Getting Past Your Past


For those of you who read this blog, you will know I start EMDR treatment this week for my Complex PTSD.

In order to follow my progress it may be useful to know a bit more about what I am letting myself in for therapeutically.

Below I simply use excerpts from a great paper by Dr Shapiro, the originator of EMDR treatment who explains more eloquently than I can how EMDR works in freeing oneself from one’s past, suggesting perhaps that the negative “voice” of the past, but which stalks our living present,  talks to us via unprocessed memories from the past.

This makes sense to me because without memory we cease to be our SELF. It seems reasonable to suggest then that ironing out the temporal  wrinkles of the traumatic past by physiologically re-experiencing them in EMDR therapy will free us from maladaptive influence they have on our self perception and for them naturally to be replaced by more adaptive and realistic views of ourself as reflected by our relationships with significant others and via our life achievements.

The negative voices of the self are neural ghosts which still haunt us because they contain emotional and cognitive information in memory networks – previous experience became stuck like ghosts in the machine and by reprocessing these memories to disentangle their emotional grip we can safely exorcise these neural ghosts from our representations of self.

Borne in trauma, these responses were the responses often of children to trauma, they were traumatised responding to traumatising events.

They are out of kilter reactions to these events which colour present responding to everyday events although these events are no longer traumatising in themselves.

Previous events continue to colour our emotional responses to others and to ourselves. The critical voice that previous events were somehow our fault continue to live in negative critical self talk.

In other words we continue to be re-traumatised in our reactions to the world and ourselves. The voices of the child traumatised is the voice we still hear in our minds as adults. We still listen internally to a traumatised child’s voice in leading us in our responses.

It is not dificult to see how this becomes maladaptive and pathological. We are acting on cues from the past rather than seeing reality in the present as it is.

The past exercises an influence in us via these memory networks – when they are reprocessed and embedded in long term memory, replaced with more adaptive memory of who we are now then the past exerts less of an negative influence in the present. And we begin to heal in the present having gotten past our sometimes traumatic pasts.

That’s my take on the theory anyhow.

Here’s Shapiro’s take on it.

“EMDR is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach that is compatible with all contemporary theoretical orientations. Internationally recognized as a frontline trauma treatment, it is also applicable to a broad range of clinical issues. As a distinct form of psychotherapy, the treatment emphasis is placed on directly processing the neurophysiologically stored memories of events that set the foundation for pathology and health.

The adaptive information processing model that governs EMDR practice invites the therapist to address the overall clinical picture that includes the past experiences that contribute to a client’s current difficulties, the present events that trigger maladaptive responses, and to develop more adaptive neural networks of memory in order to enhance positive responses in the future.

While clinicians from the various psychological modalities agree on the symptomatology of the well-known disorders, their ways of conceptualizing and treating them differ as a result of the specific theoretical paradigm to which they adhere (Barlow et al. 2005). For EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing), this paradigm entails the view that psychopathology is based on memories of earlier disturbing experiences that have been incompletely processed by the brain’s inherent information processing system.

Incomplete processing means that a disturbing event has been stored in memory as it was originally experienced with the emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs fundamentally unchanged. Regardless of how much time has elapsed or whether the person remembers it, the memory remains unaltered and provides the basis of current responses and behaviors.

Most mental health professionals would agree that current clinical issues are based at least in part, on previous life experiences. However, the hallmark of EMDR therapy is the emphasis on the physiologically stored memory as the primary foundation of pathology, and the application of specifically targeted information processing as the primary agent of change.

The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro 1995, 2001, 2002, 2007; Solomon and Shapiro 2008) guides the clinical application of EMDR…

EMDR’s three-pronged approach of past, present and future guides the clinician in identifying and processing, (1) the relevant past experiences that inform the client’s problems in the present; (2) the ongoing present experiences that continue to trigger maladaptive responses to current life demands; and, (3) templates of future actions to optimize the client’s capacity to respond adaptively given the current context of their lives. This article provides an overview of both the theory and practice of EMDR as a distinct integrative psychotherapy approach…

EMDR processing can eliminate the dysfunctional emotions and physical sensations inherent in the memory itself changing the client’s experience in the present. Similarly, the processing of pivotal memories has been reported to result in the normalization of attachment style in adults and children (Madrid et al. 2006; Kaslow et al. 2002; Wesselman 2007; Wesselmann and Potter 2009). It is important to emphasize that memories of even ubiquitous events appear to set the foundation for a wide range of pathologies…

… its overarching goal is to achieve an alteration of the underlying condition that is generating the dysfunctional response in the present as part of a comprehensive treatment effect. These outcomes are achieved by placing memory networks and information processing at the center of both treatment and practice.

Adaptive Information Processing Model

The theoretical foundation for the therapeutic application of EMDR is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model developed by Shapiro (1995, 2001, 2002, 2007)…

According to this model, and consistent with neurobiological findings, one identifies and makes sense of new experiences within the context of existing memory networks. In addition, the information processing system functions to move disturbances to a level of adaptive resolution. What is useful is incorporated, what is useless is discarded, and the event serves to guide the person appropriately in the future…

when an event is not fully processed, the experience remains stored in memory with the emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs that were part of the original event. As a result, the memory is not integrated with other memories that were successfully processed. Consequently, when a similar experience occurs in the future, perhaps involving an authority figure like an insulting teacher, it triggers the unprocessed memory, which then automatically colors the perception of the present experience.

When clients seek psychotherapy for current problems in their lives, they are often focused on their symptoms as the problem. Consequently, the clinician wants to understand what the client is actually experiencing in the present, i.e., negative thoughts and feelings, uncomfortable body sensations that are out of proportion to the situations that are triggering the negative responses. Additionally, similar to other approaches such as psychodynamic therapy, the EMDR clinician seeks to identify the relevant past experiences that are perpetuating the maladaptive patterns of response, resulting in the client’s clinical complaints. According to the AIP model, the pathology is not driven by the person’s reaction (e.g., belief, emotion) to the past event as is postulated in cognitive-behavioral approaches. Rather, the reaction itself is informed by the responses and/or perceptions inherent within a dysfunctionally stored memory or network of memories that are disconnected from networks containing adaptive information.

