The Family afterwards

Some alcoholics still have families when they get to AA. This is a place to ask questions and share experiences about relating to family members sober, especially when newly sober. (If you are not an alcoholic, please use the "Our Friends and Families" forum.)

The Family afterwards

Postby Niagara » Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:44 am

When I first came in to AA, I didn't do so because I was a good person, because I wanted to do the right thing for my family, my husband, any of that. I came because the pain got too much for me to bear. I was dying physically, and emotionally, spiritually, I was already bankrupt.

It's something I have only rarely heard people talk about in the rooms - perhaps this is unique to my area, I don't know.

I was under the illusion that stopping drinking was enough, that alcohol was my problem, and if I stop drinking then all will be good. I stand corrected.

Stopping drinking, was only the beginning....and when I took a long hard look at my defects, and the way they have ruled my life (even before drinking/during periods of not drinking) it's easy to see why. I was running on defects, long before alcohol REALLY had me in it's grip.

See, even as a young child, I was the kid who never quite fit in. I sought approval constantly, from adults, from my peers, from anyone who would give me the time of day, to be honest...not realizing AS a child, they couldn't give me what I so desperately needed. And in my childs mind, this was my fault. I felt unlovable, and unwanted...that there was something about me that people just couldn't like or love.....even my own parents and sister.

This led me in my teenage years to seek love in the wrong places. Men, to be exact. I didn't know that was what I was doing, but nonetheless, that's what I was doing. I became desperate for someone to love me, and when you're not choosy, and willing to people please - and daren't say no because you're scared they won't like you, just like everyone else..well, you can imagine the sort of situations I put myself in - and it was on the back of this, I took my first drink. I was ashamed you see, I felt dirty, used, worthless. I'd seen my dad drink when him and mum had argued (not alcoholic by the way) and I wondered if it would make me feel better. It did. For a few sweet hours, I felt funny, at ease, talkative, and like I fit in. I didn't care. I also felt sick, dizzy, and passed out on a field, but my brain doesn't remember THAT part in the same way ;)

Like the progression with the alcohol, so my behaviours progressed. I only knew one way to get through life. Approval seek, people please, I became good at manipulating others (largely because I was too afraid to outright ask for things) and if people didn't get my subtle manipulation I'd either try harder or go into 'victim mode'. 'You'd do it if you loved me. It's your fault I feel this way, because you did xyz'. Story of my life. In my own head of course, I was simply trying really hard. I was good person. I couldn't understand why all of this bad stuff kept happening to me...and I got drunk on it. Woe is me.

To my shame, my children were not exempt from these behaviours - and I firmly believe that THIS has damaged them far more, than seeing mum get drunk has. I'm sure that has taken it's toll too, but what I set my children up for life with are my faulty mechanisms. I know at least one of my children has that same emptiness inside that I had...and why is that? As I felt unimportant as a child (I cannot blame my parents for this - I know in my heart they were doing their best, they are decent, law abiding, hard working people...just running blind as I have most of my life) so I passed that on to my own child(ren). I didn't mean to, I didn't do it with the intention of hurting them, God knows I know how miserable it made me, but I knew no other way. I was self centered to the core, and I couldn't even see it. I knew of course, that things weren't right, but I didn't understand why. As I said earlier, I tried really hard to be a good parent, to do the right things, but faulty tools just won't get the job done, no matter how hard I tried. If I'm honest, my attempts at good parenting were more to do with my conscience being ok with it, than my childrens needs. It's crazy how that works, isn't it? I parented my children how I was parented, for a time, despite knowing how I felt inside about all that. When I realized that, because I'm an extreme person, I went the exact opposite way...and now my children have very little boundaries.

This swapped and changed through the later years of my drinking - extremely strict, to extremely lax. if that doesn't confuse children, nothing will. kids being smart, they worked out eventually that the strict wasn't going to stay around for long...more and more as time went on, I just wanted a quiet life. It's funny, because my teenage daughter said to me the other day, love the changes around here, but I miss sometimes being able to get away with murder. I put boundaries in place and never enforced them. Grounded a child then 30 minutes later was saying 'sure, go play with your friends'. Told my now adult son that he must find work, and be responsible, but did none of that myself...at least not for a few years. I used to work hard and be responsible (something of a workaholic, truth be told) but that wasn't what I became.

