Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Child is the Father of the Man

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky.
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

— William Wordsworth
One of the things we in ACA are to do as part of our recovery from our alcohol-tainted pasts is to re-parent ourselves, to retrain and repair our damaged, malfunctioning id called our inner child, creating a more stable and appropriately reactive ego or adult self.  The trick of this is that we are asking ourselves to do something that we have no real knowledge of.

We grew up in the dynamics that alcoholism creates, with drama, often rage, violent unpredictability, and a tendency for things to go wrong if at all possible.  There is an aloof parent, an overbearing parent, a perfectionist parent, a volatile parent, sometimes all in the same parent.  So we know how to chastise, stifle, disappoint, abandon, and frighten a kid.  But we don't know much about lovingly nurturing a kid.

Sometimes we make the mistake of indulging the inner child in avoiding the harshness that we know.  The inner child must be listened to, but the inner child is still a child.  And it does an adult inner child no more good to allow himself to eat chocolate cake until his stomach was about to burst than it would an actual child.

But what it is seeming to amount to as I begin to practice it on myself, is learning how to say nicely the things that have to be said regardless.  William Glasser in Choice Theory likes to say that ultimately all you can give another person is information.  In my estimation how you transmit the information can send another message other than the one intended.

I also have to admit it feels strange being nice to myself.  Almost like I am wearing shoes on the wrong feet.  But really, I have worn my shoes on the wrong feet for so long, it is taking me a while to get used to the difference.


The ACoA banked subject I have been skirting around without writing about it is Brian Wilson, the founder of the Beach Boys.  Since he recorded a song with this line in it, I present to you ahead of that post this excerpt from Smile.

A lovely day

Mondays aside, it seems that every day I've either had something ACA related to say or some other special day to talk about.  But not today.  I have no secret relapses to reveal.  Nothing particularly noteworthy happened in my ACA community.  The most interesting thing that happened at work was that I was late for a meeting.  While it might be interesting, it's not anything new.

My granddaughter and I had a nice day doing homework.  I played games at a game site.  I watched some television.  Notably, I did not visit Facebook since I got home, I have not watched the news, and I did not visit any sports or comic book sites.

I feel oddly serene about this, almost to the point that it is scary.  But it is good.  It is ultimately one of the things I want (and you can't get what you want till you know what you want) and it is nice to know that doing the step work of ACA is helping me get there.

This would have been another opportunity for me to use my banked thought, but again I was not ready to use it.  But I need to do it soon, because if I keep waiting on it, people are going to expect something amazing and I am not sure I can deliver amazing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Feeling stronger every day

Doing ACA has been an eye opener on many fronts, but one of the most interesting is somatically.  One of the things you try to do as an ACoA is to feel the feelings that you have not allowed yourself to feel totally if at all.  And emotions carry a definite physical component to them.

As I remember old memories and deal with old programming and attitude, I experience a flood of emotions and these emotions wreak physical havoc with my body.  Muscles shake with anger.  My stomach gets queasy.  My innards grind.  It is no fun at all.

But a strange thing is happening afterwards.  Once I go through the emotion, let myself go wild with whatever it is I am feeling, afterward I feel better.  Not just relatively better compared to the experience.  I mean I am starting to feel physically better than I have in a while.

Now, yes, some of that is related to my back feeling better after its injury, but it is not just my back.  I find myself breathing deeper.  I feel the tension in my shoulders lessen and the muscles loosen.  I believe I am experiencing a real catharsis.

So, yes, as the post title states, I am feeling stronger every day, just like the title of the Chicago song.  But you guys can find the song yourself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tell you one thing...

You can't get what you want till you know what you want.  (I'm working on this.)


Now please watch a video of a record playing. Thank you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hero and Villain in One Man

Lest anyone think that back on September 5 that I was kidding about being addicted to being in a relationship, I have a confession to make: during the period I have been writing this blog, I made a profile at a dating website and have been chatting with women. Oh, I told them about my break and I did not make any plans to meet them.  But I chatted with them.  And when one of them that I was chatting with "cut me off," I had a moment of freaking out.  And that is clear, demonstrable evidence of addiction.

