Okay, remember: I'm used to the Social Work side of things.....I feel stupid now sitting in all those classes with peers who were going into drug and alcohol counseling, and really, really not "getting" what they were talking about. Duh! I've been thinking.....my entire past, every relationship has been with a drinker. No wonder one of the older guys told me that I knew more about alcohol counseling than I was willing to accept, and that would hold me back until I realized it. So, be patient please.....I'm getting this. My fist Al-Anon meeting will be this Thursday.

Why? Well, hmmmm.......because of the above statement. Now, mind you, my husband doesn't drink everyday, nor is it the "hard stuff" he used to consume from the first cuppa coffee until he went to bed. It's also no longer weed (that I know of), as his psychiatrist has found another legal medication to take it's place. However, I've had to admit, that the behaviors are still there. Run out of medication? All gumpiness breaks loose. Can't find the remote? Absolute upset.

Sadly, I've come to realize that these behaviors, among an entire host of behaviors, I am very accustomed to. The difference now? Well, I stopped drinking.....until I fell of the wagon a few weeks ago. I wondered at the time why husband didn't seem bothered in the least, let alone the fact that he encouraged the entire debacle. This of course led to many other thoughts, and as usual, I began to research some of my "old friends" in the psychiatry world.

Only to find out that the answer is much closer to home than I realized. It took several very good friends to point out to me that I'm repeatedly addressing the subject of fear. Fear of what? Fear of stepping out of the normal patterns of behavior, breaking the standard codes of silence, the enabling that has gone on since I wore diapers? (Not really, but pretty close!)

I've been told before that I live with a "dry drunk".......had somewhat of an idea of what that meant....but skipped it. Sometimes it's easier to ignore than it is to face, especially the painful subjects. For me, when I ignore, my lovely mulitplicity stirs up my sleep at night, and throws all sorts of dark memories at me, forcing me to face the reality of the patterns reforming in my life.

So, I had to ask myself: do I really live with an addict? I mean it's "only a few beers" here and there, and he MUST have his medication, but the doctor said so, and if he doesn't have it, he becomes snappy and rude. Wait a minute.....that's pretty much standard fare. Sometimes he's nice, and enjoyable to be around, sometimes he's rude. If there's an upset at work, or anything that even slightly is pressuresome, well, he'll become disdainful and quick to become upset about something, anything......but it will happen. Is he happy? Noooo, he says he is, but hardly smiles......and I don't think I've heard him laugh in ages. In actuality, he sleeps a great deal, works hard, and likes his beer, his medication, and most important of all: to not be bothered.

I admit it: every relationship I've had has been with someone who drinks. Some were very violent as a result, which only ascerbates DID. But, for me, the smell of a beer on a man's breath was very similar to my father: another drug addict and alcoholic. He ended up quitting eventually, to become the shell of a man that he is, with my mother leading the family down her paranoid bi-polar schizophrenic path constantly berating him for the "alcoholic drug addict" he once was.

I also realize that there have certainly been spells in my life, where the use of Whiskey would, in only a few shots, take away all painful memories of the past, and instantly bring peace to my home. It's really easy to fall into that way of thinking if there's drinking already around. But alas, as with any "quick fix", it is only temporary. Like the component you use to fix a flat tire quickly......it's only useful until you can get to the garage and address the real issue: there's a nail in your tire.

It was hard for me to quit, and it still is. I hear others say: "Oh, my meds aren't working, I think something a little stronger will do the trick...." and for a moment, parts of me agree. Ahhhh, that's a slippery slope my friend.

I finally had to look hard at my life.....my current point in life. The realization made me so ill, that I've taken several days away from posting here. One lovely person even wrote to ask that I please continue the blog, as they read it daily........go ahead, write about this subject (when I explained privately why I had been absent.) Aaaaahh, here we have the "private code" again, akin to hiding the bottles, pretending that we don't see how many beer caps are in the drawer, (why the drawer, the garbage can is the other direction!), the "unspeakable". For who wants to hear about the reality of alcoholism or drug addiction?

Well, I initially thought no one wanted to hear about DID either.......and then, I thought to myself: WHY? It's out there, it exists, and it's common. Individuals and their divided selves struggle daily with trying to figure out how to live life with the residue of a traumatic childhood. Stop the secrecy, validate the pain, and support those who are finding their healing paths.

So, I looked up Al-Anon on Face Book......you know, where everyone finds everything, and then they check out Google. To my amazement, one group has been organized for 10 months and already has over 700 members. Woah....now this isn't a little problem.....this situation is affecting quite a few people, not to mention their extended families.