…Clients are often relieved to understand that their problems have a neurobiological basis, as well as the universality of their human experience as a counterpoint to the common belief that they ‘‘should have’’ been able to resolve their problems on their own. We suggest that the presence of these unmetabolized components of memory explains why clients will often describe their childhood traumas in the same kind of language and intonation they used when the event occurred, and demonstrate the emotions, postures and beliefs consistent with that developmental stage. They do not merely describe the feelings of shame and helplessness of the past, but actually experience these emotions and physical sensations in the present.

These unmetabolized components of memory are accessed in a systematic way during EMDR processing. The targeted memory that is ‘‘frozen’’ in time becomes ‘‘unfrozen,’’ and new associations are made with previously disconnected adaptive information related to survival, positive experiences, and one’s sense of identity…

…processing allows an unpeeling of the veil to reveal and then resolve the core emotional source of the imagery (Shapiro 2001; Wachtel 2002). As this assimilation occurs, new insights and emotions emerge and the earlier affect states and perceptions are generally discarded. With the foundation of the fully processed memory, clients are no longer subject to the same emotional volatility, distorted perceptions and intense somatic responses, and instead experience a new sense of self that is congruent with their current life situation…

The client’s experience is more informed by the present, allowing for greater flexibility in their reactions, thus increasing the likelihood of developing more adaptive patterns of response that are informed by the current context of their lives…

In addition, new memories can be successfully incorporated as the therapist assists clients to acquire the social learning necessary to fill in their developmental deficits. However, until the processing of the earlier memories is complete, the dysfunctional neural storage will hamper the desired personal growth…

While specific stabilization and affect regulation techniques may be effective and highly desirable in many cases (Schore 2003), the instability is often caused by the unprocessed memories that are contributing to the dysfunction.

The overall goal of EMDR, therefore, is to address the current problems of daily living by accessing the dysfunctionally stored memories that are being triggered by the client’s current life conditions, and engage the natural neural processes by which these memories are transmuted into appropriately stored memories (Shapiro 1995, 2001, 2007; Shapiro et al. 2007; Siegel 2002; Stickgold 2002, 2008; van der Kolk 2002). The end result is an assimilation of the new information into extant memory structures. When this has occurred, individuals discover that, while they are able to verbalize the event and what they have learned from it, they no longer experience the associated negative affects and physical sensations. It is this rapid form of learning (i.e., reprocessing) that is the essence of EMDR treatment.

If you link to this reference below it contains a case study of EMDR in practice.


  1. Shapiro, F., & Laliotis, D. (2011). EMDR and the adaptive information processing model: Integrative treatment and case conceptualization. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(2), 191-200.

Simplifying the Complex?



Well I have booked my first two EMDR counselling sessions for next week and the week after. I also spoke with my counsellor who seemed a lovely, capable person.

We needed to differentiate in our conversation about suffering from PTSD and Complex PTSD.

I suffer from C-PTSD although I also fulfill the symptoms of PTSD as do the vast majority of those who suffer C-PTSD.

“The current PTSD diagnosis often does not fully capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with prolonged, repeated trauma. People who experience chronic trauma often report additional symptoms alongside formal PTSD symptoms, such as changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events.

Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggests that a new diagnosis, Complex PTSD, is needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma (1).

Another name sometimes used to describe the cluster of symptoms referred to as Complex PTSD is Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS) (2). A work group has also proposed a diagnosis of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) for children and adolescents who experience chronic traumatic events (3).

Because results from the DSM-IV Field Trials indicated that 92% of individuals with Complex PTSD/DESNOS also met diagnostic criteria for PTSD, Complex PTSD was not added as a separate diagnosis classification (4). However, cases that involve prolonged, repeated trauma may indicate a need for special treatment considerations.

What additional symptoms are seen in Complex PTSD?

An individual who experienced a prolonged period (months to years) of chronic victimization and total control by another may also experience the following difficulties:

  • Emotional Regulation. May include persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, explosive anger, or inhibited anger.
  • Consciousness. Includes forgetting traumatic events, reliving traumatic events, or having episodes in which one feels detached from one’s mental processes or body (dissociation).
  • Self-Perception. May include helplessness, shame, guilt, stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings.
  • Distorted Perceptions of the Perpetrator. Examples include attributing total power to the perpetrator, becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, or preoccupied with revenge.
  • Relations with Others. Examples include isolation, distrust, or a repeated search for a rescuer.
  • One’s System of Meanings. May include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.

What other difficulties are faced by those who experienced chronic trauma?

Because people who experience chronic trauma often have additional symptoms not included in the PTSD diagnosis, clinicians may misdiagnose PTSD or only diagnose a personality disorder consistent with some symptoms, such as Borderline Disorder.”

I mention these points because I have found that my wife, who has PTSD, reacts in very different ways to me and has different symptoms although I have PTSD as well as part of my C-PTSD.

I have a history, for example, of disassociating when very very distressed or angry which is linked to C-PTSD not PTSD. It is a maladaptive survival strategy and coping mechanism from childhood which is not longer required today. It once allowed me to abruptly distance myself from emotional turmoil. To cut myself off from what was happening around me, as if it wasn’t happening. This is often done in the face of extreme trauma/abuse.

I have other symptoms different from my wife too.

If you have been following this blogsite you will have appreciated some of my constant subject areas such as insecure attachment, co-dependency, emotional dysregulation, negative self schemata, and emotion processing deficits.

It appears that much of this actually comes under the umbrella diagnostic criterion of C-PTSD. This is actually a good thing as I can seek treatment for much of the difficulties of my past at the same time. It may and probably will take longer than your average PTSD therapy but I am hoping it will be worth it.

