Opening the can of worms - is it worth it?

Old 09-17-2013, 07:24 AM
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Opening the can of worms - is it worth it?

I’ve been reading a lot of stories around here, and learning tons.

My question is: is it really worth it opening the can of worms?

What motivates me to ask such question is that, after reading the 13 characteristics of children of alcoholics and many posts around here, I think most people would identity with the traits listed there, even though I am pretty much what the list describes and identify with the horror stories I’ve been reading here. Historical and cultural aspects weigh in too. What we see as dysfunctional today might have been just what “normal” was a few decades ago.
I know the scars would still be there, and I’m not denying them. But these labels (“adult children of alcoholics”, for instance) and therapeutic approaches (“inner child healing”) put me off.
Is it really necessary to open the Pandora box to change or adjust the behavioral consequences of a bad childhood? It’s an honest question, I’m not being sarcastic about it nor anything like that. I’m going back to therapy this week and I’m reluctant to dive into these so called traumas and just end up using them as an excuse for my shortcomings, as much as I see alcoholics use the disease card all the time (the “I have a disease!” thing).

Just a little background: my father was an alcoholic and suffered from a somewhat extreme case of bipolar disorder (misdiagnosed as schizophrenic because he had severe psychotic episodes). My mother got a divorce when I was 5 and my sister was 9. We lived with my grandparents for 3 years, and my grandmother for some reason did not like me and life was hell. My mother was absent, emotionally. My father died 10 years ago of a heart attack, but he had been stable for some time before dying (5 years or so). My sister, who is 45 now, is an end stage alcoholic and won’t live much longer.

Thank you
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:08 AM
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Hello Biancafp, and welcome to our corner of recovery

Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
... My question is: is it really worth it opening the can of worms?....
No, absolutely not. Recovery is about building a life for ourselves that is healthy, joyous an free. One of the foundations of the 12 step programs, such as ACoA is to _not_ "injure them or others".

Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
...I know the scars would still be there, and I’m not denying them. But these labels (“adult children of alcoholics”, for instance) and therapeutic approaches (“inner child healing”) put me off. ....
As you say, those are just labels. The recovery program had to be called _something_, and “adult children of alcoholics” was the shortest they could come up with. There are _thousands_ of therapeutic approaches, and each one needs a name just for organizational purposes. If any one approach is not useful to you, pick a different one. Personally, the "inner child" does not work for me, I use one called the "abandoned child".

Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
... I’m reluctant to dive into these so called traumas and just end up using them as an excuse for my shortcomings....
I agree completely. A lot of people do exactly that. That issue comes under the area of personal responsibility. A person who is going to use excuses will find _something_ to hide behind, even if 12 step programs did not exist.

Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
... Just a little background: ....
As you mentioned in your post there has been a great deal of improvement in the 12 step programs over the last 30 years. ACoA is now fully updated to include people who were raised in "dysfunctional" families, not just alcoholism. Okay, so they haven't updated the name of the program, but they did stick a clause in the literature that reads Alcoholic/Dysfunctional Families"

Consider that ACoA is not designed to be adopted as a whole. It is built like a buffet, where you take whatever is useful and leave the rest. The "program" is just the 12 steps nothing more, all the rest of the literature, techniques, pamphlets, etc. are simply commentary on the steps and "tools" to be used as appropriate.

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Old 09-17-2013, 09:27 AM
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Mike, thank you for taking the time to read and answer my question
It does make sense what you said about not injuring ourselves or others in the process. And I guess "process" is key here.

What would you recommend me to read about abandoned children? I wasn't abandoned per se, just plain invisible.
I read a few threads where you talked a little bit about brainwashing, where could I could more about it?

Thank you
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Old 09-17-2013, 09:45 AM
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I do not think we need to.

I think I personally struggled with some things for to long and should a looked into them earlier than I did – but I do also believe that things happen in fullness of time. People will mostly start up on such things if their current world view is challenged or they have difficulties in live.

There are also different approaches and not all will back, many will just look at how we are functioning now and address whether some thinking or reactions we would benefit to change.

I do not see it as a can of worms it is more the ghost under the bed – its influence comes from not being challenged.

I do though agree it can be used as a scapegoat.

You can not blame your father for being sick, you can partly blame your grandmother for disliking you – it does not matter much though. But you have to realize and acknowledge, in my view, that this was not fair towards you and there is some grief there.

