Recovering is Uncovering


I have picked out some words for Healing the Child Within by Charles L. Whitfield  to describe my co-dependent self, borne out of my relationship with my dysfunctional family…false, plans and plots, fearful, envious, critical, idealized, perfectionistic, other-orientated, loves conditionally, hides or denies feelings, rational/logical, childish, pretends always to be strong, distrusting, avoids being nurtured, controlling, self righteous, presents a public self.

This is in direct contrast to the person or true/real  self I feel I have become or am becoming in recovery.

Words to describe this real or recovered self would be – authentic genuine, spontaneous, loving, expansive, giving, communicating,  loves unconditionally, compassionate, feels feelings (still often with the help of others) assertive, intuitive childlike, (more) playful, vulnerable, more trusting, enjoys being nurtured, surrenders.

I hasten to add that many of these are still  works in progress, but I am definitely growing more year by year in the fuller expression of most of these words.

Recovery has continually revealed the real self. There are many other aspects the real me to be uncovered

Recovering means uncovering me in so many ways. The real me lost under the debris of others’ behaviours, words, and resonating memories.

How to spot me in the false self of a co-dependent mode is easy, if you ask me how I am and I answer I am “Just Fine” – just above the victim threshold.

Unreal. Detached from the real me.

My false self can be like my critical parent still barking in my head.

My mother was “fine” on a good day!

Most days she was a martyr and often spent prolonged periods of time, days and days on occasion, in her bed in a stew of self pity and recrimination.

I would care for her. I resented her stupor, sometimes revolted by her behaviour and demeanor.

Slowly, slowly her lack of emotional response to me, her son, would chip away at some indefinable part of me. My heart, chip, chip, I closed my heart off. Became numb. Mainly anyway, I left a piece of my heart alive just in case…

Just in case, she would change, accept me for myself and respond like other mothers did to their loving sons.

Nothing hurts like hope.

Equally part of me internalized that in the absence of love, at least I could get attention if I acted in a similar way to my mother.

At least I could take someone as a prison.

Mum had two main prisoners, serving their time at home, after my sisters had escaped.

My father and I.

I tended to many of my mothers needs, shopping, cooking, making her many cups of tea, trying to resurrect her from her long bouts of depression.

I looked after her needs while submerging many of my own needs.

I denied my needs so that I could idealize my mother’s cause for me, her martyrdom for me. She could have killed herself but did not,  she just struggled on, without much word of thanks from her undeserving children, most of whom had left home as soon as they could.

When she did arise from bed it would be in the mid afternoon. Still in her dressing gown. She would stay up until the wee ours of the morning too, praying for us all, me and my sisters. God we needed it. See, we had all, for some reason, let her down. Been the ruin of her.

She struggled on regardless, asking God to forgive us.

My father also acted like my mother’s parent and caregiver. He had also let her down, more so in some ways that her kids.

We were all such a disappointment. After all she had done for us too?

After a long day at work my father would often then cook tea, shop, try and gee up Mum, cajole her from out of her depressive bouts. Just like I did.

Like father like son.

I had other chores too, lighting the fire, vacuuming the floors etc.

I was my mother’s carer in many ways.

Or enabler.

How I longed for her to rise from her bed and look after me for a change.

It is heart breaking even writing this. All the days, weeks, months and years I waited and hoped for my mother’s undivided attention, nurturing love and help with some of MY Needs, emotional and otherwise but this rarely happened.

As the years went by I resented her for this, her behaviour disgusted me, made me ashamed. So I tried harder with the same results, so I tried harder still…with the same results.

I thought it I were more perfect then it would turn her around, perhaps if she was really proud about my many achievements then she would get better. I was the best at most things!

But she didn’t and I felt worse.

I kept trying but nothing seemed to work long term anyway. There were a few stirrings of life here and there before a   relapse back to old behaviour.

So I worked more at controlling the possible outcomes. Usually with the same results.

Do something enough times and it becomes learnt behaviour, ingrained in the brain. In implicit memory, the memory that persists without you having explicit conscious awareness of it.

