Sunday, September 28, 2008

Growing Up With Alcoholism In The Family

From "Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses," Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2007, page 60:

"Growing up with active alcoholism
Some of us who came from alcoholic homes feel that we grew up too fast. We carried a burden of responsibility that was too much for any child to bear. The mood of the alcoholic often became the center of our lives, determining whether we had a good or bad day. Each of us had different coping mechanisms. Some tried to be the best child possible, believing we could prevent the alcoholic from drinking, even if just for one night. Others coped by rebeling or acting out. This may have been the only way we knew to get attention, even if that attention was negative. Because alcoholism is a family disease, we may also have been affected by our non-alcoholic parent, siblings, or extended family members.

Some of us grew up with parents who were emotionally or physically absent, while others grew up with physical violence and verbal abuse. Some of us were sexually abused. Still others became our parents' caretakers. We may have become so accustomed to living this way that we didn't even know something was wrong. Others recognized early on that something was wrong, but didn't know what to call it or how to change it.

As children, focusing on the alcoholic and other family members helped us survive. As adults, we struggle with keeping the focus on ourselves. We may question our intuition and our ability to make good, sound decisions---whether we're choosing what we want to do with our lives or what to order at a restaurant."

My dad Raymond grew up with an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother who secretly took money from her husband's billfold to buy food to feed her children. Raymond was the third oldest of thirteen children. I have been told that he helped take care of the younger children. I also know that he left school in the fifth grade to go to work in the fields with his dad. Raymond was never very smart. He could barely read and could only write his name with great difficulty. When I was eleven years old, I knew that I was more intelligent than he was. As an adult, I wondered if he had some kind of learning disability. Many children of alcoholics do.

When Raymond was fifteen years old, the family's house burned to the ground with all of their possessions and his fourteen-year-old sister Emma Jean still in the house. This was after she got their youngest brother who was just a baby out of the house. Emma Jean was home taking care of all of the younger kids when the fire started.

I don't know how much my grandfather drank when Raymond was a child. By the 1950's when I was born, he drank every weekend and was a very mean drunk. I don't know at what point in his life Raymond started taking care of his dad when he got drunk. During my childhood, we visited my grandparents almost every weekend. When my grandfather Jodie would get drunk, he would get verbally abusive. I remember some weekends where Jodie got physically violent with a belt and some of his kids would run away from home for the weekend until he stopped being drunk. The verbal abuse was the worst.

I remember that Jodie would be lying in bed and Raymond would be sitting on the side of the bed arguing with Jodie. Raymond would argue with Jodie attempting to calm him down so that the violence wouldn't escalate from verbal to physical. Jodie never got physically violent with Raymond. It was always with one of the younger kids. Raymond was always of the mind that he could control Jodie when he was drinking. I only remember one time in my childhood that Raymond got offended by something that Jodie said and we left and went home and didn't return to my grandparents' home for at least a month.

When I was a teenager, my grandmother Emma started leaving Jodie for short periods of time. She never stayed gone for long. One of those times when I was in the seventh grade, she and the younger kids left and Jodie came to live with us. At the time we rented an apartment in an old motel that had been converted to apartments. Jodie rented one near us. I remember that as being a very stressful time. My mother Cordelia then became Jodie's target for verbal abuse when he was drinking. Thank God that time with us was very short. I remember Cordelia crying several weekends when the verbal abuse would start. I remember Jodie and Raymond arguing about it. Finally my grandparents went back together.

When I was near the end of my junior year of high school, Emma and my youngest aunt Virginia who is only a year older than me, moved in with us for a few weeks. Virginia and I were both in the eleventh grade together. Jodie came after a few weeks and talked Emma into coming back home with him.

The point that I wanted to make with sharing this story is that Raymond grew up as a caretaker for his parents and that trait was passed on to me. I was taught to take care of Raymond's sexual needs and of Cordelia's emotional needs. These traits are passed down from generation to generation in alcoholic families.

I learned this when I started going to Al-Anon and started looking at my parents as people with childhoods of their own and issues of their own. Knowing all of this about my parents helped me to be able to forgive them. Each of us really does do the best job that we can raising our children with the tools that we have. Sometimes that job is just not good enough as in the case of abuse. Most parents don't intentionally set out to hurt their children. We all see and react to the world and the situations of our life through the filters of our own experiences. In Raymond's eyes, he probably thought that he treated his kids better than Jodie treated him.

