Dec 23, 2020

Dear Younger Me, (where do I start?!)

Credit: Soldiers4Faith, Mercy Me


As an adult children of alcoholic, you may have a lot of regrets.

And, I'll be willing to bet they have much to do with how you grew up! 

Depending on where you are in life, what age you are, what stage of your recovery you're in,  you probably find it hard to forget the past.

I don't blame you.

Life stinks.
People hurt us, especially people that we love and we think love us too, we ask why, why?

I think of my family. Both parents were deeply wounded. Both decided to self-medicate (alcohol, sometimes drugs) instead of heal. In my opinion, they stalled their healing. And, as someone who has been lucky (I thank God every day) that I was able to get off the amusement park ride, and stop everything-- basically, to heal.

And I wonder if that is what happens with parents who don't heal. Maybe they have children and can't go off into the dark places to think, or to cry. I really think that healing is a life purpose. It requires time, it requires energy, and "brain pain".

It requires sailing far, far away from the shore of our comfort zone.

It is possible to do all that is necessary to fully heal-- change the negative tapes in our heads, surround ourselves with healthy people, learn self-care, and accept that our beliefs may not ever again sync up to the beliefs of our family members. That's a good thing!

In the video above, you'll see a  lot of phrases that maybe you tell yourself now or wish you could have told yourself when you were younger. But, that's just it: That's the innocence of youth! 

We learn as we go. For whatever reason, every single human is given the parents we are given, and often times we are hurt and broken down until we know better, and then we are helped, or we crushed and trapped underneath the weight of our past.

As  an adult child  of  an alcoholic, you were  dealt a bad hand.

So, what do you do to move forward?  Forgive and forget? Or, choose to focus on what we will never change, and risk staying stuck in feeling sorry for yourself? (Sorry.. that last statement is tinged with emotion because this is exactly what happened to my parent: Still drinks. Still commiserates.  In some days, it breaks my heart. On most days,  20 + years since I started on the healing journey, I'm reminded to choose better.  

Now, over to you. 
How is your healing journey coming? Can you relate to any of my words?

Much love and strength, 

"Even though I love this crazy life,

sometimes I wish is was a smoother ride."

- From Dear Younger Me, Mercy Me

Nov 23, 2020

How to Exercise Compassionate Distance

                                                     Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Compassionate WHAT?? 

I first heard this term over a decade ago, and it has stuck with me. I was in my early twenties, and a nurse who volunteered to teach a "self esteem" class mentioned it. I don't know if she coined the term, or if she got it from a book, but it has helped in my healing.

Here is something that I want you all to try practicing," she said to the class, "compassionate distance." 

What is Compassionate Distance? 

We looked at each other, waiting for the first person to ask what we all wanted to know. You know something? Even after she had explained it to us, I was still dumbfounded. 

For years. I'm sure there is a psychological reason why  I was unable to comprehend the term. But, then, finally it came... an "Aha" moment.

Compassionate distance is best defined as "detaching with love."

It's a way to...

Protect yourself from continuing to be victimized, while still exercising healthy boundaries, which are often blurred with adult children of alcoholics. 

Heal without constant contact with the person who harmed you, while not wishing any further harm towards them.

To take it further, compassionate distance is a place of rest. 

It's detachment without resentment, so that the victim can finally feel free.

Tian Dayton in her ACOA devotionals book One Foot in Front of the Other calls this a "phantom limb:" being haunted by what's missing, rather than just letting it go.

Simple, right? You know what they say about simple... Simple ain't easy. 

To break it down further, or at least how I understood it, compassionate distance is similar to going "non-contact" for abuse victims leaving their abusers. 

That means that you stay away for a time, cease having any physical contact so  that you can adjust and recalibrate. 

Consider this from Dr. Amy Louis Bear who describes the term as "Compassionate detachment":

So how do you protect yourself from someone who is demanding, deceitful, and blaming? What do you do with someone who has no regard for your feelings? How can you put a healthy distance between you and family members who leave you exhausted from their criticism, negativity, or constant need for attention?

The answer is to detach yourself in a way that’s compassionate, but helps to protect you from further harm. Compassionate detachment means claiming your right to defend yourself from controlling, manipulative, or abusive loved ones. It means treating them with love and respect, but not taking responsibility for their emotional immaturity and poor choices.

She goes on to say that people with empty emotional buckets cannot be filled by us and that we can stop making choices according to how others might react. 

We can be ourselves, and still love, while exercising healthy boundaries. Compassionate distance, or compassionate detachment--whatever you wish to call it--is just that, a (healthy) boundary. 

Have you had experience practicing compassionate distance? How do you think compassionate distance is a faster way to emotional freedom / sobriety instead of choosing to resent the person who hurt you?

Sending you strength, love and JOY on the journey, 



Feb 6, 2018

The Hurt and the Healer - Moving video!

(This post is faith - based.)

Recently I heard in a sermon,  "If you’re in a trial, God’s intent is to make us more Christ-like, and to draw us closer to Him, and being in close relationship with God is what brings us joy.
If you’re not (already) in a trial, you’re headed for one.”

We don’t pray for suffering. We pray for God’s will. This life is on His agenda, after all. 

Monday I faced a trial. A family member who was on a clear road of recovery relapsed. I’m so strong in a lot of things, but this crushed me. It’s hard to see someone you love suffering, and it's natural to suffer along with them.

My challenge was to find joy.

This song has lyrics that sound pretty desperate, and this was how I felt at times this week but we have this hope. Life sometimes IS about suffering, but He’s the anchor of our soul. (Hebrews 6:19)

got this. 
This song is about the glory that comes from our deepest wounds. It’s a humble, desperate cry for God.