Take care.
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Old 09-17-2013, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
... What would you recommend me to read about abandoned children? I wasn't abandoned per se, just plain invisible. ...
As an aside, the very first book written about us "adult kids" was titled "The Forgoten Children", way back in the '70's. Which means that you fit right in with the rest of us ACoA's

As far as reading about recovery in general, we have a few suggestions here:

http://www.soberrecovery.com/forums/...oks-acoas.html

If you are interested in a 12 step program, their website is here:

Welcome to Adult Children of Alcoholics - World Service Organization, Inc.

Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
...I read a few threads where you talked a little bit about brainwashing, where could I could more about it? ...
The term "brainwashing" is used by the professional community to discuss the process by which children, or adults, are slowly manipulated into believing things that are not true. Another professional term is "Stockholm Syndrome"

In the literature the generic term is "survival traits", the point being that these "traits" were essential to our survival as children but become a hindrance as we grow into adulthood.

In my case I learned how to be very quiet and still as a child, and where to hide in the house in order to avoid getting hurt. I did it so well that whenever I ran away from home for a few days, none of the adults noticed I had been gone. I had been "brainwashed" into believing that all adults were dangerous and that being noticed would lead to pain.

As an adult that "survival trait" resulted in being extremely shy, being afraid to excel, or even be moderately competent at my profession, unable to communicate beyond the superficial level, etc. etc.

This type of "progression" of a behavior is discussed in any book on ACoA. The "creation" of the behavior is called "dysfunctional learning", but the term "brainwashing" is not generally used. I happen to find "brainwashing" to be more descriptive and accurate than "dysfunctional learning", that is an example of how the program of recovery is flexible and lets each one of us make use of whatever "tool" is useful and disregard what is not.

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Old 09-17-2013, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by DesertEyes View Post

In the literature the generic term is "survival traits", the point being that these "traits" were essential to our survival as children but become a hindrance as we grow into adulthood.
Mike
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It has helped me immensely to identify these survival traits. I found how to work around them and not just be mad at myself for not being a "better" person.

I've shared before one of mine was lying when it was just as easy to tell the truth. My mind had been so conditioned to lying as a child, in hopes of escaping a beating and pleasing my dad, that I lied daily to everyone. As an adult I would find myself lying about the smallest things when it didn't matter one way or another. Honestly I think I could beat a lie detector test, it was just so second nature.

One example recently was my husband called to see if I had mailed a bill one morning. I hadn't gone out yet but was on track to be out in an hour. But I lied and said yes. He wouldn't have cared if it wasn't mailed yet, another hour would have been a fine answer, he was just reminding me. But I jumped to lying.

For a long time I wondered why I lied like that. After I attended some therapies I found the answer. I still find myself doing it, only occasionally, but now I can recognize it and deal with it positively instead of being disappointed with myself for lying.

Using the information found in ACoA can be healing or used as a crutch. I guess it's up to each person how they use it, healing or dependence.
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Old 09-17-2013, 11:34 AM
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Thank you soberhawk, Kialua and Mike.

The forgotten children! How appropriate!

When I was around 2 years old my nanny used to put me in those huge metal garbage things whenever she took me to the playground, so she could be with her boyfriend. Some neighbors noticed it after a while and told my mother. Of course I don't remember any of it, but my mother tells this story as a funny anecdote. She claims she didn't know the nanny was doing that, and I do believe she didn't. But this story says a lot.

I'll have a look at those books, Mike. Thank you again.
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Old 09-17-2013, 03:06 PM
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My ESH...

Its a choice thing. I know some people who sat on the can and they were much better off.

Others took the lid off and kept it off...

I am one of the No 2 group- it has been tough- but life was too tough anyway.
For me is was a case of TINA- There Is No Alternative.

I this would we are basically out here on our own... we will get some help along the way- give a little, take a little...

ACA or ACoA is self governing- we all have to pitch in to make things work...

DavidG.
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Old 09-17-2013, 11:15 PM
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I'm part of the second group as well. My reasons for it are more for stopping the cycle of abuse with my own children. I've had to dig in and dredge up the sources of my parenting hurdles (being too harsh on my kids and having unrealistic expectations of them) in order to become a better mother. I was a miserable, selfish person, but I always thought I was just a colossal screw-up. I suppressed a lot of the abuse as I got older. Opening the can and confronting these things has allowed me to forgive my AM and forgive myself for my shortcomings, in order to move forward. For me it was necessary.
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Old 09-18-2013, 04:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
Is it really necessary to open the Pandora box to change or adjust the behavioral consequences of a bad childhood? It’s an honest question, I’m not being sarcastic about it nor anything like that. I’m going back to therapy this week and I’m reluctant to dive into these so called traumas and just end up using them as an excuse for my shortcomings, as much as I see alcoholics use the disease card all the time (the “I have a disease!” thing).
Mike answered your questions well, as usual. My input is that yes, it is necessary to open the Pandora's box -- until I did that, I had no idea why I felt the way I did, and why I kept blundering from one life situation into the next. I also didn't know why I kept abandoning myself -- sabotaging (or just plain giving up) my own success.