The first time that a friend took me into a meditation that involved seeing my parents as loving me, I couldn't see it. My friend suggested that I see both of my parents as children and hold them in my lap and love them as I would my own children. With many tears flowing down my face, I was able to imagine seeing them in my lap as innocent little children. I could start to love them and feel love flowing from them to me with that visualization. That was the beginning of opening my heart to my parents.

Related Articles: The following two articles explain why I have started calling my parents by their first names rather than by Mom and Dad.

Shame, The Abuser's Friend ---

Why Do We Get Stuck In The Blame? ---

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nothing New Under The Sun

How many times have you noticed that the same idea seems to show up over and over again in your life. Every blog you seem to read is about personal development or dreams or spirit guides or abundance or something else that different writers seem to pick up to write about unknown to each other at the same time?

Earlier in the week I read an archived article written by someone, sorry but I have read so many new blogs this week that I don't remember who you were, that was afraid someone else might assume that she had taken his idea and written about it on her blog and then didn't give him credit for having the idea first.

I think the Universe cycles and recycles ideas and those of us in tune with those ideas pick it up and write about it. Is it synchronicity or just luck that everyone picks up on the same idea at the same time?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What Does Forgiveness Mean To Me?

As you all know, I have been reading several books on the subject of forgiveness and I have been sharing information from those books. Well, I am reading another book called "finding forgiveness, A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger And Bitterness" written by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang, Ed. D.

The book gives writing exercises which I am going to do to see what emotions come up for me and to see if I have any more forgiveness work left to do. The first journal exercise is to write about what forgiveness means to me. So here goes.

What does forgiveness mean to me? Forgiveness means not being in extreme emotional or physical pain because of the tension of holding in all of my rage. It means not making myself sick from the stress of holding it all inside of me like a volcano or a pressure cooker with the pressure set too high, just waiting to blow up.

I had to quit writing for a minute because I started coughing so I have some resistance to doing this exercise. I am willing to be willing to do these exercises and the forgiveness work that follows.

Forgiveness means letting go of the rage and seeing the hurt underneath that the rage has been covering up. I am in a safe place and in a safe relationship that allows me to do this work now.

Forgiveness allows me to nurture and love myself without blame or guilt getting in my way.

Forgiveness means I can let go of the need for revenge and hate and realize that justice doesn't always happen in the manner that I expect it to.

Forgiveness means feeling compassion for myself and others who have lived with incest and other forms of abuse and survived. It is also feeling compassion for those who didn't survive.

Forgiveness, for me, means seeing my dad, Raymond, as the wounded child that he was. Raymond hurt so bad inside that he couldn't control his reaching out and hurting others. I can clearly see that Raymond only felt in control when he was controlling others. He was a frightened child stuck in his own pain and not knowing how to get out. That is why he drank and became an alcoholic. I can only imagine the fear and guilt that Raymond lived with daily. I can feel compassion for the frightened child that was Raymond.

I can't tell you the date or time that I started forgiving Raymond. It was a gradual process of letting go a little at a time. It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes find myself angry at what he did. More often, today, I sometimes find myself sad because of the way the incest affected my childhood and my life as an adult.

Grieving is part of the process of forgiving. I have grieved for the parents that didn't love me the way that I wanted to be loved and cared for. I have grieved because I didn't love myself enough. I have grieved because I was so afraid. I have grieved because of the imaginary family that I always wanted that never existed. I have grieved for the young woman who wanted to be a virgin on her wedding night. I have grieved for the girl who wanted to be honest and wasn't because of the family secrets that she was forced to keep. I have grieved for the little girl who just wanted her daddy's and momma's love. All of this has been a part of the process of forgiving that I have experienced.

Forgiveness has also been about the freedom to become me --- to come out of hiding and out of fear which keeps me from really living.

Forgiveness has become a gift that I have given myself. It had nothing to do with Raymond and everything to do with me.

Forgiveness, for me, was a change of attitude. Where I once saw darkness, I now see light. Where I once had tears, now I have laughter. Joy is part of my life today. Fear rarely visits.

Forgiveness enables me to see the lessons that I have learned that make me the wonderful, powerful, loving, compassionate woman that I am today. Today I have the courage to reach out to others.

Forgiveness has released hate from my life. I no longer hate myself or my body. I love me.

