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Alcoholic would like a F & F reality check.

Old 03-12-2011, 05:50 PM
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Alcoholic would like a F & F reality check.

I'm an alcoholic. I am also bipolar/MDD/choose your diagnosis....but I've been on fairly heavy-duty meds for about 15 years. I have lived on a different continent from the rest of my immediate family, I have not asked for or expected a penny or minute of help or support from family since I was 17 years old and left home; I am now 53. My family does not have a culture of being supportive with each other; mostly we're indifferent and distant.

Back in 1996, I got very trashed at a family function. I don't believe I impacted anyone directly except for being trashed and embarrasing (and I paid my own way out of it) but it, and I, have become She Who Must Never Be Mentioned. This is how my birth family is - any hint of imperfection is completely ignored. Even after I communicated separately with everyone to apologise, it was ignored, like it never happened. I quit drinking shortly after that.

A couple of years later, there was another family function planned....I sent a sort of perky letter to everyone, saying that it was OK to mention that I was an alcoholic, no need to ignore the fact, and that I did NOT make any sort of big deal about it....I just sort of wanted to make the point it wasn't a verboten or shameful topic. This was in response to the crashing silence on the topic from my family...I guess it was both a prod and a reminder that it was something I was OK with and nobody needed to feel weird about it.

Well that went down like a lead balloon; silence! OK, fine. Except in the last ten years or so I have had some very bad things happen in my life mostly out of my control - an arson fire, a resurgence of bad mental issues which landed me briefly in hospital and rendered me somewhat uncommunicative for about a year. Also I started drinking again. During this entire time, I never asked anyone for help and relied on my savings and working when I could - I've never taken a penny of government or family assistance. I have a couple of times leaned on friends for support, but over the last 30 or so years, the few times I have asked for understanding or (only once, after the fire) a loan, it's gone rebuffed.

During the last 15 years, I have called and sent letters or emails to family members apologising for my few misdeeds as they related to the family (including to my sister, who is a psychologist.) I'm not lying when I say that over the last 20 years, I have provided a place to stay, free use of vehicles, support, money, rides, etc, to family members who have come to the US...it's not like I've ever been a user or taker. In fact, in a weird sense, I've been the "enabler" big sister even though I am the most farked up and poorest of the family.

Yet to this day, not a single soul in my family has ever said "how are you doing with the not-drinking thing?" or "how are you doing with the bipolar thing" or even made a passing mention. (I made a point a few years ago to tell my mother and sister that I did not want sympathy or pity, I didn't want concessions, but I would appreciate an occasional check-in or acknowledgement.) Mental illness (and to a lesser degree, drug and alcohol use) has been huge part of my life. I hide it mostly, but I love the friends in my life that accept me warts and all.

Anyway, since then my uber-religious psychologist sister has not spoken to me, and my mother mentions nothing that doesn't involve fairies farting sparkly rainbows in her direction because the notion that any of her children is less than perfect is a personal affront. Apparently I am a threat to the illusion of family perfection and genetic purity?

I'm miles from being perfect but I am not a horrible person. I volunteer, I do stuff in the community, I pay my own way in life, I help people, I'm a good friend. But this shutting-out by my own family hurts like a mother*******. I read people writing here about being worried and stressed about their alcoholic or addicted family members and feel sad that nobody in my family feels that way. Perhaps that's common, I don't know.

Sorry this is probably way long. I guess my question for F & F is...is it normal and OK for a family to circle the wagons and exclude someone who has mental health/addiction issues? I swear to God I have made a point not to involve anyone in the family (heck they mostly live 3,000 miles away), and the only time I can think of my drinking ever, EVER had an impact was my brother's wedding in 1996...and I have turned myself inside-out apologising for that because I felt so guilty.

Did I reap what I sowed, and is it a healthy thing for family to cut me off?
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:06 PM
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I have no idea if it is normal to "circle the wagons and exclude..." but boy does your family sound a lot like mine.... So to me, yes, that sounds normal... but is it normal? God no.

I am not an A myself (1 glass of wine and I'm ready for bed is the kind of drinker I am) and other than being the canary in the mineshaft as my therapist says, (I was the oldest in my family and the one who stupidly would say 'hey this doesn't seem okay' when abuse was happening to others even though I received most of the abuse and no one ever said a peep to help me) I never caused problems in my family... But despite that, I have experienced much the same treatment you describe-- no one asks how I am, family will be in town and "forget" to call me to get together with everyone else, I give and offer and extend time, money and energy without expecting anything in return BUT over time have recognized that there's never a thank you, and it's become expected that I do this for my family (siblings mostly) but it's never been reciprocated...

