Category: Adult Children of Addicted People

As a COA, Can I Honor My Parent?


Traditionally I write tributes to all of my surrogate “moms” for Mother’s Day, thanking the countless women who have impacted my life by sharing their stories, wisdom, tips, tricks, secrets, encouragement, and advice, helping me to fill in what has felt like an excessive amount of domestic and relational inadequacies. Or, I write about my gratitude for living as a sober & present mom to my own children.

 This year, Mother’s Day, 2017 is dedicated to my biological mom. 

I have been struggling with how to portray her in my upcoming, soon-to-be self-published book, Trauma Queen. As to be expected with any long-term goal, countless hours have been dedicated to this project so far.
Large portions of my writing time has been me, blankly staring, stuck in a rhythmical pattern of cognitive dissonance, torn between bursting to tell the whole truth and nothing but, and also not wanting to deliberately humiliate someone who is not well.

How can I honor someone who has elicited so much destruction?
How do I portray my truth honestly and honor my passion for truth-telling without crossing over into condescending story-telling?
How can I allow her the dignity that she deserves simply for being a human?
How do I describe her illnesses without contributing to stigma?

I began my search for answers by looking in the Bible. Honor, (as a noun) means to value a person highly. We are asked to honor specific people, and our parent’s are included in that group.
To value her highly I had to learn to respect her as a human being.

So what I have tried to do is embrace a mindset that seeks to honor her.

Not to erase what she has or hasn’t done. Not by ignoring the damaged that she has caused, or the births, baby showers, weddings, and birthday parties she has missed.

I have simply chosen to love. To love is to put someone else’s well-being on my radar screen. To love is to accept her for who she is.

For a long time I had nothing decent to say of her. Not playing a part in perpetuating social stigma wasn’t on my radar, and neither was treating her like a human being.
I habitually called her by her first name, and just so that she was absolutely sure she didn’t deserve my respect, I would laugh along with my brother, as we tried to think of as many synonyms for “crack whore” as we could.

After I got sober I began tackling my long list of amends and tallying up the destruction I had already begun to ignite in my own son’s life.
I started to see just how humany we all are as humans. God we’re all so fucked up; we are all learning as we go, and my mother was no exception.
Slowly, I began to develop empathy for her in what had been the coldest, darkest, empty parts of my heart that I had reserved for so many years before.

Because we are still estranged (in order to maintain my own mental stability, and my physical and emotional safety), the way that I honor my mother might not look or feel or be typical but there are still ways that I am trying to do live it out.

I began to learn to honor her the only way that I know how to honor anything else that I don’t fully understand: 

I starting digging.
I put pieces together.
I probed and sought and dove and asked questions until I felt sure I got close enough to the bottom to be able to propel myself back to the surface to catch my breath and reassess.
I learned and educated myself hoping to better understand the whole situation.

I believe that you can take any one thing that you feel a prejudice for, and you can dissect the whole thing until you understand your own heart that much more. It is my experience that the results will surprise you.

Learning about who she was has helped me to learn to honor her. I can separate my personal experiences with her from who she is as a person. By allowing her to break out of my box, it’s like I have set us both free.

Here’s an outline of what I have learned about her:

  • a young girl who had a mentally ill, undiagnosed biological father, and a step-father who was an abusive alcoholic
  • a rebellious, confused, pre-teen who was diagnosed with bi-polar
  • a brave fifteen-year-old pregnant girl, who considered adoption for so long, that she bonded with the adoptive parents
  • a sixteen-year-old new mother who decided that she couldn’t part with her brand-new, five-pound newborn, who walked to Sonic to work everyday to provide for her
  • an eighteen-year-old woman with two babies, trying to balance motherhood, a new crack-addiction, and mismanaged mental-illness
  • a twenty-three-year-old mom with three young children, the third who would pass away after three months
  • and a twenty-four year old who struggled with addiction, mental-illness and relationships, who became so distraught and grief-stricken and ultimately, emotionally paralyzed.

She lost the rest of the pieces of herself that had been holding her together after the death of her child, my youngest brother.

So as I continue to write, I continue to dust off my perceptions about her, hoping to help others see and feel what mental-illness does to a person. It is all very real, and it is certainly not a moral failing or a personal choice or any reason to degrade. Having a front row seat to an uncontrollable fading mind will provide you with more than enough evidence to draw certain conclusions.

I am doing my best to honor who she is in that way and am hoping to shed a light on some relevant truths about the struggles of having co-occurring disorders. I pray that if the book ever land in her hands, that she not slink down in shame, or feel overwhelmed with regret. And I hope that she knows that she has nothing to be ashamed of.

Yesterday at church I added a photo this photo of us to the slide-show. My mom doesn’t look like other mom’s. I secretly feared that people were going to judge me, or see me differently. I wondered what people would think when my photo slid across the screen.

But my anxieties and emotional investment exaggerated how awkward it would actually be for other people to see this photo. I sat smiling from ear to ear, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the silly & sweet family photos that popped up on the screen.

When ours  appeared, tears immediately welled up in my eyes.
It was huge.

It was a my proclamation.

Including her solidified my desire to honor her.
It was a fist bump, between my mother and I.
It was me saying “I see you, and I am not ashamed.”
She is part of my story and I am not hiding part of me to comfort parts of other people or to serve my own fears.

I just want thank her.

I know that she did the best that she could with the resources and knowledge and ability that she had. And I have learned that is truly all that any of us can do. And for the rest of it, there is Grace.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

What Recovery Taught Me About Accepting Love After Experiencing Trauma


It’s almost Valentine’s Day. Let’s talk about love….

A few years ago I believed that drugs and alcohol were the culprit behind my inability to accept love from other people. My philosophy? It was because of my addiction(s) that I had let toxic shame overcome all what was left of me, and that is why I just couldn’t let love in.

Thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you, I became this timid, weary girl, unable to see my own worth, with zero ability to feel or accept love from anyone.

Although, deep down I felt like I didn’t deserve to be loved,
but on the other hand, I also believed I didn’t need or want it from anyone anyway.

Then on one-hand I felt like I had defiled my character into non-existence and that people ‘like me’ didn’t deserve to be respected, never-mind, loved.

And on the other hand I didn’t understand what I needed to do to garner some real fucking devotion or loyalty or consistency from at least one human being on this god-forsaken planet.

From one side of my maladaptive perspective, the culmination of years and years of poor, embarrassing choices were a direct reflection of how unlovable I really was.

And on the flip side, I lived my life in such an angry state, furious at the cards I had been dealt, that I never gave myself time to absorb the harder truth. My life, and those choices? They were mine. I couldn’t blame my parents forever.

Here are a few things I learned in early recovery about my (not-so) personal relationship with accepting love:

*Never had I been able to accept love, and I have no memory of ever thinking it was a good idea. This was a thing for me. A common theme weaved dating back throughout my 24 years on earth. Okay, or at least since the age of 4 when I can clearly remember feeling like I had landed in a house full of morons and I was obviously on my own.

*Long before I ever got high, or drunk, I was already living in a detached state, in an isolated,  lonely, place.  Every-man-for-himself is what made me happy and most comfortable. What had started out as a coping mechanism where I had no desire to allow anyone to penetrate my walls, became this empty place in my heart and grew into something I couldn’t manage anymore. As a result, I had never allowed myself the luxury and blessing of experiencing things like vulnerable connection, real intimacy, friendship, or real, soul-invigorating love. Thanks to childhood trauma, I had always been sort of cold, disconnected, and chameleonesque. And none of translates into anything exciting during adolescence or young adulthood.

