Nickel Bag

I have three students who have been caught with nickel bags and are now court ordered to attend Twelve Step meetings. Two have been adversely affected by it and are now failing my class. I am angry about this for their sakes and for my own reasons.

I was assigned to attend Al-Anon when, at age 34, a therapist revealed to me that my father was an alcoholic. I was productive and happy, and I do not have addiction problems of my own. I made my first addict friends after starting to attend Al-Anon. Too trusting, I began to absorb Al-Anon’s ideas about who I must necessarily be. I lost respect for myself.

Al-Anon told me that my happiness and productivity were not real, only my fragilities and weaknesses were genuine. I needed to renounce happiness and productivity so as to address these.

I said this was silly. I had already spent a lifetime growing stronger precisely by being happy and productive. They said that was denial.

Happiness and productivity were mere coping mechanisms, to be renounced for that reason and also because it was inappropriate of me to be happy. Freedom was a privilege accorded only to those who have had absolutely perfect lives. The rest of us could only cope, or attempt to sing in our chains. We must resign ourselves.

That is of course ridiculous. Look at all of the brilliant, interesting, dynamic and free people who have truly problematic origins.

People love Al-Anon and find it sacred, in which case I suppose I should say, “if it works for you…”. But I would say it is more like a sacred cow. I think it and the Twelve Steps are dangerous. This needs to be said because these organizations have such good press and are so institutionalized. Someone has to take the opposite view. I am sure there are alternatives.

Axé.


24 thoughts on “Nickel Bag

  1. I completely agree with your comments, I’m glad to hear that you are not convinced at the 12-step idea.

    These pat ideas are too simplified and reduce an individual into an absurdity.

  2. They think they can make you go further down the path of recovery, and they can teach you a couple of things about addictions. Yet, I’m surprised that the court would hear for a nickel bag.

    Thanks for sharing Prof.

  3. Andy – it’s jail time they are trading in on Narcotics Anonymous time. Sort of ridiculous when what they were carrying was in reality less intoxicating than what the average twentysomething around here picks up in a liquor store run.

    Absorbant – Ah yes, pat answers and pat readings, and reducing the individual to an absurdity, this was what I found. Although standard descriptions of real things do sometimes fit: when I had pneumonia, I had all the standard symptoms, and I have every standard characteristic of a verbal / emotional abuse victim. But you cannot say no in the 12 step system – they know more than you do – if you disagree or do not fit, it is just “denial”.

  4. What can I say? It kept my sister alive, and it helped me. We don’t think it’s sacred, but it did, in fact, work for us. Does my experience cancel yours out? No, but I think I had a good group.

  5. Joanna – I’m glad you liked it and that it helped your sister, and I really do not mean to discount your positive experience. I am only trying to sort out my negative one. A good group indeed makes a big difference, as does actually being in the precise kind of situation Al-Anon is meant to address. Last year I dealt with a person with addiction-like issues, and I went to some meetings. Al-Anon’s concepts and concerns made much more sense then than they had in the abstract.

    I believe I started it earlier on than you did. Unlike you, I did not go because of a crisis. I gave it the benefit of the doubt, and stuck with it as long as I did, out of respect for the sisters it had saved.

    I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I need a space to speak my own mind, and I need to think for myself about this. Except for purposes of dealing directly with addicts, in which case I do think they have some value, I find the Al-Anon ideas both spongy and constraining. I keep coming back to the thought, I’d rather be at Zazen or any deep, old, philosophical practice or religion. I wish, when I was going through what I went through with Al-Anon earlier on, that I had come across cogent writings that were critical of the organization.

    It is true that many of my problems actually came from the therapist who sent me to Al-Anon. It is also true that my original group was Al-Anon and ACOA. I suspect these are really different and I may perhaps come to the conclusion that Al-Anon has its place and it is ACOA which should be consigned to the flames.

