Thursday, January 31, 2008

Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics Played Major Roles In My Recovery From Incest

"Facing the past as it may surface in my life today doesn't mean I have to stay stuck in it. I can let the healing power of the program (Al-Anon) help me feel my old, buried emotions and then put them where they belong---in the past. Coming to terms with my history and letting go of it does not deny what happened. Instead, it allows me to enjoy today and to move into the future, unencumbered by the weight of ancient emotions." p. 27, Hope for Today, Al-Anon Family Groups, hope for families and friends of alcoholics, 2002.

Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) played a major part in my recovery process. Thanks to both of these groups the full flood gates of memories and words opened for me. For the first time in my life, I started talking about the incest. I learned to be honest and vulnerable with myself and others thanks to those two groups.

If I had to pick just one piece of advice to give to other survivors, it would be to find a support group that is open to listening to you talk about your experiences. Talk it all out until it is out in the open and out of your body. We carry so much of the abuse in our thoughts and in our bodies. Sometimes the body even carries memories that we have forgotten or denied.

I talked about the abuse for several years before my feelings returned. In talking, I learned to let myself trust myself and others. Trust is a really big issue with incest survivors.

Some people probably thought that I would never shut up about the abuse. Talking was what I needed to do. Others do not realize the pressure of being silent when you are hurting. I was like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. I believe that pressure cooker feeling is why some of the abused go on to abuse. I don't state that as an excuse. There are way too many of us who don't become abusers. What I have learned is that most of those who become abusers were abused themselves as children.

Most of the people in my groups were patient enough and loving enough to not make judgments and to listen to me as I talked it all out into the Light. Some weren't as patient or even kind. What I discovered was that most of the people that were impatient with me talking about the incest had their own unresolved issues that they were in denial of. When you are in denial, it makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to listen compassionately to others talk about their issues.

For awhile, my words flowed out of me like a run-away flood washing over everything in its path. I had held the words in for so long, they had to reach a crest before they could be controlled. Al-Anon and ACA were safe places for me to do that. Thanks to the safeness of talking with those people, I started to feel again. One particular Al-Anon meeting I remember going to and telling everyone that I didn't want to say anything that night, I just wanted to cry. Because of their generosity of spirit, I cried for the whole hour. I will always be grateful to those two groups for the release of words and feelings that they allowed me to do.

While I was going to meetings, I was also reading and absorbing all of the new ways of looking at my world. I learned new ideas such as detachment, trust and acceptance. I learned about denial and enabling. I learned how to take care of myself and that I had needs. I learned that control is only an illusion. I was so out of control that the more I tried to control my world and everything in it, the more out of control I became. I learned about progress, not perfection. I learned about a God of my understanding that loved me unconditionally and was ok with me being angry at Him.

Some of the Al-Anon slogans that I learned to use that helped me release old patterns of behavior were:
Let go and let God.
Easy does it.
First things first.
Just for today.
One day at a time.
Keep an open mind.
Live and let live.
Listen and learn.
Let it begin with me.
Think.

All of these slogans provided me with necessary tools to make changes in me. I also learned that I couldn't change anybody else. I learned to take responsibility for my own life and most important of all I learned that I had choices.

The night that I really got the message that I could make choices started out with me wanting to go to an Al-Anon meeting and I couldn't find a ride to take me to the meeting. I didn't drive yet. That was still a few years away. I realized that I had the choice to stay home or I could choose to hire a taxi to take me to the meeting. I called and asked what it cost and then gave them my address. I went to the meeting with a smile on my face. I had taken my life into my own hands that night with a really small decision to call a taxi. It was a small event with enormous dividends. For the first time, I really got that I could make choices and not be afraid.

The last three weeks, I have gone to an Al-Anon meeting with a friend of mine. She wanted to go but didn't want to go on her own. I agreed. I told the group on Wednesday night that I was glad that she had asked me to go with her. It feels like I am home. I feel such gratitude for the individuals of Al-Anon that were there for me when I didn't know who I was and didn't know that I was capable of making decisions on my own. I didn't know that I had choices. You can't imagine the freedom that comes with knowing you can make choices unless you have been there. My thanks go out to Al-Anon and ACA for being a major part in my recovery. I can truthfully say that Al-Anon and ACA saved my life, my sanity, and my marriage.

12 comments:

Deb Estep said...

