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Thursday, May 19, 2011

hold on, we are going for a spin

People who grow up in alcoholic families have common symptoms and behaviors as a result of their common experience. It is these shared symptoms and behaviors that set adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) apart from other people. ACoAs are different from people who were raised in other types of family systems. They view the world in a way that is unique. The common symptoms that characterize this group of people is the adult children of alcoholics syndrome.

Nothing is the way it's supposed to be in an alcoholic family. Dates are canceled, lies are told and relationship connections alternate from being close and warm to cold and distant.Children vacillate between having no power at all and way too much as the adults in their lives fall in and out of normal functioning.

That's because growing up with addiction is traumatizing and the symptoms of trauma can emerge much later when we create our own families. This is what PTSD is all about, it's a reaction to trauma that occurs long after the fact.

Small things trigger PTSD and I never know what it will be, I had therapy years ago when being an adult child of an alcoholic got way out of hand for me. Having a birthday party for Wesley when she was around 5 triggered it the first time and as she had normal childhood experiences, my past experiences took their toll. I have managed pretty well and unlike most people, I have to live with intent every day to keep from annoying those around me with my “issues”. In March, working around an alcoholic building my studio was a huge trigger and I had a pretty rough month. I think I’m still working through that, I was doing pretty good and then yesterday someone accused me of being perfect and righteous, and not in a nice way, and it has triggered a huge PTSD episode. I am almost paralyzed with it and I have to deal with it, or it’s going to get out of hand. So here I am at 1 am writing about my feelings like a good recovering ACOA should. Right now I am having an onslaught of symptoms, stomach cramps, feeling out of control, adreneline, but mostly I feel the numbing coming on and I hate that the most.

ACoA's have suffered profound losses. There has been the loss of parents to rely on, the loss of family members to addiction and possibly death, the loss of a feeling of safety, the loss of the secure family unit, the loss of trust, the loss of a stable and smooth early development. There are the losses of the comfortable family events, rituals and holidays, and as children the loss of normalcy and the security of knowing that their parents are in the position to parent them and meet their changing needs. ACoAs often need to mourn not only what happened, but what never got a chance to happen. People who have felt traumatized may have a tendency to isolate and withdraw into themselves when they are feeling vulnerable. They have learned to recoil into a personless world and take refuge in avoiding connection.

So this is mainly why I am writing this. I feel this recoiling coming on. I am wanting to withdraw, feeling like I don’t want to blog, I don’t want to make anything, just want to drop out for a while and disappear, but this isn’t what I will want when this passes. I haven’t tried blogging about this before so I thought, why not, I usually wait for it to pass, like the flu or something….

People who are consistently being wounded emotionally and are not able to address it openly and honestly may develop rigid psychological defenses to manage their fear and pain. The numbing response along with the emotional constriction that is part of the trauma response may lead to a loss of ability to take in caring and support from others. Additionally, as mistrust takes hold, our willingness to accept love and support may lessen. We're perhaps afraid that if we let our guard down, if we let connection feel too good, we'll only set ourselves up for more pain when the inevitable happens and we're disappointed again and again. So we protect ourselves as best as we know how imagining that by avoiding meaningful connection we will also avoid hurt.

I think that this is why blogging has been so good for me. I am able to make a connection without having the physical element to it. It is very difficult for me to make physical connections, although since moving to Chapel Hill it has gotten better, I have some really good friends here. Many of you that I blog with have helped with this as well and you didn’t even know it. A lot of people ask me why I blog and how I can be so honest. It’s my therapy. I lived with lies and secrets and not being able to be who I really was for so long, that blogging helped tremendously, just putting whatever I wanted to out there was so liberating for someone that kept so many secrets for so long.

Anyway, this should help, might not be what you expected to read, and I’m really not writing this for the entertainment value. It’s sort of like when you have eaten something that doesn’t agree with you, or you have had too much to drink, you vomit, and feel better. Well, this is my vomiting (sorry, I know that’s a bit gross, but that’s the only way I can think of to explain it.) I know this isn’t the pottery blog way, but it’s my blog and if you don’t like it you can certainly choose not to read it. I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me.

