Opening Up and Confiding About Family Trauma Takes Courage and Commitment

2076653967_ae5c51be10_z (1)

Healing childhood trauma can lead to overcoming addiction, depression, anxiety, or any debilitating condition which benefits from redefining who you are. According to US Dept of Health & Human Services: Child Welfare, childhood trauma effects are persistent fear response, hyperarousal, increased internalizing symptoms, diminished executive functioning, delayed developmental milestones, weakened response to positive feedback, and complicated social interactions.

“You survived by seizing every tiny drop of love you could find anywhere, and milking it, relishing it, for all it was worth. And as you grew up, you sought love, anywhere you could find it, whether it was a teacher or a coach or a friend or a friend’s parents. You sought those tiny droplets of love, basking in them when you found them. They sustained you. For all these years, you’ve lived under the illusion that somehow, you made it because you were tough enough to overpower the abuse, the hatred, the hard knocks of life. But really you made it because love is so powerful that tiny little doses of it are enough to overcome the pain of the worst things life can dish out. Toughness was a faulty coping mechanism you devised to get by. But, in reality, it has been your ability to never give up, to keep seeking love, and your resourcefulness to make that love last long enough to sustain you. That is what has gotten you by.”

Rachel Reiland

From Wikipedia

A traumatic event involves one experience, or repeating events with the sense of being overwhelmed that can be delayed by weeks, years, or even decades as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences, often overlooked even by mental health professionals: “If clinicians fail to look through a trauma lens and to conceptualize client problems as related possibly to current or past trauma, they may fail to see that trauma victims, young and old, organize much of their lives around repetitive patterns of reliving and warding off traumatic memories, reminders, and affects.”

1.  One of my favorite bloggers for many years is Syd. Syd’s blog is I’m just F.I.N.E.—Recovery in Al-Anon. For this post, I’ve included his writing from: “More will be revealed”:

I took my mother-in-law for her doctor’s appointment today.  In the car, she began to tell me about the tests being done on her husband, who is still in hospital.  I have written here before that he has cirrhosis of the liver.  The doctors are doing a liver biopsy and some other tests as well.

I asked her if she thought alcohol was a factor in his liver disease.  And she opened up to talk to me as she has never done before.  She told me that my father-in-law would go on binges for days.  She said that she has been called every name in the book by him, been yelled at and belittled.  She also told me that her own father drank.  And she said that he did not want her to marry another man who drank.

All of this came as a huge “Ah-Ha” for me.  I could understand her anger over the years, her need for a perfect house,  her changeable moods.  It all made sense to me when I knew that she was a kindred soul–an adult child of an alcoholic who married an alcoholic.

I have been around my mother-in-law for all of my married life.  Yet, I never had this kind of conversation with her.  She kept her distress from her sister and from close friends.  And she kept it for all these years from me.  Now, I see her through different eyes.  I feel a level of compassion for her that I have for newcomers who arrive in pain.

She has persevered through a marriage of over 50 years, carrying around a secret that so many of us, who are affected by alcoholism, do.  She told me that the reason she stayed in the marriage was because of her daughter, my wife. And that decision no doubt had its ramifications for C.  Probably, what she isn’t aware of, is that she stayed for other reasons as well–hoping to change the alcoholic,  fear of abandonment, economic fears, pride, and a host of other emotions that keep us bound in an emotional prison.

I shared with her about my father.  I didn’t mention my wife as I won’t break her anonymity, even to her own mother.  I told her that I don’t know whether my dad was an alcoholic but that I also had a lot of unresolved emotions carried over from childhood.  And I told her that I have learned to detach from the belligerence of others by physically removing myself.  She said that she tunes out her husband’s yelling as best she can.

How I wish that she could have gotten into Al-Anon.  The conversation we had  made us both feel better.  As she put it, “We now know something about each other that we didn’t before.” How very true.  More will be revealed.

2.  From Nel writing at Discovering Serenity. Repost below is from Talking About Trauma:Is it necessary to heal?”

Today, I was asked a question by a therapist-friend of mine, who knows I am a survivor of trauma, but does not know that I am DID.  I was explaining that sometimes I get “stuck” in the healing process, like I plateau and I’m moving forward but I don’t feel like I’m making progress.  I explained to her that I get stuck usually in fear, and the emotion overcomes me.  I am unable to process memories with my therapist at that point.  They just swirl around in my head.

She asked, “Do you have to talk about the memories to move past them?”

I answered with a very strong YES!  Although, as one of “The Regulars” I don’t have clear memories of the abuse, someone else does.  And they really feel like it is important to talk about it to “move on” (or whatever you call healing).  My therapist-friend felt that in her professional experience, it wasn’t always necessary to process the trauma, but more important to learn and implement coping skills.

I agree that healthy coping skills are important.  Grounding.  Containment.  Hobbies.  Distraction.  Relaxation.  But without processing the trauma, I know I will never move on.  I need to talk about it with my therapist.  In detail, including feeling the feelings no matter how overwhelming they are.  Once and for all.  I don’t know if that’s just different for me, or if it is different because I’m DID, or if it’s different because I’m dealing with Complex Trauma.  Or all three?