At 17 I attended a few Al Ateen meetings as
my Mom was in recovery and attending AA meetings.
It would not be until 2 years later that my Dad stopped
drinking. Their sobriety is something I celebrate
every year at the anniversary of each of their near
fatal accidents. THANK GOD they never injured anyone
else physically with their drinking. It will be 33 and 31 years
this year for each of them.

I spent my childhood trying to keep myself out of the lime light it always seemed to me that my parents drunken behavior was so outrageous it attracted enough attention our way. Attending
the meeting and having a spot light on myself was so unbearable. There is no doubt IF I had been able to attend those meetings it would have benefited my mental health.

I am happy to know Patricia that both programs were of big time help to you.

Thanks for sharing what makes you the wonderful person you are today.

xo xo
Deb

Patricia Singleton said...

Deb,at 17, I would not have had the courage to attend Al-Anon meetings. I was so terribly shy and afraid of everyone and any attention at all from anybody. Al-Anon did play a very important part in my life but I didn't discover Al-Anon until 1989 when I was 48 years old.

Stephen Hopson said...

Patricia:

This is an incredibly powerful story - heartfelt and impactful.

I was especially touched when you made the decision to hire a cab to take you to your first meeting. It was that small action that caused a ripple effect throughout the rest of your life. It's so incredible!

Thanks for sharing your story with the world. You have been on a long path toward healing, learning to trust your instincts, hearing the voice of God wherever possible and moving to the next level.

What a story you have to share with the world! I'm willing to bet you're saving people's lives without knowing it.

Patricia Singleton said...

Stephen, thanks for your kind words. You are an inspiration yourself. The taxi ride wasn't my first Al-Anon meeting. It was the first meeting that I couldn't get a ride with any of my friends that I usually rode with. It was probably several months of going to Al-Anon meetings when I finally realized what they meant when they said I had choices. That was the first night that I really realized what they meant.

Deb Estep said...

Patricia,

When I was reading your post, I wondered the time frame of your life this might have been.
Thanks for sharing that part too.

Patricia Singleton said...

Deb, you are welcome. I didn't realize that I had left that out of the original story.

katie said...

dear patricia, what a great post. thank you for your bravery, your sharing and the encouragement that you offer to others with your story. you continue to inspire me. i'm so glad you chose this for the steppers carnival so that i could read it.

wishing you well today and always~

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, thank you. You are just as brave, just as encouraging and just as inspiring to me. Thanks for being a wonderful part of my journey.

katie said...

patricia, thank you so much :) that means a lot to me.

sending you safe hugs! and wishes for a restful and happy weekend~

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, you are so very welcome. Have a glorious weekend yourself.

Rann said...

Hi Patricia,
I am an adult child of alcoholics. Both my parents. My brother suffered physical abuse, but we both suffered psychological control, and our mother was emotionally absent. We are twins, but both very scarred. I think it was my mom & siblings that suffered incest during Great Depression. She still has 2 brothers1 sister living, all still controlling and in denial.
I spent 3 years in counseling and like you it helped tremendously. I like what you said that: Talk it all out until it is all out in the open, and out of the body."
Were your parents young during Depression? I believe many Baby Boomers have had this problem and I believe it is epidemic. It's just that alcohol is not illegal anymore, and not classified as a harmful drug, only to pregnancy.
Thanks for being so courageous! It had helped me.
p.s. I first heard the term ACA in 1988, but it has largely been on back burner as a topic-do you agree? I never hear about it. I talk about it in my memoir, which I hope to have out this fall in eBook. I'm a two time cancer survivor. Xo

Patricia Singleton said...

Rann, my mother didn't drink but alcoholism was in her family as well as my dad's. I choose not to drink because I saw how destructive it could be to a family.

Both of my parents were born in 1931 so yes, they lived during the depression. I know that had to have affected them both. Both of my grandfathers were farmers. Both of my parents grew up working in the fields. I have heard them both talk about picking cotton as well.

I know that alcoholism is an epidemic in my family. I first heard the term ACA/ACOA in January 1989 when I read the book Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet W. (Sorry, I never remember how to spell her last name.) A few days later I was going through the newspaper and found a meeting for ACA and I went to my first meeting. I felt like I was home. I started talking at meetings about incest and the rest is history.

I look forward to reading your memoir when it comes out. Hopefully you will also have it come out in book form. Thanks for getting in touch with me on Twitter and here.