Just so you know, if you read things here from time to time that seem to contradict themselves, that’s just normal for an ACOA and I do it all the time. When I was young I was also a compulsive liar, but I hated that and now I am the opposite, sometimes brutally honest. I also want everything around me to be perfect and I can’t tolerate chaos, although I seem to create it and nothing about me is perfect, far from it. I used to try and control every aspect of poor Gerry’s life, but I work on that consciously every single day just so I don’t drive him mad. Do you go through your days making a conscious effort to do things in a way that will be normal for everyone else? Let me tell you it gets tiring and right now, I’m ready to give that a rest, but I can’t, so this blog seemed like a good outlet and it’s now 1:30am, I still feel sick but this will pass.

So, now those of you that thought you knew me are sitting there saying WTF I suppose,

Well, you didn’t come here for a boring blog post now did you :)

There are lots of articles on ACOA and it’s interesting reading. Adult children of alcoholics are strong survivors and we work through it, but man it just wears you out. I do know that the best thing about it, is that it has made me one kick ass parent! So that's the good of it at least. Ok, enough of this wallowing in self pity, I’m off to bed now after this nice long purge!! I know I’m going to regret this in the morning, but there have been worse posts than this, and I survived……..

30 comments:

annika said...

Hi Tracey, hope you got to sleep alright. Nothing profound to say just that I am thinking of you and that I appreciate seeing you tackling a difficult situation head-on. I find it sometimes helpful to think of Julian of Norwich's saying "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well".
Annika

Dennis Allen said...

Thanks for trusting us enough to share this.I hope it passes soon.

Anna said...

I don't think blogs are one way. We often are learning from you, so now is the time to let us be there for you. Even if you do decide to just drop out for a bit....you KNOW we are all out here, patiently waiting.

Hang in there.

Kings Creek Pottery said...

Way to be brave, Tracey! Trust the universe to support you... Your courage to put your thoughts and feelings out in your blog inspires me to be more courageous (read: Honest).

Try to stay focused on the positive feedback- and you get loads of it- and not focus on the few, small negative. People have their own issues and your honesty/candor may "threaten" some.

I appreciate you and your blog, while I may not always agree- I appreciate the challenge to question myself or look at things from a different angle. You are so alive!!

Sending support, comfort, and sisterhood your way~


-Kathy
another ACOA trying not to isolate :)

carter gillies said...

Thank you for sharing this Tracey. You are a very brave person and I have so much admiration for you. Good luck in dealing with this. Your loyal audience loves and supports you. Thanks for including us in your world.

Michèle Hastings said...

sometimes you have to write it down and get it out or it eats you up inside.

fre-art said...

Hi Tracey... 'what doesn't kill makes your stronger.'
Good on you for getting off the merry-go-round that you could have easily followed from the examples set in your childhood. You are stronger than you think, and great mother and wife. You are making a conscious effort to be a better person every day... how many of us are doing that? We can all learn from your honesty.

Tracey Broome said...

Hey guys! thanks so much for your kind words! I was dreading checking in here this morning, but your words lift me up. If any of you had written a blog like this, you know I would have been searching for the right words to say to make you feel better as well. It's odd that I felt the need to blog early this morning while having a small meltdown, but my blog seems like a safe place and if what I have written about could help someone with similar feelings it's worth it. Another annoying trait of an ACOA is needing positive reinforcement, so your words are also healing, THANK YOU THANK YOU!!
I am feeling much better this morning, trust me, if you need to get something out, writing about it is so helpful!

Michele said...

Let me hold your hair back.

Tracey Broome said...

:)

Linda Starr said...

Dear Tracey you're so brave to trust us, to trust the world really; thank you for that, I too have some of the same symptoms and issues but for different reasons, writing helps so much. Please don't let guilt get to you (if it does) for not blogging or working in clay, the thinking, planning, relaxing, and resting is all part of the art work too. I'm here for you in spirit.

Sister Creek Potter said...