The words I said to them were often good - but what I taught them with my actions is a whole other story. I could also speak love with my mouth, and half an hour later be telling a person exactly why they weren't good enough....not in an angry way, because that would make them upset with me, and can't have that (because something they did threatened my idea of things...and they should fall in line for their own good...because my way is obviously such a great way, eh kids?)

It's easy to complain that nobody respects me, I've been sober a while now, people should 'fall in line because I know the right way now' (see the similarities..i can still do this stuff even sober, because it's what I know) but I have to accept that much of the behaviour is down to the lessons I taught. I must try to teach (through my actions, words won't cut it) that the old stuff is valueless. Consistency. Discipline...for myself above all. Patience, tolerance. Stay out of the blame game.

I pray regularly that my children will heal from this. I don't know if they ever will, entirely. How could they, knowing as they must that despite my protestations I did, through my actions, place alcohol above their emotional wellbeing. that's not how I saw it, but it's exactly as they saw it.I pray they heal enough at least to stop the cycle and so don't pass it down to their own children. I pray to stay out of my own selfish motives, and the realization that these children are not my possessions...I am here to teach them, not control them.

How does all this fit into the AA program? Defects. If I don't see those, see the value of them, and ultimately become willing to have God remove them, how will I ever change? Didn't I try really hard all my life to do the right thing, in my own messed up way? I can't change alone, but where I failed, as with the alcohol, I know he can succeed. Without that, I'm doomed to repeat the same patterns, over and over again. Not only am I powerless over alcohol, my life was truly unmanageable. I have to be willing to give it all up, to go to something better...for all our sakes. I have to rely on this program and God, to teach me a better way. Alcohol was just the tip of the iceberg, really. Even had I never ever picked up that first drink, my life would still have been in the toilet - perhaps even more so, but I'd have no reason to change. I would just have kept obsessively trying harder, and harder, and blaming everyone else for my failure. That's why I'm grateful to be alcoholic, because without that great motivator where would I be? Where would my kids be?

It was a cold, hard revelation when I had to stop blaming alcohol for all my problems, and look behind the alcohol. The truth, as hard is it is to hear sometimes, will set us free.
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month -
Theodore Roosevelt
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Robert R » Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:48 am

Thank you for putting that mirror before me. Guess that's identification :-)
Don't know exactly where I am going but I'm on my way and it's already much better than where I've been.
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby chefchip » Sun Aug 30, 2015 6:16 am

Niagra,

That is an amazing revelation, isn't it? After I read what you wrote, I went back and read your first post here on e-AA, and a few other posts you made early on. Quite the difference between those, and this one! :D In my own recovery I've seen a diference between my early fledgling attempts and attitudes and what I'll call a more mature approach to recovery today. Part of that mature approach comes with the realizations that you just described.

When I worked my fourth step, I was amazed when I started noticing that so many of the character defects I saw in others had been, at least partly, encouraged and nourished by me. Rarely was I blameless, and even more rarely was I "just a victim

Thanks for sharing this. By doing so, you gave this recovered alcoholic a chance to take a trip down memory lane, and to remember why I keep doing what I am doing today.

Chip
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Duke » Sun Aug 30, 2015 10:55 am

Thanks for sharing that Niagara. You have a wonderful ability to put your experience into words. I really identified with a lot of it.
"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.", Mother Teresa
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Reborn » Sun Aug 30, 2015 12:27 pm

Great post Niagra! Alot of what you wrote really hit home for me...I'm reminded of what it says on page 83..

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.

If I try to practice the principles in all of my affairs instead of just reacting like I want to I'm making spiritual progress...I know that my actions and behavior will convince my loved ones more than my words...Its weird to be able to actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk...It reinforces that this program is all about the ACTION.
We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. BB pg 132
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Lali » Sun Aug 30, 2015 1:25 pm