    I have a problem with a court assigning people – even if they are addicts, which the people to whom this refers are not – to an indoctrination program that tells them they are permanently flawed and need to admit it. I also have serious reservations about the 12 step model itself, and about its extension to all areas of life. My views on this last matter are fairly close to Elayne Rapping’s in The Culture of Recovery. It came out five years after I began Al-Anon.

    As I say, my very destructive, first Al-Anon experience was much exacerbated by the therapist who sent me there. He used its ideas to torture me. My critique of the program, however, includes many other elements, including its claims to universality (even as it exhorts *you* to “be humble”), its insistence that you are either “codependent” or “in denial” (no other options), and its emphasis on alcohol/drugs to the exclusion of larger or simply different issues.

    For me personally, there is far too much self-deprecation and self-abnegation in Al-Anon, and far too much exaltation of authority. I come from an alcoholic family where I already got and listened to more of that combination than is healthy. And I work in academia, where again, there is constant self-criticism combined with exaltation of various forms of authority. Re-experiencing the combination in Al-Anon isn’t curative for me – it is overkill.

  6. P.S. I have been thinking about this now for two days and a night. I do not mean to hurt the feelings of Al-Anon people, and I do think my experience was particularly horrible. I also do realize there are wise people in Al-Anon – I have seen such people, and others who may not be wise yet, but are sincere and not destructive. Still, I am not letting the 12 steps, particularly in their institutionalized and commercialized forms, off the hook. I am sure I am right not to.

    I found in my first experience that there were a lot of messed-up people in the organization who had a lot of authority but were both self-righteous and predatory. That is where some of the trouble lies. I would be savvy enough now to avoid destructive sponsors, but at the time I originally went, I kept too open a mind to be safe.

    When I went in 2006 things were much easier because I was and had been actually dealing closely with an addict-like person, so I had some current feelings and experiences that were germane. I did not have to reawaken these from a distant past, or reinflict pain upon myself. I was allowed to deal with what was happening at the time, which I always find far more useful than picking at old wounds. I also declared myself my own sponsor, refused to listen to the rot about the Higher Power, and refused to work the steps. People thought that meant I was not serious, but I learned a great deal from the group when I didn’t let the program get in the way.

    My problem with the program the original time was that I did not fit its paradigm closely enough. Not fitting was construed as denial. I was asked to dredge up putative sins from my distant past, and torture myself over these. It was supposed that I “must have” serious problems I was hiding. What shocked me was that people could not seem to conceive of directness – sincerity – sunshine. We were all constantly under suspicion, like prisoners.

    The other main problem I see is that there are so many professionals who use or claim to use twelve step methodologies, but do not do this very well. The twelve steps may be problematic anyway, but it is when they are undertaken badly or led by people who are not very self-aware that they are truly disastrous.

  7. P.P.S. *Still* thinking about it. I think one of my problems with the 12 steppers, especially in my original stint, was that too many were caught up in games of power and domination.

    I understand that they were learning to give up unrealistic feelings of power. But I noticed that was something they liked to tell others, often to limit them or cut them down, i.e., to take authority over the other person in some way.

    They also seemed to think in terms of hierarchies more than most people I knew. When they gave up power, they opted for submission, which is really just another place in the same structure.

    The constant repetition of the sentence, “I do not know what is good for me – what is good for me is bad for me – only He (God) knows what is good for me – I must wait for Him to do His will” was one of the forms of self-deprecation I least enjoyed witnessing. It seemed so … sadomasochistic, perhaps.

    I would much rather keep my personal power, but stay out of this competitive and hierarchical cycle of power and domination entirely.

  8. P.P.P.S.

    What I can see from sitting here and thinking about this for 36 straight hours is that my Reeducation really was just about learning self-destruction and self-sabotage, tout court. Six months in I knew I had contracted self-hatred and did not know my way back. I am coming up on the 16th anniversary of that and I think I can finally be out of the labyrinth by then.