“Cook and others describe symptoms and behavioural characteristics in seven domains:[13][14]

  • Attachment – “problems with relationship boundaries, lack of trust, social isolation, difficulty perceiving and responding to other’s emotional states, and lack of empathy”
  • Biology – “sensory-motor developmental dysfunction, sensory-integration difficulties, somatization, and increased medical problems”
  • Affect or emotional regulation – “poor affect regulation, difficulty identifying and expressing emotions and internal states, and difficulties communicating needs, wants, and wishes”
  • Dissociation – “amnesia, depersonalization, discrete states of consciousness with discrete memories, affect, and functioning, and impaired memory for state-based events”
  • Behavioural control – “problems with impulse control, aggression, pathological self-soothing, and sleep problems
  • Cognition – “difficulty regulating attention, problems with a variety of “executive functions” such as planning, judgement, initiation, use of materials, and self-monitoring, difficulty processing new information, difficulty focusing and completing tasks, poor object constancy, problems with “cause-effect” thinking, and language developmental problems such as a gap between receptive and expressive communication abilities.”
  • Self-concept – “fragmented and disconnected autobiographical narrative, disturbed body image, low self-esteem, excessive shame, and negative internal working models of self”.

Adults with C-PTSD have sometimes experienced prolonged interpersonal traumatization as children as well as prolonged trauma as adults. This early injury interrupts the development of a robust sense of self and of others. Because physical and emotional pain or neglect was often inflicted by attachment figures such as caregivers or older siblings, these individuals may develop a sense that they are fundamentally flawed and that others cannot be relied upon.[7][15]

This can become a pervasive way of relating to others in adult life described as insecure attachment. The diagnosis of …PTSD do not include insecure attachment as a symptom. Individuals with Complex PTSD also demonstrate lasting personality disturbances with a significant risk of revictimization.[16]

Six clusters of symptoms have been suggested for diagnosis of C-PTSD.[5][17] These are (1) alterations in regulation of affect and impulses; (2) alterations in attention or consciousness; (3) alterations in self-perception; (4) alterations in relations with others; (5) somatization, and (6) alterations in systems of meaning.[17]

Experiences in these areas may include:[4][18][19]

  • Variations in consciousness, including forgetting traumatic events (i.e., psychogenic amnesia), reliving experiences (either in the form of intrusive PTSD symptoms or in ruminative preoccupation), or having episodes of dissociation.
  • Changes in self-perception, such as a chronic and pervasive sense of helplessness, paralysis of initiative, shame, guilt, self-blame, a sense of defilement or stigma, and a sense of being completely different from other human beings
  • Varied changes in the perception of the perpetrator, such as attributing total power to the perpetrator (caution: victim’s assessment of power realities may be more realistic than clinician’s), becoming preoccupied with the relationship to the perpetrator, including a preoccupation with revenge, idealization or paradoxical gratitude, a sense of a special relationship with the perpetrator or acceptance of the perpetrator’s belief system or rationalizations.
  • Alterations in relations with others, including isolation and withdrawal, persistent distrust, a repeated search for a rescuer, disruption in intimate relationships and repeated failures of self-protection.
  • Loss of, or changes in, one’s system of meanings, which may include a loss of sustaining faith or a sense of hopelessness and despair.”


As I research C-PTSD it seems this disorder describes many of my symptoms and behaviours very accurately and there is also reportedly a high co-occurrence with C-PTSD and alcoholism and addiction.

I will be interested in how it “treats” my addictive behaviours too as I believe much of these addictive behaviours were borne out on childhood traumas and abuse.

In other words, the symptoms of C-PTSD and other related areas like attachment, co-dependency, abuse, maltreatment, neglect and other adverse circumstances appear to affect the human brain in similar ways and each contribute to an increase in addiction severity.

I wonder in some ways if I will be treating the “roots of all my troubles” in more ways than one.

I will keep you posted as best I can. It will no doubt be painful at times. I am glad to have made start anyway.

I will post before the first two sessions are done of the following areas

What is EMDR?

Treating C-PTSD with EMDR?

How does EMDR work?


Until then?





Original Link


  1. Herman, J. (1997). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Ford, J. D. (1999). Disorders of extreme stress following war-zone military trauma: Associated features of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder or comorbid but distinct syndromes? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67, 3-12.
  3. van der Kolk, B. (2005). Developmental trauma disorder. Psychiatric Annals, 35(5), 401-408.
  4. Roth, S., Newman, E., Pelcovitz, D., van der Kolk, B., & Mandel, F. S. (1997). Complex PTSD in victims exposed to sexual and physical abuse: Results from the DSM-IV field trial for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 539-555.


Here’s to 2016! But First, 2015 In Review

We had three times as many views this year as it 2014!!

2015 was a funny old year for this blogsite.

I decided to change the personality of this blogsite from academic to more personal, from explaining the condition of addiction to personally describing how recovery has been and is for me. How my addictive behaviours affect me and what they have been borne out of, e.g. post trauma.

I have tried to write more in the language of the heart to connect on a more emotional, spiritual and psychological level. I also spent a period writing for newcomers and their families.

Next year, 2016, will see a greater immersion into the personal, with a step into treatment for trauma which I have had to delay for two months or so due to professional commitments.

This can be delayed no longer although the thought of treatment for PTSD makes my guts flip over just thinking about it. It has been creating an undercurrent of distress for months now.

It needs to be done and will be – join me as I write about this therapeutic process.

I believe my addictive behaviours, of which I suffer a wide variety, stem from a combination of my genetic inheritance and the fertile ground of childhood trauma.

Genes can be altered in life via behaviours and the multitude of maladaptive behaviours I inherited as a result of my childhood can be re-learnt via treatment too I believe.

I believe my addictive behaviours grew out of the combination of these maladaptive behaviours, the emotion dysfunction of a dysfunctional family and the persistent negative self schemata I have ingrained in my mind since childhood.

For years in recovery I thought my “alcoholism talked to me” like a ghostly entity in my brain  and that was it. I have continually discovered that the negative voices in my head are in fact mainly the discordant echoing voices of others from my past. These have shaped my life and my addictions.

I learnt these views of me, thus I can unlearn them.

Trauma is the source of my  addictive behaviours and my ongoing negative self schemata. I believe these can be changed to more realistic, positive self talking by going back to the source, re-experiencing it and reprocessing it in my long term memory to create a new self schema.

Unfortunately, or tragically, the legacy of our pasts lives on in the neural networks of our brains until these are re-addressed. The behaviours I needed to survive a traumatic upbringing are no longer required, they have way outlived their usefulness.

I need  a reboot.

What I learnt and was told lives on but does not need to live on too much longer. It has taken nearly a decade of recovery to be ready for this next journey in my recovery. I now feel ready for it.