I don't like the "it's a disease" canard, either. Alkies use it, and Al-Anons use it to say "you can't be angry with him, he has a disease," blah-blah. Here's the deal: Alcoholism is a disease in the sense that some people process alcohol differently from others -- meaning there are physical differences in the way their brain and/or liver actually react to the chemical itself. This has been proven in clinical research -- some of it quite recent. In that regard, alcoholism is a disease. But it does not give them a free pass for being total *******s, which a lot of people will erroneously tell you it does. One of the cliches of the program is, "You are not responsible for your illness, but you are responsible for your recovery." And denying that there's anything going on is not a good way to be responsible for one's recovery, is it?

Anyhow, definitely investigate this stuff. But I would recommend finding an ACA (a lot of people call it ACOA) meeting, in addition to therapy. A meeting is different, you'll find out a lot of useful things -- and unlike therapy, it only costs a buck a session!

Good luck....

T
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Old 09-18-2013, 04:43 AM
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Thank you, NWGRITs and DavidG.

Well, I'm reading a book called Adult Children: the secrets of dysfunctional families. It's quite obvious my family is one. And I see how I am the "lone child" and the "fixer".

I dreamed last night I was in a house (my "home", in the dream) situated in the middle of a river, and it started to get very, very hot inside. So hot everyone had to leave the house and go outside. We were standing outside looking at the house and suddenly all insects and little animals started to get out too. Spiders, frogs, flies, mosquitos, cockroaches, even snakes and bats. Oh, worms too
I thought, in the dream, "Well, at least it's not a fire. Once it cools I'll see what I can salvage".

The heat I figure is the rage/anger/fury I've been feeling.

I guess at this point it's not a matter of opening the can or not - it's wide open! The important message from the dream is... there's more than just a few worms to pay attention to, and the house is still salvageable. Does it make sense or I'm reading too much into it?

Thank you all.
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Old 09-18-2013, 09:34 AM
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Yes it does make sense. Your subconscious is speaking loud and clear. Funny isn't it that when we think we can stuff it down and go about our business it just comes out sideways. So yes, the can is open. How you deal with the lid is up to you. Reading that book is a great first step.
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Old 09-18-2013, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Biancafp View Post
Thank you, NWGRITs and DavidG.

Well, I'm reading a book called Adult Children: the secrets of dysfunctional families. It's quite obvious my family is one. And I see how I am the "lone child" and the "fixer".

I dreamed last night I was in a house (my "home", in the dream) situated in the middle of a river, and it started to get very, very hot inside. So hot everyone had to leave the house and go outside. We were standing outside looking at the house and suddenly all insects and little animals started to get out too. Spiders, frogs, flies, mosquitos, cockroaches, even snakes and bats. Oh, worms too
I thought, in the dream, "Well, at least it's not a fire. Once it cools I'll see what I can salvage".

The heat I figure is the rage/anger/fury I've been feeling.

I guess at this point it's not a matter of opening the can or not - it's wide open! The important message from the dream is... there's more than just a few worms to pay attention to, and the house is still salvageable. Does it make sense or I'm reading too much into it?

Thank you all.
It makes complete sense to me. I was nearly 30 before I started the serious work of fixing myself. I didn't want to rehash all of the crap at first, but it turns out that doing so allowed me to put it to rest. It doesn't haunt me anymore, once I've confronted it and done my work. I'm a lot nicer to myself and better with my husband and kids. Sure, I still have my moments, but nobody is going to undo three decades of damage in a couple of months.
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Old 09-18-2013, 11:42 AM
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My interest was perked by your comment that 'most people would identify with these traits' as I thought this too but it has been my experience in recovery that this is not true. I just tended to be drawn to people who had the same upbringing (CRAZY) as me.

These days, in social situations, I find if I tell stories about my upbringing most people are rather horrified. I can laugh a lot about my upbringing now at times, as a lot of it was tragically funny, but I certainly spent a lot of years raging and crying about it before I got to this stage.

I was at an Al Anon meeting the other day and we were talking about this same thing as most of those woman have had similar experiences to mine and have experienced the same thing in social situations.
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