*I didn’t need redemption in the eyes or opinions or memory banks of other people.
I needed to feel some love for myself, people. I needed to learn to love ME. The real me. The one who I had never really known or discovered. Instead, I buried her alive. But it was time. I had to be okay with the woman in the mirror and the heart that was still beating (by the grace of God) inside of my chest. This had to happen before I could see why love from others is so important. And God, my higher power, is what did it for me. Learning about who Jesus was as a person made such a difference to me in my recovery journey. Not only did he offer a freshly wiped slate, wiped completely clean, he also reminded me that it is his opinion of who I am that matters. My past couldn’t have a grip around my throat if I knew it didn’t have any power over who I could become. I didn’t need anyone else to like or accept or forgive me, but me. I began to smile when I looked in the mirror. I started to see myself through a brand new lens. I am worthy of love. I am a woman of God. I am valuable and precious and not even my old conclusions of my worthiness would stop me.

*Accepting love means that I can see my own value and self-worth. 
After the rush of the big wave came in, I could also see my progress with the smaller, choppy ones. I take compliments now, instead of politely sending them right back. love myself enough to surround myself with loving, nurturing, caring, affectionate, healthy, positive, people. I am still weary of the feeling of vulnerability and I am a survivor of some pretty intense forms of anxiety, but you know what? If the things that I have been through and survived haven’t killed me, I know for sure that anxiety and vulnerability aren’t going to get the job done. I am going to be okay.

Recovery. This was my place.
In a small room in the back of a church was where my life began to take a turn. It was in a small room where I accepted my first dose of vulnerable love. My first natural-high. A real sense of belonging somewhere.

It was the first time in my life where I let myself be carried, and supported.
I accepted compliments, and let encouragement in.
I began forming relationships based off of solid, pure, authentic, substance.

I accepted forms of love without even realizing what I was doing.

So I guess I could say: thanks a lot drugs and alcohol.
Because of you my whole world finally turned around, and I let love in.

No Thank-You, Anxiety

 

anxiety

Ten years ago I think if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I believed that I was an outgoing, people-oriented person. Never-mind the fact that it only took three or four various types of Benzo’s carefully carelessly mixed with any amount of cheap alcohol to render my central nervous system inactive just enough, that I felt like I could interact with other humans without bolting or vomiting…but viola.

After the chemicals dissolved into my bloodstream, I was gently catapulted right out of my metaphorical, safe-place. I would be temporarily transformed into a person who I thought I liked, who was also likable. Deep beneath my scar tissue I was obviously a fucking blast. This way, I was friendly and interpersonal, yet zombie-like and unable to decipher real connection from shallow interaction.

For years living this way satisfied my deep longing for connection. I thought I was filling my empty spaces. Isolation became this sad, empty, arena that I mistakenly thought was my happy place.

Sober, not only have I learned to embrace who God made me to be even if that person pushes the barriers of what it means to be imperfect, my empty spaces are filled and I understand true connection.

Among other characteristics, qualities, and quirks, I am a confident, introverted, personality type who is also supremely awkward, and inept in particular social situations. Overall, I am a person who prefers to escape, and in short, I struggle with some co-occurring anxiety stuff. If I can even smell conflict, confrontation,  or any situation that makes me feel like it could be considered ‘high-stress’ I just prefer to disappear.

My life is calm and I am happy to say, drama free. My boundaries with my family ensure that I am not in any immediate danger, I don’t get screamed at or threatened anymore. No fist fights, no yelling matches, nothing. My relationships are safe and typically dysfunctional.

And it’s beautiful.

Over the years (special thanks to counseling and my healthy boundaries), I have learned about why I experience anxiety and what (mostly who) triggers it. My anxieties have lessened and aren’t as widespread, but there are a few areas where it will still try to rule over and suffocate me.

For instance, I have no problem getting up and sharing my story with large groups. Churches, treatment centers, small groups, meetings. Totally fine. I am confident and even excited to have opportunities like that. I can have a one-on-one conversation with a friend, and can manage having the passing, pleasantry type of interactions just fine.

But when I am thrown into any situation involving an unknown, (e.g., ice-breaker ‘activity’ “Let’s go around the room, state your name, or why you’re here or your favorite _______!”) one by one, in front of a large group of people, or am invited to be a part of a discussion panel or a podcast, I instantly freeze up.

The same feeling washes over me if I am introduced to a stranger and then abruptly left alone, standing there expected to carry on the conversation. (e.g., “Oh, hey Jill, this is my friend Brittany. I just think you two have so much in common!”)

No. No and more no.
Please, just stop.

“Maybe, if I sit still enough or quiet enough, they will skip right over me.”

“Which path can I take from here to make a break for the bathroom in the most unsuspecting, casual, way?” (as if anyone really gives a shit if I get up to use the restroom).

“How can I get out of this?”

If I fail to actually morph into an inanimate object, which most of the time I doesn’t happen, I will stay and participate or try to carry on the conversation for exactly the least amount of time that is socially acceptable.

And somehow I don’t actually die.

I will sweat and my mind and heart will race so rapidly that I have to fix my eyes on something to avoid vomiting, but I try to breathe deep and remind myself that although my feelings and the tingling sensations are very real, my anxieties aren’t logical. It isn’t real, and it will be okay. I am not in actual danger and all of my red flags need to chill. But I still feel terrified,out of control, and have to fight through every natural instinct that still lives within me not to run away.

Sometimes when it is my turn to respond out-loud and unplanned in a group setting my answers take what feels like three whole minutes to come out of my mouth before I start talking. I might mix up my words or stumble around trying to come up with an answer, and if there’s food involved you can bet that I will always shake just enough to drop pieces of lettuce on my shirt as I try to look as calm and casual as whoever I am sitting next to.

If I had to try to explain it to someone I would say it’s different for everyone, and anxiety by definition is a normal phenomenon. It is when you have a disorder that it becomes difficult to manage and to navigate, and even harder to help make sense to those who have never experienced it.

For me it is like a tiny, raging, internal battle for control of my attention. On the outside I might just look like a shy or uninterested person with drops of salad dressing on her shirt who can’t carry on in intelligible conversation.

On the inside I am overwhelmed and distracted by all of the red flags that are unnecessarily popping up warning me of ‘unknown’ things happening; warning me of impending danger that is too close. My body is gearing up for take-off as I silently work to turn off the engines against its wishes.

So. I still find myself battling old demons from time to time, but at least my life isn’t actually in imminent danger so that is something to be grateful for.

And listen.
I struggle.
And I probably look stupid, or maybe that is my anxiety talking.
And I know at times I am misunderstood.
And sometimes I want to wear a sign or hand out cards so that people would stop asking me why I am “so quiet.” (Nope, just talking myself into staying, thanks.)

But most importantly I push myself. I want to quit. I want to run and hide, but I don’t.
I go to ladies events,  holiday parties, birthday parties etc. I play board games with our family that force me to stand up in front of all of them and look really, really, ridiculous and vulnerable (Quelf).
And sometimes I hate it.

I have to talk myself out of staying home, or not participating, or making excuses to avoid going EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Not because I enjoy self-torture, but because I know what my track-record looks like when I choose isolation over interaction.

It’s a dangerous game.

I also know that I cannot make any progress if I don’t make some attempt to try.

I might succeed, and by succeed I mean make it through from start to finish without leaving.

And sometimes I skip one event or invite but try to make it to the next thing.

But I go at my own pace. I go.

I deep into God’s truth and I hold onto the reassurance that His strength is sufficient. I use that strength to resist giving my internal fears one nano-second more of me, my life, or my opportunities to build and engage in my relationships, than I have already missed. I have buckled, and I have given in, and I have cowered in fear, I have hidden, and stayed down, too many times throughout my life for far too long, and have missed so much already.

So no thank you, anxiety.

I might not be able to get rid of you completely in every area of my life, but I will continue to fight through you every single time.

So I encourage you, not to do what I do or to think how i think, or to believe how I believe, but only to challenge yourself a little bit.

Challenge your old ways of thinking or and your comfortably uncomfortable ways of reacting.

Whatever a tweak or a change or a step in a progressive, healthy, direction looks like for you, safely within the confines of your life, do that.

