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I Heard My Story Over And Over Again From Different People From All Over The World

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Story Over And Over

I have spent endless amounts of time studying the effects addiction has had on me and the people around me. I have read books, talked to therapists, and experts for the answers to the why’s, when’s and what if’s. However, the most fruitful method of examining the effect addiction has had on my family system is simply to trace the steps of my own life. Once I had the presence of mind and the desire to look at the subject up close and personal, I found that I was a poster child for the consequences of addiction and its array of dysfunction.

I am a recovered addict, alcoholic and an adult child and grandchild of alcoholics. I am also the exwife of a daily chronic pot smoker. That is quite a resume, but not an uncommon one. Even during my Mothers’ pregnancy, the emotional stress transferred to me, through the active addiction surrounding her life, left its imprint.

The power of addiction continued to mould me from the day of my birth, into the most obscure and uncomfortable shapes imaginable. There are no nice neat explanations in an alcoholic environment; just an array of disjointed justifications and haphazard attempts at survival. Emotional trauma, fear, secrecy, shame and guilt are what a family with an active addict in the house eats for breakfast. In addition, family members develop their own disordered behaviour, and a lifetime of chaos prevails.

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I was born and raised on the South East Coast of Ireland into an Irish, Catholic, Alcoholic, family. A huge cliché, but a fact nevertheless. My Mother was and still is a beautiful woman, elegant and graceful. At 19 she was totally unprepared to deal with a baby and an alcoholic husband. My dad was equally as handsome, came from a farming family, played in a band, and drank a whole lot. My Momma was the quintessential enabler who protected and took care of her problem spouse. She fell into the co-dependent roll like a pro, never allowing my father to experience the negative consequences of his drinking.

Eventually she turned into the textbook case, angry and resentful caretaker. Her entire life was engulfed by micro managing my father. Even at a very early age, I could recognize just how irresponsible and selfish he was. I also recognized that my family was not the same as other peoples’ families with the confusion eating away at my tiny mind.

She did her very best to protect me and my two siblings becoming an expert at covering up and keeping secrets. However, when you live in a home where there’s active addiction, there is a certain air of constant disturbance. It’s as if someone or something is about to jump out at you from the shadows. I was in constant flight or fight mode which turned into uncontrollable anxiety.

Yet I had no words to express what this living, breathing thing was that inhabited my home. I never heard the word alcoholic until I was about 11 years old. My teacher brought up the subject in class one day. It was a lightbulb moment for me. Everything he said correlated with my home life. As was the norm in society in those days, the connection with the alcoholic or addict being a sick person wasn’t made. I did hear, however, that the spouses and children of alcoholics were unfortunate to have such a selfish and immoral person in the house. The shame I felt at having a daddy so awful, raced through my veins like poison, and I continued to feel shame every day for the rest of my life.

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Sharon Wegscheider, Author and Family Therapist coined the phrases that describe the roles of children in an actively addicted household perfectly. I can relate to being a version of each of these characters at different stages in my life.

Up to the age of 13, I was “The Lost Child”. Wegscheider states that The” Lost Child” constantly seeks escapism from the family chaos living in a fantasy world into which they withdraw. It is not uncommon for these children to get chronically ill or wet their bed. They may seek comfort by overeating, or using alcohol and drugs. Indeed, I did all of the above. I got diabetes at age 7, wet the bed for a time and later had eating disorders. Then, of course, I followed the family tradition of becoming a drunk.

I then became the “Scapegoat”. At 13 I began my own love affair with alcohol. I started acting out in anger and defiance letting my parents know I hated them. Inwardly, I felt, neglected and abandoned because of my mothers’ obsession with my father. My father’s indifference to his children began to spew out as rage. I stopped caring about school, and all I wanted was drugs, alcohol and sex. I then became the family’s problem instead of my father. I didn’t know it then, but I know now, it was a cry for help.

I also played “The Hero” for a time. This child is typically overresponsible and over-achieving. The dysfunctional family uses this person as proof everything is perfectly ok in their world. After all, this child is doing great! This person couldn’t possibly come from a sick household, right? I used my status as the perfect housewife to play this one out. I had a handsome husband, big house and fancy car. Everything was wonderful! Yes, outside it was. I appeared fantastically strong and together. Inwardly though I was living a lie and suffering with inadequacy and guilt, because despite my efforts, my family was not healing. That little game all came crashing down when I ended up in a mental hospital and had to face my own addiction issues.

The only character that I don’t recognize strongly in myself is “The Mascot”. The Mascot tries to repair the family by diffusing chaos through entertaining. They try to make everyone feel better by being cute and funny. Inwardly though, this character experiences intense anxiety and fear, and may carry immature patterns of behaviour all through their lives. Instead of dealing with problems, the Mascot tries to run away from them or makes light of their feelings and the reality around them.

So having attempted all possible avenues at gaining the attention I needed in childhood, later as an adult child of an alcoholic I discovered that I had no concept how to live life functionally. Even after leaving home, I was basically left to experiment with different types of behaviour until I found one that worked.

I wore different masks and personas. I changed my job a million times. I felt I had to lie to be acceptable; not only to other people but mostly to myself. I was unable to have fun without being intoxicated, and even then, I felt guilty about having any kind of joy. I didn’t know how to react to any life issue and ended up overreacting to most things. And as for relationships – well the failure of my marriage is proof that I was clueless about that, too. I ended up marrying a man that was very similar to my father and began parenting our children exactly how I had been parented.

History had begun to repeat itself. I could see a lot of my mothers’ characteristics in me, but also my fathers. I knew that someone had to break this cycle of addiction and dysfunction in my family, and each day, I became less and less tolerant of my life long issues. I was now an alcoholic and dysfunctional mother. It was my worst nightmare. I watched my children suffer and hated myself for bringing my own pain and fear around them to witness.

So the recovery journey began for me on January 23rd 2010. I worked hard to dispel the grip my own addictions had on me and have successfully conquered them one day at a time. After about 18 months of being clean and sober, I noticed that all the old issues from childhood started to come back up for me. I was still making very unhealthy and sometimes very dangerous decisions in my life, especially regarding the men I allowed into my life. I knew I needed to face my dysfunction head on, if I was ever going to have true peace in my life.

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I started to read Melody Beattie’s books on co-dependency, and I sought therapy for myself and my children. There were no codependents anonymous meetings anywhere near where I lived, so I searched online and found InTheRooms.com. This is a social media site for people in recovery from everything you can imagine. It is also an invaluable resource for the families of addicted people. In there I found live online recovery meetings not only for my primary addictions but also for CoDependence, Alanon and Naranon.

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to the shares at my very first CoDa meeting. I heard my story over and over again from
different people from all over the world. I truly began to heal from my life conditioning from that moment on and slowly shame and self-hate started to leave me. The support of the friends I made there was and still is invaluable, and it remains a staple in my recovery process daily.

Through my lifelong relationship with addiction, I have learned that we have a choice as to how our experience shapes us. Once we have control over our own lives, we can choose to stay in the torture and eventually be murdered by it, or we can choose to take the wisdom we have gained and use that to build a different life. Today, I am recovered. I am a survivor. I am free. My children and I have recovered together, hand in hand, with love and compassion and understanding. I also have grown to have compassion for my family situation and history, and I understand how its dysfunction was carried from one generation to another. I have ceased hating, fighting and blaming and learned that the only way to recover is taking responsibility for my own healing and my own life.

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