I watch the television show Intervention (I have for most of the last year or so) and on it you get the full spectrum of addict behavior.  And the cutting back / tapering off method is one things addicts try as a means of telling themselves that they're in control of their addiction. I am not.  I have known I am not.  But I still tried to tell myself that I was, even knowing that.

And it is okay.  I mean it is not, but what I did is what addicts do.  And I am an addict.  Being an ACoA, you have a pile of addictions, even if you are not addicted to a substance, like alcohol.  You're addicted to drama, as we discussed yesterday.  You're addicted to avoidance.  And, in my case, I might as well face it; I'm addicted to love.

Well, not really love, of course.  I am addicted to being in a relationship (whatever that means to me) and obsessing about same.  Ever since I had my first girlfriend twenty five or so years ago, I have been in one relationship or another for all but a month, maybe two.

Since the one woman who chatted me up has cut me off, I am back on my break, climbing back up on the wagon again.  But now I have a serious, difficult mystery ahead of me.  Much like I did not know my father's alcoholism and the dysfunction it caused in my FOO had scarred me, I do not have the slightest clue as to why I am so afraid of being unloved.  And trust me, the problem is not abandonment.  It is specifically with being loved.

For the longest time I have compared myself to the DC Comics character Eclipso, a man named Bruce Gordon who developed an evil second persona that committed crimes.  And while Eclipso knew everything Bruce Gordon knew, Bruce Gordon was never aware of Eclipso's plans or actions.  And yet, Bruce Gordon had to somehow find a way to stop Eclipso.  The roots of my addiction are Eclipso.  And I must find a way to stop him.


Speaking of Bruce Gordon, the musical artist presently known as Mr. Encrypto (after a quick cease and desist from DC Comics) could use your purchase of his two great pop albums Hero and Villain and Secret Identity Crisis.  Here is a sample of the goodness.

Upping the ante

To someone who is not an adult child of an alcoholic, it is a little bit of a mystery why those so afflicted so rarely stand up for themselves.  The reason for that is that unlike normal people, ACoA tend to find themselves in conflict with ACoA.

That is to say, if non ACoA person sticks up for himself or herself and speaks his or her mind, he or she is often heard, or at least the person being spoken to will disengage.  However when an ACoA responds, he or she is almost never heard by the other person in the conflict and the other person "kitchen sinks", bringing other attacks into play and escalating the situation and the tension.

This comes from the ACoA having what may be called a drama addiction.  They don't really enjoy conflict in the normal sense of the word, but they are comfortable with it having grown up with it, inclined toward it by their actions and choices, and entrapped by it because it pushes a lot of their buttons.

This is one of the hardest parts of being an ACoA to get past, because we do have to stick up for ourselves.  But we have to learn a particular toolset to deal with this situation and the wisdom to know when you are in it.

Just today on a forum someone was impatient with how quickly a question of theirs was being answered or responded to.  I felt this unfair, as it is, after all Saturday and we all have lives to lead.  And I told this person so.  Well, she went off.  At first, I fell for the trap and responded, but then I recognized that I was in a conversation with a drama addict and disengaged.

I have been tempted to respond, but I dare not, because it will just start the drama cycle over again.  The exchange was disquieting and has left me questioning my actions and second guessing myself.  My physical response is a little like withdrawal.  It is very strange.

So if you are one of those people who believe that someone is not passionate about something if they don't fight with you about it, please understand that the person you are labeling that way may be trying to save their ACA sobriety because fighting about anything is the last thing they should be doing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

An exercise

Back when I worked in radio, I read a bit of writing advice.  A famous writer said that there was no such thing as writer's block.  He said that if you somehow found yourself unable to write what you wanted to write, the way to get past it was to write about something.  The idea behind this is that writing about whatever is on your mind will eventually free your mind to write about what you are supposed to be writing about.

To assist me during this time that I am writing on a daily basis, I started the Hot Shots on Monday and I save one or two draft ideas that I can on most nights just sit down and finish if I don't have something with more urgency.

But for whatever reason I just don't feel like finishing my reserve idea, and so I thought I would for this edition indulge in a little free association writing, either to fill the space up or to get me an idea for tonight.  (However looking at how much real estate I have already chewed up just getting to here, even if I do come up with an idea, it will probably wait for tomorrow.)


