Roles in the Family

Old 09-29-2013, 01:39 AM
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Roles in the Family

I've been reading through some of the stickies and I also have a couple of the books that I've glanced through from time to time. We have no meetings in Australia (well certainly none for ACOAs and to be honest, when I went to one in South Africa, I hated it and never went back. It sounded like a bunch of people blaming others for their own mistakes and I wasn't prepared to be 'one of them'.
In my family, I was definitely the hero / overachiever, but I've recently started wondering if I was / am also some kind of enabler, by accepting it and not telling others what was going on? My sister (4 years older than me) was very vocal with my parents (both A) and challenged them on their drinking, whereas I just wanted to keep the hard fought for peace that we sometimes woke up to. Where my sister would want to talk to them about their behaviour the night / day / weekend before, I just wanted to pretend like it didn't happen and instead revel in the 'normal' time that was so rare for us to have. Looking back, I feel huge guilt for leaving my sister out there - there is no doubt that I'm the favourite daughter and I'm scared i caused this by being the 'easy' one. I can barely type this without literally crying with guilt. Did I abandon her and make her the scapegoat, by playing my own role?
My parents often talk about how much the worry about my sister but that they know they never have to worry about me because I've got everything so well under control.
My sister and I are very close now but she has gone through 3 divorces and is always looking for someone to complete her and make her feel worthy. She always chooses younger men because I think she feels this validates her worthiness in the world somehow, and it kills me to watch them use her and leave her when they've sucked her dry.
She has huge anger towards my parents for our upbringing (as do I, but I try not to let it invade my life - they genuinely didn't set out to destroy us), and as such, has achieved emotional detachment from my parents, seemingly without trying, whereas I am still struggling with it. I still play the perfect daughter and avoid conflict whenever possible. I only ever talk about their alcoholism when I'm angry and they're drunk - in the morning, I revert to the little girl that took comfort in a 'moment of normalcy' instead of risking shattering the peace.

Does this make me an Enabler? Codependent? Both? Should I be more confrontational in my dealing with them, and if so, to what end? It would just hurt them and then I'd feel guilty, and what's the point in that?
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Old 09-29-2013, 05:28 AM
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I think children choose different strategies to get through such things based on their personality, it is difficult to say which method is best we choose the method that works for us at the time.

I find at times difficult to understand what is meant by enablers and codependence we do not have these organization here, I do suspect that they are using these terms in a specific way.

But it is not meaningful to me to talk of children as enables for their parents alcoholism.

To me you come across as the one that took the role trying to make things work and maybe taking on more blame and guilt than is fair.
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Ajay1968 View Post
...when I went to one in South Africa, I hated it and never went back. It sounded like a bunch of people blaming others for their own mistakes ...
We have a couple meetings like that over here. One of the strengths of the 12 step programs, ACoA included, is that each meeting has a great deal of freedom as to how it conducts it's activities. That is great when looking for a meeting that "fits" your needs, but awful when a bunch of negative people set the tone in a group.

Originally Posted by Ajay1968 View Post
... In my family, I was definitely the hero / overachiever,...
What I learned about all these "roles" is that they are _survival_ roles. It is the exact same thing that happens to adults in violent situations, except they call it "Stockholm Syndrome". All of which means that the "role" is _forced_ upon children, it's not a choice the child makes.

I found that extremley liberating because it means that I am not defective in any way. On the contrary, what I am is adaptable. I _learned_ how to play those roles in order to survive, and since they were learned, I can un-learn them and replace them with something healthier.

Originally Posted by Ajay1968 View Post
... Does this make me an Enabler? Codependent? Both?...
No. "Enabler" and "Codependent" are descriptions of _adult_ behavior, they apply when adults have a choice in how to respond to an addict/alkie. If the adults do _not_ have a choice, due to violence or financial dependence, then it's a "survival role" or "Stockholm Syndrome".

One of the "symptoms" of ACoA is that the survival roles of childhood are kept into adulthood. In my case, simply because I did not know of any other options. The roles _worked_ for me in that they maintained the family chaos at a minimum. Whenever I tried to break out of the role the chaos escalated. Once I got into therapy and discovered other techniques I was able to slowly ease my way out of the unhealthy roles.