So, my guess is this: families like yours and mine and like this whether you're a saint or an axe murderer. You being an A and doing a handful of things through the years that upset family members is not the cause of their insane behavior. The way your family members behave is their issue. They clearly have issues of their own and you probably serve as a convenient way to displace their feelings that they'd rather not deal with... My siblings don't want to "betray" the family as I have so they keep up the story that we were this perfect family. In the meantime, every one of my siblings has MAJOR issues (and I clearly do too but relative to them I am the "normal" one). Anyway, because I am the one who has stood up and called people on their crappy behavior and set limits, I have become the black sheep of the family and when we are all together, ANY dysfunction that occurs or is felt is pinned on me. Of course that dysfunction is there whether I am present or not, but my presence gives everyone else the opportunity to pretend otherwise... It sounds to me like you have a very similar family.

It sounds like you've taken responsibility for your behaviors and how they impacted your family and clearly their issues are waaaaay deeper than you. It sucks to not have your family care, ask how you are, and outright exclude you. I guess what I've tried to tell myself lately is that just like I can't take my AH's behavior personally when he is drinking (or sober and still being an ass), I ought not take my family's behavior personally bc it's their issues that make them act out toward me just like my AH's issues make him treat me as he does...
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:16 PM
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Well only you know (meaning not us) what you did at that wedding. I don't know how to judge its long-term affects.
I don't know your family nor you. Are you manipulative with your diseases? It doesn't sound so, so good there.
You paint yourself as being a level-headed compassionate person, so why do you think they don't open up to you?
They are from a different country--I don't know the country nor its cultural viewpoints on all of this. I am from Mi also though, so I do know that here we are generally accepting, and that the mental illness in my family is accepted, as well as alcoholism.

Families are quirky things.
There is something I have learned in life that is helping me more than any other thing I have ever learned. It is:
I will accept that others are different, not wish to change them, and not dwell on trying to understand those differences. It is the vast variety of people and viewpoints on the planet that make it interesting. I accept that I only control my own behavior, and need not fret about other's behaviors. I accept the love that is given me, but don't keep yearning for what is not given me, because I will only be disappointed. (That one I am still working on!) I don't have expectations of others, but accept who they are.

All of that releases the burden of control and manipulation and wanting others to "see things my way" which may never occur, and a good thing perhaps, as I don't wish to control other's minds.
I respect their uniqueness as I wish for them to respect mine.
So, perhaps, you might consider letting the wish that they give you what you want go? Then if it ever does happen, what a pleasant surprise it will be, as it won't be a desire you are trying to force upon them, and it won't be an expectation.
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:37 PM
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You sound healthier than your family, to me, in that you at least address the issue. They seem to not want to deal with it. Perhaps none of them have the tools to do so.

Personally, I would be glad to have a sister like you, who can admit fault, and tries to make amends. And has a generosity which gives to those in need, even tho she has need herself.

Would any of them answer a letter, if you asked them to ? Perhaps telling them what you have noticed happening, and you wish to know why, no matter how painful they make think it could be? I guess that is what I would do, cause I dont let things go easily.

I'm sorry that your family is not able to be there for you. That must hurt a lot. I hope that you get some answers, and if not, I hope that you have some great friends. family is not always blood-relation, imho.

Glad that you are living a sober life. I enjoy your posts, by the way Tho this one makes me sad for you. sending a hug,
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Old 03-12-2011, 06:37 PM
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My family isn't real big on dealing with problems, either. They worry, but nobody wants to talk about them or be uncomfortable. Heck, I still go out of my way to make sure NOBODY IS UNCOMFORTABLE. Yuck, but your family sounds like an extreme version of that. Nobody wants to face anything that isn't pretty.

Sorry you can't get support from them. But truly, expecting to get something they can't or won't give is only making you resentful, and you are the only one it is hurting.

I've learned not to expect too much from people who don't have it to give. I'm glad you have good friends for support.
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Old 03-12-2011, 07:41 PM
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The most important acceptance
that we ever need
is our own.

Everything and I mean EVERYTHING else
comes from that first and most critical acceptance.

When we get to that place in our head
it just kinda ... spreads out to everyone else
and their RE-action to us...

becomes secondary.

I think when you get your recovery back to the place
where you are completely confident
that you're doing and being and becoming
the person you were intended to be

the acceptance of family will fade in its importance.
and in its priority.

Also maybe remember that
not everyone's family
is in recovery themselves
and being the best most healthy human being
they're capable of being

doesn't interest them.

Hope something in here helps, hon.
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:13 PM
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I think your family is in good company.