Take tiny little baby steps, but push yourself out there a little bit further than you ever have. If you’re anything like me you will get discouraged, you will take one step forward and ten steps backward, you might get salad on your shirt, or trip over the carpet on your way to run to any other room than the one you are in that has people, but even so, decide those things will not be the reasons that you decide to quit trying altogether.

Because inconsistency is not synonymous with failure. 

Be nice to yourself as you are transforming. Life and change and growth is hard enough.

(Note: As a former substance abuser of all kinds, and a person who spent years addicted and dependent on prescription medication, I choose not to medicate myself for my anxiety disorder(s). My mental health is important, but I do what is best for my life as a whole. It is a personal choice that is best for me. However, I am not advocating for the ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’ technique and barreling through without medication, especially if medication can benefit you and improve your quality of life. I am, however, always an advocate for pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.) 

 

Don’t Give Up

Music speaks to me in a unique way and I loved this song the very first time I heard it on the radio a few weeks ago.

Today is first time I have had a chance to watch the ‘official’ video for this song. I sat this morning with tears streaming down my face as I watched and listened, drowning in gratitude. I thanked the Lord for His grace and mercy and healing. I have been allowed the freedom to let go of that little girl who used to take up residence inside of my head and my heart, and I have accepted forgiveness, and have forgiven myself for being that mom pleading with the garbage disposal. I am beyond thankful that I crossed paths with Celebrate Recovery and found God. He gave me the strength to walk down some of the ugliest, messiest, most painful roads on my search for closure, healing, and contentment.

There really is hope and healing and life after being in a state of complete brokenness.
Please keep holding on, and don’t give up hope on yourself.

Zach Williams, Chain-Breaker Lyrics:

If you’re been walking the same old road for miles and miles
If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies
If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside
There’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker
If you feel lost, He’s a way maker
If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

We’ve all searched for the light of day in the dead of night
We’ve all found ourselves worn out from the same old fight
We’ve all run to things we know just ain’t right
When there’s a better life, there’s a better life

If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify, testify
If you believe it, if you receive it
If you can feel it, somebody testify

If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior
If you got chains, He’s a chain breaker

nfsitpy

When You Finally See That Everything Is Not Fine

i6vmsv
Generational addiction is complex and ugly.

While it isn’t a hopeless thing to come back from, it is impossible to mend relationships if no one is willing to take a look at the truth, especially if you are talking about unraveling years and years of effects of trauma, abuse, codependency, enabling, addiction, and mismanaged mental-illness.

So not every family trying to interact with each other after dealing with addiction and its ramifications make it. We don’t all kiss and make up. We don’t all attend group counseling sessions or family rehab visits or collaborative therapy or accept apologies or offer or accept forgiveness.

It’s a hot fucking mess express, and everyone knows it.
And sometimes, it just stays messy and no one wants to touch it.

There are no unicorns, no rainbows, no positive quotes. No hugs or family selfies.
There is disconnection, and minimizing, rationalizing, denying, justifying, and distorting. It’s frustrating.

And I totally get it. 
I know how good it feels to push away the raw, real, shame-ridden truth for as long as you possibly can, and those defense mechanisms are helpful truth shunning aids.

They trick your mind and your heart into feeling like things aren’t as bad as they actually are; into believing that ‘everything is fine’ when in fact, all of the things are anything but fine.
And they do great work. 
You can use them for as long as life will allow, or, as long as your own truth will allow. Defense mechanisms are most definitely one of those things that work until they can’t anymore.

But there is no grey area to linger comfortably in.
They either work or they don’t.

So sometimes when you commit to living authentically, you have to walk away.
You have to space between you, and Pleasantville.

Maybe, like me, you have to throw your hands in the air and scream:
“Everything is not fine. No matter how many times you say it is or band-aid it all up, it still isn’t fine.”

So you make new choices.

You decide to do what is best and healthiest and easiest for you to live with every day and you own it.

You believe in the choices that you are making.

You choose to face the pain of walking alone because it hurts less than pretending.

You gather up your pieces of what is left and you keep moving forward.

You stay open to possibilities, but you refuse to allow old mindsets to hold you down.

And you wrap God’s truth around your heart tightly, and you cling to His track record in the restoration department.

The end.

I Am The Child Of An Addict & I Am A Former Stigma Supporter

stigma
If anyone understands what the ramifications of guilt and shame associated with the relentless, ignorant, shaming of another human being feels like, it would be me.

Guilty.

I was twenty-five before I realized that maybe, maybe my mom wasn’t actually just a batshit crazy woman, doomed to forever be an infuriating, selfish person.

Seriously.
I am a former-stigma pusher.

When I was young, jumping on the popular bandwagon of the ill-informed people felt natural to me. I wanted to be normal and to live normal and to know what the fuck normal felt like. I didn’t want people to think that I was okay with how things were, because I wasn’t.

I wasn’t able to comprehend the complexity of our situation. I didn’t understand her, or her ‘chosen’ lifestyle choices, or her adult decisions that weren’t adult at all, all of which completely ruined my not-so-hand-picked childhood.

As a teen, I was just a bitter, egocentric, wounded young woman who had no desire to learn about her or the ‘why’ behind the curtain. I didn’t care. I knew enough and there was no story or sickness or explanations that were going to be logical enough for me to feel like she deserved to be excused for how my early life went.

But in the last 5-10 years we have actually been given specific, more accurate diagnoses.
They have explained away the majority of what experiencing my own addiction still hadn’t.

Her particular situation was and is so complex and sticky and messy, and is not as much her fault as it is her illnesses that have been amplified and worsened by long-term addiction and under or mis-diagnosis.

Looking back, one of the greatest, most fresh, ripe, vital resources that laid the groundwork for some of my own deep-seeded toxic shame (that I would later unpack after I became addicted), was the shaming and judgment that I endured indirectly, (oopsie) as people boastfully voiced their self-righteous opinions about my household.

Throughout my childhood, many people publicly and privately shamed my mom.

And the more I watched as she was taunted and shunned, and gossiped about, and the more rumors and snickers and whispers were spread, the more it began to devalue who I was.

And the more I hated her.
And the more I blamed her.

All of that played a crucial role in how I began to identify and how I saw my value as a person.

Lately, there has been a ton of public criticism of parents and caregivers who have overdosed in front of children or minors.

So, as a child of an addict, AND as a former judgmental asshole, here are a couple of things that I want people to know:

Those kids? They FEEL it all.
Like, ALL of it.

If we care so much about the suffering, health, well-being, and future of the children who are a part an addicted family, remember: before you sprint to and inject your opinions into the comment area, or within the confines of your own day-to-day interactions, do so with a little bit of mindfulness and maybe, even compassion.

Children feel emotionally connected to their caregivers and that means that what you say about their addicted or ill parent hits them much harder, and deeper than you might think.

They feel every one of your harsh, cruel, critical, degrading comment that you blindly shove their way, and they will wear your long-stares like an awkward, warm, microfiber blanket wrapped tightly around their still developing self-image.
 

Your judgment will not change things.
You are keeping them down, right where you believe their parents are:  below you.

Unless you have been in that place you probably can’t imagine what they are already going through. They are trying to process things that move faster than they can go, that are far more complex than their brains can comprehend, and that are more damaging than an F5 tornado ripping through a mobile home community.

Addiction means maladaptive everything; irregular thinking, feeling, coping, seeing, and finally, being.

These children are over-compensating and are hyper-focused on looking like the rest of us. They spend a lot of time not being children, but running around in their own minds trying to sweep things up, hide and cover things and trying to decide if it is time for fight or for flight.
It would be a pretty accurate consensus to say that the deck isn’t stacked in their favor.

And guess how much your judgment of their caregiver or loved one does for their actual situation or how they feel or their odds of learning life skills and acquiring tools to acknowledge, process, reflect on and overcome their life experiences?

Exactly zero.

I Couldn’t Open the Door.

doors
The day after Mother’s Day I heard a knock at my front door.
And then almost immediately, my door bell rang.
I quietly stepped to the front window and peeked out and I heard the doorbell again.