Originally Posted by Ajay1968 View Post
... Should I be more confrontational in my dealing with them, and if so, to what end? It would just hurt them and then I'd feel guilty, and what's the point in that?...
You are exactly right. The suggested approach is to first educate yourself about the disease of alcoholism and how it affects you. Which is what you are doing here in this forum. Also check the forums "next door" for a lot more information.

Friends and Family of Alcoholics - SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information
Friends and Family of Substance Abusers - SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information

Once you have a good understanding of how it all works you can start "experimenting" with different techniques. The ACoA "Red Book" is a good place to find alternatives, as are the books from Al-anon and Nar-Anon.

One of the principles of ACoA recovery is that we did not learn these roles overnight, it took a couple decades to get "brain-washed" into believing that the roles are true. Likewise, we don't "unlearn" them overnight, it takes time and practice to find new behaviors, try them out, evaluate them, and then try something else until we find what works.

Mike
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:28 AM
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Thank you for this thread. It has really helped me understand some of the aspects of my own childhood. I have often felt a great deal of guilt about the role I played as a child. I was seen as the 'sensible' one, the carer for my younger siblings, and I was given a great deal of responsibility at too young an age. I remember having to cook dinners for my drunken Dad when I was barely old enough to reach the stove and being scared that he wouldn't like it. He was violent to us all but used to target my younger brother in particular. My brother just learned to take it and would often accept the blame for something regardless of whether he had done it or not. He was the scapegoat. The thing is, I allowed that to happen. There were 2 younger siblings and I guess I just learned to do a bit of damage limitation...'at least it wasn't the baby this time' etc.

My brother is lost in his own drink and drug addiction now, and as part of my ongoing therapy I've had to look at what I was really responsible for as a kid.

None of it I would guess. But it doesn't stop it hurting.

We do not have any ACOA meetings here. I'm coming to terms with the legacy of my broken childhood through counselling.

Listening to others who have been there helps. Thank you x
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:43 AM
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I think our childhood forms our personality and some of it we just need to accept, but there are also cooping mechanisms that were sensible when we were children that we are just keeping out of habit and we should let them go.

I do at times see it as a medieval night refusing that the war is over, walking around in his steel armor in peacetime, being slowed down by the weight, limiting his contact to the world, sweating and sore and giving the impression of being a little odd or even very odd.

I have not removed all of my armor, probably not even noticed all of it. But it is way lighter now mostly replaced by leather and I do not take rest quite as seriously as I did when younger.
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Old 09-29-2013, 08:12 PM
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I've played several roles in the family, at different ages and stages in my life. Now I am No Contact, and have an absent role. I much prefer it this way.
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Old 10-08-2013, 05:16 AM
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Aussie Acoa.

Originally Posted by Ajay1968 View Post
We have no meetings in Australia

Hi Ajay, I am in Australia now, finally left my alcoholic mother and came home, Im here if you ever need to chat, I know how hard it can be, Know that you are not alone and it will get better, but only you can make it better. :-)

Last edited by DesertEyes; 10-08-2013 at 09:27 AM. Reason: fixed broken quote
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Old 10-08-2013, 05:27 AM
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This thread and the stories in it literally made me cry...and I'm dealing with similar issues across several generations in my own family right now. Today in fact.

Makes me feel sick to the stomach.
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Old 10-08-2013, 04:24 PM
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Hi Croissant and Renegayde, good to know that there are others in the same (or at least similar) time zone as I am.
Hang in there Croissant - when I signed up to this site, it was in a moment of crisis while visiting my alcoholic / codependent parents over in the UK, and needed the immediacy of an outlet for my anger and confusion. In the past few weeks, I've read lots (haven't posted much) and spent a lot of time crying and feeling sick, as I try to come to terms with my childhood and the impact it's had on me. But knowing that there are others out there who can relate to some (or even all) of it makes it just a little easier to bear.
Hugs to you all

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