    The thing is that while Al-Anon was not meant to inculcate self-hatred, the Al-Anon tools were what nailed the self-hatred, self-destruction, and self-sabotage in. There are so many convoluted twists and turns in Al-Anon theory, and so many odd presuppositions about who one is and how one thinks. These preconceived expectations and judgmentsn can work really well to inculcate and then cement in ideas which one would never accept if they were presented directly. That is why I have been trying to unearth and examine each Al-Anon presupposition – so as to unfasten them from me.

    However: in the end, the solution comes down to rejecting self-destruction and self-sabotage, and enjoying lightness … not feeling obliged to take on heaviness … not being concerned that I might be wrong, and not accepting the suggestion that self-destruction and self-sabotage may be “what I really need for my health.” (The relevant Al-Anon presuppositions here were that one could not already be a conscious or self-reflective person, and that Al-Anon had to be the first time one had ever stopped to look at oneself and what one was doing.)

    I have spoken. Part of this may be me having misunderstood Al-Anon but I don’t know: I really tried and I am a good reader and listener and I do not think I am that much of an anomaly … which is the reason, besides figuring it all out for myself, that I am writing.

    ANYWAY. I like the light feeling. The innocent feeling. The integrity. The fearlessness. The happiness. The hope. The freedom. The relationship I had to the world before I became so burdened with that dark cloud. I have glimpsed these things in recent years but only very lately have I begun to feel them. I look very much forward to letting those feelings grow.

    And I hope I do not even have to deconstruct Al-Anon any more to get them. I am FINALLY getting to be able to see that it is very simple: it is only that self-sabotage and self-destruction are not required. Even if the frightening lesson that they were came in in convoluted ways and wrapped itself around my bloodstream, I think I have detached it now. Perhaps I can just relax, watch it recede, and close the door on it.

    Self-sabotage and self-destruction are not required. This is my mantra against that darkness.

  9. Also: as I have said before, what was so shocking about the therapist was that he considered all of my successes to actually be symptoms of failure. At the same time, I was turning out to be an unfit subject for Al-Anon. I failed to feel the fears they thought I should, had different goals for my life than they had, had different values. So now two venues at once were revealing to me at that I was a failure as a person, and not for reasons I could understand, but for feelings, goals, and perceptions I did not know were crimes.

    I feel terribly inadequate not to have liked Al-Anon/ACOA. I disappointed people by not liking it – people who claimed to know they were what I needed, people who looked at me with hurt in their eyes when I said I did not relate. I also feel also mean and miserly when people say it saved their life and I say well, it did its best to take mine. I think I should be more charitable. If it saved someone’s life I have no right to have had a such a bad time with it. And I have to go through this whole rigmarole to remember that in fact I am not required to have liked it.

    Believe me, I do understand that many people like it, and I have really tried. I do not think that makes me bad or unenlightened, or that there is something I have not understood. I have really tried but I cannot shake my opinion that the recitation of the 12 steps is an act of psychic violence.

    But I declare. This is absolutely the last day I am going to spend defending myself against flashbacks of the shame my therapist and sponsor inculcated in me about not fitting into the Al-Anon/ACOA model. I do not enjoy fighting the flashbacks. I find it necessary when they attack, but the fight is destructive, too. I declare I will have no more of these flashbacks. I do not like them.

  10. Some field notes:

    1. I think it was like getting addicted to a poison. Funnily enough, since I quit, I have been using Al-Anon techniques to get through the day. I say, “Just for today I will give myself the gift of not saying to myself any of the terrible things I learned to say in Al-Anon.”

    2. In my first stint, they insisted that living well was a sign of denial. If you lived well post-Al-Anon, that was good, but living well in the same way but not having learned this in Al-Anon was denial, and bad. In my second stint it occurred to me that perhaps the problem was that I had not needed them at all to learn how to live … maybe the people in the first stint were just jealous?