As frustrated as I sometimes get with my granddaughter, it is marvelous to walk with her and watch her struggle to make sense with the world.  I am concerned that if at age nine she already thinks she knows everything that she will be absolutely unbearable as a teen.  And it is scary how quickly that is coming up.

I really wish I could put my finger on why I do not want to write my reserve idea.  It is a good subject and worth discussion, but I guess I just want to be in a better mood when I face it.

I think I am in a bad mood because I am removing some of the last traces of the ex from my home and thinking about her is not a good thing at the moment.  One day it will be.  I remember my other exes with fondness so I imagine that she will be no exception.

Well, Carlos Santana the baseball player just hit a game winning home run in the ninth inning for my Cleveland Indians, so that has definitely improved my mood.  And a game winning home run is as good a place to stop as any.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My brother

Today was the thirty first anniversary of my brother's death.  My brother was my half-brother.  We shared the same mother.  He was much older than I was.  If I remember correctly he was sixteen or seventeen when I was born and left for the Army not long after.

He was the one who took my parents's admonitions about being tough to heart.  (My father was his step-father during his late teens and he admired my dad).  He became a fighter and the family protector.  He rescued my cousins that were closer to his age more than once from the perils of growing up in my home town.

This protective streak unfortunately landed him a stint in prison.  But for the young men in prison, it was a blessing.  There were plenty of young men who were spared the horrible prison "initiation" (at least for a while) because my brother was not afraid to fight or spend time in solitary protecting someone.

But I learned of all this after the fact and second hand.  We did not have any of the sort of traditional brother relationships that I have seen with my friends and their brothers.  I did not grow up idolizing him.  I did not grow up being pranked by him.  I did not grow up in conflict with him.

Our relationship was strained by the age difference and by the fact that he was a very physical active person and I was (and am) a very cerebral inactive person.  However he was responsible for two very positive things in my life.  It was he who took me bowling for the very first time, a sport I enjoy to this day.  And when he went into the Army, he left all his comic books at my house.

It was his comic books and Mad magazines I first read those many years ago, the ones which introduced me to Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and friends.  I have had an almost life long love affair with superhero comics in general and DC Comics in particular.  And it would not have happened if he had not left those books behind.

I never told him about that, about what he did for me just by that.  It actually took many years for me to even figure out that was what happened as I started reading very very early. By the time I did he was long gone.  But his spirit touched everyone in the family indelibly and if there is a hereafter, I know he knows now what he did for me.

Rest in peace, big brother.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

But I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Well, I was up late again last night.  I have been this way for a while now.  I take a walk right before (purportedly) bed, and then I am up half the night.  It's like a part of me is searching for something on the internet, but Lord only knows what.

I would love to put this on my seeking a relationship at all costs, but this was happening while I was still in my previous relationship, so it is not that.  And I've always been a bit of a night owl, but it's not that.

I remember I laughed the first time I saw a skit where someone comes into a room and the doesn't remember why they went into the room.  I don't laugh at it now because it has become my reality on occasion.

It is so, so frustrating to feel like you want or need something but to not be able to put any sort of a handle to it.  Right now a lot of personal mysteries are being revealed in my life and hopefully this one will be added to the list.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Would Do Anything For Love But I Won't Do That

Today was a double whammy for me, containing my monthly visit to my therapist and a day for an ACA meeting.  Both experiences were ultimately positive, however there is one aspect of them that is less than joyful, and that is the revisiting of feelings from my past.

The theory is that the pain from trauma long ago tends to urge you toward the maladaptive patterns from which you need to break.  But emotions and pains suppressed were so done for a reason.  They hurt.

During today's therapy session, quite unexpectedly, we talked about my first relationship in context of the unraveling of my most recent two relationships.  And without getting into the specifics of what I did, there were some things I did to hang onto the relationship that I am saddened and mortified that I did.

This issue came full circle in the ACoA meeting, where I described the circumstances under which my most recent relationship ended, which basically appears to have started when I didn't let my ex-girlfriend have her way on something that by all rights should have been mine to decide.

In this case, the counselor and I suspect that my refusal to allow my former girlfriend to have her way on an issue stunned her, that she had gotten so used to getting her way that she did not know what to do with me when that was not going to happen.

