Saturday, August 28, 2010

Repeating The Effects Of Growing Up In A Dysfunctional Home

Becoming Your Own Parent, The Solution for Adult Children of Alcoholic and Other Dysfunctional Families , written by Dennis Wholey, Bantam Books, New York, New York, January 1990.
This book was first published by Doubleday in October 1988. 

This is one of the many books that I read back in the early 1990's that helped me to grow so much in my beginning years of recovery.  I gave my original copy of this book away years ago to someone else that I thought would find the information useful.  Sometime in the past year, I found my current copy in a used book store.  I haven't checked with Amazon to see if you can still get the book or if it is out of print.

You will find me quoting from this book for awhile longer yet as I continue to read through it.  Here is some more information that I found in the book that I thought you might find as valuable as I did back in the 1990's and still find very useful today.

page 182-183: 
"People coming out of a dysfunctional home always feel unlovable.  They feel they have been loved for the role they play, not for who they are.  You are only capable of re-creating with another human being the nature of the relationship you have with yourself.  If you punish yourself, you will punish your love partner.  If you hate yourself, you will end up hating your love partner.  If you are afraid of yourself, you will be afraid of your love partner.  A person is incapable of establishing a level of intimacy with another human being that is greater than the level of intimacy he or she has with himself or herself.  You can't go out and find intimacy.  What you can do is adopt a policy of attraction, and who you are limits who's going to be attracted to you.  A woman who needs to be victimized will attract a brutalizing man.  Healthy people attract healthy partners."

My very first date was when I was 19, two years after I had stood up to my dad and said no more sexual abuse is going to happen.  I was still living at home and going to a small junior college near by.  I had a crush on the guy for a year before he finally asked me out.  Even though I was no longer being sexually abused, I was still in victim mode.  I had three dates with this young man.  The first one was the only one that I asked permission from my parents.  The next one I went to spend the night at a girl friend's house and went on the second date from there.  Even though I was 19 and legally an adult, my dad was still telling me what I could do and what I couldn't.  I let him because I wasn't strong enough to do otherwise.  I was 19 but still very immature from never being given choices as a child.  I was also emotionally stuck at 11 years old or younger because of the incest.  I knew none of this when I was 19.

I thank God today that this young man did not ask me to marry him.  If he had, I would have said yes because I thought I loved him.  His version of love was the same as my dad's.  I was someone that he could control.  I would do whatever he said.  When we had sex, I let it happen rather than saying no.  To me, sex was love since that is what my dad had told me for all of my childhood years.  I believed him.  I thought if I said no that he wouldn't "love" me. 

Today I know that sex isn't love.  It can be a part of love but just the act is not love especially if it is abusive too.  Sex with this young man was abusive.  I didn't complain or say no because I didn't know how to be anything else but a victim at that time in my life.  On that first date, we went to his younger sister's where he borrowed some of her clothes for me to wear on our date.  According to him, I wasn't dressed good enough for our date.  I said nothing and went along with it even though my feelings were hurt.  I was proud of the pants suit that I had put together from the few clothes that I had.  Pants suits had become popular for girls to wear in the late 1960's.  This was his first controlling behavior toward me.

Why didn't I ask my parents before going out on the second date?  Because I knew instinctively that my dad hated this young man that had the courage to come and ask for that first date.  I didn't realize at the time that the two were probably jealous of each other.  Both sensed the predator in the other.  Both sensed the controller in each of other.  They were very much alike. They both wanted to control me, not love me.  I just didn't know it at the time.  If we had married, I would have gone from one dictator to another.  With this new dictator, there would have also been physical abuse, not just sexual abuse.  At one point during that first date, the young man made the statement that he really ought to just take me away from my dad.  He said it joyfully and spitefully.  I sensed that something was wrong but didn't know what.  Some part of me was afraid of this young man, but then again, that was familiar to me.  I was afraid of my dad.

The last date we had, I was away at college.  I was still 19 or maybe had just turned 20.  We went to a drive-in movie, my first since I was about 5 years old.  We spent most of the time wrestling in the front seat of his car because I said no to sex.  By then, I had grown a little and was no longer content to be abused or to call sex love any longer.  I had been away from home for a few months.  I had gone through a summer away from home and the influence of my parents.  I loved the freedom to explore what I wanted for myself.  I knew I didn't want to be abused any longer.  I was a long way from knowing who I was but I was able to set a few small boundaries for myself - not being abused or sexual with this person was one of those first boundaries.  He didn't ask me out for another date after that night.  Thank you God.