When I looked out, I could see my mom standing on the porch.
I stood there peeking through the blinds and I watched as she nervously shifted her weight back and forth. Her arms were swinging from side to side. She was anxious.
A few seconds passed and she rang the door bell three consecutive times and she stepped back down to the sidewalk. She looked around and then she lit a cigarette.

I really couldn’t bear to watch her facial expressions as she began to realize that I probably wasn’t coming to the door, so I backed up and sat down in my chair.

I felt conflicted as I always do.
I wanted to open the door and then another part of me wanted to hold my breath until I knew she was gone.

My anxiety started to make itself known and I began asking questions.
What was she doing here?
What did she need?
Was she in trouble?
Why didn’t she park in the driveway?
Was she hiding something?
Was she alone? Is she angry?
What if I answer the door?
What kind of person am I?
Why is this so difficult?

I absolutely hated every second of that she stood out there. I hated that she probably didn’t understand why I didn’t just open the door, embrace her, and invite her in for a tour and a cup of coffee.

But I just couldn’t make myself open the door.
I had no idea what would have happened if I did and that pretty much sums up the extent of our entire relationship from my birth up to this point.
I have never had any idea what was going to happen next.
(I would like you to meet reason number one why I battle with anxieties, control, and balance issues as an adult.)

Opening the door would be too risky.
She makes me feel unsafe and somehow her presence makes me feel unsure about everything. I know it’s irrational, but that isn’t the point. It feels like I am standing on shaky ground that could crumble beneath me at any given moment. Just because my heart sank as each minute passed that I knew she was standing there doesn’t mean that my head believed that opening the door was a good idea.

This internal battle is a tough one and it really always has been. Since I have been sober boundaries have been an integral part of my sobriety and recovery. I learned how to live a healthy life keeping toxicity at a safe distance.

But while it has made more sense over the years and I have gained more perspective on why my health and well-being is so important to me as a wife and mother, and as a woman in general, it doesn’t mean that it has gotten easier. It is indescribable to have to wrestle with what feels like a natural inclination.

I have tried to take this last month to just allow myself to process the feelings that I have been experiencing, quietly.
I kept how I was feeling between me, and God and I didn’t verbally share until two nights ago. When I finally did (out loud) I cried like a baby, and not because I hadn’t faced the emotions, but because there is something about saying it out-loud that just makes it hard to get out.

My head and my heart may not always agree but that doesn’t mean that either is necessarily wrong. I just have to remind myself that the boundaries that have been put in place are for protection, not to harm anyone.

For me one of life’s toughest lessons has been accepting that right thing is almost always the most difficult option.

This is just one of those situations where all that I can do at this point is remind myself that God is good. He is so good to me.

He has helped me to accept some of the harsh realities that have entered my life and my heart. I do my best not to over-analyze the situation, because I cannot change it.
I don’t spend all of my time worrying or beating myself to death or drowning in guilt anymore.
I have also been given the perspective that I had always sought.
I have the confirmation that I need and while I do doubt my ability to always accept my situation with as much grace as I have been given, I never doubt God’s ability to get me through the things that I face.

I also have hope.
Sometimes when we close a door another door opens.
Other times it is meant to stay shut.
But the best thing about doors?
We have options.

They don’t have to stay closed indefinitely.

A Grateful Mother’s Day

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I have taken advantage of the opportunities to learn from my addiction and my former debilitating lifestyle in all its glory; the one that deadened and demanded it have my whole person, but mostly, forcefully snatched my desire or ability to focus on or experience anything that I would perceive as good.

Being an unhealthy person overall (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) was exhausting.
It helped me to keep the traumatic & painful things at the forefront of my mind and I really didn’t know how to shut down the continuous loop that reeled inside of my head.

I was continuously reminded of the pain because I did a good job making sure that my old wounds stayed raw, and fresh. I hated who I was, but most of my underlying rage was directed very specifically toward my mother.

I wasn’t aware that the bitterness and resentment that I had been holding onto would also become the starting point where most of my healing would take place in recovery.

Loving someone who has struggled with mental-illness and addiction my entire life is comparable to the stages of emotion one experiences when they are grieving, except for its a little different.
Physically she has always been here and she is still alive today, but she hasn’t ever been, and still isn’t available. I never had the privilege of knowing her, but I have had a front row seat to watch the slow deterioration process.

So in honor of her and because of my grief,
I never really let celebrate Mother’s Day.

Despite being a young mother myself, it almost felt disrespectful to enjoy the it. Instead, I spent it mourning what I never had and what I would never have. This holiday magnified all of my negative feelings and gave me an excuse to feel sorry for myself year after year.

I would cry throughout the day wondering what things could have been like or what it might have been like to have her around, or who she might be if she was healthy or what our relationship could have been like if it was ever given the chance to develop.

I would imagine what it would be like to meet my mom for lunch or shopping. What if one day we went to get our nails done, what would that be like? Maybe she could have gone to my wedding, or maybe I should have tried to find her to come to the hospital for at least one of my children being born? What would it be like to invite her over for dinner? What does she like to eat? Then I would start wondering how she spends her Mother’s Day. Is it still traumatic for her?  Does she still blame herself for my brother’s passing?

Then I would seamlessly transition to all that I never had. I wouldn’t let myself forget that when I was a little girl I never had anyone to watch get ready, or to share lipstick with. No one to talk about adolescent girly types of things, no one to laugh with, no one to talk about boys with. As I got older I didn’t call her when I found out I was expecting my first baby, my second, or my third. My labor came and went without any contact with her or connection of any kind. Post-par-tum days weren’t any different. She didn’t know that my life had changed, and she wasn’t interested.

Just like my addiction in its organic form, this entire process was completely inward focused. I couldn’t see any of the good around me because I was so focused and determined on all of the negative things. 

But my recovery taught me how to sort through all of the negative feelings that I had relating to all of those things that I never had and would likely never experience. I learned that In order to allow myself to move forward I needed to accept what is and forgive her for what wasn’t.

And then God took it a step further.

It became so much more than acceptance, and having my feelings validated.
It was more than processing and healing.
It was more than being free and more than the ability to move forward.

Somehow I became grateful that my life went the way that it did.
Somehow I was able to look back without wanting to change it all.
I was thankful for the messes and the trauma and being the ‘unfortunate kid.’

It is why I can sit here with tears welled-up in my eyes, so thankful to be here writing this.
It is why I can celebrate Mother’s Day:

*My experiences are the reason why it is so important to me to encourage other moms to stay sober and why I want to help them to stay strong for their babies. Their kids need them. I know how much of a difference that having them will make in their lives. I also know that it doesn’t matter to a child when a parent gets sober, it really won’t make a difference to them. They will just be over the moon excited and relieved.

*My experiences are the reason why I want to be a part of fighting for people who are struggling with the stigmas that have formed around people and families with mental illness and addiction. They are the reason why I don’t believe in labels. These things make an already difficult situation so much more shameful for all involved. I fight for people who I have never met, because we are all connected in this thing, even if we’re strangers.

*My experiences are the reason why I am so grateful to be a mommy, and I am okay with being an imperfect one. My mother is imperfect and I still love her, so I know that I can’t possibly screw up my kids that bad, so I have already made a little bit of progress with the legacy that I will someday leave behind. Progress people, progress.

*My experiences aren’t debilitating anymore and they aren’t powerful in the sense that they can have me down in my bed for days in tear-soaked bed sheets.
They are powerful in the sense that they have become my purpose, and my primary motivation to love my kids so hard that they won’t ever spend a Mother’s Day trying to figure out what they could have done wrong, or different, or better.

This is what drives me to keep cheering for all of the parents out there who are in recovery.

You guys rock and *you* might not believe it yet, but you are changing the world by changing your life. We can change the trajectory of the little lives we are in charge of, and that is amazing.

You matter and changing your life matters even on days where you can’t feel that it matters. 

Our kids see us fighting to get our lives back and they will see how determined that we are- and they will begin to see their own resilience and freedom to choose.