Years ago, my M-I-L was sort of quietly trashing her daughter-in-law who was becoming lit at a family function. I walked over to her and said, "Helen....she just has what your son has". (her son, my husband, a "recovering" alcoholic)
She could not see the forest for the trees because she was shame-filled about the disease in her own offspring.

I am a confirmed codependent. I have been watching drug addiction in my family of origin, my married family, and many people I've worked with over the years.

That said, I believe in redemption.
Very much.

Your family is so very limited. They are acting out of a shame-based system. That's really tough to overcome, especially when they aren't even aware of it.

You might wait awhile and make another, more direct and personal attempt, but maybe focus on the good people you do have in your life. And of course (as Barb said) the most important relationship you have.

(I assume you've done your 8th and 9th steps)

Peace....drop in again
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Old 03-12-2011, 09:14 PM
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You didn't ask to be born into your family. None of us get to pick our parents and siblings. We get who we get. And, we get their baggage too. It's always been that way.

There are no perfect families. There are good families and not-so-good families. Sometimes you just can't count on your family for support. Then, you have to be your own cheerleader. If you are lucky, you'll have a few friends cheer you on in life.

I kept some members of the family I was raised in at arms length. It was necessary to keep my sanity. My AH cut all ties with his alcoholic mother over 40 years ago. We have three grown sons. All three have had issues at one time or another with their dad. I sometimes wonder why they haven't cut him completely out of their life.

But as my youngest said once, "I love him. I just can't stand him."
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Old 03-13-2011, 01:11 AM
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Hi, Sorry to hear your story (very nicely written BTW).

It may have been said but I think for F&F the forgivness and moving on into a new relationship with our addicted loved ones comes with development and understanding of our own recovery.

If your family have not done that then it follows that old resentments remain on their part.

My 16year old daughter is fond of a Mandela quote.

"Resentment is like drinking poison to kill your enemy"

(sorry if I misquoted, not related but I love the quote too!)
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Old 03-13-2011, 05:12 AM
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To me acceptance is one of the greatest gifts, but hard to obtain, and sometimes even harder to give.
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Old 03-13-2011, 06:05 AM
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I hear that you want to be part of your family but like others said, sometimes the family we are born into is just a means of getting here. Our real family is the ppl who we see and talk to everyday - the ppl who want to know how we are doing and the ppl who are there when we need them.

When HC wrote the book, "It takes a Village to Raise a child" I remember thinking WOW! I am the child that the village raised! Even though I had a family they didn't know how to relate to me. I was different from them. I found "family" every where I went and they were far more nurturing and providing than my own.

When my AH was in recovery, he tried to reach out to his family and most did not respond well. Some he did things to and others not. It seemed to me that those who wanted a rel with him did and others stayed away. It doesn't always have to be about you - sometimes it really is other ppl having a problem.
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Old 03-13-2011, 10:16 AM
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Hi stevie and thanks for sharing your story. I don't think there is a definition of "normal" for any families...we are all dysfunctional in our own ways. My family of origin has been challenged immensely by members with mental illness, on top of all of us being assertive and confrontational. My RAH's family is rigidly religious on top of being very stoic mid-westerners who are passive-aggressive and don't talk about "feelings". The RAH's alcoholism is a shameful event in this religion, and the family has not shown much interest in it - kind of glossing over the whole thing and proceeding on in their usual family pattern of interaction.

I know they find me very strange that I would A.) leave him AFTER he started AA and B.) Refuse to move back in with him even though he's still going to AA and C.) buy my own house and request to remain separate but still married indefinitely. And here's where my acceptance comes in. I don't care what they "think" of my decisions. And I know he (RAH) is also working on this, too. They don't have to walk a mile in my moccasins, you know! And we don't need to talk about it with them, either...because of that lack of understanding. We decided to keep this between us and our respective groups (AA and Al-Anon) as to be very careful and selective of the feedback and support we receive. My family of origin is very understanding because the majority of us are "nuts" anyway (and we feel very comfortable calling each other that, after the years of mental illness!)

That said, I don't think your family is abnormal or normal, right or wrong. They just are. It is what it is. That doesn't make you less of a person. That makes you a person with a family who is unable to accept the truth of your situation and offer you any kind of support. So find it elsewhere and accept your family's limitations. Or don't. That's your choice and power in the matter.

I think its awesome that you shared here with us F&F here. I understand your journey, I applaud you for your courageousness and sheer tenacity. You've been on a very bumpy road and are here today to talk about it in successful terms, and that's awesome! And that's why me and my RAH only share our stories with people who have been down this road; its hard for the "normies" to understand and comprehend this stuff, and many would just rather not have to.

Thanks again!
~T
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