From Survival to Recovery

I was re-reading a book put out by Al-Anon, called From Survival to Recovery.  I loved the title when I bought it almost 20 years ago at the time that I figured out that my family was the root of many of my problems.  I still love the title – moving from simply surviving to living in full recovery. 


I just re-read the book for the first time in a decade or so and wanted to – mostly for my own benefit – put down some of the parts that affected me.


“I almost believed it was my fate to fight my way out of bed every morning and live with the dull ache of chronic depression.”


“My repressed feelings were erupting and I thought I was going crazy… I thought the hurt from my alcoholic childhood home would never be healed.”


“Relatives who are consumed with the disease of alcoholism put themselves and their need for alcohol first, ahead of the needs of everyone else in the family including their own children.  We, the children, often craved attention to such a degree that any attention was better than none… We were temporarily relieved of the nagging suspicion that we were not worthy of anyone’s care of even notice.”


“Alcoholism is a cunning, powerful, baffling disease not only for the alcoholic but for all the people who associate with the alcoholic.  It is a progressive, multigenerational, physical, emotional, and spiritual disease with wide-ranging, often tragic effects.”


“We rearranged our memories to minimize their impact on us.  ‘It wasn’t that bad,’ we said, or we believed it had all ended when we left home.'”


“behaviors we adopted to cope with alcoholism in our families became so habitual we thought they were part of our identities.”


“We were not at home in our own skins.  We did not recognize that our lives still reflected our old responses to someone else’s drinking and we didn’t know how to make healthier choices.”


“We are excited to think there really may be solutions to life experiences that have hurt and baffled us.  We feel excited to try new knowledge because learning is exciting in itself, but we also feel anxious.  WE may believe we’re at the end of our rope and fear that this too will not work.  We might worry that, although it may work for others, somehow we are so damaged it won’t work for us.”


“It was essential to given up trying to control others, even if we believe we are doing what we do for their own good.”


“Slowly, little by little, we release our fierce grip on control and discover that surrender is not suicidal.”


“Those of us who grew up with alcoholism tend to overreact to situations over which we have no control, for they have proven consistently painful in the past.”


“With a disease such as alcoholism that is chronic, progressive, and often of many years duration, responsibilities that belong to the alcoholic are shifted to others, a little at a time, until the whole family becomes distorted.  Children, who naturally have many needs, may be accused of selfishness for having any. “


‘Trying to fill the holes left by an adult who is not available either literally or emotionally creates overly responsible children whose thin veneer of maturity overlies a great void of unmet needs.  Some of us performed heroically while inside we were driven, frightened, empty, and felt like we were never good enough.”


I remember reading all this for the first time in college and realizing that I wasn’t crazy.  Now, almost 20 years later I can read it and realize that a lot of this is no longer true for me – that I’ve actually gotten that much healing.  Amazing. 


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