I am learning from your sharing. My father was an alcoholic. It is a testament to my mother that we lived a normal life—rather, what seemed to us to be a normal life. But it was not normal. Yet because of her I never thought of myself as damaged by his alcoholism—until I read the symptoms of ACOA in your blog, I share a lot of those. My youngest sister—10 years younger—experienced a much less normal life. By her early teen years my parents had divorced so there was not even the pretense of family-life, my mother was beaten down by the shame of divorce, my other sister and I had left home (for college/marriage). She was really scarred and I did not realize until reading your blog what damage she must have suffered—she has had a pretty hard life. So I thank you for giving me a key to better understanding myself and my youngest sister. Gay

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Linda and Gay! Thank you so much for your words!!!!! Linda, you are so correct that writing it out helps. Gay, children of alcoholics can be some of the strongest folks out there, they had to be. Sometimes it sucks, but I'm lucky I figured out what was going on with me with the help of Gerry and I work on it all the time, just like a recovering alcoholic has to! Gay, if me writing this post has helped you discover something about yourself, I am so happy that I did it!!! you have been such a good blogger friend.

DirtKicker Pottery said...

I'm not a ACOA, but my first marriage was to an alcoholic. It was only for a couple years, but I know how fast they can beat you down. I couldn't imagine growing up in such an environment. Glad I got my girls and left. I'm sending you a big cyber ((hug)). You're an awesome person Tracey, and obviously a fantastic Mom. You're in my prayers.

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Cindy: thanks a bunch. Good for you for leaving a harmful situation and taking your kids, some days I wish my mom had done that. Don't get me wrong, my dad was a good man, but he had PTSD from the war and was really not very dependable when he drank and my mom tried to hide it from everyone, so our lives were so weird. I just never got the chance to be a kid, maybe that's why I am one now :)

Vicki Wenderlich said...

I love your honesty. I've never met you but you are so "real" on your blog that I feel as if I have. I'm glad you have the courage to share things like this with us - often I feel that we all try to promote a "perfect, together" image online and you never do. You seem... if not comfortable with yourself all the time, willing to know yourself and share your experiences and opinions with us.

Thanks. And I hope today is better!

cookingwithgas said...

Hey Tracey- I hope by now you know how I feel about you and you know I have your back.
I too have struggled with the very same issues.
Hard as it is we try to move forward.
I too have had days where I am paralyzed with self doubt and my own demons.
Know you are well supported and loved- girl you are loved.
Talk to you soon-M

Hollis Engley said...

OK, so it looks like I'm the last one to read this. Where was I last night??? Tracey, no one as interesting and talented as you are got to be that way by NOT having a complex life. I was blessed not to have that particular family problem, but I've known plenty of people who have it, and you describe the symptoms and the life pretty well.
And I think many of us struggle with issues of self-doubt. Where those came from, who knows? A fellow journalist friend of mine - a wonderful and talented Chinese-American woman who worked at the news service with me - and I used to tell each other that some day "these people" will realize that neither of us is as good as they seem to think we are. And we were serious. I think it's often the people who seem from the outside to be so talented and good at their work think inside that they're a fraud.
They just don't blog about it. But, as you say, it's your blog and that's what it's there for. Tell the world.

Tracey Broome said...

Hi Vicki: I wasn't always this way. I was a model for a while and got to hide behind that a lot. I also had many false selves depending on what crowd I was with. Quite honestly, it just got so tiring, and when I met Gerry he wasn't impressed with anyone that wasn't real, so I learned to be myself and it was so much easier. As I have gotten older, I remember how hard I worked at being someone I thought people would be impressed with and now I just don't care. Here I am take it or leave it...
Hey Meredith, I do know you have my back and as you can see, I'm semi paralyzed today, sitting here watching the cooking channel and reading blogs. Pretty pathetic when I have so much I need to do, but my heart is not in it today. It's interesting how much energy it took me last night to work through this, just wore me out! Hey Hollis, I think self doubt is the constant companion of an artist. I even see Gerry struggle with it sometimes, although he is at the top of his field and one of the most talented photographers I know, so I guess we all have that little demon on our shoulder, who knows why. I think we are all pretty damn good though! Even though I woke up regretting that I had written this post, as I knew I would, you have all made it alright and I truly love that we have this very interesting way of communicating with people! Again, thanks to all,xoxo

cindy shake said...