Much of my profound condition of addictive behaviours is based on an inherent emotional immaturity that life experience has helped create, an arrested development in my emotional development.

I was not allowed to mature properly, to grow up.

I “grew up” too quickly without actually having had a maturing emotionally.

In 2016 I will attempt to continue to “grow up”. It doesn’t sound as good as recovery from my spiritual malady but it seems more real.

And being real and realistic have never been my strongest points!

There are basic and interesting things I want to achieve in 2016.

Like other people I look forward to 2016. For the first time, I look forward to the next stage in my journey of discovery, in the next stages of this second chance at life, which is what it is.

I am very very grateful for this second chance at life. I also appreciate that I have a progressive illness and as a result my recovery has to continue to progress also.

Thank you to all of lovely people who visit, read, like and even comment on this blogsite. Due to time constraints I have not been able to check out other blogs as much as I would like but this will change in 2016.

Happy New Year everyone, keep safe! See you in 2016.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 35,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Hi everyone and thanks for reading my blogs this year. We were getting deep into trauma and co-dependency and then life took over. I ended up on television and then I found out that my anonymous self will be having paper published in an academic journal in January 2016 (the first of many hopefully)!

So I have been having a period of self actualisation which seems to have helped lots with my mental state. I feel strangely less neurotic, more fulfilled and whole and have become much more easy going.

I never thought being published with have such a profound affect.

All my life I have struggled to be heard. Growing up in such a dysfunctional family meant that I often felt unheard, dismissed and emotionally muted.

I now feel that internal voice has now begun to be heard.

I still plan to go into EMDR treatment early January to process the emotional trauma from my childhood.

2016 holds much promise.

All given to me by recovery.

I am so grateful, so so grateful for my recovery that I can’t express it in words.

In four days time i celebrate my tenth year in recovery. Thank God!

God Bless you over this festive period, often a tough period for alcoholcs in recovery.

Surround yourself with those who understand and can support you, that is my solution to this alcohol fueled period of the year.

It is a time for haves rather than have-nots and self pity can often seep into my mind. This year it has been replaced big time with gratitude.

Every moment of every day is precious. It is just realising that. It takes time to realise it takes time.

“We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.”


The Promises. (From pages 83-84 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous).


Have a great one!

Santa is almost ready! Have a lovely and merry Christmas everyone!




My Name Is…And I’m An Alcoholic


My Name Is… And I’m An Alcoholic

1 × 60mins for C5, TX January 13th 2016, 10pm

In a country awash with booze, 8 million Britons are considered alcohol dependent – and all of us know someone whose affection for the bottle is damaging to their health, their friends and family, their careers. In this groundbreaking documentary, My Name is… And I’m an Alcoholic tells the frank story of 8 people and their tempestuous relationship with alcohol: from their first drink, their love affair with booze and their despair as they hit rock bottom – to what it took to get sober as they built a new life in recovery.

Alcohol is society’s great leveller – alcoholism doesn’t care about where we come from, where we live, or how successful we are. Far from obeying the stereotype we all imagine, the alcoholics we hear from include a professional cellist, too stressed to play on stage without a bottle of vodka disguised as water at her feet; the former Editor of the Sun, too anxious to run Britain’s biggest newspaper without being bolstered by booze; a single mother, drinking through her loneliness and her shame at her failed marriage; a criminal who became alcoholic aged 13, grieving the loss of his mother; a local GP drinking to escape the problems of her patients, and a student counsellor who relapsed just days before filming.

As much a story of the struggle as it is one of hope, this sensitive and resonant film takes us straight into the heart of one of society’s most prevalent and misunderstood addictions.

MY NAME IS… AND I’M AN ALCOHOLIC – promo from Knickerbockerglory TV on Vimeo.


Acceptance is Always the Key!

acceptance 12311303_828542240604643_2357851135095776878_n

Glad to see other people have the same markings on their Big Book too! I have the same fluorescent yellow marker pen scrolls and deep pen lines across the page and under the words.

I was so desperate not to let a word go by, and to understand everything the Big Book of AA has to teach about alcoholism and the solution to it that I tied my developing understanding to the pages with yellow and black ink lines. Often returning to also add these #s and to note well, NB!

Every time I read it I got new understanding. The longer I have gone on in recovery the more I have seen and understood.

Reading the BB over the years help me see how my brain is recovering as I see things more clearly with every passing years. It reminds me of previous times when I have read it, gives me a memory snapshot of where I was at in previous periods of recovery. What I used to think and feel compared to what i think and feel now. What I agreed with then and what I disagree with now.

How I have healed.

It is strange how I see other things, not underlined, as gaining more in importance as recovery goes on.

This excerpt above is from a “share” or a personal story at the back of the Big Book. The story is known by two names, “Doctor, Alcoholic, Addict” or “Acceptance was the Answer” depending on which edition you bought.

It is referred to so often in meetings that it is almost a supplement to the first 164 pages.  It has common sense words of wisdom which can greatly help with your recovery – I keep returning to it over and over again.

Here is a link to it, have a read and hopefully it will help you in the same profound way it helped me and millions of others!

It is the last story in this section –

Here he is speaking at an AA convention. I have found these “shares” crucial to my own recovery in terms of  identifying with other other recovering alcoholics.

It is in listening to their shares that I could see that I am like these people and they act in a way I do, feel in a way I do, think and make decisions in a way I do and even have had experiences throughout their lives and drinking careers which are also so like mine so I guess I figured that  I must be a sort of alcoholic like all these people.

Maybe I was an alcoholic too!?


The journey in recovery often starts with identifying with others, their problems and how they have solved their problems.

I hope it does for you too!

My very first meeting I identified with the AAs talking about how difficult they found living life on life’s terms, their emotional disease etc. It was this that convinced me I was like them. Not the drinking or drugging, but the internal spiritual malady, the ISM that goes with the alcohol to create alcoholism.

Identifying with others like me, saved my life and is the reason I have been recovery ten years.

You are not alone.

It Works, If You Work It!?

 step photo-201

One of this blog’s  original purposes was to inform newcomers to recovery, and their loved ones, what to expect in mainly (but not exclusively) 12 step recovery groups, with the hope that this might help in taking the first crucial step towards recovery.