Yet, it still placed me a position of: do I mention this aloud to the world, or do I continue to be the family secret keeper? I did a great job at keeping secrets growing up......as any of my school counselors, elders at our local Kingdom Hall, or friends could attest. I had "safe" answers for everything, since to "tell" would unleash the violent monsters at home, and I certainly didn't want that to happen. Hence, my strong advocacy for mental health awareness, and the support of those who have been trapped by the "secrets" for most of their lives. 

But this subject? It's "just alcohol/addiction related behavior".........I even found myself writing "everyone does it, everyone becomes rude and disdainful, and you should never count on anyone to be there for you." Really?

Well first, the use of the term: "never" should always be suspect. For nothing is that absolute.....it's like saying "I never eat ice cream". Really? You must have tried it at least once to recognize that you don't like it? Or, "I never disagree with my spouse". Really? Every day, for the last umpteen years, you have constantly shared the same viewpoint, the same likes and dislikes, the same standards on every subject? It may be that you have not spoken aloud what you thought, but somehow, someway, you're body communicated that you disagreed. Further, if you have not shared any of these thoughts aloud, then are you truly married? A couple.....one who shares their thoughts and communicates effectively? I doubt it.

And secondly: define "everyone"? Everyone.....that simple terms actually means: everyone that I have known. So, who have I known? Ooooh, a lot of drinkers. I don't even want to count how many times I've cleaned up vomit, moved passed out people over, or checked to see if they are still breathing. How did I learn that a drunk always speaks the truth, just doesn't remember it the next day? Experience. So, to define "everyone" actually limits the number of people to those I have been acquainted with. Doesn't sound very healthy does it?

Of course, my reaction is to intellectually try to sort this all out: to research. I realized almost at once that there were too many sources I found that hit very close to home. Some left me stung as if bitten by a hornet.....the reality was that clear. Others made me ashamed to think of how long I have lived this way. Keeping the secrets, throwing away the bottles, saying: "Oh, that's okay honey, I understand.......you have a lot of pressure from (fill in the blank)." How many times I've covered things up so that the children don't become alarmed, and in a way: conditioning the next generation to carry on the role(s) of secret keeper(s). "Daddy's just throwing up honey, go back to bed, he'll be okay". 

Psychologists will tell you that every dysfunctional family has a secret keeper, and that they typically have the highest success rate of breaking the dysfunctional structure within their own lives. Today, I'm not so sure about that. But, it's also not too late to stop the indoctrinization of secret keeping.

My children are beginning to comment on a double standard, a set of negative behaviors that are acceptable for their father to demonstrate towards me, but are completely unacceptable for them. They are confused by this, and are further confused by my reaction. For me, I have DID, and have made no secret as to that diagnosis. It also means that I can switch off, I can tune out, I can ignore what is unpleasant and return to my "safe role". Basically, I can become who YOU want me to be, in order to survive. Is that how I want to live my adult life? A continuation of the past? 

Further, do I want to visually demonstrate these sorts of behaviors for my children to model? For children learn most by the modeling of their parents. Both parents........which is a heavy component of parenting that should always be remembered. Daily, we model how adults interact, live, communicate, and what our standard or values are. What are we communicating today?

Hence, without further ado.....I must admit that I struggle with alcohol, and I live with someone who has a serious problem with alcohol and addiction. He needs help, he needs healthier tools in order to face the daily struggle of life, but alas, he must seek these on his own.

For me, I recognize that becoming aware is only the first step. I must now learn how to live without remaining the enabler, I must accept that I have no control over this, or as Al-Anon says: "We cannot think our way out of this disease......we need the help of others who can see and hear us in ways we cannot see and hear ourselves." That's going to be a struggle for me, as I prefer to do my own research, and not be told "what to think", or "what is happening". But, something must change within myself, and this perhaps is one component.

I'm fortunate, in that there is a tremendous amount of support for those who find themselves in this situation. A dear friend wrote just this morning with a few words from Al-Anon along with some personal advice. He (also a fellow DID'er) says the step that brings him the most strength is the statement: "I recognize that I am powerless against (fill in the blank), which gives me the acceptance of the reality of where I really am."

He's right.....this statement alone applies to both DID and alcoholism/addiction.
Have a lovely day everyone.......may we each find a bit o'peace.

Shelly

 


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    Shelly Dowen-Johnson

    I am currently traveling with my husband across the United States, due to the nature of the work he does. 

    I am the mother of two boys, one who has recently been diagnosed with Early Onset Childhood Schizophrenia (Schizoaffective Disorder). 

    It appears the Dowen family gene sequencing contributes much more than the darling dimples both boys have inherited!  But, as always, with love, tender care and support....we will thrive! 

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