Photo credit.

Addiction Recovery Blogs Help Recovering People Connect With Each Other

2501714503_d74b8b3e70_zOne of the things that helps me most in recovery is reading how other recovering bloggers work their program. We each work the 12 steps but our journey is an individual one. I am so grateful that in 1976 when I went to a home for recovering females that I was forced to work as a group each day on step work. We also had individual therapy, group therapy, AA meetings in the home, AA meetings outside the home, and did all the physical work of making the home work. I like to include excerpts from 3 different bloggers to widen the opportunities for others to find new blogs and ideas to keep the recovery journey alive.

1.  From Sharon W, one of my favorite bloggers, writing on her blog, codependentlife.com, “Fighting the Attitude Disease“:

“To me, my recovery journey is all about the transformation in me, in my thoughts, and how I live my life. Over the years I have learned and relearned many things about myself. Without a doubt one of the most difficult things for me do is to retrain negative thoughts or feelings into something good. Their has been many situations that I have analyzed, prayed about and believed that I had overcome, and then out of the blue, something will happen, and stinking thinking will broad side me when I least expected it too.”

“I use to beat myself up when that happened. As far as I am concerned living it the first time was more than enough, and I did not want the hurts of my past sabotaging my life anymore. I have come to realize that when I am ambushed like that that it is a conditioned reflex of what I call temporary insanity. The reason I call it temporary insanity is because it is temporary. I can usually work myself out of it in a short time whereas in the past it consumed and obsessed my whole life.”

“This happens to me when I am most vulnerable; when I am physically exhausted, when I am under a lot of stress and I have not had an opportunity to recharge my physical and emotional batteries. My husband’s disease is alcoholism. My disease is stinking thinking, (attitudism), distorted thinking, (beliefism & perceptionism). But most people called it codependency.”

2.  From Art Mowle, another favorite, writing on his blog, Drinking for a Lifetime, “Simple Things“:

“Last night, after a beautiful lunch with family and loved ones for my sobriety “birthday”, I couldn’t help but wonder how had I made it for 8 years? What had I done to stay sober for this amount of time? Was it just luck? Had I just had enough? What was the secret, so I can share it with everyone tomorrow?”

“The most important thing that I have done is, giving my life over to the care of God, as I understand Him. When I do that regularly I seem to feel better, in the same way it does for others. Letting God run the show is much easier than doing it myself.”

“After that, it’s simple. My sobriety is actually dependent on me doing simple things over, and over, and over again. Sometimes this might mean every day, or it might mean on a regular basis, or it could even be that over the years I have had to consistently fall back on the same set of crutches when the going gets tough.”

“Why?”

“I think it is because I am human. Part of the human condition is that I am what I think about and what I do on a regular basis. When I am musing over my life, I often discover that I am usually doing much better than I like to give myself credit for. If I think like that often enough, I can have that realization that I am fine be a larger part of my day. When I read the 11th step prayer I have taped to the back of my Big Book, I am less inclined to be a self centered jackass, as I make my way in the world during any given day.”

3.  From Erin, a new blogger for me, writing at her blog, littlesacredspace, “Practicing Gratefulness”:

“A practice of gratefulness affirms that our worth is not based on our own failures or successes but upon God’s gracious and everlasting love for us.  Being grateful in the “nothingness” teaches us that despite the in betweenness of life, God’s love is constant.  Instead of doing, being, and having it all on our own and for us, we rejoice in our own need for God, the beauty of relying on others, and the wisdom of finding joy in the everyday.”

“So often I am astonished to stop and realize the things I working so hard and aiming for (a job, a house, stability and security) will not actually make me all that happier in the long run.  The danger of this kind of thinking is that by focusing on future happiness and success, the gift of the present passes us by.  Instead, at this moment, praise God, I really have all I need–a God who loves me, faults and all, and people around me who feel the same and who I am blessed to love.  Isn’t that what life is really about?”

“As you can see, gratefulness, for me at least, requires great practice.  It’s a mental practice that requires turning from the things the world preaches to the things that God teaches.  It’s a practice where God quietly reorients my will to God’s service and God willing, I obey.”

Photo credit.

ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) Held the Key for My Understanding My Addiction



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 ACA–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.

ACA’s  main book is my 2nd favorite book in recovery. It is for sale at the ACA world service organization here.

Ths site also lists meetings available woldwide here.

From this site:

THE PROBLEM:

“Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either became alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.”

“We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors, rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.”

“These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us “co-victims”, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.”

“This is a description, not an indictment.”

“Adapted from The Laundry List”

THE SOLUTION:

“As ACA becomes a safe place for you, you will find freedom to express all the hurts and fears you have kept inside and to free yourself from the shame and blame that are carryovers from the past. You will become an adult who is imprisoned no longer by childhood reactions. You will recover the child within you, learning to accept and love yourself.”

“The healing begins when we risk moving out of isolation. Feelings and buried memories will return. By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the past. We learn to re-parent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect.”