For me, God has taken a holiday that used to have me face down in the mud, and has breathed so much new life into it, so much that I can’t put into words. His love for me has shown me how to love other people. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day with the little people who I have been loaned, and I hope that they know how much my love for them has driven me to be a better woman.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my beautiful mama friends. 

(Side-note: I am not trying to feed stigma here. I am writing about undiagnosed, mismanaged or misdiagnosed mental-illness. It is possible and very common for THOUSANDS of people who have a mental illness to live happy, healthy, productive, stable, awesome lives.)

Trauma: Keep the Envelope.

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I got a package in the mail yesterday from a distant relative. It was such a thoughtful and kind gesture, and I really appreciate them taking the time to send it to me.

Before I opened the package, I re-read the facebook message I had received that sweetly encouraged me to enjoy the photos, and expressed that they really hoped it helped bring back some great memories.

Inside of the manila envelope I found a large stack of random pictures that were taken at various stages of my childhood.

I sat down on our porch swing that faces our back yard.
I began looking though them as I listened to my boys playing on the trampoline.

It was great seeing all of my cousins. Everyone was so young, and so adorable. Looking at the smiling faces of my grandma ,my great grandma, and other relatives who I instantly recognized put a smile on my face.

My smile faded as I could faintly hear that apathetic voice that I have intentionally and strategically buried with truth and immeasurable amounts of hours worth of self-care & maintenance.

It was the familiar feeling of disconnect.

If I hadn’t recognized the faces in the photos they may as well have been stock photos that come inside of new picture frames from a local retail store.

I kept trying to envision the specific time in history anyway.

But it was blank. 

I tried to carefully study each photo thinking that maybe, just maybe, if I stared long enough; if I really let the details in the photo sink in, surely, some kind of flashback or emotion would surface.

So I took my time.
I examined facial expressions, clothing, photos on the wall, flooring.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine the scenario. The smells, the sounds. Something. Anything.

But nothing came.

As a sober adult who has been on a complicated, yet gratifying journey working toward being the best, healthiest version of myself for almost a decade now, this isn’t my first rodeo in relation to feeling detached.

I know that throughout my childhood, the effects of trauma seized moments from me before they even had a chance to play out.

I can recall certain instances when I visited a friend, went to school, or attended a birthday party, but what I remember are feelings, not specific memories.

I can remember feeling different.
I can remember never allowing myself to fully embrace a moment or freely express raw, genuine, emotion.
Everything that I said or did was always carefully calculated and thoughtfully dispensed.

But just as I or anyone else thumbing through this stack of photos can clearly see: it wasn’t all bad.

There were blocks of time where I had opportunities to be free, and to enjoy be a kid, but I never welcomed it or embraced them.

My experiences were always negative because of the way I operated day-to-day.
I was always busy surviving even when it wasn’t necessary.
I made my home down in the pit that I was stuck in, and just to be super safe, I was also wrapped in real fear of losing my sense of control.

So much of my life has  had been handed over to trauma.

The good news is: that was not the end of my story.
It could have been, but by the grace of God, it wasn’t over. It was just beginning.

For me, sobriety meant finally having to face the hard stuff and voluntarily giving healing permission to begin its work in my life.

Although I don’t lead a perfect life and I may not ever not rid myself of the shadows left from the scars, today I understand what I have control over, what I don’t, and more importantly, I value how little control I actually need to have.

Never again will I believe that I am nothing more than a channel created for fear, or meant for compulsion, because I am free.

So trauma, you can keep that manila envelope.

I will keep the gifts of sobriety that I have been gifted and am able to open each and every day.

And for that, I am beyond grateful.

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The Twelve Steps for Adult Children- From Addicted and Other Dysfunctional Families:

So I love scanning the bookshelves at thrift stores, you never know what you will end up finding. Last week I came across this gem and splurged. I thought it might be worth .50 cents.
Twelve-Steps-for-Adult-Children-Friends-in-Recovery-9780941405126
Yes, it’s old.

Yes the revised & updated edition was published back in 1989; but I thought it couldn’t hurt to see what was inside.

After all, I have only recently begun digging into this side of my roots, and I can’t think of a better way to continue, than by learning more about it.

From what I had already read on the internet, I am really not too sure that much of this information has evolved much over the years.

It doesn’t read as irrelevant or outdated, and I have really found much of this applicable to my experience.

I am thirty pages in and have found that I am nodding my head in agreement with most of what I am reading.

So far the chapter that has stood out to me the most has been on step 4, and writing a personal inventory. This chapter talks a lot about resentment and anger.

The more that I learn, the more I begin to make sense of myself. I am putting more of the pieces together, and am understanding how I became who I became, and why.

Like I have said before, these concepts aren’t brand new to me, but the more I learn, the more blanks I fill in, and the more empathy I develop for others who are struggling- including my mother.

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I still have my very first participant guide from my first Celebrate Recovery meeting. It took me a long time to fill it out, and to work through that first book. Over the years, I have referenced it and flipped through it.

I can see and feel the anger that I felt and carried written on the pages of that book.

I was an angry young woman, who had been hurting for so long. I just hadn’t realized how long I had been carrying it all around. I did allow it to destroy me in the end. It infected every single part of my being.

Until now, I guess I never realized that the way that I processed being hurt and how I expressed (internalized) anger were things that I learned to do when I was a child, for my own protection.

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(page 30)

So yes, I so relate to this. I learned to not allow myself to feel a long, long time ago. I protected myself.

My own addiction to not feeling developed a LONG time ago.

It was the beginning of what would become destructive behavior.

Recovery forced me to stand up.
I finally tried to face AND feel my anger when it came.
I had to learn what to do and other ways to handle this emotion.

For me understanding, learning more, and educating myself helps me to have more patience with my slow progress.

Knowing why I became what I was, and how I can combat these things really helps me to keep pushing and moving forward. I am not a lost cause or simply damaged goods. I was a small person coping like a child. Now I am an adult who understands that  these things were self-taught and utilized for survival.

I am capable. I have learned new things. I can reteach myself, and I live now-
I am not just surviving anymore.

I am also learning that no one can communicate effectively one hundred percent of the time.

I am still working on taming my inner beast. Anger is definitely the emotion that I still struggle with most, but I have made tons of progress. It no longer sits inside, and I try to talk about how I feel when it is necessary, in an appropriate way.

Someone who is much further along in Recovery taught me a long time ago, that recovery has many gifts, and one of the big ones is our ability to feel and experience life.

But we have to learn that we cannot pick and choose which emotions that we accept and deal with. It is an all or nothing sort of deal. 

I choose all.

Roughly 70 pages more to go in this book.
So expect a few more posts as I dig and learn even more.

Reflections From a Visit with Mom:

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I had lunch with my mom on Thursday, October 15, 2015.

We had only really seen each other a handful of times since our last big hoorah in March of 2006-
and on that particular St. Patrick’s day we both ended up in adjacent jail cells.

Fast-forwarding to our next big hoorah, that happened on February 16, 2014,
1 year and 8 months ago.

That was the day of my late grandmother’s visitation, or celebration of life; and we had quite an afternoon.  (It was terrible, but you can read more about that visit HERE)
That day could have played out much like our past encounters, except that last time, things were different. Mostly due to the fact that I was sober. Also because I had one of my children with me, and something about working a Recovery, growing, learning, and forgiving, had really tweaked my soul.
In February of 2014, I experienced one of her episodes – and I reacted a little bit different from I had in the past. Even though I was left a tiny bit traumatized and it really almost triggered a legit panic/anxiety attack, I managed to not react.

I guess it was the first time I had really experienced an episode while I was sober and not utilizing one of my cognitive escapee techniques.
That time I lived the moment, I processed it, and moved on with my life.

So our most recent visit was uneventful. Well – it was definitely not boring or quiet, but it also wasn’t violent or threatening, so, I guess I consider it a major win for us.

