From Chapter 5 Recovery Hints
It is important to be clear what recovery means for adult children. Alcoholism is a disease. People recovering from alcoholism are recovering from a disease. The medical model is accepted by all responsible folks working in alcoholism treatment.
Being the child of an alcoholic is not a disease. It is a fact of your history. Because of the nature of this illness and the family response to it, certain things occur that influence your self-feelings, attitudes and behaviors in ways that cause you pain and concern. The object of AcoA recovery is to overcome those aspects of your history that cause you difficulty today and to learn a better way.
To the degree that none of us have ideal childhoods and to the degree that even an ideal childhood may be a cause for some concern, we are all recovering to some extent or other, in some way or other. Because there are so many alcoholic families and because we have been fortunate in being able to study them, it is possible to describe in general terms what happens to children who grow up in that environment.
To the degree that other families have similar dynamics, individuals who have grown up in other ôdysfunctionalö systems identify with and recover in very much the same way.
Recovery Hints for Adult Children
All folks in AcoA recovery need to learn the Al-Anon principle of detachment regardless of whether or not they are recovering from addiction or are living with an addict. Until you do this, you can go no further. Detachment is the key. Because of the inconsistent nature of the nurture a child receives in an alcohol family system and the child's hunger for nurture, many of you are still joined to your parents at the emotional hip. Even if you are no longer with them, you continue to seep their approval and are strongly influenced by their attitudes and behaviors. You will need to learn to separate yourself from them in a way that will not add to your stress. This is one of the primary goals of the Al-Anon program.
What you learn about yourself as you are growing up because a part of who you are and how you feel about yourself. No one can change that but you. Your parents, even if they recover and treat you differently, cannot fix what makes you feel bad about yourself. You may start a new and healthy relationship with them in the present but no amount of amends on their part will fix the past. That is why dwelling on their part in your ongoing pain will not get you through it or past it. Your present difficulties are your problem. To put the focus outside yourself is to delay your recovery.
Emotions that have been held down for years and years will come to surface. That is why it is suggested that if you are recovering from an addiction, you need to focus on that first so that you will not be tempted to relieve those feelings in destructive ways. You will go through a number of powerful emotions in your recovery. It is part of the process.
Not everyone goes through the stages of the process in the same sequence, and many of you may block some of those feelings. There is no ôrightö way. I just tell you about the process because those feelings may surface without your conscious direction and frighten you. And they will resurface many times with each new discovery. The recovery process is different for different folks. Only you can determine the way that will work best for you.
Your immediate response to reading this book may be:
- Relief. The realizations that you are not alone and that you are not crazy will be freeing. It may be a life-changing event.
- Pain. The awareness of the amount of your suffering and your powerlessness may overwhelm you along with the knowledge that you have been living a lie. It will be similar to the extraordinary pain you experienced as a child before you learned how to numb out.
- Anger. It is not unusual for all the anger that you've been sitting on for all these years to surface and you may become fearful of your own rage.
- Grief. The losses that you have experienced have to be grieved for, and you may feel this level of pain as well. You may believe that if you begin to cry you will never stop.
- Joy. Going through the process eventually will allow you to experience a freedom that you have never felt before. When you are an adult you can be the child you were unable to be when you were a child.