Addiction is the Bandage. Childhood Trauma is the Wound.
We each have had a wounded childhood. In order to feel safe, we learned to cover our true feelings. I taught myself so well that even today, although I was born in 1940, when I feel unsafe, I hold my face absolutely rigid so that my feelings can’t be “read” by others.
So our self-image is distorted from our childhood. We want to believe that the self-image that we are projecting to the world is our true self. But our true self knows that this image is not who we are. So until we allow these inner distortions to be healed we are living an inner battle.
90% of Americans have low self-esteem. Our self-esteem (how we value ourselves) is built on our distorted self-image. Self-esteem can only be strengthened by learning who we really are and then by healing our distorted self image.
“A veritable gold mine of possibilities is hidden within each of us-aptitudes, attitudes, characteristics, and traits that once may have been conscious, but for some reason slipped away or were pushed away into our unconscious. In addition, there is great potential within each of us that has never had the opportunity to see the light of day. William A. Miller
Because a lot of self-examination is purely mental, the first techniques for a stronger self-image are build on learning relaxation techniques. Stress is our reaction to changes happening around us. Because we are using much of our energy holding on to our faulty self-image, any trouble from outside ourselves uses up what little energy we have left.
In learning how to strengthen and develop your feelings of self-acceptance and self-worth, you will be learning how to use your energy in a positive way. You will love yourself better and others will want to learn how you did it.
“Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.” Alice Miller
“Carla's description was typical of survivors of chronic childhood abuse. Almost always, they deny or minimize the abusive memories. They have to: it's too painful to believe that their parents would do such a thing. So they fragment the memories into hundreds of shards, leaving only acceptable traces in their conscious minds. Rationalizations like "my childhood was rough," "he only did it to me once or twice," and "it wasn't so bad" are common, masking the fact that the abuse was devastating and chronic. But while the knowledge, body sensations, and feelings are shattered, they are not forgotten. They intrude in unexpected ways: through panic attacks and insomnia, through dreams and artwork, through seemingly inexplicable compulsions, and through the shadowy dread of the abusive parent. They live just outside of consciousness like noisy neighbors who bang on the pipes and occasionally show up at the door.” David L. Calof
“Most survivors grew up too fast. Their vulnerable child-selves got lost in the need to protect and deaden themselves. Reclaiming the inner child is part of the healing process. Often the inner child holds information and feelings for the adult. Some of these feelings are painful; others are actually fun. The child holds the playfulness and innocence the adult has had to bury.”
― Laura Davis
The problem as stated in ACA Red Book is:
‘Many of us found that we had several characteristics in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic or other dysfunctional household. We had come to feel isolated, and uneasy with other people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves, we became people-pleasers, even though we lost our own identities in the process. All the same we would mistake any personal criticism as a threat. We either become alcoholics (or practiced other addictive behavior) ourselves, or married them, or both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities, such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.’
‘We lived life from the standpoint of victims. Having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when we stood up for ourselves rather than giving in to others. Thus, we became reactors rather than actors, letting others take the initiative. We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment, willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to be abandoned emotionally. Yet, we kept choosing insecure relationships because they matched our childhood relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents.’
‘These symptoms of the family disease of alcoholism or other dysfunction made us ‘co-victims’, those who take on the characteristics of the disease without necessarily ever taking a drink. We learned to keep our feelings down as children and kept them buried as adults. As a result of this conditioning, we confused love with pity, tending to love those we could rescue. Even more self-defeating, we became addicted to excitement in all our affairs, preferring constant upset to workable relationships.’
‘This is a description, not an indictment.’
Ending the Internal Conflict
The conflict between the two sides of self is one of strategy and not of intent. Both the adult and the child long for the love and respect necessary to sustain the human spirit but disagree on how to attain their desire; the child by hopefully waiting in isolation and the adult by rushing into frustrated action. In ACA we learn both strategies lead only to despair.
Ending our inner conflict depends on both the adult and the child recognizing the need for unity in recovery. By acknowledging their need for each other, the adult and the child create the sense of wholeness needed to fully respond to the world.
Mutual acceptance allows the child to see that the ability in trust is damaged but not broken and can be restored by gently and slowly emerging from the protective prison of isolation. The adult becomes aware of the spirit of joy that inhabits every child and recognizes the need for openness and spontaneity in feeling completely alive.
Link to buy the ACA Red Book seen below.
We must move in our recovery from one addiction to another for two major reasons: first, we have not recognized and treated the underlying addictive process, and second, we have not accurately isolated and focused upon the specific addictions. Anne Wilson Schaef
Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis--alcoholism and depression. Yet 50% of those in the rooms have both--addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?
Addiction is complex and recovery and/or treatment needs to be complex. Each person needs help with social, mental, physical, emotional, employment, legal, relationship, and spiritual issues. Just going to a 12 step program doesn’t help a recovering person with all these issues. Having a 12 step home group as a foundation for recovery provides peer support, framework for positive life change, and disciplined accountability needed to stop addiction. But additional help is needed.
Every one of our courses includes links to online support groups arranged according to type of support offered. Much of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Having a home group plus adding online support communities is a strong recovery plan. Our mission is to bring new ideas, resources, and online sites together in one place so each member can locate the resources each needs.
Table of Contents
Frequently Asked Questions
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Created byKathy Berman