I'm with Hollis. Journaling has proven healing powers so blog away. I also think a few things had been building up to start the spin -anytime we get caught up in controversy or when someone is mean to us those can easily be triggers. Surround yourself with good things. Good coffee, tasty new food, POSITIVE people, loving people -Wes & Gerry, the fresh Spring blooms or a good movie and comfy blankie :o) You're a survivor and a winner no doubt about it.

Tracey Broome said...

Cindy, what a perfect idea!I feel a nice dinner coming on! You are right, there have been several triggers the past couple of weeks,I just didn't see it coming until last night and the WHAM! it all smacked me down.

HENHOUSE POTTERY said...

My parents were both children of alcoholics and my mom was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder shortly after I was born. Both of my parents struggled to parent, and it took my generation to break the cycle. It's taken me a long time to feel confident that I will not fall down the rabbit hole, too...and that I am a better parent for my rough childhood and formative years. Know that you are not alone and that we all fall prey to episodes just like this one. Thanks for trusting your cyber friends enough to share your rough times, not just the wonderful ones. My thoughts are with you.

doodles said...

Tracey you are brave and I'm so grateful to you for writing about this online. I grew up in an angry home - nothing was ever good enough for my dad and he belittled us and yelled whenever he was triggered. It took so many years for me to get past the numbness I'd used as a defense, but I am finally who I really was meant to be. No more hiding, although I struggle with needing to please and keeping the peace at all costs. You reminded me to take it one day at a time - thanks. Keep up the good fight, Tracey! Sounds like you've done a fabulous job with Wes and you've worked hard to make a great life with Gerry. Hurrah for you!

SUSAN WELLS said...

Awe Pookie. Nothing like a real big yammer on to clear things up a bit:) Thanks for sharing fer real. You's one in a million and you sure know how to breed a fantastic human being too. I may see ya at the infamous Hawg Day. I love you.

Tracey Broome said...

You guys just totally ROCK!! Susan, you better come see me tomorrow at the pig fest!

Amy said...

your honesty is an amazing gift. thanks for sharing; it is helping others. hoping that your writing and reading the responses of others was and is healing. peace!

Trish said...

Tracey.. I have not checked blogs for a few days..so just catching up...
I thank you too, for your honesty with us blogger friends... cyber world or no, it is a blessing to have the connections and the freedom to just BE..
Life is a journey and it feels good to lighten the baggage load regularly--a good purge helps--..to pick up and journey some more feeling fresher and stronger.
Journey on blogger friend..
Grace and Strength. Trish

Tracey Broome said...

Hey Trish and Amy, thanks for checking in and thanks for your comments!!!!! xoxo

JUDI TAVILL said...

Sorry... been in Baltimore... for an event and dealing with my divorced parents...as I take care of my Dad... not an Alcoholic...Since I am hoping this i never read... he's more of a Narcissistic obsessive compulsive controlling hoarder... does that make me an ACONOCCH ? I suppose. It's crazy... Ever since his Stroke (and heart attack and 7 stents and prostate surgery and last week's pacemaker) It has been a very interesting ride as power of attorney from 3 hours away who occasionally starts to find her self fall into that OCD place,but I have fought this my whole life... and really created a "space of my own" only to be pulled back in to "take care of things" when the SHIT HIT THE FAN... well the shit hits on and off all of the time and I know this is all part of my life journey but when you are standing in the virtual 12 inches deep of SHIT... it is hard to remember... a blog entry from you like this really opens me up to the realization that we all have our so-called "cross(es) to bear" and nobody ever REALLY knows what is going on...ya know? That been said... you may like this book:
The Glass Castle
http://www.amazon.com/Glass-Castle-Memoir-Jeannette-Walls/dp/074324754X
Do you know it?
Get it.

Tracey Broome said...

I did read the Glass Castle, really funny, I made my mom read it and she totally didn't get the point, she just said, that poor woman, what that must have been like.... pleeezzzz
We could always start Bloggers anonymous for our f'd up selves haha!