Not only recovery from alcoholism, addiction or other addictive behaviours but also from codependency, co-alcoholism which loved ones often suffer from too.

In recent weeks we have taken detours to examine other co-morbid or co-occurring conditions which contribute to severity of addictive disorders. Here we return for now to our original intention – to pass on what we have been freely given.

To pass on how you can recover form addictive behaviours and the evidence of the success of 12 step groups in this pursuit.

This interview below is from a expert into the Psychology of Recovery in 12 steps and other treatment modalities like CBT and Motivational Enhancement. His name is Joseph Nowinsky Ph.D.

The language of the interview is not too academic. In fact, it uses pretty straight forward language to explain clearly what happens in 12 step groups and what are the main ingredients in successful long term recovery. 

I have found myself that whatever I put into my recovery I got back in terms of improved emotional well being.

If you put the work in, you will recover just like me.

That is the message of Hope. If you want recovery bad enough, the chances are, you will recover.

This academic and therapist explains why this is the case, citing numerous academic studies which seem to be in line with the experiential and anecdotal wisdom handed down to me via 12 step recovery groups.

It kinda shores on what is known in these groups which is great as it helps dispel any existing doubt about their effectiveness.

Earlier this year, his new book looked at 12 Step outcomes. It’s called, If You Work It It Works! The Science Behind 12 Step Recovery . It is a jargon-free look at how, 12 Step modality help alcoholics/addicts.
Recently a growing chorus of critics has questioned the science behind this model. In this book, Dr. Joseph Nowinski calls upon the latest research, as well as his own seminal Project MATCH study, to show why systematically working a Twelve Step program yields predictable and successful outcomes.
He discusses these in this interview.

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The Voice of Unreason


That Self Assassin!


Here we are again at the start of a new week.

I run a business and things have become a bit hectic and busy so I have had less time to write.

It is stressing and I have to say, at times, distressing as much of the work I have been doing is promoting artists and via that promoting myself as an agent and creative director.

I have real issues with “presenting” myself.  Not promoting my work rather “exposing” myself to the wider world.

I don’t mind showing other people my writing, academic or personal, but I do not like actually putting me on public display. I can only suppose it too goes back to my childhood, some humiliating episodes in childhood or simply having a rampant low self esteem as a result of my upbringing?

The irony is that I can also be a terrible “show off” in public too?

I swing, as always between two extremes. Sound familiar?

Both, however, are maladaptive behaviours and both are both “needy”.

One is shame based and the other a release from feelings of shame, both are strangely inappropriate although I have to admit to really enjoying the showing off stuff.

Some days,  my self loathing can be quite intense.

I have been building an art gallery in my home which is hard work physically, mentally and emotionally and I noticed that I have actually started shouting abusive things at myself!

It at times, it is like having a “self directed Tourette’s Syndrome”!

All I get some times “is “You’re useless” “always screwing up!”  “You stupid arsehole” etc.

Reading this now it is almost comical in the way that hearing people with Tourette’s is almost comical.

You know you should not laugh as it is an incredibly debilitating condition but it is still funny however hard you try to stop laughing. It is a bit like laughing in Chapel as a child when you know you shouldn’t but that makes it worse and eventually you have to escorted from the building.

The main difference is that self-directed Tourette-type abuse is not funny in the remotest and like Tourette’s it can be very distressing and depressing.

I know one guy in recovery who was so chronically ill with alcoholism, addiction, PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder that he used to openly shout at himself in public like when on public buses and trains.

I have not got that bad but my neighbours can hear me for sure. I shout these things to myself so loudly that they surely hear them through the walls.

I have no doubt I alarm the neighbours on both sides of my house? Especially the student neighbours who do not know me, whereas my other neighbours have known me for nearly 15 years. They know my mad ways by now.

Although none of this is in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it is something I suffer from.  It is based on being distressed. I do not mean anguished but it often leads to this. Distress is that feeling of being not able to control things, being out of one’s comfort zone although I find this has been the case throughout my recovery. It also involves element of catastrophic thinking, frustration intolerance etc. I also was quite exhausted doing all this manual work so my ability to inhibit negative responses, self talk  and behaviours is lessened.

I am often out,  or put myself outside, of my comfort zone.

I am such a fear based person that there is a lot outside my comfort zone. Getting a job etc have all been extremely emotionally taxing. Getting as far as PhD was immensely taxing. Running my own business, building galleries while project managing a building crew was taxing, organising and hosting art exhibitions are all out there in the world of “not quite being in control”.

But I do them with God’s help and the support of others.

This is recovery to me – facing fear and recovering – FEAR. Fear is where  our illness lives and having faith that things will work out is where recovery is.

The more we face our fears the more we grow, in recovery. And grow up too, become more mature and less needy, dependent on others.

Being dependent is different from needing assistance from. I allow people to help me help myself, this is different to relying on others to do stuff for me.

So what’s with the Tourette’s then?

I on occasion can not help myself. I utter the insults to me and myself  automatically without  any conscious deliberation. They just come flying out!! They are responses to myself that are somehow ingrained in a self schema which, when distressed, is activated and the insults and self loathing come flying out.

So what’s the problem – what is making me distressed? this is the first port of call in recovery. Taking my own inventory.

There are a number of things going on here.

First I live beside University students how had a party the other night which was so loud that, after repeated attempts to ask them to stop, in the early hours of the morning we were forced to call the police. This sets up catastrophic thinking that they will continue and continue partying forever…!! I will NEVER sleep again!!

I will die from lack of sleep, go even more crazy, turn into a serial killer, go on a wild killing spree etc.


This has led to us, and me in particular, feeling that our security has been threatened. The problem with living near students is that they can wake you from your sleep at any time which is greatly annoying and distressing, a couple of nights sleep deprived and I am wired! It is not for nothing that torturers use sleep deprivation techniques!

This has also fed into a  deep sense of shame. Why do I live besides students, a genius like me!?

Why haven’t I done better with my life (ignoring the multitude of near fatal conditions I suffer from of course) -shame leads to bruised pride and self pity, poor poor me.

