ACOA's are not sick

Old 05-26-2004, 07:54 AM
  # 1 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
ACOA's are not sick

Maybe it's just a matter of semantics, but I really wish that people would not refer to themselves as sick. You may have grown up in an abusive environment where you did not learn the types of appropriate responses needed to become a healthy adult and have healthy relationships, but that doesn't make you sick.

You may be confused or misguided or ignorant or uniformed, but not sick. I guess the word sick has a very negative connotation for me. I would rather people simply admitted that they were not taught the right skills or given the respect and attention that all children deserve, and as a result, they do not function, react, or relate properly.

Sickness implies that you need to be cured from something. You don't need a cure, you need to learn what you were not taught and should have been. And doing that is a choice. You can't choose to not get cancer.

Some people also use "sickness" as an excuse to not get better or not make an attempt to improve. This may be just picking nits but I would like to see a more positive term(s) for what we are. Unfortunately, we need labels, but does it have to be that one?


Live it up
Old 05-26-2004, 07:57 AM
  # 2 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: I wish I knew...
Posts: 49
Oh boy... I can't wait to see the responses to this one...
Crazy Mary is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 08:03 AM
  # 3 (permalink)  
minnie's Avatar
Join Date: May 2004
Location: England
Posts: 3,410
I feel the same way about labelling alcoholics as sick. Surely, they have simply learnt one way to "deal" with life's stresses and strains. Some of us may not think it is healthy, but that is their choice and they must take responsbility for that. Labelling them as sick takes away the personal responsibility to learn other ways to cope.
minnie is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 08:12 AM
  # 4 (permalink)  
Dancing To My Own Beat
Magichappens's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: I don't know what kind of state I'm in
Posts: 1,326
For me the Alanon program works. If the terminology doesn't work for you, that's fine. Take what you like and leave the rest. There are no musts in Alanon. And if Alanon is not what you are looking for, that's ok too. There are many ways to recover from the effects of alcoholism.
Magichappens is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 08:13 AM
  # 5 (permalink)  
margo's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: North Vancouver, British Columbia
Posts: 1,714
Hi Live-it-up - One definition of "sick" in Webster's is "mentally or emotionally unsound or disordered". Sounds to me like a pretty good description of what happens to people who grow up in toxic environments.

I guess it does all come down to semantics - "sick" is probably a more comfortable term for a lot of people, and certainly a lot kinder than "ignorant".

To be sick also implies that recovery is possible - our focus around here.
margo is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 09:15 AM
  # 6 (permalink)  
Lorelai's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Star's Hollow
Posts: 615
Welcome !
As to your post, to me that is one of the beautiful things about Al-Anon and the process we are all going through - it is customizable to every individual. I didn't like the "defects of character" phrase so I changed it to something that worked for me. I had trouble with "one day at a time" so I changed it to "one step at a time".
As long as the process I'm taking is a positive one, I can phrase it in any way that works for me. Words mean different things to different people. Each person will find their own way so I try to stay away from trying to make others see it as I do and am just thankful that I have the freedom to work the program my way.
Glad you're here with us -
Lorelai is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 10:00 AM
  # 7 (permalink)  
Morning Glory
Posts: n/a
confused or misguided or ignorant or uniformed
I agree, but I also know that some very sick behavior comes from being confused or misguided or ignorant or uniformed.

Did you want to introduce yourself????
Old 05-26-2004, 10:11 AM
  # 8 (permalink)  
Supply Manager
JT's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: Cleaverville
Posts: 2,898
That's what I was thinking...opinionated does not make a good first impression ...

JT is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 10:15 AM
  # 9 (permalink)  
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: close to the FLAMES!!
Posts: 129
For me, the opposite of "healthy" behavior is "sick" behavior. I keep it simple that way- if someone isn't acting "healthy", they are acting unhealthy, which means they are acting "sick".
sunflowergal29 is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 10:46 AM
  # 10 (permalink)  
Dancing To My Own Beat
Magichappens's Avatar
Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: I don't know what kind of state I'm in
Posts: 1,326
I don't disagree that opinionated can come across harsh. I think though that some people need to get out their old ideas in the open to learn. If someone is opinionated, but willing to see where they might be wrong, it can be a good thing. Not saying what is on my mind can be worse sometimes than saying it and it not coming out well. Hugs, Magic
Magichappens is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 10:50 AM
  # 11 (permalink)  
bikewench's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: western canada
Posts: 1,441
sick, dysfunctional, insane, a little bit off...

lol.. whatever.