Related Articles:

Acknowledging Your Grief And Releasing It ---

Grieving Again ---

Forgiveness Starts With A Decision ---

Healing And Letting Go Of Repressed Emotions ---

Forgiveness, Done In Layers --- 06/ forgiveness-done-in-layers.html

Breaking The Silence---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 4 ---

Family Secrets---Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Part 5 ---

Forgiveness Is For You, Not The Other Person ---

Prelude To Forgiveness ---

Childhood Memories ---

Compassion Begins With Me ---

Compassion, The Ultimate Act Of Love ---

A Day In The Life Of An Incest Survivor ---

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Protecting Ourselves From Hurt

From "Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses," Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2007, page 60:

"If we lived with violence in our homes, we may have learned that the best way to protect ourselves was by hiding or withdrawing. As adults, we may believe we have to hide certain parts of ourselves in order to be accepted or loved."

As a child, I definitely hide who I was. The biggest part of me that got hidden was the child. By the time I was 11 years old, I didn't behave like a child. My children taught me what it meant to be a child---playing games, throwing temper tantrums, laughing out loud for the shear delight of laughing, crying when they were hurt, hating mom when they didn't get their way and saying "I hate you." I wasn't allowed to do any of those things when I was a child. I probably had toys but I don't remember playing with them if I did. By the time I was 11, possibly before that, I had the responsibilities of an adult in my family. Even today, I can do super-responsible really good.

Part of my forgiveness work has been to feel the sadness and loss for the childhood that I wasn't allowed to have. As an adult, I have had to learn how to play. I have learned to not feel ashamed and guilty when I play.

I wasn't allowed to say "No" when I was a child. That is one of the reasons that the incest happened. I didn't know that I had the right to say no when an adult abused me. I find that those feelings from my childhood are still playing a part in my life when I am not being focused.

Recently I allowed pressure from my husband to cause me to say yes to a job opportunity that I wasn't interested in, did not seek out, and didn't want. For two weeks, my blood pressure would not stay in the normal range as I struggled with my feelings about this job that I had said yes to. The job was offered by a friend who cares about us. That made more pressure that I put on myself. I am not saying that my friend or my husband either one put this pressure on me. I did it all by myself by not following my own gut feelings and saying no. A few days ago, I talked with my husband and then emailed our friend that I was changing my mind about the job. (I emailed because I am better with the written word than the spoken word in expressing my real thoughts.) For days before I finally figured out all of my feelings, I was getting messages from my guides about happiness in the work place.

As a child, I was forced to hide my feelings. I even went so far as to hide them from myself. In Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, I learned to feel. Even today, I sometimes take awhile to figure out exactly what it is that I am feeling. I have learned that when I am feeling angry, I have to look beneath the anger to see what I am afraid of. Being angry is safer than being afraid for me, maybe for most people.

As a child, I hide my body behind dull, neutral colors of clothing. As I have often said, I worked at fading into the background, not wanting to call attention to myself. I didn't want to call attention to myself because the incest made me ashamed of you knowing the real, unclean me that I hid. I didn't want your attention because it might be sexual which I didn't know how to handle. The paradox is that I craved your attention and love. I felt so unloved, so unclean and I was afraid you would see that uncleanness. I was afraid that you would think I was a tramp. I was afraid of your judgments because I was making those same judgments against myself. I was afraid that you would mirror those same thoughts back to me.

I wanted to be a boy because, I thought boys didn't get sexually abused. I know different now but as a child I didn't. As a child, I was a tomboy, wanting to hide the female in me. I played outside; I climbed trees; I ran everywhere; I wrestled; I played baseball and volleyball all in an attempt to separate myself from the incest and my feelings of rage and hurt. I believed if I wasn't a girl, I wouldn't be hurt. In recovery, I finally made my peace with being a female and have worked on balancing my male and female parts. Today, I love being a woman. I also enjoy my male half.

As the above quote says I have worked on accepting and loving all of my parts and bringing them out of the shadows to make myself whole again. The accepting had to begin with me, inside myself, saying, "I love You." That are no bad parts of me. They have all served me in some way to make me into who I am today---a person that I am very proud of. I love the strong, caring woman that I am today.

Related Articles:
Biography---Part 1 ---

Being Honest With Myself ---

Keeper Of My Creativity ---

Labeling Myself vs. Experiencing What Is. ---

Incest May Be A Part Of My Life Series---Introduction ---

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dare To Forgive

"Dare To Forgive" by Edward M. Hallowell, M. D., Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2004, page 72:

Dr. Hallowell called his plan for forgiveness a practical method. He lists the steps as acts in a play.

Act 1: "pain: feeling wronged and wondering what to do."