Judging from our visiting patterns, it seems that we see each other on average, once every year or so, depending on the severity of drama encountered at last visit.
After each experience, I do try to reflect.

This most recent visit I took away a few new things, and I am okay with what I learned.

I can appreciate that I am not sitting here writing about my anxiety as a result of the visit. This time we both managed to end the day feeling pretty positive.

Here are 2 things that I took away:

* I have to accept what is, for exactly what it is.

She had no recollection of our visit from last year, nor did she understand why we hadn’t seen each other in over a year.

Ah, this.
Yes,  I recognize this.
The memory loss, or loss of time, phenomenon is one that I talked about in support groups for years. For a long time, much of my deep-rooted resentment stemmed from my anger toward her for this very reason. How in the hell does someone treat any someone, more specifically, someone who you spawned, in the way that she has acted toward her children, and manage to not remember any of it?

I had to learn to apply what I know. What I know is that I am only responsible for me.

Change in this situation, or in our relationship, will only happen if I am the one making moves.
It has come down to doing my best to understand even more, and educating myself about her personality, condition, traits, and patterns.

I have had to force myself to accept that her dissociative behavior hurts, but isn’t personal.
It seems like it is targeted directly towards me, but in reality, it isn’t  chosen or intently thought out -it is impulsive and triggered by things that don’t have anything to do with me.

In and in a perfect world, she would hold herself accountable and her brain would understand that she cannot hurt me with her hands, or with her words, but this isn’t a perfect world.

Our visit last year was one that seriously re-damaged my bandaged up wounds, and threw me off my game; however, it was not on her radar, whatsoever. Didn’t happen. No ill-feelings for her to do with or handle, just the confusion over why I disappeared again.

An incident that nailed our relationship coffin tightly closed until I came around to feeling safe around her, didn’t affect her in the slightest.

But utilizing what I know, has really helped my healing process this time. I am not trying to change anything but myself, and how I choose to deal with things as they stand.
I also understand that when I put myself in certain situations, I need to be ready to accept what happens. I know what the possible outcomes are, and I am able to make a conscious decision to cross certain boundaries, or not.

*I am learning to appreciate that she is different, and possesses good qualities that were drowned out during the more chaotic years.

She isn’t afraid to do everything under the sun, that is considered socially unacceptable; and something about it makes me smile.

So what use to mortify me as a child, is now pretty entertaining.
The older that I get, and the more that I learn about myself, the more I see why it isn’t so bad that she goes against the grain.
(Like all the grains).

-She isn’t afraid to wear exactly what she wants, despite season or color. If she likes it, screw it. She’s wearing it. It doesn’t matter if it is a child’s tiara from the thrift store, with a matching wand,coupled with a denim purse, or a very sparkly lanyard, and lots of costume jewelry. She is not afraid to express herself with what the mood suits.

Maybe it isn’t the fact that she is bold in the fashion department that I like, it is the part where she doesn’t even notice people staring, nor would she care if she did.
I need more of that.

-Age is nothing but a number. It really makes no difference to her. She  laughs too loud, she yells in what other adults have deemed ‘quiet places’ (like the bank lobby), she skips through parking lots, and she gets really excited when she see’s shiny things and birds flying.
Yes, it is funny and I give her crap about it when we’re together, but I like the freedom that she feels.

Maybe it isn’t so much that I like that she sometimes deliberately breaks what adults have adopted as ‘typical’ behavior, but again, what I like is that she is herself, no matter where she is or who is watching. I think I can always use that reminder; something that I learned in Recovery. It is always alright to be myself, and I am okay with who I have to offer the world.

-Even in her situation, she thinks of and gives to others. 
She talked and talked about others. Praying for other people, trying to do her part to give what she can to others, and had a bag full of things for my kids.
Granted, she has little to give, and the things for my kids weren’t gender specific or age appropriate, but her heart meant well, and her motives were loving.

It isn’t really that she gave silly things; it was that she isn’t really in an ideal position to give, by my standards, and she gave anyway.
I think that is something that I can learn from.

This visit was perfect considering alternatives.

I want to learn to do things more unconventionally, and radical. One-hundred percent…

Maybe not on her scale, but a smaller, more muted scale
that rests on the same fundamental principle:

We should live life and be exactly who we are, authentically, and unapologetically. 

This isn’t really me praising her for perfection, or erasing all that has been done.
This reflection is really about my learning to take what she does have to give, and trying to pluck out hidden positives that may not stand out.

This is much better for me, and my own mental health, instead of focusing on all of the typical &  traditionally passed down things,  that she simply cannot offer.

Ultimately, I guess I am excited that I am making progress in this area. It is not easy loving someone who isn’t mentally well, who is suffering in many different ways. It has taken me a long time to forgive her for her actions that affected my childhood, and it has taken just as many years of learning about mental illness and the after effects of long-term drug use to understand more of who she is today.

I have a feeling it will take more than one positive visit for me to see more of her and less of the illnesses, but I will take the little bits revealed here and there. I also have a feeling that as the years go by, things will change as all things do. I can only try my best to handle what is, right now.

Thanks for reading, lovelies!

Adult Child of an Addict. My Top 3 Traits:

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I said let’s do this thing, so here we go.

Here are the basics.
Children who live with people who are addicts or alcoholics typically experience various amounts of some, or all, of these types of dysfunction:

violence
inconsistencies (in all areas)
neglect
unclear boundaries/roles
physical/sexual/emotional abuse

These things change us.
As children, we see, feel, take-on, and cope with, situations that the majority of people don’t.

We grow into adults who seem to have common characteristics.
The original list of 13 characteristics was written by Janet Woititz, author of Adult Children Of Alcoholics.
(Find the full list here: http://addictioninfamily.com/alcohol/characteristics-of-acoa-by-janet-g-woititz/)

Of the 13 characteristics, I have at one point or another, identified with all of them.
With the exception of #’s  2, 3, 9, & 13,  I can say that I relate to a lot of these in my life now. This list has allowed me to do a lot of reflecting from different angles.

The 3 characteristics that I identify with most: 

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
Yes. It has affected every single area of my daily life and has been a large part of what I mean when I say ‘re-learning’ how to live life.
So this. A lot of this.

This has been an ongoing thing throughout my 8.5 years in Recovery.
From a very young age I recall feeling & knowing that the behavior that I witnessed was wrong.
I knew a certain someone in my life had lost her sh*t, and had checked-out in a huge way….
but I also wasn’t really sure what the right ways to do things were, either.
I just knew things at our house was not like things at my friends houses.

What was (unintentionally) modeled for me are no longer behaviors that are my goto’s.
There are still certain instances that I find myself in, where I simply don’t know what to replace the behavior with. In those cases, I have learned to just take my time and feel it out.

Over the years, I have also come to believe that ‘normal’ isn’t an absolute thing.
I have learned that for people to become our own we must decide on which truth we are choosing to build our foundations on …and go from there.
From that point, navigating life doesn’t have to be so much  ‘normal’  as it needs to be healthy.
I like healthy choices, not normal ones.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
As a child I caught on quickly. I had no other choice but to be quick-witted and self-sufficient.
I pushed through alone. I couldn’t rely on the adults around me for anything. I couldn’t trust or rely on anyone. My feelings never mattered & weren’t validated. I felt abandoned by my parents and also by the other adults in my life who either overlooked, ignored, or weren’t aware of my living situation.
I grew accustomed to resentment, and  fending and fighting for myself and the things that I needed.

Until I found this list of common characteristics, I had always just assumed that my personal struggle with addiction was the culprit behind ruining my ability to feel.
I thought that my apathy toward the idea of growing close to others stemmed from tendency to isolate because of my addiction.
I have toyed with the idea of identifying as shy, or as in introvert. I am not shy, but I suppose I do fall into the introvert category.
I have also considered that maybe I am just anti-social or have social anxiety, but have learned that I am not and I don’t.

The idea that I am unable or uncomfortable with the concept of allowing myself to feel vulnerable or to trust in order to form long-lasting and intimate relationships totally made sense.