In the meeting another person mentioned a similar situation.  The conclusion we have come to is that while we did not ask to be overrun by our partners, we made it easy and inviting for them to do so.  So now we are trying something different, trying to live up to the words from the song (and the title of the post), which we will do anything for love, but we won't do that (betray ourselves to be in a relationship).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hot Shot for Monday, September 19, 2011

[Author's note: I have decided that since Monday is almost always a busy night for me, that I would write only very short entries on Monday, which I am going to call Hot Shots (which is better than Hot Messes I suppose).  Enjoy.]

One of my favorite superheroes is the Martian Manhunter.  The fact that he's a loner with weird abilities who feels isolated from his own teammates and rarely shows his true face to anyone is just a coincidence.

Zook and the Martian Manhunter

Picture courtesy of The Idol-Head of Diabolu, the world's best (and probably only) complete resource to the Martian Manhunter.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Did you ever have to finally decide,
Say yes to one and let the other one ride?
There's so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?

— John Sebastian (as performed by The Lovin' Spoonful)
There are a large number of difficulties associated with being an adult child of an alcoholic. In fact, the collection of traits is sometimes called "The Laundry List."  A secondary problem from these traits is that they don't work together and sometimes conflict.  One area where this happens is in decision making.

Because we try to please people we often try to guess what decision others would like us to make, rather than evaluating the situation ourselves and deciding what we want. However we dislike conflict, so we often try to arrange things to take the decision our of our hands and put them in the hands of the other party in the situation, leaving us to be free of culpability for the decision.

It is not a bad strategy and for our purposes can be rather clever, but it then sets up a problem when there are two people who play it that way.  What happens is no one makes a decision and each blames the other.  This then creates the conflict that was hoped to be avoided and increases the feeling of powerlessness of our own lives, even though we give away our power in the strategy itself, because our lives are not being at all actively directed.

How we get lured into a situation like that is our over developed sense of responsibility has us try to take on the decision even though we don't want to make it.

The resolution, of course, is to just choose what you want without fear, including choosing not to choose when someone tries to put their choice on you.  But like just about everything with being an adult child, it's a lot harder than it sounds.


Just in case you have never heard of the song in question, here is a YouTube video of it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Come Fly With Me

My house is a mess. I am not proud of this.  But it is what it is, and what it is is messy.  There are reasons for it, some just having to do with living life and some having to do with being an adult child of an alcoholic.

But as I have said previously about other things, knowing the reason why things are the way they are isn't enough.  You also have to figure out what to do about it.  In the case of cleaning up my house, I have found an answer.  And I am going to share it with you.

At one point at the ACA forum someone was talking about how his or her house was getting away from him or her and was not sure about what to do about it.  Another poster suggested the FlyLady and said that her site was designed specifically for people who have a perfectionist problem when it comes to cleaning.

(It is important to remember the discussion I had a few days back about how perfectionism can manifest as a messy house.)

So realizing that I might actually want a human to come to my house at some point, I checked it out.  The FlyLady gives you an incremental game plan toward cleaning your house (after all it was made a mess incrementally; it can be cleaned incrementally).  And she tries to instill some habits which will make maintenance easier.

But the main thing she does is work on the self talk that keeps you from even making the gestures you can make.  Because most ACoA have a running dialogue going on in their head between The Voice (which encapsulates the worst of the many voices of our childhood) and what we call our Inner Child but I like to think of as Our Real Selves.

One thing I am going to take advantage of during my relationship time out is getting back into my FlyLady habits.  And who knows, maybe by the time I am allowed to bring someone home, I'll have a house worthy of bringing someone home to.

“Oh, won't you take me home tonight...?”

One of the most fascinating things about the touch of alcoholism is all the different places in your life it can leave an imprint.  It can mess with your self confidence.  It can mess with your spontaneity.  It can mess with your levels of acceptance.  And apparently it can mess with your weight and who you like.

One of the things that you do as you go through the ACoA program is make a chart or tree of your family, both your parents and grandparents, your siblings, and your spouse and children.  Under each person you label if they have any of a number of conditions.  Alcoholism, of course, but other such things as rage issues and, yes, obesity.

From my time in regular therapy I already knew that female obesity has more than once been linked to abuse.  It also appears the addictive nature of the ACoA personality lends itself to overeating, even if the only abuse from the alcoholism was being around it.  Being an ACoA apparently has to manifest itself in some way in your life, and that is one of the ways.