I attended ACOA for 3 years. It helped me get my character defects straight... and I went on from there to deal with my other addictions as I became more honest about what was happening in my life.

Lots of people in ACOA stay stuck in the blame/self pity game... but some get that it's just an ongoing cycle that can be broken by self honesty and hard work.
bikewench is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 01:48 PM
  # 12 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Upstate New York
Posts: 1,636
Sometimes I have a problem with "sick" being used as regards emotional/psycholocal/spiritual conditions and sometimes I don't. Usually, when I do it is because the implication is somehow being made (or because I am getting the implication whether it's being made or not -- which is usually when I'm touchy and looking to think that everyone is somehow out to get me) that "sick" somehow negates human freedom and responsibility -- which to me are very very important and a large part of what makes human being deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. Basically, it seems to me like the problems usually start to arise when "sick" is being used in such a way that all of the things related to physical illenss suddenly start to become metaphors for emotional/spiritual/psychological illness, and, as with any metaphor, it can start to get questionable when it starts to go that far -- especially for people who are super analytical about how language is used (which I can be due to my educational background) or for anyone whose personal experience causes certain words to have negative conotations for him/her.

Typically, in my experience, the vast majority of al anon people are really really good at walking that line between knowing that there are lots of ways in which both our and our As' behavior are sick and still recognizing personal responsibility and the freedom we all have in our lives and choices.

I think maybe it's a good idea not to get too hung-up on the language if that's possible. If it doesn't work for you, use something else that "sounds' true to your experience. It can be really, really hard to hear anything that you think sounds like "and excuse" or a "justification" of behavior that has been very very hurtful to you or to people you love. But if you read a lot of the posts here, I think you will also hear that almost no one is trying to excuse or justify every other human tool, language is limited and we all try to do the best we can to express very difficult things in ways that, hopefully, other people will be able to understand and relate to.


["Insane" is the one that gets me most -- but, know what? One of my most favorite activities for the longest time was trying to "reason" my A into being rational in areas of her life in which she is totally irrational and insane -- now if THAT (trying to have a rational discussion with a person you know is in a totally irrational place and continuing to do so for years despite the fact that it never, ever works) isn't insane, then what is? It finally occurred to me that perhaps the reason I hated to think of that term being applied to my own behavior was because it fit so perfectly!!!!!!]
freya is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 04:03 PM
  # 13 (permalink)  
whiplash's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: right here
Posts: 39
I don't think anyone around here is using "sick" as an excuse to not improve, as Live-It-Up said some people do. There are problems that need to be fixed, however you want to categorize them.
whiplash is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 04:21 PM
  # 14 (permalink)  
Nature Girl
Ann's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: By The Lake
Posts: 59,400
Well, let's see...prior to recovery from my non-sickness, I had anxiety attacks that required therapy and prescribed medication, I suffered from migraine headaches caused by insomnia, I had a rash caused by emotional upsets, and I was unfocused mentally and walked around like a zombie most days, at least the days that I wasn't walking around a neurotic mess. Oh yes, I also suffered from PTSD.

But I wasn't sick, this was just my excuse not to improve. Yup, you're right Live it Up, my mama should have taught me better.

Ann is offline  
Old 05-26-2004, 11:51 PM
  # 15 (permalink)  
bookworm's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Posts: 146
Hi live-it-up,
For me, someone who is sick is someone who needs comfort and compassion. My mother died of leukemia - she needed comfort and compassion while she was dying. My partner G is an alcoholic - he needs comfort and compassion. He would not choose to be an alcoholic - he openly weeps sometimes because he hates himself and the way he drinks but he can't seem to stop it. Sick for me does not mean weak or defective, it means unwell in body and/or in soul.
There's nothing wrong with being sick.
bookworm is offline  
Old 05-27-2004, 05:30 AM
  # 16 (permalink)  
Posts: n/a
Hi Ann,

Did it occur to you that if you had had the tools to effectively deal with whatever adversity/stress was in your life at the time, that you may never have had some/all of your symptoms, much less needed medication? I don't know, I wasn't there. But food for thought.

I just feel that "sick" is too much of a catchall word. It leaves the door open for people to make their own interpretation of what's "wrong" with them. I would prefer specifics. If I am depressed, then tell me I am depressed and treat me for depression. If I have stress related symptoms, then tell me it's stress and tell me how to relieve that stress rather than just treating the symptoms because that doesn't solve the problem.

But please, don't just tell me I'm sick. Sick can mean anything from in-grown toenails to a brain tumor, and obviously wouldn't be treated in the same fashion.