It is evidenced in my life by the friends who I am close to and the strong relationships that I do have. (All older women and my husband.)

Still a work in progress, but I am content with knowing this about myself, embracing it and learning how to allow myself the time to make progress as I feel more comfortable.

3. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. Please. Continue sucking the life out of me while I stumble all over myself trying to hurdle over all of the mistakes I have made to tirelessly cater to you. That’s how I like it.
This was true for me, but  I am no longer a slave to my own need to support people who don’t like even like me, let alone love me, and who are certainly not loyal to me in any capacity or interpretation of the word loyal.

Sadly, I am a reluctant quitter (imagine that) and has taken me a very long time to quit valuing empty loyalty.
I do believe that loyalty is something different from forgiveness or love.
I love people and have forgiven people who I am no longer loyal to.

Loyal to me means dedicated or faithful to.
Which really means time committed to- which is something I am not anymore.

This one is why I am so big on setting and committing to my own personal boundaries. I need them. I appreciate them. I am grateful to have them.
Left to its own devices my loyalty springs back up when I least expect it. I have to actively remind my (heart) that it’s not good for me. This is all part of being a codependent.
This kind of relational interaction is usually the only kind a child gets when they are living with an alcoholic or a drug addict.

The best part about all of these traits is that they are all things that we can observe within ourselves. They are things that we can see and change.

So there ya’ go.
Do you relate to or identify with any of the 13 characteristics of adult children of alcoholics?


 

 

ACA: Support Groups

So they’re a thing. I had no idea.

I found a this website called Adult Children of Alcoholics. It is another 12-step program and operates like every other group meeting-setup, but this one is specifically designed for men and women who grew up in dysfunctional homes.

“The ACA program was founded on the belief that family dysfunction is a disease that infected 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.”

Read more about it here:
http://www.adultchildren.org/lit-ACAIs

I found a lot of useful and informative stuff there.
It is an interesting thing when you realize that there is an entire organization dedicated to something that you grew up thinking was an exclusive, unique to you-  kind of dysfunction….
I spent years drowning in shame because of the weight of secrecy.

I just thought it was something that I should share
in case any of you were interested in reading the information offered there.

Good stuff. 🙂

Peeling Back The Layers. #ACA

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This is not about me taking off yet another mask or coming out of hiding.
This is all continuing to accept, embrace, and understand the raw and very real core of what makes certain parts of the real me…me.

The first  3 or 4 years of my Recovery were definitely an exclusive journey of self- discovery.
I spent most of this time searching for answers to questions that I think were necessary for my own personal development:

-Who was I, who did I use to be before all of this?
-Who did I allow myself to become?
-Who is God?
-Who did He create me to be, despite, or because of, all of this stuff?

Fast-forward to present day, a few more years later.
I find myself in a season of life where I am truthfully very comfortable in my own skin.
Being…..me.

With that being said, I am finding that even more adventure awaits on the self-discovery front.
It’s like it never ends. 😉

I have recently (like within the last year recently)
opened Pandora’s box of my own social psychology, and am more than intrigued.

I feel like the more I learn/compare/contrast/consider etc…
I find so many parallels…

So many parallels between myself and all of the theories behind the whole
“ACOA” label, and the traits of children who grew up in addicted/alcoholic environments that go along with it.
Apparently, growing up this way had a lot more psychological impact on ‘me’ than I had once thought.

So why now?
Why am I just now connecting these particular dots in my own life?

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what I think has happened, in successive order: 
(and I think it was supposed to work out this way for me)

*I finally, (reluctantly, excitedly) chose Recovery.
* I spent the first year hating, raging, blaming, crying, making amends, purging, healing, forgiving, warming up to God, taking off masks, and being counseled ..hard-core.
* I began learning the importance of taking responsibility for my own life, actions, choices, and consequences.
* A total of 3 or 4 years were spent doing all of these things. I focused on the simple idea of functioning like a typical human and learning to appreciate & enjoy life, drama free.
* The next 3 years or so were much more calm, and were basically me, learning about myself.
God had been showing me who I was and that it was more than okay to be comfortable in my own skin. He was helping me learn how to live a calm, peaceful, life- with gratitude for my new chance at life. He was showing me how my ongoing story could bless other people in different places.

If I had caught wind of this ACOA thing-
I would have manipulated it in some way, to fit my liking of having to do less work…
because, admittedly, that is exactly the kind of thing that would have appealed to me. 

Knowing that certain parts of my personality/demeanor were solely shaped by the actions of someone else, or were a result of maladaptive coping on my part—-
would have made me very happy, but would never turn into a benefit for anyone (including myself) in the long-run for any important reasons.
Instant gratification never produces anything worth having.

So , the next few posts that I have written are about how I gained a deeper understanding of how I am wired and rooted in certain ways.

Let’s do this thing.

Happy Mother’s Day

Ribbet collageMother’s Day.

It seems like no matter who you talk to, everyone is either happily & thankfully celebrating,
silently grieving, or a little bit of both.

For me, it may be a little bit of both, but mostly I focus on thankfully celebrating the gift of motherhood.

Of course on one hand,
I grieve for my mother.
She has missed so much of mine and my brother’s life.
She grieves one of her children every Mother’s Day.
She has missed out on the lives of her grandchildren.
I certainly empathize and quietly grieve for her, but not so much for myself, or my loss of her.

On the other hand I know that Mother’s Day isn’t really about me.
For me, it is about our three boys.
It is about reflecting on the gifts I have been given.
God has supplied any need that I ever thought that I had, and has filled all of my voids.
He has placed some pretty brilliant women in my path that have graciously helped me in all of the areas that I fall short in.
For that, I am very thankful.

Many of you are seriously struggling with infertility or are trying to conceive.
Some of you grieve children on Mother’s Day.
I have a few friends who are celebrating adoptions.
So many of you are deeply missing your own mother’s who have passed away.
Many of you are spending the day feeling appreciated and pampered by your loved ones.

This is one holiday that is often met with mixed and heightened emotions.

*Try to remind yourself that it is really a day to show the people who have impacted your life exactly how much you care.

*It is a day to honor the memory of the mom’s and the children who aren’t able to be here with us physically.

*Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate having the opportunity to influence the next generation, in some way, for good.

*It is a day to show your appreciation to those who have taken the time to invest in your life.

*A holiday that we can use to give thanks to God, for allowing us to have the responsibility of influencing and molding little lives.

The best way that we can do that by continuing to invest in people,
by sharing that unique legacy that they left behind with others.

Happy Mother’s Day! 

Psalm 145:4 –
Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.

Psalm 102:18-
Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the LORD.

 

Addiction Destroys Families.

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Yes addiction destroys families.
It destroys all of nouns in its path if they are within reach.

It’s hostages are usually people, but relationships, mental health, physical health, emotional health, a person’s business, someone’s career, overall stability, and wellness are almost always banged up too. You name it. If it’s in the way, it either moves, or gets sucked in.
Period.

Everything adjusts trying to fit naturally into a system that is no longer functioning in a natural way.

Addiction injects a level of intensity that overrides what most people are wired to handle on a day-to-day basis.

Basically, anyone close enough to even look like they are involved or invested in the family, gets involuntarily swallowed.

Even the people who are quick to create distance hoping lessen their chances of being damaged by this health crisis still find themselves struggling internally with some level of guilt and anxiety relating to their decision to create boundaries in the first place. They are usually the ones sitting in a chair in Al-Anon, in disbelief.

Each person within the family system will be affected in a different way,
and how it changes a person depends on many different variables.
Things like severity of trauma endured, mental wellness, personality, temperament, birth order, ability to cope, etc. Some people call it nature, some nurture, others a combo of the two.
Whatever you view it as doesn’t change one this one thing.

Addiction.Destroys.Families. 

Wishing or hoping to forcefully make a broken system work
-doesn’t work.