I would have followed a path similar to the path my sister chose if I had continued to date this young man and married him.  I would have been a battered woman because at that point in my life I didn't know that I deserved better.  Only through the Grace of God did I not go down that path in life.

I was a long way from leaving the victim role behind but still beginning to feel better about myself.  I was at the point where I thought if I wasn't living at home that I could ignore the incest and that meant I wasn't still being affected by it.  I could pretend that was true.  I wanted so badly to be happy and to be free from my past that I pretended that it just didn't happen. It seemed to work for awhile.  Reality is pretending never worked but I continued to lie to myself anyway.  Another familiar pattern, everyone else lied to me so why shouldn't I lie to myself.  I just wanted to be happy and to fit in.

The next date that I attracted into my life was an alcoholic like my dad.  We only dated a few times.  I didn't know at the time that he was an alcoholic.  He dated me for a short time after he and his high school sweetheart broke up.  They went back together sometime after our few dates and eventually married.  Today he is divorced.  Does he still drink?  I have no idea.  Again, I thank God that our paths divided and he went one way and I went another.  Why was I attracted to him?  Probably because he was an alcoholic and that was familiar to me.  It wasn't what I wanted in my life but it was familiar.  I didn't see the signs.  I didn't know about all of the drinking he was doing at the time.  We don't see what we don't want to see.  Because it is familiar, we are attracted to it.  That is why many Adult Children grow up to become alcoholics themselves or they marry them.

By the time that I met my husband, I knew that I didn't want to marry an alcoholic.  Instead I married another Adult Child of an Alcoholic.  Neither of us drinks.  I don't drink because I saw the consequences of living with my dad and my grandfather and their drinking when I was a child.  Drinking scares me.  The thought of losing control like my dad and grandfather did scares me.  My husband doesn't drink because he can't.  It puts him to sleep.  He must be one of those Adult Children that is allergic to alcohol.  For whatever reason, I am grateful.

Well, when I sat down to write this post, I thought I would just give you the quote and leave it at that.  I am glad that the thoughts started pouring into my mind.  I think that the words are much better when you can back them up with personal experiences.  It also helps me to make the connections for myself as I write to you.  I think we all learn much more from the experiences shared.  Hope you are all having a glorious weekend.


katie said...

hi patricia~ thank you for writing. i can relate to this one a lot. i've been thinking moreso about my ACOA characteristics lately and reading and dealing with that. i too married another adult child of an alcoholic. but before that, was in a relationship with a substance abuser who very much mimicked behavior from people in my family. i'm so glad i'm not in that relationship anymore. and that i'm no longer involved with a substance abuser. one thing i appreciate about doing my own healing and continuing to learn and think about acoa things, is that it helps me in my relationship too. because even though we both came from alcoholic homes, we are not the same person, so it helps me to understand my partner, to read and think about the different ways we can each be affected by those things. the different ways we learned to handle communication, anger, sadness, distance, boundaries, etc.

wishing you well today and always, patricia~~~ thank you for being you :)

Patricia Singleton said...

Katie, I am glad that my writing is a reminder for you of where you have been and the differences between Adult Children. I was the family hero being the oldest. My husband being the baby of his family grew up as the family clown. So even though we are both Adult Children, we do act and react differently to stress in our relationship according to how we were taught.

I also thank you for being you.
(((Hugs to you.)))

Anonymous said...

Thanks Patricia for sharing this. I see in hindsight similar instances of male possession of me and that the dislike if other men in my life was more about the fight over ownership of me than it was concern over me or anything other than owning and controlling me. Today I can see it all in hindsight of course and can see these issues more clearly now so I can identify abusers and not go there.

Susan @zebraspolkadots

Patricia Singleton said...

Susan, yes, isn't it usually easier to see things, especially patterns of behavior, with hindsight. I sure didn't see the possession at the time that it was happening. Possession and ownership are perfect words to describe what they both wanted to do to me. Thanks for the clarity you just gave to me about these two abusers.