    3. Al-Anon people simply will not believe that anyone who has not worked all of the steps could be free of road rage. They keep talking about how they have road rage and how they are trying to free themselves of it through prayer. They have trouble believing that a skeptic like me could be a calm driver … you can only do that with God, etc., etc. I am sorry but this is b.o.r.i.n.g.

    4. Al-Anon supporters keep on giving the same speech about how The Program is an unqualified wonder. They seem unable to discuss strengths and weaknesses, plusses and minuses … ask them about this and they go into their speech about how it is wonderful and it saved their life. My reactions to this are:

    a. I feel like a jerk for having spoiled their party, and/or:
    b. I feel like a jerk because obviously, if Al-Anon is the answer and my father is an alcoholic, I must really be in denial about my deep flaws and imperfections if I do not like Al-Anon, and/or:
    c. I find the uniformity of their discourse scary, conclude that they are a cult, and feel like a jerk to have given them any benefit of the doubt at all.

    5. One of the things Al-Anon keeps going on about is how if you do not think you have 100% of the problems they have, then it is because you think you are superior to them, and you need to admit you do have 100% of the problems they have for the sake of your own health.

    That was perhaps the most intimidating of the many intimidating things they said to me … I had not thought I was superior. I had never thought that, say, not feeling “road rage” made me superior to people who did.

    Now I have just realized that perhaps they were talking to themselves. Perhaps they used to feel superior and have unlearned this. But – and this is the conundrum – they would say, I do believe, that my claim that I never felt superior is itself a claim of superiority.

    At that point all I can do is object to their poor logic, and then their next move is to accuse me of insufficient emotionality. This circle is endless and really, I think the schtick – you are in denial if you are doing well, you are arrogant if you are doing well, you are unfeeling if you say that does not make sense – is just manipulative.

    6. However and once again, what I am really talking about here is Al-Anon PLUS my weird shrink, not Al-Anon all on its own. So, Al-Anons, I know for a fact you are not all as weird as this.

  11. I’m sorry it seemed that I left a comment and then stepped away from the conversation–I just didn’t have access to the Internet except for very briefly to read email for the last few weeks due to travel and a computer power-supply that burst into flames! So I”m finally catching up on your thinking out loud about all this.
    Let me just say that my comment was not left with any hurt feelings or need to contradict your experience, or even to defend Al-anon or the 12-step programs from some of the really important points you make about it in general. I certainly never mean to cast any kind of doubt on the reality of your experience of it, which sounds so wrong. It really was an observation that is was so different for me, but not that this meant that all that you have to say isn’t totally right on. I had to do that “take what you need and leave the rest” thing big-time with the 12 steps, and did a lot of reading and thinking about the protestant values built into it, the sexism in Al-anon’s origins, my deep mistrust of anything smacking of god-talk. I think that I was really fortunate that the group I went to had some really wonderful people in it. For a while, it’s primary function in my life was that it was a place where I could go and cry without freaking out my friends and family. In my group it would have been considered a deep violation of 12 steps and 12 traditions to engage in the kind of shaming, dictating talk you were subjected to. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  12. Hola JoannaO – Actually & in the end what your comment sparked was my New Realization that I could / can just dump the whole thing. I realized that for all these years (I quit that shrink and changed Al-Anon groups in 1994, that was a long time ago) I have been trying to negotiate with the whole experience and ask, “What was my part in it?”

    This question is not always appropriate, I think. Sort of like asking someone, “So, what was your part in your rape? Come on, you must have done something to ‘attract that to yourself’!” Yes, I was vulnerable to this B.S. but I had gone to the shrink precisely for help with vulnerability to this kind of B.S. I knew it was a failing.

    My other “part in it” was being patient, deciding to trust the process, dropping my critical sense, dropping logical analysis, etc. These, however, were things the group – Al-Anon – the ones who ask that question, “what was your part in it?” – wanted me to do. “My part in it” was following instructions. Had I not, I would have been “resisting.” V.e.r.y. manipulative of them, and convenient for them. What I needed to do was drop the thing wholesale and stop being nice about it or negotiating with the ideas at all – and now I have – and your comment touched it off, yes – but that was actually a good thing.