Act 2: "reliving what happened and reflecting on it, using your beliefs, intelligence and imagination to help guide you. Ask yourself, What do I want this pain to turn into? "

Act 3: "wrestling within yourself, or with others, as you heal, working your way past anger and resentment to a peaceful place."

Act 4: "taking stock and moving forward."

I am reading several books on forgiveness. I rarely only read one book at a time. I am like a sponge needing to absorb all that I can on a subject before I take time to reflect on what I have read. Then I either take it in and make it mine or if it doesn't work for me, I let it go.

Another quote that I want to share with you is from the book, "Opening our Hearts, Transforming our Losses" written by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, 2007, page 66:

"Forgiveness does not mean we forget the past. Nor does it mean we accept repeated mistreatments. After all, many of us have learned valuable lessons from our past that helped shape who we are today. Eventually, however, the burden of carrying around our pain can take its toll on us. If we're finding it hard to forgive, we might still be in pain. If this is the case, we might benefit from allowing ourselves more time to heal before we even begin to think about forgiveness.

Ultimately forgiveness is an action we take to free ourselves from the pain we've been carrying. Forgiveness creates space in our lives for our own healing. In fact, forgiveness can be an important step in taking care of ourselves. We can forgive and rebuild our damaged relationships, or we can forgive and still choose to distance ourselves from certain people who continue to be abusive.

When we think about forgiveness, we also consider those mistakes we have made for which we'd like to make amends. Perhaps we have neglected to see our parents as people with their own challenges. After all, many of our parents grew up in alcoholic homes too, having faced many of the same experiences we faced. Or perhaps we've been clinging to our resentments. If we've been emotionally withholding in an effort to punish someone else for their past mistakes, we may have amends to make.

Having empathy for our parents' struggle doesn't mean we excuse or accept abusive behavior. When it comes to forgiveness, we can love someone and still hold them accountable for their behavior. We can have compassion for the alcoholic and other family members even if we hate the effects of the disease of alcoholism on our lives."

I know that is a lot of quoting. Thank you for staying with me through all of those words. The words from the experts and two different sources show you what has worked for me in my recovery long before I read either of these books. I support the information because I know it works if you are willing to do your own work of recovery.

In forgiving my father, I wasn't able to allow him back into my life. He was still an active alcoholic. My mother never left my life. She lived with my family and me for 14 years during which time, I was going to Al-Anon and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings and Incest counseling, getting in touch with my anger and other feelings and learning about forgiveness and what it meant to me. She only asked why I was going to meetings once and she didn't pursue my answer to find out why. She asked but she didn't really want to know. My mother had her own unresolved issues that she wasn't willing to look at so she couldn't deal with my issues either. Instead she held in her own anger and fears and they affected her happiness and her health causing heart problems which eventually killed her.

Why am I again working on forgiveness? Because I don't want to die from a heart condition like my mother did. Because I know that forgiving will bring me relief and release from the pain of hating and anger. In order to be happy, I will forgive others and myself for real and imagined transgressions. In order to be free, I will forgive. Can you forgive the people in your life who have harmed you? Tell me or someone else about it. It truly helps to share our pain. Besides, it is Step 2 above provided by Dr. Hallowell.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Name It, Claim It, Make It So---Intention To Hear Your Spirit Guides

Slade Roberson recently wrote an article called "You Can Hear Your Spirit Guides". You will find the link to this article at the bottom of the page along with some other links with information about Slade. In the article, Slade says, "If you wish to communicate more effectively with your spirit guides, the number one thing you need to tell yourself and your guides is that you are open to their presence and to receiving their guidance."

Here is the intention that I set for hearing my guides:

I am open to being psychic. I do hear my spirit guides in whatever form they choose. I play a significant part in the forming of my world.

Like most people, I was a little afraid of my psychic abilities. I was more puzzled than afraid. I really didn't know what to do with these abilities. Sometimes they are right on with the messages that I receive and sometimes, because I don't have the whole picture, they make no sense to me. The messages are easier to receive when the messages are for me rather than for someone else. If the message is for someone else, that means I have to risk voicing the message and being wrong in front of someone else. What if they look at me like I am crazy, like I have totally lost it? What will I do then? I have learned to present the information anyway. Whether I understand it or not, it is usually understood by the person that needs it. I am doing them a disservice by not presenting the information.