As to it affecting who you like, for straight people it has been said that you imprint off of your opposite sex parent.  Either you seek someone very much like that parent or you try to find someone as diametrically opposite as possible.  And as an ACoA, since we try to replicate the dynamic of our FOO, chances are good that if your have an obese opposite sex parent, you'll have an obese opposite sex spouse.

These, of course, are not hard and fast rules.  But it explains some things about choices that I have made, factors in my decisions that I was not actually aware of.  And just being aware may make all the difference the next time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You didn't have to be so nice. I would have liked you anyway.

It was very interesting the first time I watched the Bullwinkle Show as an adult.  Beyond making me laugh hysterically I was completely puzzled at how I could have even remotely liked it when I was a kid.  Even as a precocious kid as myself couldn't have understood half of the allusions and asides.

I find a lot of things like that now as I have moved through time.  I see many things now through different eyes and get a whole different picture of things.  For instance, being part of Adult Children of Alcoholics has given me a whole different take on the first two lines of Steven Boone and John Sebastian's song You Didn't Have to Be So Nice.

The opening lyric goes:
You didn't have to be so nice.
I would have liked you anyway
If you had just looked once or twice
And gone upon your quiet way.
What the song is actually about, of course, is a first encounter between a couple where she is trying to impress him and he is saying that he was already impressed with her.  That is a wonderful thought and a part of why I love the song so much.

However, looking at the words through the prism that is my romantic life puts a sad turn on that, that if I was the singer, I would be saying to a woman that you do not have to be nice to me, that you can treat me like dirt and I will still like you.  It is a proposition in that light from a pathetic place.

And in all candor, without the factor of abuse, that is sort of how I originally took the meaning of it, that I would have liked you without any input from you.  This comes from the same empty loveless place I spoke of a day or two ago.

I hope to again genuinely feel the cheery, happy, amorous feelings this song brings to me inside of a relationship, but hopefully this time from a place where love is not quite so one sided.

Because there is no ACoA or ACA chapter where I live, I have only attended meetings on line.  And the people who had been conducting the online meetings haven't been doing so lately.  So when someone else asked about whether the meetings were discontinued, I made it a point to be there tonight and I conducted a meeting even though I haven't been completely through the program and have not had any training on it.

I did it because the sessions I attended really helped me and I wanted to be able to give that to someone else.  Lest you think me too altruistic, I also wanted to get some of that from participating in a meeting, and if that meant I had to facilitate it for that to happen, then so be it.

It seemed like it went well and I am extremely grateful for the Adult Children that made it possible.  You warmed my heart tonight.  Thank you.


Just in case you have never heard of the song in question, here is a YouTube video of it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Once

I did my best
But I guess my best wasn't good enough
'Cause here we are back where we were before.

— Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (as performed by James Ingram and produced by Quincy Jones)
After being in radio for a while, everything reminds you of a song and tonight is no different.  There are two aspects to this song though that I want to talk about.  The first is perfectionism.

There is a tendency for adult children of alcoholics to be perfectionists.  But not just the usual idea of working something until is is completely without flaw.  There is another, more debilitating side to perfectionism, which is giving up if something is not perfect.

A woman I know was not a very good housekeeper.  And for me to call you "not a very good housekeeper" says something.  She has health problems and so has a reason for needing help cleaning her house.  She has enough money coming in that she could hire a cleaning person.  The problem is that she wants the house to be clean enough to let a cleaning person clean it and she cannot get it there.

And the reason she cannot get it there is that she won't let anyone else help her enough to get it there.  The logic of it is mind bending to me.  It doesn't matter if she knows the person from Adam, she refuses to let anyone help her get her house clean enough to clean or heaven forfend let them actually clean it.

This, although it may not seem it at first, is perfectionism paralyzing her.  Her house has been cleaned (by me actually) enough to the point where someone could have been hired to really clean it.  But while I did my best, I guess my best wasn't good enough, because she let it deteriorate instead of hiring someone.

And yes, she's an adult child of an alcoholic too.

The other piece of this song on my mind is reflective of my current despair about my track record in relationships.  Just once I'd like to figure out what I am doing wrong and really, really fix it.

And I'm working on it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All By Myself

When I was young
I never needed anyone
And making love was just for fun.
Those days are gone.