I should have done better than this!!? God haven’t I been through enough already, Jeez I am running out of disorders to suffer from here!?

All this morass of self pitying was not helped by one of the students shouting at me, in this distress, very loudly in the middle of the street “Well if you CHOOSE to live in a STUDENT area what do you expect!!?”

I chose to live in a residential area surely? Now increasingly invaded by students who live here tax free in HMO properties owned by fat cat landlords who also do not pay any council tax. Essentially I am paying for their services and their right to abuse me in the street.

Every year this threatens to occur this scenario of students behaving immaturely and selfishly. It can wear you down after a while.

Hence Ia recurrence of my self pity syndrome.

So there you have it, people say negative shaming things and part of me goes, “hey I think  you’re right”?


My conscious mind doesn’t come to my aid and rebuke this nonsense – at best it sulks and at worse it joins in with the insults. Nice one mind, you’re a Pal!

There is no reasonable retort stating that the reasons I live here are varied, it is a superb location beside two parks, five minutes from a beach etc, it is a four story house with an amazing view etc

No acknowledgement of the fact my various conditions and disorders have kinda gotten in the way  of a good living and hence I do not live in a superb detached house overlooking a beach.

I respond habitually, in  fight or flight way as usual.  Sometimes I fight with them sometimes I join in with them and fight myself.

On top of this stress, my wife, a professional best selling artist, was featured in various National newspapers  which was a great bit of promotional publicity.  She also discussed the PTSD which she suffers too and how art is a therapy for that condition also. This unconsciously made me feel exposed as I was mentioned in the article too.

Later this week we are also being interviewed for one of main national and international television companies about my wife’s work. This is mildly terrifying and seems to have added to this unconscious feeling of being exposed.

In addition I  am organising two  art exhibitions which will be occurring in two and three weeks time respectively!

So I am very busy but that is not the main issue. The main issue is that I am both feeling exposed and feeling that the world will see that I am a fraud, not good enough, a failure, they will see through me, through my mask and see that I am no good.

I will be exposed and found out!

And the proof of this?

Of me being a failure?

I have done major renovations to my home in the last year or so, built two art galleries, ran my own business, helped turn  my wife into a best selling artist, internationally as well a nationally. I write and am currently in the process of trying to get two theoretical academic articles published with my co-authors who happen to be the two internationally esteemed and renowned academics and Professors I work with here in The UK. But still I feel rubbish.

Whatever I do is not quite good enough.

Or rather that voice inside, the one I often mistake for my own n says I am not good enough, defective, rubbish etc

This critical self, the self saboteur in extremis is a hell of foe.

Whatever good I do his voice says the opposite. The chronic malcontent. Especially when He thinks we are going to be “exposed” in some way?

Where the hell did this voice of my self assassin come from?

All this is made worse by the fact i have been in recovery a decade and still I get the  awful news about myself in my head, especially when distressed.

I want to add that I can deal with lots of stress, but distressed in slightly different in that it the result of negative emotions about me and typically in relation to some form of social interaction. It is a toxic shame in action, shouting it’s mouth off.

I cannot help myself sometimes!

In other words I sometimes have an impaired ability to self regulate, an impaired ability to relate to myself, to look after myself. I wasn’t taught this as a a child so my ability to relate to myself in a helpful, adaptive, healthy way is impaired.

This is what I think co-dependency is – we grew up trying to “perfectly” control “out there” because it was so threatening and did not how to learn to relate to ourself in a healthy way.

Instead of helping myself out, I make the situation worse when distressed. I become part of the problem instead of helping to find the solution.

Instead of myself helping myself to achieve a goal, my critical self makes the situation a whole lot worse. It adds negative critique, instead of positive suggestion, it  says I will fail because I am a failure at this, whatever that is.

So where the hell does this stuff come from?

Why does my internal critical self come from and why does it appears to loathe my so!?

I don’t loathe me, I can see my successes and qualities although have difficulty integrating this information in a self biography or curriculum vitae, or self schema – I struggle to internalise the good stuff at depth I guess. There are forces are work obstructing this process some opposing, concurrent schema of sorts.

I have more difficulty  believing my good press and readily accept my own bad press. With my my bad press I can kinda go , “Yeah, your’re right I’ve always been like that!”

When I first came into recovery  for my chronic alcoholism I thought these voices, previously silenced by the chronic consumption of drugs and alcohol were the voice of my “alcoholism ” but I did not realise until recent times that these voices  employed my alcoholism and addiction as sub- contractors to kill me.

They were separate from these conditions. These voices are of my initial condition which developed into later alcoholism and addiction.

They are the fertile ground where my addictive behaviours grew.

In the book Healing the Child Within, Charles Whitfield calls them repetitive compulsive behaviours.

It is not difficult at times to see my voices as being similar to those in other obsessive compulsive disorders.

Our thoughts are not our friends?

I have a mental disorder called PTSD,  called addiction, called  alcoholism, called co-dependency disorder, called child mistreatment disorder?

They are all separate but they are all the same as they have canalized into the same internal assassin.

In the early months of recovery from alcoholism and addiction this internal critique just wanted me to drink and die, now it just wants me to suffer by using the same pain inducing coping mechanism as before.

I may sound dramatic but when one realises that one’s self, not just the addiction, wants them to stop doing what is good for them then one is doing pretty well in their recovery.

This is why the recovery self is outside the selfish self.

We need help outside of ourselves, we need to help others outside of the self because the self has become disordered, as Bill Wilson would say “bankrupt”.

The self regulation networks in the brain are so impaired they are not in the service of our survival any more.

Certain views about myself, given to me not by my choice, not as the result of a feedback about my performance, my abilities, my characteristics, my personality, my strengths, not by how much I love others and help others…none of these seem to be in a positive feedback loop to me, updating me on how I’m getting on.

Instead they are certain views about myself ingrained in my brain and hence in my habitual responding to me which were implanted in my head, heart and mind by others, these are what gets amplified in these internal critical voices.

I have had them injected into my soul by the behaviours, reactions, words, actions and manipulations of others. As I loved these people deeply and could never countenance they were not looking after me, loving me, I  simply choose to believe what was input into my mind completely. I chose to believe it was not their fault, it WAS MINE!