    The problem with negotiating with Al-Anon, or let’s say with many people in it and leaders of it, because not *all* are like this – is the same as trying to improve communication with an abuser. They do not want a two way street, they want power and control, and they want you to submit. That, I sometimes think, is the real reason they are so interested in having you declare powerlessness.

    And: for a group which is so committed to getting people to “take responsibility,” it sure has invented just the right double talk for itself to avoid *any* responsibility! “You just haven’t understood” is *another* rhetorical technique of abusers, by the way, similar to “you are making that up,” “you dreamed it,” etc.

    As far as I’m concerned it isn’t just a question of good and bad groups – all of them use the 12 steps, in which powerlessness, God (a monotheistic one with Christian features, sorry but gods in many religions do not function as Al-Anon wishes God to do) and overblown humility, in addition to making oneself responsible for problems which are not one’s own and/or assuming that problems one has are one’s fault – are central. These ideas are pernicious, especially for people who have not committed crimes. That is why any 12 stepping group should be avoided, in my view, and it should *certainly* not be ordered by courts.

    “Take what you leave and need the rest” is what they say to get you in. After that they start saying that if you do not do *everything,* you are lying about your interest and commitment.

    If you’re dealing with an alcoholic, going and talking to people who really know what that is like can be very helpful. That I think is what the use of those groups are. All the rest of this stuff about coming out of denial, repenting and making amends for your sins, I really don’t know. Actually, I have a strong opinion: the 12 steps are an instrument of evil.

    *Everyone* I know who has benefited from a 12 step group says they really picked and chose about what parts of the disourse they wanted to listen to, and so on. They talk a lot about how they modified the program to their own needs. I had already written my own in the first place. Could have used some really *good* info on alcoholic families, which I did not get until much later, but in terms of how to live well, not to get involved with drugged-out people, and knowing one should detach from alcoholic parent dramas, I was already quite far along. It has always seemed to me that Al-Anon wants you to take a more traumatic path, have a big dramatic crisis and then come to God and them.

    Even though I am an animated person, that is just animation – not frenzy. I have always done better taking things, especially long-term problems, more calmly. Of course, if it’s an emergency, I’ll go into emergency response mode – but only if it is a real emergency. One of the oddest things about Al-Anon to me was that they seemed to want to create crises, and then say “oh, but we should wait for God to solve this.” I always thought they were drugging themselves on adrenalin or something. Create a crisis and then not resolve it – live a cliffhanger all the time – ugh.

  13. Also – I did originally look critically at the program but my shrink said that made me an “intellectual snob” and arrogant. If he had found out you were treating it as you did, he would have said the same thing, and you would have gotten a whole speech about denial and resistance.

    The thing is that when I was sent to it I had no current problems with addicts. I had an alcoholic father, yes, but had not lived with him for 18 years, nothing new was happening with him, and I and had not had to deal with alcoholics since.

    It was always far harder to deal with my mother. It was because of not knowing how to deal with her or people like her that I had always wanted to do therapy. My dad, well, you knew he was impaired, it was obvious how, and it was much easier to be objective … and it was always clear to me that one should not get involved with alcoholics, or take them very seriously, expect them to not be alcoholics, etc.

    To go 18 years later and hang out with a bunch of people in my mother’s situation, and have them sling a lot of accusations and rules as she did – to *return* to that and call it curative, made no sense as a form of therapy, or something to be recommended by a licensed shrink. Once again, it may be fine if you have an actual concrete alcohol situation you’re dealing with. Then all the c*** that gets dished out matters less since you really do get some things you need.