Niagara wrote:To my shame, my children were not exempt from these behaviours - and I firmly believe that THIS has damaged them far more, than seeing mum get drunk has. I'm sure that has taken it's toll too, but what I set my children up for life with are my faulty mechanisms. I know at least one of my children has that same emptiness inside that I had...and why is that? As I felt unimportant as a child (I cannot blame my parents for this - I know in my heart they were doing their best, they are decent, law abiding, hard working people...just running blind as I have most of my life) so I passed that on to my own child(ren). I didn't mean to, I didn't do it with the intention of hurting them, God knows I know how miserable it made me, but I knew no other way. I was self centered to the core, and I couldn't even see it. I knew of course, that things weren't right, but I didn't understand why. As I said earlier, I tried really hard to be a good parent, to do the right things, but faulty tools just won't get the job done, no matter how hard I tried. If I'm honest, my attempts at good parenting were more to do with my conscience being ok with it, than my childrens needs. It's crazy how that works, isn't it? I parented my children how I was parented, for a time, despite knowing how I felt inside about all that. When I realized that, because I'm an extreme person, I went the exact opposite way...and now my children have very little boundaries.


So, I'm curious....How does a parent make amends? Do you think private counseling is in order?
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Step 3: I think I'll let him
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Niagara » Sun Aug 30, 2015 3:45 pm

Quite probably lali...with my 18 year old the most, I believe. I suggested this to him, at the moment, not interested. I'm lucky enough to be working alongside a couple of ACOA's...both have offered their assistance. Again, he is not interested at the moment - but the offer still stands as and when he is ready.

With the younger two, they are both doing well with school, have active social lives, enjoy activities etc, and appear at least for now to be doing ok. I'm giving them the love and attention they should have had from the start (and the boundaries) and slowly it's coming right. We're all relearning each other, I guess. If I get a whiff that they're not doing ok emotionally, I won't hesitate to seek professional help. Both are bright, bubbly, friendly children. Miraculously.

My eldest is 20, doing well with work, still see him on a weekly basis and he's just happy to be enjoying life, and pleased I'm getting well. The offer of assistance is also there for him, but his words were that he loves me, is proud of me and just wants to keep seeing the changes. He knows he can come to me, when he needs to.
If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month -
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Lali » Sun Aug 30, 2015 5:09 pm

And of course there's always free meetings of ACOA should a child feel the need. I never attended any, but I did have some ACOA literature before my own alcoholism got out of control.

Thanks for sharing your story, Niagara.
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Tosh » Tue Sep 01, 2015 9:34 am

That was a good read, Niagra; I found it very insightful. One thing I will say is that I think kids can turn out great in spite of what we've done to the them. You may even find you're an inspiration to them one day in the near future (if you're not already).
Come, come, whoever you are. Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving. It doesn't matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times. Come, yet again, come, come.” Rumi (No sniggering from the sex addicts)
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby Duke » Tue Sep 01, 2015 9:39 am

As the adult child of a raging alcoholic who died that way, all I can say is good for you Niagara. You can't even imagine how much your efforts mean to your kids no matter what they might say.

By the way, I did attend ACOA and Alanon for several years and found both to be very helpful.
"If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.", Mother Teresa
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby clouds » Tue Sep 01, 2015 12:01 pm

I agree, Alanon is very good and there are other parenting groups I found extremely helpful! I have made use of counseling and psychiatrists also when times got to be more thwn I could handle and I felt alone with my problems.

My parents were both drinkers. My Mom quit drinking and smoking on her own and I never saw in her the traits of alcoholism. My Dad was another story. I forgot to blame my parents though. My sponsor wouldn't put up with it, she said I was a grown woman, 24 years old with 2 children, and it was time I got responsible for my own life.

My alcoholism started a lot younger than yours, so my take on it is, I didn't grow up at all! I was still at home when my drinkng began and hadn't even dated yet but well on my way to obsessive compulsive drinking and drug experimentation.

I certainly think counseling could be good for the kids. Mine both had that along with Alateen.
I don't believe any amount of counseling or alateen meetings would be capable of stopping alcoholism though. Unfortunately, and as heartbreaking as it is to say, alcoholism has no human boundries. We all know self knowledge and the best of human help in the way of psychiatrists, doctors etc. were of no avail to us. My best advice is to work like the devil on getting you own sprirtual house in order, so if the crisis of alcoholism comes along in your children you will withstand the storm!
" Burn the idea into the consciousness of every man that he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that he trust in God and clean house." page 98 A.A.
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Re: The Family afterwards

Postby whipping post » Wed Sep 02, 2015 3:49 am

Thank you Niagara. Posts like this remind me that I'm not unique and we all have the same challenges. Very powerful read.
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