If you are interested in learning how to hear your spirit guides, Slade gives classes occasionally. I have taken two of the classes and greatly benefitted from them. Slade teaches you how to be more aware of the psychic hits that you get from your guides on a daily basis. We totally ignore so much of what our guides send us because it doesn't come in the form that we expect it to. That is why my affirmation says, "I do hear my spirit guides speaking in whatever form they choose."

If you are interested in learning more about your spirit guides and how to contact them, check out Slade's blog, Shift Your Spirits. Start with the article linked below. If you like what you read spend some time checking out the rest of Slade's articles.

What is your intention toward hearing your guides?

Related Links:

You Can Hear Your Spirit Guides ---

Epiphanies From Freaking Out ---

Ghosts, Spirits, Seances - and a story ---

Stephen Hopson Interview with Slade Roberson of Shift Your Spirits, Part I of II ---

Stephen Hopson Interview with Slade Roberson of Shift Your Spirits, Part II of II ---

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Spiritual Instead Of Religious

I just looked outside my house to the street to see a bus from one of the area churches dropping off about 5-6 teenagers in the neighborhood to go walking door-to-door to do what that particular church calls soul-saving. I live in the Bible Belt of the South (USA) so this happens quite often. Sometimes it is teenagers. Sometimes it is adults. This is a practice that I have never been comfortable with, no matter what church I was attending at the time.

To me, my spirituality is personal, between God and me. If someone asks, I will talk about it but I don't feel the need to try to "save" someone else. If I want to influence others, I think my actions---how I live my life---is a better way to do that than talking to change someone's mind and beliefs.

I have never felt right telling someone that my religion is better than theirs. I believe how you live your life is more important.

We are all on our own journey back to God. How we get there is up to each individual.

Most of the time that someone comes to my door to discuss religion, unless they were invited by me, gets politely turned away. I don't feel the need to be convinced by them that my beliefs are wrong and I don't feel the need to convince them that their beliefs are wrong. We are each exactly where we need to be in our spiritual journeys.

Someone asked me once why I read and used the information from so many books rather than just following the original 12-Step information that I was given. I think that my answer could also apply to why the world has so many different religions. Not everyone learns the same way. What appeals to me and helps me learn and remember may be different than what you need to learn and remember the same subject. I think that is why we have so many different religions in the world. Different ways of processing need different ways for information to be presented to the people of the world. Does that make sense to you? You may process information, religious or otherwise, differently than I process that same information, therefore, you and I may need the information to be presented in different ways to each of us.

Also, we aren't all on the same page at the same time. That can further complicate things. Different page, different time, doesn't mean that I am any more or less spiritual than you are.

Related Articles:
What Is God ---

Are You Judging Others As Less Spiritual Than You? ---

Ego-centered selfishness vs. Spirit-centered Selfishness ---

Tools Of The Ego ---

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hurricane Gustav Has Left The State

Well, Hurricane Gustav has finally decided to leave Louisiana and Arkansas alone and move on to Kansas City and Chicago today.

The rains started in Hot Springs, Arkansas just after midnight on Monday morning and didn't stop until about 11:00 p.m. Wednesday night. We had wind gusts up to 35 m.p.h. We lost electricity at my house at 2:45 a.m. on Wednesday and got it back on around noon on Wednesday. Wedesday evening, the news said that 86,000 Arkansans were without electricity. Thursday evening, Hot Springs still had 19,000 without electricity; Little Rock had 14,000. Most of our Entergy electric crews were sent to Louisiana before Gustav hit Arkansas. Entergy was able to re-direct some crews from Missouri as they were passing through on their way to Louisiana. Hot Springs got almost nine inches of rain. We have small tree limbs from our pecan tree and oak trees all over our yard from the winds. Quite a few roads were closed because of flash flooding from the rains.

With all of the electricity off and the flooding that we got and winds, we were still blessed to have not gotten any worse damage than we did from Hurricane Gustav. You don't usually think of a hurricane being that big or that powerful once it has gone inland for hundreds and hundreds of miles but Gustav was huge.

I heard that in addition to the hurricane that Louisiana got over a dozen tornadoes over the past few days. I don't think Arkansas had any tornadoes. It is hard to keep up with weather reports when you don't have electricity. We did have a radio on our local station during the day.

The weather this entire year has been strange for Hot Springs---more rain and cooler than usual for Arkansas. This time last year, we were in a 4 or 5 year drought. We aren't now. We have gotten plenty of rain this year, before this week and Hurricane Gustav. I hope that Gustav is gentler on Kansas City and Chicago than it was on Arkansas and Louisiana.

Can you imagine what the world was like before The Weather Channel?