Boundaries are Good

What if they get mad at me?

If people get mad at you for having boundaries, it means they’ve benefited from you not having any.  You don’t need to keep people happy every minute of every day.  You are not responsible for other people’s feelings.  If someone has a reaction to your boundary, you didn’t “make” them react.  You chose to voice your feelings and needs.  They chose their reaction.  You cannot control what other people do.

As a child of an alcoholic and growing up in a dysfunctional family, I learned early to stuff my feelings and to accommodate others.  It was my coping mechanism.  I felt obligated to keep the peace at all cost and appease others; even to the detriment of my own needs and happiness.

Since I’ve been in recovery, I’m learning to put my own feelings first.  The days of “going along to get along” are over.  I’m learning that boundaries are not selfish.  They aren’t overindulgent or evidence that you’re too sensitive, and they aren’t weakness.  Boundaries are conditions that allow you to take care of yourself; conditions that give you the means to survive and keep from sinking.

#ACoAAwareness

Source: Daniell Koepke, PsyD., Founder of Internal Acceptance Movement (I.A.M.)

Stop Negative Self-Talk

Basically, negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes you and your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in your ability to do so.

Some common forms of negative self-talk include:

  • You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones.
  • When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself.
  • You automatically anticipate the worst.

Growing up in an alcoholic-dysfunctional environment exposed me to a lot of negative talk.  It was a daily part of life.  Negative self-talk is a bad habit that I had to break once I became self-aware of its destructive affects.

I’ve learned to be kind to myself and have more compassion for myself. Having some compassion for yourself, and trying to imagine whether your best friend would ever say these things to you really puts thing in perspective. I think, “would I honestly let anybody else talk to me that way?” “Would I ever say that to someone I love or care about? If not, why the double standard?”

I also keep a gratitude list. If you can stop for a moment and look at what you’re grateful for, what is positive in your life can change how you feel. It can be as simple as looking around you and acknowledging the beauty.

And I practice affirmations. If I find myself engaging in negative self-talk sometimes it’s easier to change that thought than to stop thinking it. Using affirmations is a great way to do that. The key to affirmations is to keep them short, in the present, and positive. Saying something like ‘I am healthy and well’ or ‘I am beautiful and loved’ or ‘I’m surrounded by loving and supportive friends.

#ACoAAwareness

Halloween Madness

This year is the first time, in as long as I can remember, that I am not tempted by all the trappings of chocolate and sugary treats.  Since learning about how my compulsive behavior, as it relates to being an adult child of an alcoholic, caused me to become a food addict, I understand how bad sugar really is for me.

It was obvious that all the sugary snacks and drinks I consumed caused me to be obese.  But I didn’t realize that abusing sugar the way that I did was associated with things like putting me at risk for heart disease, depression, and fatty liver.

Thankfully, with the help of a 12-step food addiction program I was able to detox from sugar in a relatively short amount of time.  I have no cravings for my former vices and my daily  commune with my Higher Power keeps me on track.  This year is a Happy ‘no sugar’ Halloween for me.

#ACoAAwareness

In Remembrance

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.  During this time I often remember my late father, who was an alcoholic, and my late brother, who was a substance abuser (heroin).

My brother went into rehab many times in his life but always relapsed.  His last relapse resulted in an overdose.  My father never really tried to stop drinking.  Even when he was dying from emphysema, he craved alcohol.

To many non-addicts, it’s puzzling why people with substance use disorders would recklessly risk their lives to get high.  Brain chemistry helps explain such behavior.  Using drugs and alcohol releases dopamine in the reward pathway of the brain; dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, as well as emotional responses.  This can affect alcoholics and addicts to the point their brains re-prioritize what’s most important, such as eating and survival.

As a food addict, I understand the brain chemistry of an addict.  Sugar is my addiction and my over-consumption greatly affected by health.  I am thankful for recovery and know that the key to staying in recovery is with the help of my Higher Power (God).