— Eric Carmen
Well, it was going to happen sometime, and now is the time.  The empty feeling is creeping back in, now that the last relationship is in the rear view mirror.  With gaps of only a few weeks, I have been in one relationship or another since I was in my first. I never take the time off to just be me.  Because when I am not in a relationship, I just feel empty.

I suspect that being an adult child of an alcoholic might have some play in that.  I am sure that has a play in to whom I find attractive, but that's another story for another blog post.  But at any rate, when I am out of a relationship I feel unloved, of course, but beyond that empty and maybe even unreal.

It is as if a relationship validates me, that my existence has no meaning or purpose apart from a relationship.  Of course, this is nonsense, but this wouldn't be the first time that a person has felt something that otherwise makes no logical sense.

But I am resolved to see my self imposed time-out of relationships through to February.  As much as I want to be in a relationship in one way, I need to find out if I really want to be in one in another.  It seems to a degree that when I am in a relationship, I want out and when I am out I want in.  I need to know if I am just impossible to satisfy or if it's because I go into relationships not making sure that the things my head needs in a relationship are there while my heart is clouding my judgment.

But right now I am alone with that empty feeling.  And it looks like I am going to get to know it very well.

Monday, September 12, 2011


This will be short and sweet tonight.  Just found out today (in a year already full of changes) that my current therapist is closing her practice.  Her associate, whom I had started seeing when these wheels were apparently put into motion and I could no longer see her, is moving to another practice, so there will be some continuity there.  But I'm getting tired of things changing so much.

I know that change is an inevitable part of life, but the rate of change can slow down.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2001

Where I was when I got the news isn't that interesting a story.  Yes, I have asked people that question and answered it.  But that was me bonding with other people and I do not think it as important as another aspect about it, which is that it changed me just as being an adult child of an alcoholic changed me.

While I never thought America was an impregnable fortress, I was never before fearful in my own home.  And that day I was.  I don't live anywhere near a high-value target, but before they grounded the planes, there was no telling how many crews they had and where they were headed.  And it was reasonable that this was a disorienting strike to throw us off from an invading force.

My parents grew up with war, a war that changed their daily life.  But while we had Viet Nam and the Gulf War in my lifetime, I never experienced anything like that in mine.  Until that day.

The experience changed me.  I still cringe when planes fly overhead (and I hate that the terrorists even have that small victory).  My views of the world at large have hardened.  But more importantly on a personal level, I had a deep and lasting reminder of the capriciousness and tenuousness of life, more than when my cousin drowned, more than when my brother died in a construction accident.

I don't take a minute for granted and while I don't live my life as if there will not be a tomorrow, I do not act as if tomorrow is a given.


I watched some of the coverage this morning from New York City and Washington and at one point became teary.  But I recovered by listening to "The Angry American", a reminder of our national character, that if you mess with us, you'll get a boot in your backside.  It's the American way.  All brought to you courtesy of the red, white, and blue.

Looking Out For Number One

One of the common traits of an adult child of an alcoholic is a tendency to consistently put themselves second.  They do it to such an extent that when they do make reasonable assertions for their own time or autonomy, they are seen as being selfish.  That may seem impossible to you, but trust me, I have lived it.

Another problem for an ACoA with this is they have trouble fully enjoying what they do for themselves.  They remind themselves of what they should be doing or how they don't deserve what they are supposed to be enjoying instead of just enjoying it.

So, to that end, I have decided, even though there are a zillion arguments against it, to watch the first football game of the Cleveland Browns's season with the local area Browns Backers on Sunday.  I have done enough duty around the house and I have had a hard week.  So I am giving myself this.

However, lest you think I am entirely self-absorbed, I am well aware that Sunday is the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the aborted attack on the White House and tomorrow evening, I will share my thoughts about that day ten years later.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Day After Day

Not going to write much today.  Writing these every day is a bit of work and I have been trying to decide what would be a good maintenance pace, as I know I will not be able to keep up every day indefinitely.

As I mentioned, I recently lost the relationship I was in and I am having trouble adjusting to not being in a relationship on a day to day basis.  I am glad for this as it is forcing me to determine who I really am.  But I have been in some sort of relationship almost constantly from when I started in my first, and so there are habits that I need to break or at least recognize and figure out the motivation behind them.