This all happened because of me, because I am no good.

My co-dependent disorder is a multitude of of attitudes about me in relation to others and to the outside world which are so unhealthy and maladaptive that they endanger my very own well being. All inherited from those I loved most.

My co-dependency is an impaired relationship with me, myself and I.

Survival mechanisms learnt in childhood now threaten me and my well being.

I just read a pamphlet called the 12 signs of spiritual awakening, most of which I have experienced. But I am not always experiencing them.

The absolutist tone of these things make me angry in some way. The seem really idealistic which is another result of co-dependency. They also seem full of denial.

I find it destructive to float around denying what is going on really, with me. I don’t find much of this “spiritual stuff” real.

Isn’t simply handing over everything to God sometimes  a denial of how we are really feeling?

Isn’t it better, in order to help others, to simply share and discuss with a trusted other how one is really feeling, to learn to cope with it, internalise and process it so that one ultimately,  through time, learns how to deal with and regulate negative emotions rather than passing them all upstairs to God to sort out?

Doesn’t God ultimately want you to be the fullest of yourself, to become the real you, the real me?

This is what it ultimately  comes down to,  becoming REAL.

Not the false, critical, self defeating, lying or inauthentic self. Not saying I am “spiritual  just because we pass everything upstairs  and not doing the work ourselves, not actually dealing with any real issues that we are having.

I know spiritual people who are completely unaware they suffer from PTSD, completely unaware they are close to psychopathic rages and are a danger to themselves and others, that they are run away trains in other’s lives. They smile when I suggest so, because they have had a spiritual awakening and they are “spiritual” man. They have had the type of spiritual awakening that somehow has not led to an emotional catharsis?

Spiritual is being real, authentic. Being the thing which is most difficult  for us, Being Real.

Here I am warts and all.

To be the real self in God is my ambition but it can be very emotionally painful.

God goes deep as it says in the Big Book but if is deep through many layers of the onion, and the peeling of each layer can bring many tears but the tears are healing, they are reservoirs of hurt, caused by a multitude of woundings in our childhoods.

That’s the case with me anyways.

My internal critique never stops me writing this stuff. Funny that. I am dealing with my distress and I am also telling His story too. It does not have a problem with the truth but worried about the consequences of being truthful.

Anyway, I hadn’t intended writing any of that either.

I was leading up to a bit in the book where it discusses being brought up in a family which can be called a “what will other people think” family – where the family pulls off the “perfect family” routine in public but are very different in private.

Mine was like this.

One woman, Cathy describes her experience and it was one I really related to, perhaps you will too?

She talked of always having a “feeling of preparing for”,  learning early to try to bottle tensions by anticipating what needed to be done next to make it easier for her mom.

“I consciously worked at not needing anything from anyone again to hopefully cut down on some of my stress.”

She talks of her mother and “taking care” of her by not being a bother… by anticipating how she would want me to be.

“For most of my adult life, I have wavered between pleasing her and being very rebellious around her wishes for me.”

“…my adult life became mere survival. I didn’t have capacity to…maintain relationships. I moved out on room mates. I left jobs after I had personality problems with bosses…”

” I wanted people  to think I had it all together and didn’t need anything from anyone but inside I was so needy that whenever I did have a friend I expected to be fulfilled from that one person.”

In recovery from eating disorder…” for the first 6 months I didn’t feel any emotions or at least I couldn’t identify any.!

In time…”I was slowly getting a growing sense of self esteem from real, honest interactions… acknowledging that I have feelings, to identifying them and finally expressing them to be able to feel my healing.”

…”telling the truth has been .. incredibly freeing for me…being honest with myself has been the core of recovering ..

“…I came into recovery with no sense of self…it takes time to even get an inkling that I have a right to be myself.

I relate to Cathy so much in some many ways we might have come from the same family.

Most of the the self abuse I am on the receiving end from myself  of comes from actual abuse experienced in childhood.

“child abuse is common in all sorts of troubled families. (some) forms of abuse are more difficult to recognise as abusive…mild to moderate physical abuse, covert or less obvious sexual abuse, mental and emotional abuse, child neglect, and ignoring or thwarting the child’s spiritual growth.”

My mother would often use God in her abuse. When I was “naughty” she would tell me how God was also very displeased, and upset with me too!  If I upset my mother I was upsetting the whole Catholic Church!

All the angels and saints and you my brothers and sisters, pray for me… they were all looking on at me in my shame and guilt. When I was bad the universe open it’s clouds so that the celestial forces could shake their heads in disappointment as they peered down at me in my shame and guilt.

Upsetting my mother was like upsetting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus

It was difficult in recovery when I heard that I had to choose a God of my understanding because the God of my understanding couldn’t stand me!

Fortunately I was so ill by that stage it wasn’t really a choice at all.

In fact God came and got me (but that’s another story for another day) and took the choice factor out of the question. I would not have chosen God who bullied me as a kid.

I understood Him as a revengeful and disapproving God, in cahoots with my mommie dearest.  I still think today that God is adding up all my sins for the final chit chat at the pearly gates.

Not the God I know today. The opposite in fact.

According to this book there are also 7 commonalities or parental conditions which exist in stifling the child within or to use stronger language to the “murder of the child’s soul”

These include inconsistency, unpredictability (both add up to crazy making”), arbitariness and chaos.

These in turn add up to promote a lack of trust or fear of abandonment


Many troubled families are inconsistent  through consistently denying feelings of many family members, …these function to control and shut down family and individual growth.


Family members learn that they can expect the unexpected at any time.

They usually live in chronic fear, as though “walking on eggshells” of when they will suffer their next trauma.


The arbitrariness means that no matter who the family member is or how hard they may try, the trouble person would still mistreat them in the same way. In a family where rules have not rhyme or reason the child loses trust in the rule setters and in himself…unable to understand the environment.


Chaos manifested in any of the following

  1. physical or emotional abuse which teaches the child shame, guilt, and “don’t feel”
  2. sexual abuse which teaches  the same plus fear of losing control.
  3. regular and repeated crisis which  teaches a  crisis  orientation in life.
  4. predictable closed communications which teaches “don’t talk” “don’t be real” and denial
  5. loss of control. which teaches obsession with being in control, which teaches obsession with being in control, and fusion and loss of boundaries or individuation.

