Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Breaking The Cycle

You CAN reconcile with your past. But you will need to become as aware as possible of what you have been through. And be willing to feel emotions you have been avoiding for a long time.

This can be difficult for Adult Children Of Alcoholics that have had bad experiences, trauma and grown up in dysfunctional homes. The thought of, "I've been through that once and never again!" may be the initial reaction. Long ago, survival may have dictated that these overwhelming, unbearable, horrible feelings were buried, minimized and denied. Without anyone to safely share and process them with, a child has little choice. So the vulnerable child hides these terrible feelings as best they can in order to make it through each day.

Many years later as an adult, these buried feeling continue to disrupt even though you may not realize they are still there. They may still be causing you to become "A reactor rather than an actor".  If the feelings are never processed adequately they will create negativity for the rest of your life. But now you have more resources to deal with them including your own emotional maturity, recovery insight, good support groups and qualified therapists.

Still, this is not an easy task. If it was, you would probably have already done it. It is highly recommended that a professional counselor who is experienced in this type of work be involved. Really getting in touch with the hurts of the past may make you feel like just like you did when you were a kid. The pain, sorrow and fear may feel just as strong and just as overwhelming. You may feel a depression and sadness that seems pervasive and never ending. You may cry uncontrollably. This is why you need a good, safe support system to reach out to. If you are feeling these feelings it means you are no longer quieting your inner child and are honoring his/her feelings and allowing them to be felt and expressed. That alone is a big step.

"By gradually releasing the burden of unexpressed grief, we slowly move out of the  past. We learn to reparent ourselves with gentleness, humor, love and respect."- The Solution

If you start to feel sadness or other "negative" feeling, your first instinct may be to deny and repress it. You may have been "trained" very well to do this from a young age so it may seem natural. Your critical inner voice may try to minimize and stifle. It may tell you that things weren't so bad or question what you have to complain about. Or you may use anger to avoid feeling pain.

You may find that your feelings are blocked or locked down so tightly that you are not sure what they are. Simply asking yourself, "What am I REALLY feeling inside?" and then listening for the answer may help. There is no pressure to get an answer. Just ask yourself the question several times a day and see what happens.

Try to encourage your inner child to express themselves. If you feel sadness, it may help to make empathetic statements to yourself like, "Wow, Johnny, you are really feeling sad, huh? It's ok, you have every right to feel that way and I am here for you" to encourage the child. This may sound a bit silly but when your child knows you are there supporting them they feel safer to reveal their feelings. This is positive reparenting.

American therapists John and Linda Friel have created a model for the different stages in this process:

You have to identify the things you have been through as a child.
You must experience your feelings concerning these things - it is not enough to talk about them.
You have to really feel these feelings, which means that you have to make them as strong as they were when the situation occurred.
You must share these feelings with other people.
You have to make a decision about your relationship with the person or persons who hurt you, and still are hurting you.
Not until after these steps can you begin to recover and forgive.

If you get in touch and feel deep, overwhelming emotions you may feel like you are going to lose control of yourself or that it will never end. You may be afraid of being stuck in that dark place. Many therapists believe that your body has it's own safety valve and will automatically "turn off" the feelings if they get too intense. This is when it is critical to have a support system and safety net that you can reach out to. Sharing the feelings is an important step in the process. 

"The road to liberation goes through breaking the silence and through breaking the unwillingness to see and to listen to the small child within you. In order to reach this goal you must, however, make your way through the pain - and not slide over or around it. The pain that this journey causes is the foundation for recovery."-

Again, it can be difficult to go through all this on your own. Safe, empathetic friends, family/support system and a good therapist are needed.

Check out the Orange County ACA website at: Orange County Adult Children


Anonymous said...

hi! i just found this blog. its great. thanks for all the resources. is this an offical blog of the ACA WSO in Torrance, CA?

i'm deeply invovled in breaking the cycle and after 12 yrs of recovery work, just had a major breakthrough.
thanks for your service!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post and congrats on the breakthrough!

This blog is independent and is not directly affiliated with Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc., or any official organization.

Kris Scanlon said...

It amazes me I have been sober now since August 2012 but due to having an emotional sobriety breakdown I bottom out. ACA is the only place it is totally taking me over. I love AA with all my heart but I know I had to move on and God created a situation that guaranteed that. There are no mistakes in the universe. I have graduated from the initial stages of AA and now I continue my studies with Al-Anon and adult children