    I still say the 12 steps are crazy, and I still think that is the crux of the matter – their sanctification and proliferation throughout society. If the way to get benefit out of Al-Anon is to find a good group of people and ignore a large part of the “program,” then it cannot be the program that is the good thing about Al-Anon. A plain old study group on what alcoholism is might do as well or better. But as I say, had I actually been having to deal with an alcoholic, and had I not also had my shrink who was a big user of Al-Anon ideas in the most negative possible way, the whole thing would have been more appropriate, and would have gotten less out of hand.

    My sentence on the matter is that if you go to Al-Anon because of needing support for an actual problem with an actual addict, that is one thing. What I am so opposed to, besides the 12 steps, is the extension of the addiction model to everyone and everything, and of its terms to the whole of society.

    The worst of the ideas is that you are genetically stamped and permanently impaired if you have an alcoholic relative – you must say you are “sick” and will always only be “improving” – you cannot expect to live life fully as other people get to do, but must resign yourself to narrow limits.

  14. Also – on that last point. Ever since I left Reeducation which was many years ago now, people have told me and I have told myself that I could and should just live as I had before. It sounded good but it never worked – I was very much aware that there was a huge stone which needed to be removed first. That is why I have had to do this big comb-through of Al-Anon. My first anti-12-step tracts were written in 1996. They’re much less clear than this.

    Anyway, the precise nature of the stone which needed to be removed, as I finally understood in 2007, was the concept of permanent impairment because of who a relative or ancestor was, and the idea that if you do not acknowledge this, you are yet worse. That is why I like Liprap’s insight on the relationship of 12 step theory to Nazi racial theories (in the comments thread to the next post, “In A Nutshell”). Once I realized what the concept that was blocking me was, I could wave a magic wand over myself and say: “You are not guilty! You do not have to suffer by carrying that burden!” Then finally I could start feeling again as though I deserved as much of a life as anyone else. This was after being “in death,” as I like to put it, for about 16 years.

    In the early 1990s it seemed almost everyone was being sentenced by therapists, marriage counselors, etc. to Al-Anon and other 12 step groups. The permanent impairment, “you are and always will be less than other people” concept was the most destructive. My best graduate student of that era flunked out because of it. It more or less took my career as well. It wasted great amounts of energy and time which would have been better invested in just about anything else.

  15. Aha: 2 yet briefer boildowns:

    1. They want to tie you to certain parts of your origins and see these in a certain way. If you knew an alcoholic when you were five, that is who you are now, not anything else you have done since. It is the most important thing and it is what you must focus on. Even, say, if you were also in a war or something when you were five, nothing is as important as the alcoholic. The alcoholic gets all the attention – which is paradoxical since you are supposed to be learning to detach from them.

    Yet more important:

    2. VERY IMPORTANT: What is so insidious about the thesis that you are permanently flawed is, it has a second part: you are permanently flawed and also condemned not to be able to see it. That, of course, disables the critical capacity and undermines all self-confidence.

    Also, the thesis that everyone is the same essentially fetishizes a certain model of a person. Everyone present must be that person. Once you say you are that person, you start trying to change him or her by working the steps. To do this, of course, you have to neglect your actual self and actual life, which is more or less problematic to the extent that these actually differ from the fetishized model. This is of course paradoxical because what they are asking you to do with them is to enact exactly the same dynamic they say you should not engage in with, for instance, an alcoholic.

    ***

    I do not know a whole lot about alcoholism, alcoholics and their relatives, but from the experience I do have and the conversations I have had, situations are all different, configurations are different, people have different reactions. Yes there are commonalities worth discussing, but to say that it always plays out in exactly the same way is really, really oversimplifying and really, really rigid.

    Speaking of rigidity: that is one of the attributes of the fetishized model person. This is why Al-Anon is always telling people to bend and be flexible.

    Once again – I had a shrink also telling me Al-Anon stuff, in his version of it which was one of the worst, and this made it especially bad. But as I keep saying, there is so much in the program which lends itself to that kind of abuse, it is somewhat astonishing.