The next time you hear that negative self loathing critcal internal voice try to catch yourself and say to yourself it is the echoing voice of a very troubled and distressed child. Imagine a seven year old tugging on your are for help, solace, reassurance.


in various forms can be subtle although damaging to the growth development and aliveness of the true self and includes…shaming, humiliating,degrading, inflicting guilt, criticising, disgracing, joking about, manipulating, deceiving, tricking, betraying, hurting, being cruel, threatening, inflicting fear, bullying, controlling, limiting, withdrawing or with holding love, not taking you seriously, discrediting, invalidating, misleading, disapproving, making light of or minimizing you feelings, breaking promises, raising hopes falsely, responding inconsistently or arbitrarily,

I get a lot of these in my critical self voices, they are the quiet indirect voice of my mother but sounding like me. The sound of my distressed self screaming rebounding his distress and blame onto me for things other people did.

Denial of feelings

troubled families tend to  deny feelings

where anger is chronic it often takes other forms eg abuse of self, or others.

reality is denied and a false belief system of reality is assumed as true…

this fantasy often binds the family together in a further dysfunctional way. This denial stifles and retards the child’s development and growth in the crucial mental, emotional and spiritual areas of life.

This is one of the main reasons why I am not close to my siblings today – I can no longer support  a shared, but false belief system about our “shared” upbringing. The denial they have about the past is the same denial that almost  killed me.

I was not in denial about my drinking, but I have been in ferocious denial about the thing that caused my difficulties and which still needs treatment.

My co-dependency.

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.

Starting Second Stage Recovery…


co dep images (45)

Identifying the problem.

Today we cite and paraphrase widely from the book  Co-Dependence:Healing the Human Condition  by Charles Whitfield.

I am aware of more recent work on Co-dependency which I will get to in time but I want to start with this book because it is clearly written and seems to know what it is on about.

What is Co-dependence?

“Co-dependence is a disease of lost  selfhood.

Co-dependents becomes so preoccupied with others that they neglect their True Self – who they really are.

…dysfunction…associated with… focusing on the needs and behaviour of others…we lost touch with what is inside us; our beliefs, thoughts, feelings…wants, needs. sensations, intuitions…part of an exquisite feedback system that we can call our inner life…our True Self.

…we learn to be co-dependent from others around us…Co-dependence is fundamentally about  disordered relationships.

…co-dependence comes from trying to protect our delicate True Self (Child Within) from what may appear to be insurmountable forces outside of ourselves…

…When our alive True Self goes into hiding, in order to please it’s parent figures and to survive, a false, co-dependent self emerges to take its place.

…We thus lose our awareness of our True Self…We lose contact with who we really are…

Gradually, we begin to think we are that false self…

Co-dependence…it the base out of which our other addictions and compulsions emerge…what runs them is twofold: a sense of shame that our true Self is somehow defective or inadequate, combined with the innate and healthy drive of our true Self to realize and express itself.”

Cardinal Characteristics

  1. It is learned and acquired
  2. it is developmental.
  3. It is outer focused.
  4. It is a disease of selfhood
  5. It has personal boundary distortions.
  6. It is a feeling disorder.
  7. It produces relationship difficulties with self and with others.
  8. It is primary.
  9. It is chronic.
  10. It is progressive.
  11. It is malignant.
  12. It is treatable.

Learned and Acquired

We develop co-dependence unconsciously and involuntarily. In it’s primary form, it begins with mistreatment or abuse to a vulnerable and innocent child by it’s environment, especially it’s family of origin…it appears to come about by the following process, which I call wounding.

The Process of Wounding

…this process is largely unconscious.

  1. Wounded themselves, the child’s parents feel inadequate, bad and unfulfilled.
  2. They project these feelings onto others, especially their spouse and their vulnerable children.
  3. In a need to stabilize the parent and to survive, the child denies that the parents are inadequate and bad and internalizes…the parent’s projected inadequacy and badness, plus a common fantasy: “If I’m really good and perfect, they will love me, and they won’t reject or abandon me.” The child idealizes the parents.
  4. Because of the above, the child’s vulnerable True Self is wounded so often defensively submerges (“splits off”) itself deep with the unconscious part of the psyche …the child goes into hiding.
  5.  The child takes in whatever else it is told…about others and stores it in its unconscious mind (mostly)…
  6. What it takes in are messages from major relationships. The mental representations of these relationships are called “objects”…laden by feelings and tend to occur in “part objects” (such as good parent, bad parent etc)
  7. The more self-destructive messages are deposited more often in the false self…( …the internal saboteur….negative ego …or internalized…rejecting or otherwise mistreating parent).
  8. A Tension Builds.  …negative ego attacks the True Self,  thus forcing it to stay submerged, keeping self esteem low. The child’s grieving of its losses and traumas is not supported…The outcome can be a developmental delay, arrest or failure.
  9. Some results include chronic emptiness, sadness and confusion, and often periodic explosions of self destructive…behavior – both impulsive and compulsive – …that allows some release of the tension and a glimpse of the true Self.
  10. …The person maintains a low self esteem and remains unhappy, yet wishes and seeks fulfillment. ..”

Most of the above would strike a cord with many alcoholics I think.

How undifferentiated emotion and feeling states lead to (distress based) impulsivity and compulsive behaviour and how we glimpsed and experienced True Self in additive behaviours.

I used to say in AA meetings that I became more me when I drank alcohol. I used to say to my wife that I drank primarily to get away from this (false) me.

The impulsive and compulsive behaviours began when I was a child, it was football, sugar, sweets, running way from home,  and then cigarettes, and then space invader games and gambling machines before I hit the the jack pot with alcohol, the “coming home to the real me” drug that provided the temporary relief form the tension of my divided self and made me connect with the thing I am most frightened of, people.

I entered AA like an infant who knew nothing about anything…I just had an intellect that was sure it knew everything about all there is to know. The battle was almost done. Then I surrendered.

This final  piece describes me when I finally got into recovery.

“arrested development”,…”failure to complete psychological autonomy”  and this is what 25 years of drinking was trying to hide.

Then it was time to get real!