But right now, I need to go to bed.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Breaking the Cycle

Thanks to a long story no longer worth telling, my ex-wife and I have parental custody of my granddaughter.  She is overall a good child.  Like all children she brings with her challenges, but unlike all children she carries special burdens.

Beside my alcoholism-damaged personality, the child is from an alcoholism-marred family on the ex-wife's side.  Without telling other people's business, let it just suffice to say that there was alcohol from that direction.

She also comes from stock that has ADHD.  There has been a suspicion as she has gone through school that she suffers from that.  However, there is a complication that makes knowing that hard.

And that is that she suffered serious head trauma as a toddler, trauma caused in my belief by abuse.  So there may be non-ADHD neurological damage that creates her day to day challenges in learning.

I am the parent that focuses on the school aspect of her life.  The thought is that I am best suited for this, but there are days when she is willful and just not getting it that I question that analysis.

She has a playful personality.  Everything is always fun time.  And while I am more than capable of having fun, I don't really know how to make doing homework into fun time.  It doesn't help that I thought (times tables aside) doing homework was fun.  Yeah, I was that much of a nerd.

So I often see my mother or father emerge in me while trying to keep her on track.  Again, I am limited by having no examples to draw from other than them.  And I am sure that from time to time, I am passing the alcohol damage down the line.

But I fight on because I want her to have options, to not be counted out, despite the numerous strikes already against her.  There's no real ACoA lesson here, other than I have to learn how to parent both her and myself.  It's just hard seeing myself possibly passing on future damage because I don't yet know how to stop it.

“You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry.”

I apparently am a scary guy.  I say this because some people I know flee in fear when I am mildly annoyed.  My version of mildly annoyed apparently is at the edge of murderously enraged for some people.  The scary thing, the truly scary thing, is that most people have never seen me truly angry.  I scare myself when I am truly angry.

When I am truly angry, it is such a powerful thing that my grip on my conduct and my sanity is tenuous.  It goes back, as many things do, to my alcoholic upbringing.  The relationship of my parents was, as we called it in sociology class, conflict habituated.  They loved each other.  And they loved to argue almost as much as they loved each other.

Therefore I grew up prizing harmony.  And thus I overvalue it and therefore tend to be willing to take more than I should to avoid conflict.  So when conflict is inevitable, I cut loose with a force more appropriate to everything that I have gone along with instead of just the matter at hand.

I am working on expressing my truly feelings immediately, rather than stifling them until they boil over.  But when you're "always" amenable, people find you actually speaking your mind an unwelcome and disquieting jolt.  But no matter the effect on my life, I am sure it's better than my being angry.  You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

My Dead Dog

Life goes on even as you try to live it, and so even as I was dealing with relationship drama, as well as drama at my work, drama with my home, and drama to do with my granddaughter, my dog took sick.

He started off with a limp that they first thought was arthritis.  But when it didn't get any better with arthritis medications, a second trip to the veterinarian found cancerous tumors around his shoulder. He had about a month to live, four if I had them cut his shoulder and leg off.

I chose to let him live out his month and he did.  He took pain medication for a while and felt good enough to get one more walk around the neighborhood, something I had been promising him for a long time. He stopped eating in the last week and a half of his life and stopped taking medicine.  He was wasting away from malnutrition and vomiting up the water he would try to drink.  I decided that as much as I didn't want him to die, I didn't want to watch him die of starvation either.

So on a sunny Monday morning, I took the day off from work and I said goodbye to my dog.  I still to this moment feel guilty about killing him.  I will probably feel that way until I die.  I believe it was the right thing to do, but I don't feel like it.

It has been hard for me to adjust to him not being here, but I am beginning to.  It still feels like he is here with me, watching me as I go about my day, as even before the illness his life pretty much consisted of lying there and watching me.  He was 12 years old, after all, which is pretty far along as far as dogs go.

Totally apart from all of this, I have noticed that I am a little weightier than I would like these days and I am having some issues with my back muscles, so I have decided to take a nightly walk to try and get past both of those things.  While my neighborhood is perfectly safe, I still wish I had my favorite company with me, because I know he would have loved it.

And if there is anything beyond this life, he does.