In the book of John in chapter 16 verse 33 it is recorded that Jesus said,

“…In me you have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

Is. 53:5, …”By his stripes we are healed."
When I first heard this song, called “The Hurt and the Healer” by Mercy Me it was through the above video, which shows images of Jesus being crucified, a school boy being bullied, a girl sitting by herself in the lunch room, a man being served divorce papers, a family facing foreclosure on their house, a woman exiting an abortion clinic, and woman chained to an empty pizza box, empty needles and empty bottles of booze nearby.

Through all of that, Jesus was present.

It's like a game of Chutes and Ladders: Move a few squares ahead, maybe take a ladder to jump 10 squares, but it’s only a matter of time before you land on a square with a slide, and you're  back to where you started. That’s life.  That's recovery. And so while our family is adjusts to the old and seeks serenity, courage and wisdom, like that AA prayer,

Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I can't change,
the courage to changed the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference." --Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)
I rely on God to fill me with His peace and serenity, and I can trust Him to make me bold, and I can lean on Him for wisdom, understanding, answers. 
Isn’t it nice that our God is in the business of death and resurrection, and transformation? He’s forever changing us, but He never changes. He’s already perfect, but I am so far from perfect!
There is nothing that is impossible for our God and there is no hardened heart that He can’t soften. I just pray that His will be done.  I won’t question it but instead ask Him to comfort me and ask Him to work things out the way He intends to.

Every time I climb a ladder, I know it’s just some time before I slide down another chute. But, like a kid at a playground or an amusement park, I can just learn how to feel joy every step of the way.

Thanks for reading! What are your best tips for finding joy or peace in the midst of a trial?

Jan 30, 2018

What is Healing and Recovery Like?

Some people describe their recovery --or the pain and addiction requiring recovery-- as a merry-go-round. Perhaps you've heard the expression "Please stop this merry-go-round, I need to get off!?"

I prefer to describe my recovery as like stopping a Ferris wheel at an amusement park in the middle of the ride, to take in and assess the view. From "up" there, I sorted out the confusion in order to identify where the pain was coming from, and the reasons why it wouldn't go away. It wasn't easy, but it made all the difference. What was that difference? 

Looking at the big picture. I realized that my coping mechanisms (denial, self-blame, emotional eating for comfort, etc.) weren't working. I was going day-to-day: miserable, confused and hurt. Blaming myself, fighting off depression, and sometimes having suicidal thoughts. 

Laundry List #7 states that "we get guilt feelings when we try to stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others." I thought boundaries were fences that would offend rather than protect. 

Abuse complicated my life more. It compounded my shame, and conditioned my belief that everything was my fault.  (Laundry List #11) This is perfect situation for the abuser to thrive. (The abuser's trajectory is that their victim is always the one to blame. This helps them to avoid being held accountable for their behavior.) 

As a
"para-alcoholic," (See Laundry list #'s 13 & 14) and #12 a "dependent personality who is terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship  in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us," also helped reinforce the dysfunction.

Adult children of alcoholics often attract abusive people. 

Often times, adult children learned how to be tolerant of abuse, and thus they do not to expect better treatment. Or, they become abusers themselves, although I do think the former is more common.

Perhaps you have suffered abuse--which is essentially an invasion of your boundaries-- because it was at the very core of your parent's addiction-- a support and concern only for the alcohol, and everything else is either abused by violence or neglect to support the alcoholic's sick need to drink. 

In my case, I was 17 when I learned of a friend who was also an alcoholic counselor. I was so angry at my parent that I would call this person up whenever my parent was in earshot--this would be the "punishment." (Of course, I was always punished later!) Defying my parent was not the way to go, and in many ways it was a deliberate invasion of their boundaries.  

Look for more information about healthy boundaries in a later post. As always, thank you for reading!

Jan 16, 2018

Why does pain have to be a part of life?

We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.
-Carlos Castenada

In her book, One Foot In Front of the Other: Daily affirmations for recovery, Tian Dayton writes about pain.

Our pains are not so unique.

In the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA/ACoA) rooms we relate to one other and find common threads within our experiences. Finding this common thread helps us feel more belonging and less alone in our suffering. 
We are brought into the present our thoughts are no longer “racing towards the future or churning on the past.” 
No matter what life hands us, we are partly responsible for our response. Motivational speaker Brian Tracy calls this “response-ability.” Pain is a part of life, and what matters more is how we respond.

Running From Pain 

Tian says, “I recognize that what causes people to become crazy or dysfunctional is running from pain. Actually feeling pain takes a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, a few months,[BUT], running from pain takes a lifetime."

And according to Tian, it this constant running away or looking for reasons to avoid, bury, or deny our pain that we go crazy!!

Reason for Pain

If something repeatedly continues to bring up feelings of pain or frustration, then God is trying to teach us something, just like facing our fears, it’s time to face what is. 
It’s the only way to make our fears go away. 
In fact, avoiding pain is on our Laundry List. In List #10, “We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much.” 
We seek approval and lose our identity in the process. Are we afraid to be rejected /perhaps we are used to being rejected for being ourselves. Our true selves were never fully accepted; there was always something wrong with us and our alcoholic parent made sure to point our "faults" out every chance they got.
We live our life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted to that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.  Laundry List #6 states that we have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves.
  • Do you try to help others relieve their pain instead of facing your own?
  • Do you prefer to fix your friends and family, rather than taking a look at where you could use some healing and mending yourself?
  • Have you been running from pain, and the truth of your pain? 

*Today’s affirmation inspired by Tian Dayton’s book One Foot In Front of the Other: daily affirmations for recovery 

Photo credit: Dreamstime