts because I grew up with a father addicted to rage–he was a rageaholic. So I have to keep a close check on my codependency around them as I have a basic desire to kick them in the behind–in a ladylike way, of course. But judgment hurts me as well as the other so I try to remember to pray for tolerance when in the company of someone who wants to control me with his/her anger.

The following sites have good references to the ACA/ACOA characteristics. Don’t be surprised if you identify with a few of them.

(1)  My favorite ACA site is the home site for Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization. On this site, a reder can find a meeting, buy the ACA literature, learn more about ACA, and read daily meditations strengthening recovery. From the introduction to ACA: ”

“Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) is a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program of men and women who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes. The ACA program was founded on the belief that family dysfunction is a disease that effected us as children and affects us as adults. Our membership also includes adults from homes where alcohol or drugs were not present; however, abuse, neglect or unhealthy behavior was.”

“We meet to share our experience and recovery in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We discover how alcoholism and other family dysfunction affected us in the past and how it influences us in the present. We begin to see the unhealthy elements of our childhood. By practicing the Twelve Steps, focusing on the ACA Solution, and accepting a loving Higher Power of our own understanding, we find freedom.”

(2) Codependents Anonymous is the CODA site. This site includes a great list of characteristics centering around denial (“perceive myself as being completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others”), low self esteem pattern (“I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires”), compliance (“I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long) and control (“I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.

(3) The Dr. Janet Woititz site has resources including a video for ACOA. The site refers visitors to AA Family Meetings. The 13 characteristics are listed on Dr. Jan’s site.

(4) A current blog post about why some ACOA’s thrive in the addiction and the characteristics they learned from being in the addiction.  Great article and I recognized why creativity has been my salvation.

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Addiction Recovery Has Emerging Voices About the Nature of Addiction

6146924854_a9d3218a0d_zResearching online information about addiction recovery is hard. 98% of the material online is about addiction or treatment. But addiction recovery could be free over the internet. The $35,000,000,000 spent on treatment reaches 11% of addicts. Instead of fancy buildings the treatment industry coud provide a real service with free community education outreach. All those who can’t go to treatment need educated too.

Voices about recovery:

Dr. Gabor Mate: Why This Doctor Believes Addictions Start in Childhood. He also wrote In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Johann Hari: The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

Dr. David Sack: Mapping AA: The Neuroscience of Addiction

Dr. Marc Lewis: The Biology of Desire (his book) and Understanding Addiction (his blog)

Dr. Marc Lewis writing about Dr. Carl Hart: Hart to Hart: drug use, race, and addiction

Dr. Carl Hart: Dr. Carl Hart: Drug Myths Exposed and his book,  High Price

Rich Jones: The Baffling Lack of Innovation in Addiction Treatment

Brooke M. Feldman: Multiple Pathways to Recovery: It Is Time That We Lead The Way

Maia Szalavitz: Unbroken Brain and other books on Amazon; Time magazine articles by her; and Maia Szalavitz on a New Way of Understanding Addiction

Dean Dauphinais writing about Maia Szalavitz: “Unbroken Brain”: A New, Forward-Thinking Book on Addiction

Articles about Addiction:

Facing Addiction: It’s Time to Focus on Solutions

Innovation in Recovery

Recommended Reading for Addiction Recovery

Addiction, Recovery and CrossFit

YouTube–Noah Levine on Addiction, Recovery and Buddhism

California recovery–Recovery Avenues for People with Mental Health/Substance Use Challenges

Center for Social Innovation: Praxis Training for Massachusetts Adiction Professions

Staying Sober After Treatment Ends

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Primary Addiction

5674635631_8c26088e86_zHow 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 cofounder 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 husband’s (now my ex) 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.

Bill W. writes in that letter:

The following excerpts from a letter of Bill Wilson’s was quoted in the memoirs of Tom Pike, and early California AA member. Tom did not use the name of the person addressed — perhaps because he was still living.

“Tom said:
Here in part is what Bill Wilson wrote in 1958 to a close friend who
shared his problem with depression, describing how Bill himself used St. Francis’s prayer as a steppingstone toward recovery:”

Dear …
”I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA … the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”

“How to translate a right mental conviction into a right emotional result and so into easy, happy, and good living … well, that’s not only the neurotic’s problem, it’s the problem of life itself for all of us who have got to the point of real willingness to hew to right principles in all our affairs.”

“Even then, as we hew away, peace and joy may still elude us. That’s the place so many of us AA oldsters have come to. And it’s a hell of a spot, literally.”

“Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long chronic spell. Considering the grief I’ve had with depressions, it wasn’t a bright prospect.”

“I kept asking myself, “Why can’t the Twelve Steps work to release depression?” By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis prayer … “It is better to comfort than to be comforted.” Here was the formula, all right, but why didn’t it work?”

“Suddenly I realized what the matter was … My basic flaw had always been dependence, almost absolute dependence on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them. And when defeat came so did my depression.”

“There wasn’t a chance of making the outgoing love of St. Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA, indeed upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.”

“Then only could I be free to love as Francis had. Emotional and institutional satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love, and expressing a love appropriate to each relation of life.”

”Plainly, I could not avail myself of God’s love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me. And I couldn’t possibly do that as long as I was victimized by false dependencies. For my dependency meant demand … a demand for the possession and control of the people and the conditions surrounding me.”

”This seems to be the primary healing circuit, an outgoing love of God’s creation and His people, by means of which we avail ourselves of His love for us. It is most clear that the real current can’t flow until our paralyzing dependencies are broken, and broken at depth. Only then can we possibly have a glimmer of what adult love really is.”

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?

The clue I found about myself was about always having been socially isolated. I found this out by reading about PTSD. A year later after this discovery and my study of the problem and the solution, I finally found ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). I had gone to ACOA in the 1990’s and benefitted from it. BUT  ACA and ACOA are completely different. Check out the Laundry List from ACA.

I ordered the Red Book from ACA.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I was finally home. The Red Book told me why.

“The Laundry List represents the fear and distorted thinking which result from being raised in a dysfunctional family. We are not at fault for developing these survival traits, but we are responsible for our recovery. Recognizing the link between our adult lives and our childhood years is clouded by our loyalty to the dysfunctional family system. Even if we seemingly have rejected our dysfunctional family’s lifestyle. We can still carry it with us wherever we go.”

“ACA believes there is a direct link between our childhood and our decisions and thoughts as an adult. A clue that we are affected by family dysfunction can be found in our problematic relationships, perfectionism, addictiveness, dependence, or compulsive and controlling behavior.”

I found the Red Book of ACA—the answer to my prayers for release from my addictive self—in my 34th year of recovery—at the age of 70. Praise God. I am finally free.

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How the ACE Study Can Be Used to Help Childhood Trauma

5139204704_9ae279c877_z“As the ACE study has shown, child abuse and neglect is the single most preventable cause of mental illness, the single most common cause of drug and alcohol abuse, and a significant contributor to leading causes of death such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and suicide.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk

The ACE (adverse childhood experiences) study measuring them is found on a great site about ACE titled ACEs Too High News. This post includes links to some of the main posts on this site.

(1)  What’s Your ACE score? (and, at the end, What’s Your Resilience Score?)

There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.

(2)  The single best medical appointment of my life was when a nurse practitioner asked about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs):

The higher a person’s ACE score, the greater the risk of chronic disease and mental illness. For example, compared with someone who has an ACE score of zero, a person with an ACE score of 4 or more is twice as likely to have heart disease, seven times more likely to be alcoholic and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide. Of the 17,000 mostly white, college-educated people with jobs and great health care who participated in the study, 64 percent had an ACE score of 1 or more; 40 percent had 2 or more and 12 percent had an ACE score of 4 or more (i.e., four out of the 10 different types of adversity).

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) contribute to most of our major chronic health, mental health, economic health and social health issues.

(3)  A working ranch integrates ACEs and animals into treatment for teens:

Although it’s too soon to tell if integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) sciences is making a difference for the teens living at Home on the Range, a residential treatment center in Sentinel Butte, ND, it’s made a huge difference for the people who work there. They now understand that kids aren’t born bad.

“ACEs has enlightened us,” says Mike Gooch, clinical program director for the center, which is located on a 1,600-acre cattle ranch. “We knew kids had trauma, and once we administered ACEs, it all started to make sense. They’re not really born a certain way.”

Indeed, it’s what happens after these kids are born, as their average ACE score of 5 indicates.

(4)  Which version is your kid’s school?:

We’ve done stories about schools that have incorporated practices based on the science of adverse childhood experiences. This science includes who suffers and the consequences (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and other epidemiological studies), the effects of toxic stress that these experiences have on a child’s brain and body, how the consequences of these experiences can be passed from generation to generation, and the resilience research that shows our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal.

Here’s a list: (click on link above).

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