Perfectionism. If only I could be more perfect. How unrealistic is that?

This has resulted in a knawing feeling ever since that no matter how hard I try it is never good enough.

It is one aspect of my recovery I can still struggle with, even though I know where this feeling was incubated, still I act on it.

How the past is a puppeteer?

Was it always like this? This unsuccessful meeting of some of my primary needs? It seems this was the case in very early childhood.

Although life would be easier if it was simply black and white, this or that. Mum did love me, I know that. She did not harm me deliberately, I don’t think so anyway.

She was emotionally very ill. And while I watched her in that fog of emotional illness, I stopped listening to me and my needs. I stopped listening to the inner voice and decided that if I wanted to survive without it being so painful I would have to increasingly ignore it.

It only echoed my distress back to me. Gradually I repressed it’s pleading and gradually through time I became deaf to myself and my needs.

I became emotionally mute. Emotionally numb to quote Pink Floyd.

I have often written about how addicted people lose the ability to live with their emotions. My emotions were suppressed so many times that they became so inaudible, muffled out through time, that I lost the ability to hear them, read them, speak them, and hence share them.  As a result I could not be be real with other people.

Eventually I could barely differentiate one feeling from another. They all became distressing feelings I ran away from, escaped from or avoided. They were not my friends, they were not helping so I ran way from my internal self to try and find the answer out there.

Outside of my Self.

Recovery has been coming back home to me, to learning to listen again to that almost mute emotional self, encouraging it too speak again. Convincing it that it would be heard and listened to.

That is a huge part of recovery, people like us, listening to our stories.

Being listened to, accepted, respected and loved back to health.

Others listening as we share our past  with others helps free ourselves from the past –  by examining it honestly, laying the past bare, and by exposing to the light of truth we can vanish it and consign it to our long term memory, where it belongs.

It is undifferentiated emotions which keep these episodes and and memories alive. It is previous emotions that haunt us today and it is these emotions that get healed and find peace.

Anyway I had no intention of writing any of that – stream of consciousness stuff, live!

So how did the child within become so stifled?

Whitfield talks about having our fundamental, primary needs stifled in childhood.

He talks about Survival, safety and security – our need for attention, mirroring and echoing. guidance, being listened to, our need to be real, our need to participate in things in the family home, our needs for acceptance which includes a need to be taken seriously, a freedom to be the real you, a tolerance of your feelings,  a validation of yourself. a respect, a belonging and love.

Personally I first had these needs met fully when I went into recovery and into the rooms of 12 step recovery. How many of us come home in recovery?

Whitfield writes of other needs such as the opportunity to grieve loss and to grow, support, loyalty and trust, encouragement to accomplish – to be creative, have a sense of completion, to feel we have made a contribution.

These seem to be more part of this second stage of recovery I have now entered.

When I look at my childhood I am not sure how many of these survival needs were fully met.

They seem to centre on the need to express oneself fully and be nurtured in that pursuit. For me this failure to have these primary needs met led to a stifled nurturing, a stunted growth, a developmental delay, in emotional expression and emotion regulation.

It is via our reciprocal mirroring of emotion control that the areas of the brain that are involved in emotion regulation actually grow. This is why co-dependency, insecure attachment all link to the brain mechanisms of emotion processing and regulation. I never learnt how to deal with my emotional self, hence it became a distressed self which impulsively and then compulsively ran away from itself.

We can shore up what was missing in our development by practicing this reciprocity with people we love now and people in recovery.

We can all come home to ourselves in recovery.


