Tag Archives: relationship baggage

Sober Solutions: Family of origin

Putting down the drink is not enough and it’s not just about staying sober. We are here to thrive and fulfil our potential. That means we have to process and deal with the stuff that was weighing us down, the underlying issues that fuelled our drinking. This is not about ‘dwelling on the past’ but taking the learning gifts from paste events so we can then move on.

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom.’ It’s part of a series of posts I’m doing called ‘Sober Solutions’ which looks at the issues alcoholics need to be address to achieve quality long-term sobriety.

Healing past relationships: parents

Whether we had a good or bad experience growing up, our parents have a profound and long lasting impact on our lives, often without our realising.
We will always be their child, no matter how old we are, and our task is to become independent of them: free of their baggage, which we inadvertently picked up.

Even if your parents were absent, you will still have to deal with your experience of not being parented adequately. Co-dependency can often occur in adult and child relationships, and can continue into the child’s adult life.

Without realising it, parents can convey strong messages: that the child needs to please the parents in order to receive their love, or that the child exists to provide the parent with the love they never received.
This can be when the seeds of co-dependency are planted.

We can grow into adults who are never free of the unhealthy chains that bind us to our parents’ approval. Often, our parents don’t realise what they are doing, and may never recognise their behaviour, so we have to be responsible for ‘unchaining’ ourselves.

The words ‘mother’ and ‘father’ are two of the most powerful words we have in our vocabulary, and are usually the first words we learn.
They are powerful because of the meanings we attach to them.

The word ‘mother’ in our culture generally means: love, comfort, support, tenderness, safety, gentleness, caring etc.
The word ‘father’ in our culture generally means: discipline, order, authority, power, fun, guidance, leader, etc.
When you take these words away from the person, all you have left is a person who is trying to do the best they can, however inadequate that may actually be.

The words ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ are powerful because of these meanings; we project onto them an image of perfection.
No one can live up to what the word suggests.
Like you, mums and dads are works in progress.
So, one of the keys to freedom is to let go of your parents, and what they did and didn’t do to you. They are just people after all. Have a relationship with them, but stop getting angry or frustrated with them. Stop blaming them. You only keep yourself chained if you don’t.

Now here’s the deal: your parents are human beings too and they were doing the best they could with the tools they had available.
Now the next bit is really important, so pay attention:
All their behaviour was about them, and not you.
This is very important. The way your parents behaved didn’t have anything to do with their loving you or not loving you. Their behaviour was just a manifestation of how they felt, just as your behavour is.
Have a think about that.

This stuff can be very complicated, not to mention painful, so I’ll try and make it as simple as possible. At some point, we do have to ‘let go’ of our parents. You may have had an absent or abusive parent – sexually, mentally, emotionally or physically –or an inadequate parent. You may have had a parent who wasn’t fully ‘present’ because they were so wrapped up in themselves.
You may have had a parent who couldn’t express love.
It’s important that you know that these were their failings, not yours!

Abuse of any kind, especially by a parent, is a terrible thing.
However, it wasn’t your fault, and it certainly wasn’t because you weren’t good enough.
However, this is the interpretation we come to, because when we are children we take everything personally.
In fact, as adults we still take everything personally.
We interpret the world personally. We interpret everyone else’s behaviour to mean something personal, especially that of our parents. Knowing this is enormously freeing. Our parents were caught up in their own ‘stuff’, which sometimes had an impact on you.
So now it’s time to see your parents as the flawed human beings they are. There’s nothing bad about that; maybe they worked on themselves, maybe they didn’t.

Whatever their failings were, don’t take responsibility for them. They’re not yours. Put them down and experience what it’s like to be free from that baggage.
We pick up lots of unwanted stuff from our parents: guilt, shame, feelings of not being good enough and so on. Now is the time to recognise this: ‘uncover, discover, discard’.

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Love your parents if you can, understand they did the best they good even if it was inadequate and then take the steps you need to be free.
This is your life to live, not theirs.

This is an exclusive extract from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: journey to freedom’ available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

The Relationship Myth – Part 2

This is the second instalment of my ‘Relationship Myth’ series. You can read the first instalment here.
The following extract is taken from my book ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom.
I wrote two chapters focussing on relationships, as I have found that for alcoholics (drunk or sober) relationships are particularly troublesome.
And the most troublesome of all, are the romantic variety.

I was three years sober when a break-up brought me to the point of suicide. I was about thirty at the time, and there was nothing I could do, but watch another promising relationship disintegrate. Whilst that empty black hole appeared within me again.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This wasn’t meant to happen.

I was sober now. My life was meant to be on track, things were meant to be working out for me.

But the exact same things that happened in my relationships drunk, were happening sober.
And I was scared because I didn’t know how to make them stop.