Repair and restoration are sought after long-term side effects of every person within that system healing as individuals. Over time the goal is to heal as a unit. It can take years and most often, families struggle as they strive to find a healthy balance of reconciling the past, and embracing the here and now without enmeshing the two.

But there is good news is:
Change happens one person at a time, one mended heart at a time.

You are in charge of you, and only you.
At any time, you are allowed to choose to be the one who stands up to fight against this powerful & convincing lie, the one that has been telling you that there is no way out.
The one that you have believed for far too long.
The voice that has whispered to you that you aren’t strong enough for something like this.

No, the destruction cannot be erased and the past cannot be changed.

But even if you feel like you are the one who has done the majority of the damage,
or despite being the one who likely contributed most to the brokenness of your family spirit…

You can still choose to change.

You are still a capable person who is in charge of whether or not you are walking toward something new.

Restoration and healing are still waiting for you.

You can still commit to rebuilding things from exactly where you are.

You can still be where this cycle stops.
It can all come to an end right here with you.

One healthy choice at a time.
OHCAAT.

 

 

 

 

Ignoring My Boundaries.

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Last month I was literally chased out of my grandmother’s funeral.
Technically, I was ran out of a ‘celebration of life.’

I think that this could have been avoided if the genius who planned it chose a beautiful, historical location that meant something to our family, WITHOUT the open -bar that was posted up alongside of a large table full of a variety of lovely finger foods.

That decision didn’t make sense to me, considering that many of our family members are taking psychoactive drugs and shouldn’t drink. Some attendee’s were alcoholics and struggling with drug addiction, and we can just say, unequivocally, that an open bar at this event was inappropriate on so many levels.

But I’ll go ahead and take responsibility for this incident.
I knew I shouldn’t have gone in the first place.
I went against my better judgment and my husbands strong recommendation of privately grieving at home and cutting out the possibility of something exactly like this happening.

Since my mom does not have a car, I offered to pick her up and take her to the celebration.
Death had never been an experience that she handled or coped with sober and I didn’t expect her to this time. She lost her mother and I knew it would be a hard day.

She and I had already had a rough morning.
My mom had already screamed and yelled at me when I showed up to pick her up to pick her up.
She had already started the day out using, and I quickly became the closest target for her. She threw the necklace I loaned her to wear. She ripped off the sweater that I bought to go with her dress.
I didn’t take it personally, because without emotional regulation, people tend to overreact or misdirect emotion.

But I knew I should have just left right then.
And I didn’t.

I chose to put myself in harms way just because my grandmother was really important to me, and I knew that once I got there I would be surrounded by a huge venue full of my grandmother’s oldest friends, and my mom would be outnumbered, and hopefully, preoccupied with someone else to hate and torment.

When we got there she and I parted ways, and I helped distribute pictures on each table full of guests.

She made a beeline straight to the bar.

I made small talk with various people about our memories and the fun that we all had with my grandmother. I was able to watch a group of her old cast mates from the local theater sing a few songs; a performance I won’t forget.

But I kept my eyes peeled for my mother who was lurking around, shooting me dirty looks.
Then, things went really wrong.

I was talking with my uncle, reminiscing about a shared memory.
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her staring at me, circling around me slowly like a shark tends to do when stalking prey.

I made a very discreet comment to my uncle:
“She is going to hit me, stand right here.”

As she circled away from me I walked quickly out of that room into the adjacent room,
grabbed my purse and got out the front door of the building.

And she followed close behind me.
As I walked faster, she began to pick up speed.
I started to run, and she ran right behind me.

Dammit.

No one was helping, no one was holding her back, but everyone was watching. I began to ran as fast as I could (in the cutest purple wedges that I have ever seen that my grandma would have loved.)
There was a long walkway to the parking lot that felt like it was on another planet.

I could hear her screaming behind me.

“Bitch you better run!” “You think you’re better than me, little girl!”
“You are a hoity toity little b*tch!”

This was familiar. I wasn’t surprised or caught off guard.
We had been here before many times throughout my life.
During my childhood I would just hide or leave the house.
As I got older, I began to fight back.
The last time that I did, we both went to jail.

I had my car in sight, car keys out and I was almost there.
All that I kept thinking was that I hadn’t been in trouble in so long, I was finally off probation for our last incident and I was not going to let my anger take over despite the fact that it took everything that I had not to just stop, take my shoes off, and whoop her mouthy little as*.

But I knew better.
I had made the mistake of going in the first place, but I truly felt like I had a right to be there too.

I chose to take the chance knowing the risk involved and the probability of something like this happening to me or to someone else.
I also really loved my grandmother and decided that I wasn’t going to let my mother rob me of yet another moment in my life that I wouldn’t ever be able to get back.

It is so difficult to have a parent who is unhealthy and suffering.
That day was a terrible day and I still kick myself for ignoring the boundaries that I know work for us.

The part of the story that should be surprising but isn’t is that the guests didn’t think anything of the situation. The large majority of them knew my grandmother for years and had watched or heard about her concerns and happenings with my mom for a long time.

Here is what stood out to me after I had some time to (calm down) and reflect on this day:

Not everyone will understand or welcome your lifestyle change and that’s okay.
Live well anyway.

People who judge me for cutting her out of my life and not offering her support are out of line.
I will keep doing what works for me, for my sobriety, and for my own mental health.

Change could mean a number of different things for you as an individual, do what works for you.

All of your change is to benefit your new life in Recovery, even if that means cutting people out.

You should expect resistance from unhappy people when it comes to you making positive change.
Not everyone wants to understand it.
Not everyone will respect it.
Not everyone will want to support you, and that’s okay.
Do better anyway.

What is right for you or your new life, or your best self, are not always the easiest things to apply.

My boundaries are necessary and are the right thing for me, even though I have spent a considerable amount of time questioning myself for sticking to them.

Valuing your own progress and your positive change is okay.
It is why I kept running and didn’t turn around. I refused to react in the way I use to. I refused to give into anger or to resort to being impulsive. I chose to stick to who I had become and what I knew was right.

As hard as it has been over the last 8 years, I have chosen to stay committed to my path toward my own personal health and journey to wellness- free of substances. Free of toxic people.

It is so hard to love someone who struggles with addiction. For me, it happens to be a parent who I think I love, but who I have never really had the chance to know. I love the idea of her and having to sit by for that last 30 years watching her chip away at her soul, dying pretty damn slowly, has been a hard thing to process for me.

I haven’t always made the most wise decisions, (evidenced by my decision to put myself in this situation) but life isn’t always so black and white, you live, you learn, and you allow yourself to move on.

I definitely took a few things away from this experience, most of which, are things that I already knew.
It is possible to veer from the norm. It is possible to make a healthy life for yourself, despite the odds.

Please don’t let anyone tell you different, not even yourself.

Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power

Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength an ever-present help in trouble.

A glimpse of —her.

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This is a picture of my mother and I.

This short visit happened on April 13, 2013.

It has taken a lot of learning to trust in God’s word and personal growth on my part to be able to say that I am truly grateful for her, and genuinely happy that she has thought about trying sobriety.

I respect her for that, and have chosen not to love her only when she is doing ‘good’.
She has a dual diagnosis, and struggles with sobriety and balancing her mental health issues.

Having waited such a long time to try to begin to manage her life – has really had a negative impact on her treatment success.

I do know that I was grateful to have a sober visit with her, that seemed almost ‘normal’.
Whatever that is..

But it was the most normal interaction that she and I have ever had, my entire life.

I hope that we can do this again someday.

*Bear with each-other, and forgive one another if any of you have a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

*Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

I will be grateful for this visit if this one visit -even if it is the only one that we ever have.
We are all important.
We all deserve respect from other people.

My mom would be no exception to my beliefs.
My excitement for her is not for her as my mother, but for her as a person.
This is her journey, and this is one of her personal victories.

We have since had run ins, and not good one’s.
She struggles so much.
I pray for her, but am still grateful that I got to see a glimpse of ‘her’.

 

 

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