  1. feelingmywaybackintolife · November 14, 2015

    Thank you for sharing your memories and knowledge. Come home to ourselves in recovery. I’m ‘only’ (?) 14 months sober but I can feel me settling down in myself more. Obviously there is a lot of work to be done but I am starting to get and idea of what it is about. It takes time to realise it takes time. 🙂
    My mother has been ill for years, cancer, overworked, depressed and in a continuous fight with my father. I tried to save her and their marriage. Didn’t work. :-/ Sometimes I could feel she was suicidal. That was scary. I got scared and then I could not bear it anymore and got angry inside, wanting her to die so it would all be over with. I ran away from home twice, could not deal anymore. Now? Now I can only cry over it, a lot of crying to catch up upon. Which is ok because now it releases. 🙂 I wish you the same, but somehow, through your writing of the last months, I get the idea that a a lot has already changed at your side of the glassfiber. 🙂 If I may reflect on that, that is. 🙂 Like pieces falling into place. 🙂
    Thank you for walking this road before me.
    xx, Feeling

    • alcoholicsguide · November 14, 2015

      thank you Feeling for sharing a part of your story – sharing is such an important part of healing and recovering from our pasts. It is brave to be open with others. Like me you do this with anonymity, I find this helps in being completely honest and open. My real identity does not really matter. I am a human being who has experiences others can relate to. Your experiences have similarities, thank you for sharing them. 12 step recovery and “sharing” at meetings turned me from secretive to being an open book. After I finished my steps 4 and 5 I felt reborn so much of my past I do not cling to for my identify, but rather I try to use it to help others see recovery is possible. These past memories and events are often what stops me being more me, the real me so I am happy to work through them and shed them like an old skin.The grieving process of crying over and over is part of the healing and takes a long time so cry and cry. I will blog on this more in the next blogs. We have years of tears bottled up inside so always best to release the valve and get some release, some healing. The puppeteer of the past has less power over us then. I am still working through stuff, still have to do EMDR but much has changed for me recently to be sure, yes. This co-dependency is helping put the pieces together in my psyche. EMDR will help quicken that process I feel. This second stage recovery has been a long time coming but much ground work has been done in advance of it. Thank you for walking this road with me. 🙂

  2. Lori K · November 14, 2015

    This is beautiful. Reading this I think I can understand what my father went through with his mother, and it was passed on to me. I still feel that “if only I were good at…or better at…” feeling. Thank You so much for sharing.

    • alcoholicsguide · November 14, 2015

      thank you very much Lori and for sharing too – this is recovery, sharing our stories and hoping to help others at the same time. It has really helped me writing about this as well – helped me understand more 🙂

  3. Mark Davis · November 22, 2015

    I have gained so much in my recovery from this site, but I must admit this almost brought tears. Having recently picked up “Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps” by Melody Beattie, I feel like I have found answers, and a better solution. I don’t hear much of this level of recovery in my local AA, and the fellowship is great here, but having read:

    about the value of 12 step programs helping people like me with Complex PTSD, I have embraced AA and a 12 step recovery/life. I am also an Alcoholic… LOL. Which is why I found this wonderful online resource. The info you have put together; The broadly relevant, well documented and researched, eloquently written info, is just right for this recovering Alcoholic, Addict, Co-dependant, etc, etc. Thank you for the effort, the thoughtfulness and the honesty. Plus, I SO Identified with this article. Thank you. Mark D, Cairns, Australia

    • alcoholicsguide · November 22, 2015

      Hi Mark and thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words. I am glad it almost brought you to tears as not having tears or crying even has been a problem of mine although there is a reservoir of tears welled up inside of me since childhood over many things which in time need to flow. I like how you said you were alcoholic after talking about your PTSD as it suggest there were other things, a fertile ground, for your alcoholism to grow from. Just like me. It is important for me to get down to these roots. I will probably add EMDR to my tools in the near future as it greatly helped my wife who also has PTSD. Like you I am in recovery from a range, and seemingly ever expanding range, of conditions, hence the recovery process is an ongoing uncovering process as to what ails me and how I can modify my tools to deal with this. I have to say your comments came at the right time for me, as I sometimes wonder who or how many people read my blogsite and hence benefit from it. It is important to me that the blogsite helps people because it is intended to be a service to others, although it helps me “writing out” my journey in recovery. Thank you again for you own thoughtful, honest words and the effort taken to write them to me. Paul, UK

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