Source: Dr. Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation based in Center City, Minnesota

#ACoAAwareness

Self-Care for the Caregiver

We often hear about the stress that older caregivers suffer when dealing ageing parents.  This added stress can put their health and well-being at risk.  If you are a baby boomer who has assumed a caregiver role for your parents while simultaneously juggling work and raising adolescent children, you face an increased risk for depression, chronic illness, and a possible decline in quality of life.

I am the primary caregiver for my 88 year old mother.  I’m retired now and travel to her home every day to take of her day-to-day needs; cooking, bathing, etc.  My niece comes once a week to assist, but I seem to feel that I am the only one that can care for my mother properly.  This has its roots in the adult child of an alcoholic syndrome.  Growing up with an alcoholic father resulted in my having an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for me to be concerned with others rather than myself.

As an older caregiver of an ageing parent, I must be careful not to neglect my own needs.  So, I’m mindful about managing stress by recognizing warning signs early.  For example, I have not been exercising and have experienced sleep problems.  It is important to do those things that are important for my own health first before I get overwhelmed.  I need to let go of control and allow other family members to step in and assist me.

A good mantra that works for me is remembering the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

#ACoAAwareness

Anxiety

Anxiety presents itself in many different ways…

  1. The desire to control people and events;
  2. Difficulty getting to sleep;
  3. Feeling agitated or angry;
  4. Defiance and other challenging behaviors;
  5. Having high expectations for self, including school, work and sports;
  6. Avoiding activities or events (including school);
  7. Pain like stomach and headaches;
  8. Struggling to pay attention and focus;
  9. Intolerance or uncertainty;
  10. Crying and difficulty managing emotions;
  11. Over-planning for situations and events;
  12. Feeling worried about situations or events.

#ACoAAwareness

Hitting an ACA Bottom

The Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) wisdom is this: “There is nothing like hitting bottom to motivate someone into action that produces lasting change.”

In ACA we seek help from our false selves and our obsessive nature to harm ourselves. Because of our addictiveness, we choose a variety of methods to do ourselves in. Many adult children use a combination of drugs, food, sex and relationships to harm themselves emotionally and physically.

Recognizing that we have bottomed out with drugs, control or another compulsive behavior is a critical first step toward ACA recovery. Without hitting or naming a bottom, a person can nibble at the ACA program, never fully grasping the gifts of recovery. While a bottom is in progress, denial is rampant and relatives or friends may have been turned away. At this juncture, the adult child usually isolates or becomes involved in busy work to avoid asking for help.

Bottoming out can vary from person to person; however, the general consensus reveals that the person usually has exhausted all resources, lacks self-love, and is practicing self-harm. The person may be allowing others to neglect and abuse them.

Some adult children are at the other extreme. They have resources and speak of a bright future or new challenge; however, their bottom involves an inability to connect with others on a meaningful level. Their issues are unmanageable due to perfectionism and denial that seals them off from others. Their bottom can be panic attacks without warning or bouts of depression that are pushed away with work or a new relationship.

There are still other adult children who hit bottom with rage or bursts of erratic behavior. Hitting bottom can be triggered by many things or it can result as the natural progression of the disease of family dysfunction.

All ACA bottoms have one thing in common: self-abandonment. While our actions can harm others, we ultimately harm ourselves by running from ourselves.

The level of pain that adult children can tolerate without admitting they have hit a bottom is astonishing. Being adult children, we have learned to endure colossal amounts of abuse and aloneness that only we understand.

Our primary founder, Tony A., described the ACA bottom as this: “The adult child is an identity crisis having an identity crisis.” That means that we were born in crisis and cannot easily recognize another way to live other than in crisis.

While in recovery, many ACAs will endure many bottoms as they dig through layers of hurt feelings and feelings of being unworthy. But hope is here. Through Twelve Step work, prayer, and mutual sharing with others in the safety of ACA, our child within emerges.

Excerpts from The Big Red Book, pages 65-72