Monday, September 05, 2011

I Want Love, Just a Different Kind

But I want love, just a different kind.
I want love won't break me down,
Won't brick me up, won't fence me in.
I want a love that don't mean a thing.
That's the love I want. I want love.

— Bernie Taupin and Elton John

As I alluded to when I restarted this blog, my marriage and my post marriage relationship have crashed and burned. This is not entirely unexpected for Adult Children of Alcoholics.  One of the things that happen to us is that we tend to seek relationships like the one we grew up in simply because it's what we know.  And sometimes we unknowingly try to work out our failed family issues growing up through our marriage.

The real problem for me, and where I went wrong in my post marriage relationship is that I crave being in a relationship.  Immediately as my marriage was crumbling I climbed into another relationship.  It was too soon and I ended up duplicating a lot of the same dynamic I had with my wife.  So when my girlfriend and I crashed and burned, I made a promise to myself to abstain from dating / relationships for six months.  Three months for the three years I spent in the post marriage relationship and three months to make up for the time I didn't give myself to get past my marriage dying.

Thing is though, I crave being in a relationship.  I miss many things about being in a relationship, but it is more than that.  It is almost as if I cannot define myself as lovable unless I am in a relationship.  Knowing it isn't enough; I have to have proof. That speaks to my insecurity of my lovability.

So despite my commitment to waiting, I find myself considering dating sites and getting anxious about finding somebody.  But I am committed to doing the work this time of realizing that I am enough without being with someone, even though it triggers feelings about abandonment.

The other thing that I am realizing is that the next time I dive in, much like Messrs. Taupin and John, I want love, just a different kind than what I have had up till now.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Secret Origins

In order to be an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, there must, by necessity, be an alcoholic somewhere.  (Actually, in truth, you don't have to have an alcoholic in the immediate vicinity, but that's a subject for another day.)  In my case, that was my dad.

As far as my dad goes, if you were going to have an alcoholic for a father, he would be the kind you would want.  He never missed work because of his drinking.  He never harmed us or verbally abused us because of his drinking.  He was, all in all, a pretty reliable drunk.

But make no mistake, he was a drunk and it did even then have an effect, because it would bring out "that guy".  When my dad would get drunk, he would get sullen.  He seemed always a little bitter about something.  And he never understood why we did not feel he was as fun as he felt he was.

However, the larger effect on my family of origin (FOO; as we go through this, I will introduce some of the acronyms and jargon used in the program) came not from his drinking directly but by how my mother would react to it.

My mother told us the story of how they got involved.  My mother did not like my father's drinking when they were courting and told him that he would only marry her if he could stop drinking for a year.  Her thinking was that would be impossible for him and her problem would be solved.

The problem with this plan is that she grossly underestimated my father's willpower.  This is a man who in my youth, after smoking for years, just dropped his pack into the trash and never looked back.  My father did abstain for an entire year and since my mother was a woman of her word, they married, which was fortunate for me, since it caused me to exist, but may ultimately not have been the best for them.

My dad resumed drinking almost immediately thereafter.  And I believe my mother's kvetching about it started right after that.  My father's drinking was the thing that could most quickly turn my mother into a termagant.  My mother was so harsh about his drinking that it might drive anyone to drinking.  This little vicious circle is one of the gifts of alcoholism and why we need 12-step programs in the first place.  It's like a computer virus in the human condition.

So this is the crucible in which my condition was formed.  I never thought it had anything to do with anything, but as I am finding, it has a lot to do with everything.  But that too is a subject for another day.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Old Blog, New Mission

Well, after an absence of five years, I'm back.  And what a five years it has been.  In that time I have lost a wife, found a girlfriend, lost the girlfriend, and found that there is an actual explanation as to why I am the way I am.

You see, I am the child of an alcoholic, and as it turns out, adult children of alcoholics have a group of traits that color how they do things in life and who they choose to do them with.

Much like with alcoholics, there is a twelve-step program to help.  And I have started to work with that program.

But I wanted to talk about what I am going through as I try to change myself and thus my life, and so, since my girlfriend is out there blogging about what a horrible guy I was, I figured I might revive my blog to get in on some of that "I am a horrible guy" action.

I don't really expect you to be here.  I am writing this for me and if you show up, then yay you.  But if anything I write here is of use to you, it would be nice of you to let me know.

So I am back.  Let the fun begin.