There is a wonderful book I retrieve from my bookcase occasionally. It is called, “Adult Children of Alcoholics.” Some people call it the “Big Red Book.” In my many years in recovery, this book has provided me so much comfort. The words have helped me feel “okay” in my dysfunctional history and my present struggles. Reading its words is like a clean breath of ocean air.
One of the reasons attending support groups is so very helpful when you are trying to get better, is because the world is filled with sick people repeating the mistakes of their past. We’ve all done it. “I’m going to be different than my parents. I’ll never behave the way they did. Last night was my last drink. Never again.”
If you are one of the many people in the world who is working a recovery program of some type, sometimes after a day at the office, you might need to get to a meeting. You might need to hang out with people who, like you, are trying to get better. Your school and your office and your studio is filled with people who are emotionally sick. If you are surrounded at work by emotionally unhealthy people, you need to fill up your tank by surrounding yourself with those who want to get better. It’s easy to get dragged down when you are trying to get better.
I am so glad I am sober. I thank God every day for my sobriety. But sometimes I feel very different from those around me, like no one understands me. If I’m surrounded at work all day by people who haven’t yet found their path to serenity, it can be tempting to get caught up in their chaos or their stress. These people are still addicted to the “drug” of chaos. I used to be one of those people. I work hard to not fall back into it. God’s grace is a huge factor in keeping me sane. Here are some words of comfort from the big red book. I hope you enjoy reading them.
“Family dysfunction is a disease that affects everyone in the family. Taking a drink is not necessary to be affected….we developed survival traits called ‘The Laundry List.’ Denial can lead us to believe that we have escaped our family dysfunction. Step One of the Twelve Steps of Adult Children of Alcoholics is to realize we are ‘powerless over the effects’ of growing up in a dysfunctional family. The Step calls us to admit that our behavior today is grounded in the events that occurred in childhood. Once we come out of denial, we realize we have internalized our parents’ behavior. We have internalized their perfectionism, control, dishonesty, self-righteousness, rage, and pessimism. We have internalized both of our parents: the alcoholic and the para-alcoholic. The para-alcoholic (the codependent) is driven by fear, excitement, and pain from the inside. The biochemical surge and cascade of inner “drugs” that accompany these states of distress in this parent can impact children as profoundly as outside substances. We believe that the long-term effects of fear transferred to us by a nonalcoholic parent can match the damaging effects of alcohol. This is why many of us can abstain from other addictive behaviors after growing up, but be driven by inner drugs that can bring difficulties as we attempt to recover.”