You are Enough, We are Enough!

“The wounded healer” refers to us, who suffer greatly from shame, helping others via love, tolerance and understanding who also suffer greatly from shame.

We can help others and be helped because we all know what it is like to feel the chronic, toxic shame the drives addictive behaviours.

Our understanding of shame is not out of a book it is real, lived experience. We know how it can drive one into chronic addiction and we know how to recovery from the persistent effects of this shame.

The main thing that struck me when I first went to AA was a lack of judgement which was amazing considering I was very jaundiced at the time.

I was accepted in the group without  reservation. This greatly helped my damaged sense of belonging, my not feeling part of.

It made me feel that this is the place I need to be. Have always needed to be?

The “shares” or testimonies of other recovering people made we realise they suffered the same shame as me and had worked to overcome it via the steps, via having fellowships, people in their lives who understood and who helped them. They told me of their triumphs over their emotional difficulties, over their chronic lack of self esteem, over not feeling good enough, of feeling less than.

A failure –  they talked about me and how I felt about me. How I had always felt about me!?

I had never been in a group of people who had talked so openly about their intimate feelings which was amazing. In doing so they were talking about my intimate feelings too. This gave me a sense of not being alone anymore. They seemed to be shining a light of hope into the dark recesses of of my shameful psyche.

It addressed my sense of isolation right away.

I had spent my life feeling not good enough, bad, l had that knawing feeling of less than, that hole in the sole.

I was like these people. They were like me.

I felt and continue to feel more like these people than I do my own family.

They became my surrogate family, my newly learnt attachment.

They were like me. They had not learnt this stuff out of a book, by professional observation but by having been through this stuff themselves. This was real not learnt.

They had been there. They were here now for me.

They knew what they were talking about.

This was the beginning of my psychic change. A person who was to become by therapist at the local treatment  was at my first meeting and he later said that he felt I had a psychic change at that my first meeting.

I had come in utterly beaten, at  death’s door and had left with hope.

The journey started with hope.

I had found a portal in the universe – it was Alcoholics Anonymous but from the shares it might have been called Shame sufferers Anonymous.

Shame ran through every share. They say fear is the corrosive thread which ran through our lives but it is equally the case that shame does too and causes just as much distress and damage.

It is difficult to live life when you do not have your own back, believe in yourself as  worthy of the good, healthy, things  in life. That you are not worthy them. That these things happen to others. Not you as you do not deserve them.

Why recover at all when you are not worth it?

This is how many of us feel? We are not worth it, this recovery.

The truth is the opposite, we are worth it. We do deserve it.

We are heroes who suffered so much and come through so much. We deserve happiness more than most! As a result we have  so have so much to offer others. We are all wounded healers.

We are here to help others like ourselves, in a way that only we can!

It was via others, like parents that we have this shame and these negative self schemas.

It is through human relationships that these start to heal. Shame is a social emotion which needs a social treatment.

We need to reconnect to overcome the isolating force of shame.

You are enough! We are enough!

A New Sense of Belonging!

Like many others in recovery from alcoholism and addictive behaviours I grew up with this really uneasy feeling of “not being part of”, “never belonging anywhere”.

I felt like I did not belong or did not fit in. In fact it was only when I got to AA that I had my first sense of belonging, of being amongst my own kind.

I had found my own recovery family and had this feeling of having gone home in some strange way.

I grew up in a house with three older sisters so thought I did not fit in completely with them because I was a different gender and had my own bedroom.

I also felt warily distinct or different from my parents too. I was always wary of my parents because I never completely trusted them.

Their violent arguments had lead to many traumatic incidents in my early childhood which still scar my psyche to this day. In fact I still suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) today as do about 40 % of alcoholics.

So I felt I never completely trusted and hence never completely attached to my parents, especially my mother. I loved them deeply but there was always this invisible almost unconscious wedge between me and them.

I also grew up in the “troubles” of Northern Ireland. I grew up in the highly usual scenario of being a Catholic in a very predominantly Protestant neighourhood.

This was also traumatic at times so I never attached with the society and culture beyond my home. I also got trouble from Catholic kids at school for coming from this Protestant area. I was always having fights to defend myself. So it was a fairly traumatic upbringing inside and outside the home.