I worked in a medical profession for many years, and I can tell you that my definition of sick comes from watching someone die of cirrhosis or slowly suffocate from emphyzema or deteriorate from brain cancer. So, some of you were right on when you said that perspective is influenced by experience.

That is not to say that the problems surrounding addiction are not important. Absolutely, they are. Been there, done that, or I wouldn't be here. But being a good ACOA, I want more control over my own recovery and one way to do that is to nail down exactly what is wrong so that I know exactly what to do to "fix" it.

Hopefully, that provides some clarification. To those of you who were offended, my sincerest apologies. I tend to think in very clinical terms.

Live it up
Old 05-27-2004, 06:16 AM
  # 17 (permalink)  
Lorelai's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Star's Hollow
Posts: 615
Live it up -
People who deal with alcoholics are called b*tches and whores and fat and stupid and ugly every day. "Sick" doesn't seem all that harsh.

I say, let's get on with the business of recovering from it - whatever you want to call it.
Lorelai is offline  
Old 05-27-2004, 07:01 AM
  # 18 (permalink)  
bikewench's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: western canada
Posts: 1,441

The phrase in Step 2 "restore me to sanity" use to bother me. Sanity was a pretty strong word for me at the time. But then... I started thinking of some of the things I'd done in my life... and they certainly weren't sane. lol

Lot's of labels were bandied around in ACOA. Borderline personality disorder was one oft heard.

The thing is... I don't believe any person can look at me or listen to me and give me a nutshell diagnosis for what ails me mentally and emotionally. Recovery for me was a series of "ahhh hah"'s around behaviors and thoughts that were causing me problems. And the ahh hah's came when I sat in the meetings listening to other people's open and honest sharing so that I could see a snapshot of their life and see how a certain character defect was causing them problems (and me as well).... and how they learned to change that.

I thought LOTS of times that my parents should have had their a$$es kicked for letting me get all screwed up like I did...; )

Anyway... I hope that you don't let labels prevent you from your goal to "function better"... ; ).. cause it's worth the effort.
bikewench is offline  
Old 05-27-2004, 07:39 AM
  # 19 (permalink)  
smoke gets in my eyes's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: That's what I'd like to know.
Posts: 2,416
Gracie, you're not following your analogies all the way through.

A person can take precautions against a cold. If they are successful they are not sick... at least from the cold. That doesn't make the people who didn't know there was a bug going around and forgot to wash their hands less sick. Mental illness is illness. It can kill as definitely as cancer and cripple the quality of a life like a physical paralysis. Not everyone raised by an alcoholic is mentally ill. For those that might be counted as such, the levels can vary. I have some bad habits. I've never been to a shrink but I would guess the worst one would say is I might be a little neurotic. But our experiences with our alcoholic parents differ greatly. I think you must realize that your post is likely to dismay the people here who have suffered not just neglect, but severe physical and emotional abuse at the hands of an alcoholic. Their damage cannot be boiled down to poor coping skills. Mine can. Yours, I'm supposing.

Dino doesn't like the word "addict". Therefore, I don't use it on him. I suppose it's the same as your not liking to be thought of as "sick". To him an addict is a street dwelling, theiving parasite. At one time those words would have described him but he still can't wrap the idea around himself. That's okay with me. He still started working on his life and that has included not using drugs. I don't care how he needs to think of it. I have read plenty of posts on the NA page where the writer says they could not have begun their recovery journey until they identified themself as "addict". People think differently.

Now I wish you would be specific about what your real complaint is. Something punched your button. Nobody has ever just called me sick. Nobody has suggested I have a big general unsolvable problem. Here, in every recovery book I have ever read and in every group I have attended I have been encouraged to examine the specifics of my life and to begin fixing specific problems. Copping out with a plea of general weakness has never been encouraged and I'm wondering what experience has prompted this post.

Way curious,
smoke gets in my eyes is offline  
Old 05-27-2004, 10:28 AM
  # 20 (permalink)  
McKrazy's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: black diamond WA
Posts: 203
I guess "sick" is just easier than so many others:
"unwell" "not thriving" "poor coping skills" "lacks sufficient tools" "suffering from neglect or wrong-doing" "partially insane" "mentally unstable" "co-dependent"-- they all work, grab your own. but we'll never be able to control the term that suits everyone else. If so many "like" sick, well, then, the most rational thing would be to a)get used to it b)ignore it c)correct everyone as to what is more preferable to you on on-going
Good luck and try not to let it drive you "partially insane" LOL
McKrazy is offline  

Currently Active Users Viewing this Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 02:50 PM.