Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down. ― Roy T. Bennett
I can still remember my mother clutching her heart, threatening to have a heart attack and die, and blaming it on me. --Anonymous
For some of us, the idea that we were responsible for other people's feelings had its roots in childhood and was established by members of our nuclear family. We may have been told that we made our mother or father miserable, leading directly to the idea that we were also responsible for making them happy. The idea that we are responsible for our parents' happiness or misery can instill exaggerated feelings of power and guilt in us.
We do not have this kind of power over our parents - over their feelings, or over the course of their lives. We do not have to allow them to have this kind of power over us.
Our parents did the best they could. But we still do not have to accept one belief from them that is not a healthy belief. They may be our parents, but they are not always right. We do not have to allow their destructive beliefs to control our feelings, our behaviors, our life, or us.
Today, I will begin the process of setting myself free from any self-defeating beliefs my parents passed on to me. I will strive for appropriate ideas and boundaries concerning how much power and how much responsibility I can actually have in my relationship with my parents.
An Initial Step
After volunteering to chair the next Al-Anon meeting, I thought about topics for the group discussion. I considered helpful slogans, the extensive literature on alcohol and alcoholism, and then turned to some of the new ideas I was learning. My thought turned to decision making and leadership.
One slogan quickly came to mind-“First Thing First.” I thought about myself, my family, our communication patterns, the relationship I had with my alcoholic partner, and then about our child. I spent a couple of days thinking deeply about these matters and finally I asked myself, “In my family, who is in charge?”
Clearly alcohol was in charge and had been for years. It led the way by making our decisions and settling all of our critical issues. I, she, or we didn’t-but alcohol did. Specifically, my partner’s addiction to alcohol was the most important force in our family. She drank every evening for at least two or three hours. Our child and I became addicted to her use of alcohol, and all of us served to keep the alcohol flowing. If we did not manage this each evening, then we argued, fought, and verbally abused each other.
At the next Al-Anon meeting, I served as chairperson and shared these thoughts. I asked if others had similar concerns. The responses were very helpful to me because their reactions and reflections paralleled the situation in my home. The ultimate decision maker and dominant leader throughout family life had been alcohol. Every person’s situation validated my own. The partner’s addiction was to alcohol while the rest of the family depended on the alcoholic.
Power structures in family settings for those of us affected by alcohol suddenly became clear to me. We consciously, subconsciously, or unconsciously served the needs of the disease, while it did not serve our needs. The others at the meeting agreed.
Awareness of this central fact about power is, I believe, an initial step on the way to doing something about my situation. This has been a positive, even though painful, discovery for me. I know I can build up the courage to change. I will do so-not only for me, but also for my child. Perhaps these ideas will be of some value to others, too.
By Bob G., New Zealand March, 2000
Reprinted with permission of The Forum
Al-Anon Family Groups Incorporated, Virginia Beach, VA
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