“This process allows us to see our biological parents as the instruments of our existence. Our actual parent is a Higher Power whom some of us choose to call God. Although we had alcoholic or dysfunctional parents, our Higher Power gave us the Twelve Steps of Recovery.”

“This is the action and work that heals us: we use the Steps; we use the meetings; we use the telephone. We share our experience, strength, and hope with each other. We learn to restructure our sick thinking one day at a time. When we release our parents from responsibility for our actions today, we become free to make healthful decisions as actors, not reactors. We progress from hurting, to healing, to helping. We awaken to a sense of wholeness we never knew was possible.”

I recently met a classmate from high school–we graduated in 1958–and I was sharing some of my growing up experiences. She said that it was hard for her to believe what I remembered about my core family as she viewed us as the perfect All-American family. I guess we were better at the cover-up than I thought. I remember feeling so guilty in grade school as I cried on the way to school that I couldn’t save my mother from the arguments my parents had. It never entered my mind to wonder why she couldn’t save herself. Or me.

I have been asked to publish a link to the ACA Arizona Retreat to be held Sept.11-13 on Mingus Mountain. Check it out.

Photo credit.

About Changemaker

In 1990 I named my company “Changemaker”. I mainly did group lectures while I worked in marketing for treatment centers. although I had been an alcohol counselor, I didn’t begin to write about everything until 2004.

Changemaker is committed to the basic belief that each person has the opportunity for self-discovery and the potential for self-healing. As individuals, we sometimes choose paths that may be harmful to us. To get off that path and onto a new road takes exploration and experimentation.

The Changemaker Test offers education for self-discovery as we believe that the change within a person involves the courage to see (insight) and the courage to act (action). The test will teach anyone 10 or more labels about themselves. Therefore, by using the labels to change themselves, the changemaker is the person who decides to learn and make the change happen. The test, answers , and explanations for the test is free at another blog of mine, Learning Your Labels.

With the use of this test and all the answer explanations, anyone interested in helping others to learn about themselves can start a recovery peer group. Guidelines for monitoring groups, contents for structured groups, quotations for motivation, statistics about the group, suggested times for group, group size, help in helping others to professional guidance, etc. are included at  How to Start and Grow a Recovery Peer Group Sharing Experience, Strength, and Hope.

Groups are the recognized best method for people to gain information and acceptance from others. One of the main underpinings of AA is that all members are peers. Anyone has the opportunity to share and to be heard.

In peer groups, the group leader leads only by getting the group together. Then the leadership is shared by all the group members. By caring for others, the group members can learn as well as teach self-discovery. The group leader/leaders may choose to charge or ask for donations to pay for the meeting room and materials. To lead education groups the only requirement for the business is to have an occupational license to run a business. Peer recovery groups are not therapy groups so no other license is required.

Healing begins when, in spite of all the negative self-talk going on inside a person, that person feels someone caring and loving them for no apparent reason. This unconditional love comes in spite of attempts to search for a motive.

The Changemaker basic beliefs are:

(1) Anyone can get on the wrong road in human growth,

(2) Getting on the right road takes patience and exploration,

(3) Small groups are invaluable support in human growth,

(4) Healing comes from accepting spiritual guidance and direction,

(5) Everyone involved in helping others to grow needs his/her individual path of growth and is free to share it with others,

(6) Letting go and letting God means stepping out into an emotional void,

(7) As well as an individual growth program, each healer needs compassion and understanding.

(8) No healer can help guide beyond his/her individual path of growth.

(9) There is neither hierarchy in spiritual growth nor any ladder to climb or rank to achieve. We are each pilgrims with our own life issues.

(10) Life issues are with us throughout our earthly existence. That is why they are called life lessons. However, they do get slightly less painful if we do the work necessary.

Photo credit.

Is Blogging Journaling?

4218276816_909e61ce85_oI have always resisted the benefit of journaling for me because I have been afraid to go into that “perfect person” that is one of my personas. I have believed that journaling had little to offer me. However, I love to blog and learn a lot about myself as I “post” new articles. Is blogging journaling? Well, yes and no (my favorite kind of answer).

However, I started this blog six months ago (Thanksgiving, 2004), and I love blogging. For the 28 years that I had been in recovery at that time, I have studied and researched about all aspects of personal growth. The main aspect about blogging that suits me is that although I have 5 file cabinets full of material, with blogging i only have to write a “post” which is generally 3-10 paragraphs for me.

As all who have blogs that they update regularly know, a blog that has a general direction and particular messages takes a lot of work. I have been astonished to find myself working on my blog 10-12 hour days. I don’t work outside the home now so I can devote the time to it. Of course, organizing material collected over a 28 year period takes a lot of time. The rewriting and reorganizing are also time-consuming.

But it truly has been a labor of love. I am grateful that my husband has given me this opportunity and am doing what I have wanted to do for years–expressing myself about ways that we can help each other grow emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

My model for the self-discovery groups I hope will happen from the information, materials and direction that I have available from this blog comes from the following quotation that I have used on another post.

“We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.”

Luciano de Crescenzo

Photo credit.