It was then that I realised I didn’t want to drink or pop a pill, but I was making a decision to not kill myself today.
Which is when I realised I was in trouble.
You ‘see the ‘myth’ part was that I believed a relationship would save me. I had bought the ‘lie’ that a romantic relationship would be my salvation.
Instead they crucified me.

And at that point I knew I was either going to die or I had to find a way to solve this.
So I worked harder on myself then than I had ever done before.
This is what I learnt:

Relationships: our life task
The thing about human relationships is that they are always moving, changing and growing. They are organic in nature and just because we are in a relationship right now doesn’t mean we always will be. They are a task we have to work at constantly.
Different circumstances and events can have an impact on our committed relationships, as we learn new ways to respond to these changes. It’s not just romantic relationships that we need to work on, but also relationships with our friends, families, colleagues and acquaintances. They can all be improved. This requires conscious effort on our part.

Identify your relationship patterns
If you look back over the last few years, what are the patterns you’ve ‘acted out’?
Disapproval, abandonment, rejection, possessiveness, intensity followed by apathy? Are you a serial monogamist or a serial adulterer? Uncommitted/overcommitted? Look at all of your past relationships objectively and see if you can begin to identify a pattern of behavior on your part.

By identifying our patterns we become more intelligent, more informed, more self-aware. When we wake up to ourselves and get honest we can see that we often knew what we were doing, we just chose not to acknowledge it. We lied to ourselves, and we did this because we were scared, scared we wouldn’t be loved, so we clung onto relationships that weren’t right for us.

Relationship baggage

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not only do we have to deal with the stuff from our family of origin, but we have to clear the wreckage from our past relationships too. All of our past relationships, no matter how bad they were, have great lessons that we can take from them and grow from. By doing this we then have a chance of creating the relationship we want, instead of just repeating the same pattern.

Many of us have a relationship pattern. This is the behavior we repeat over and over again with different people. At first we might think it’s the other person who’s doing this to us, but in reality it’s something we are doing. If we can uncover it, we can change it. It’s much harder to do keep on doing something when we see what it is we are doing that harms us.

My pattern in relationships was this: I would meet a guy who would be completely dazzled by me. He would pursue me and tell me how amazing, beautiful and incredible I was. We would have sex and I would think we were in a relationship. He would then become indifferent to me and eventually push me away, and I would be heartbroken.
This happened every time.
And every time a little piece of me broke inside, to the point that I seriously considered a life of celibacy and aloneness, because I simply couldn’t go through that level of pain again.

Of course, I was repeating the abandonment I had experienced from my father, but even knowing this didn’t prevent me from continuing the pattern.
By becoming spiritually fit I began to see that I attracted insecure men into my life who were at first very attracted to my confidence and exuberance – even when drinking I could come across this way. But because they felt so insecure with themselves, they couldn’t handle my being this way, so they pushed me away. And because I used to interpret everything personally, I thought it was because I wasn’t good enough. It came as a revelation to me that it wasn’t because of me that they backed away. It was because of their own failings and inadequacy that they had to leave.

I also realized that I had been settling for kitchen boys, not princes. I was damn well good enough, but I had to see this first. And when I finally believed that, my behavior changed accordingly. Through changing my behavior, the results changed, and that is the reason I finally became someone who could give and receive love.

Common relationship mistakes
The key to having a healthy relationship is to recognize the reasons for going into it. If you’re going into it for the wrong reasons then the result is usually an unhealthy relationship. If you have a pattern of unsatisfactory relationships, then it is important to look at your co-dependency issues. A common mistake is looking for someone to save you or fix you. Firstly, you are not broken so you don’t need ‘fixing’, and secondly, by creating that belief system you give all your power away and take on the role of a pathetic victim.

Only children are victims, adults volunteer for the role.

Unconsciously, as adults, we start playing out the same pattern again and again. People volunteer to be victims in relationships, because this is all they are used to. They have learnt to be treated this way. This isn’t their fault, as they don’t know any better. However, at some point, as an adult, they have to stop and look at themselves, and take responsibility for changing. Nobody can fix you or save you, simply because no other human being has that kind of power.

Only you can do that for yourself.

Behaving as a victim will attract two types of people. The first one believes their purpose in life is to find someone to ‘fix’ or ‘save’. It’s how they get their needs met and self-esteem raised, by becoming a ‘rescuer’. Someone who has this belief system is often ‘using’ the person they are ‘saving’ in order to distract themselves from looking at their own issues. By allowing someone to save you, you ‘give yourself away’.
The second type will be attracted to ‘victims’ they can abuse. Victims attract abusers like magnets.
The only way to have the relationship you want and deserve is to become the kind of person you want to have a relationship with, and then you will attract that person into your life.
Like attracts like.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Become the kind of person you want to attract.

To read more about relationships and how they relate to alcoholics, please download my book: ‘Why you drink and How to stop: Journey to freedom’ at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.