  16. This is really helpful to read, though I haven’t tried Al Anon. My father was, is, wildly alcoholic. And I tend to feel mentally paralyzed in the face of any kind of bullying or manipulation.

    I have done a lot of therapy, and I’m told that I am puzzlingly healthy considering. But for my therapist that’s a good thing, that’s one of the things I don’t need to work on.

    So I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had been told to rework the parts that were ok. Oh no.

  17. Oh good, I’m glad it has use for someone other than me. So both our fathers are alcoholic professors, that’s funny. My mother is also mentally ill somehow, it is supposed to be bipolar but I don’t think that is right, someone said it sounded more like BPD, that makes a lot more sense; she is not under care.

    My father is very codependent with this and that situation is the more problematic one in the family I think – the alcoholism is run of the mill and you can keep your distance from it, stand up to it, and so on, as needed, or at least so I’ve always found, but having that in the background and then a mentally ill person who is presented as RIGHT about the world (so as not to hurt her feelings) but also PATRONIZED is much worse.

    This for me was far worse than the alcoholism – they were abusive to each other and to us, and her really twisted version of the world was presented to us as the truth and so on. When I was seven I made my mother sign papers to the effect that if they divorced she would allow me to live with my father. I did this because I was very concerned that without him in the house we would never even make it to school, things would be so chaotic. I also thought that without his comparative sanity around (he’s sane when not drunk, and that was what I looked at for a model, and that is why I’m not crazy), and with only her insanity ruling, I would not come out of there in any state to take care of myself – I would be capable only of being a bag lady or something.

    Ergo, mentally paralyzed in the face of bullying and manipulation, c’est moi. I can stand up to actual drunks much better than to their codependent guilt-trippers.

    Your shrink sounds fine. I would have done best, still would, with some *good* literature about what alcoholism does to the people around it. I have not found any yet, perhaps have just not looked in the right places. The descriptions of who and what I was supposed to be that I got were just weird.

  18. Oh, this is HOT!!!

    A lot of what you are supposed to do to yourself in Al-Anon mimics what you do in fact do or have done to you in abusive situations.

    A friend writes: “When you are in mere survival mode you LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS and ACCEPT mistreatment. Now that I no longer need to be in survival mode, I find it difficult to remember to value myself, that it is now safe to value myself.”

    Al-Anon says LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS and ACCEPT “reality” – these are *values* of theirs.

    This, once again, is why I think Al-Anon is in a purveyor of tools on how to stay in and minimize the damage of abusive situations – and feel virtuous doing it.

  19. For once I feel lucky. My father, the alcoholic one, is insane. My mother militantly supported the insanity, but she was stable enough to take care of us.

    Codependent on insanity. Oh boy. There’s that joke from Annie Hall or something — my brother thinks he’s a chicken, but we don’t take him to a shrink because we need the eggs. I always just got this sinking feeling on hearing that.

  20. That is hilarious re the chicken! It is interesting re my mother. She got diagnosed as “manic depressive” (bipolar) in the fifties, but I have never seen evidence for it. I have described her to people and they’ve said BPD. She does have some of a BPD vibe. She has anxiety. But the whole thing could be codependency + PTSD and depression as reactions to actual events in her life, not to “chemical imabalances,” personality disorders or other invisible gods.

    The double whammy here, though, is what makes my background bad. It is also what made me have to start working on it right away. I mean, from childhood. I could not afford to indulge in the kinds of neuroses many people did. I had too much quicksand around and could not afford to make even one step downward – had to go up, or drown.

    That, in turn, was what so frustrated my Reeducators. They were not used to people who had this compound problem. They were also not used to people who had already worked on things much as I had and as successfully. Most importantly, who were *used* to working on such things. They were good at getting to a first breakthrough, but had no idea (really) what to do after that. This is, I now see, why they always kept everything revolving around that first breakthrough, letting more and more vultures pick at the wound (OMG what an apt image, I am going to post about it).

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