Looking back I had more than enough reasons to feel not part of.

It wasn’t until I came to AA that I found a whole bunch of people who had also felt the way I did – they also felt they never belonged.

I was suddenly struck with a choice – either I felt I never belonged because of various circumstantial factors (which quite frankly did not help) to do with my upbringing or because I was an alcoholic?

As I feel completely at home with other alcoholics this seemed to be the reason I felt that I had never belonged.

If you feel that you do not belong it may be because, like me, you haven’t found your society of like minded people.

People just like you. People who do not fit in naturally with the so-called “normal” world?

In fact when I look back on my early drinking at about 14 or 15 years old I remember alcohol giving me that warm euphoric glow which felt like someone had poured “love chemicals” into my blood.

I had a “spirit awakening” if you like, whereby I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin, relaxed, expansive, acting spontaneously without fear, connected more with other people, felt the warmth and camaraderie of my fellow human beings.

Alcohol allowed me to more fully join the human race.

I allowed myself via alcohol to belong temporarily, to attach to the warmth of others.

Then in cold sobriety these feelings would shrink and recede – until the next time.

But was the illusion.

For me the so-called euphoric recall contains that feeling of belonging, or not being desolately alone. But connected. In fact the spirituality of 12 step groups is about the connection with others in the same boat as yourself..

In later years when asked by my wife why I drank, I would answer “to get away from myself”;  to escape me!

I found a surrogate home in AA, a learnt attachment. Like my own family it can be far from perfect at times, but it is here I belong ultimately, with my own.

Accepted completely for who I am.

Where I am free to be me.

“Being Part of” Online?

INTERNET ADDICTION has become a prevailing problem in the modern wired society. One important line of research has examined the relationships among Internet abuse, social anxiety, and interpersonal relationships. Several studies have identified that people who are shy, have poor social skills, or experience a high level of interpersonal anxiety may be drawn to cyberspace relationships.

The social anxiety this study describes seems very similar to the “not being part of” or “not belonging to” that alcoholics and addicts frequently talk about. Many addicts say they never had the manual to know how to deal with other people hence it seems they had some form of social anxiety as the result of insecure relationships with primary care givers.  Hence they found “friends” via the mediation of alcohol and drugs and these substances suddenly seem to endow them with the “chemical keys” to unlock the ability to act socially with other people, to be part of or “to act extemporaneously” to quote Bill Wilson, to act spontaneously, to act as if we had shed our anxiety straight jacket. We all felt more social, wittier, etc even if we were not in reality.

I felt I was “more me” when I started drinking initially, that this was the “real me” not the grey version of me when sober!

Alcohol had boosted my neurobiology in some way, my blood flowed better around my veins, my stress chemicals reduced, the neurotransmitters that were reduced seem to be repleted. I seemed to grow more into my body, be more alert, be more loving to my fellow human beings.  I liked me more when drinking just as others seemed to.

I preferred this me, more than my sober me. Fact. Alcohol gave me something I could get by myself. This was my first “spirit awakening” in a sense. I could transform my self in minutes via substances and via certain behaviours. Spirit transformation.

Wears out. Drastically. Leaving me chronically addicted to everything.

I often wondered if I would be an internet addict myself if an adolescent now? The answer would be yes as I am an internet addict now!!

I use the internet so much it would be considered, by diagnostics, as internet addiction. I use it to write blogs, research, run my own business rather than to find cyber “love” but…I use it 7 hours or more every day! Is this internet addiction to add to my alcoholism, substance addiction, behavioural addictions, insecure attachment issues , PTSD etc.

When I engage in any behaviour I have to be aware of doing that behaviour way too much. If I want to do something, there is a sure fire guarantee that I will really, really want to do it more and more and….

This study (1) suggests “that the quality of parent–child relationship is indeed positively correlated to the quality of our participants’ interpersonal relationships and that frustrating interpersonal relationships may raise the level of social anxiety. In addition, interpersonal relationships, the parent–child relationship, and social anxiety all influence Internet addiction… Finally, the more social anxiety and discontent with their peer interactions the participants experienced, the more addicted they were to the Internet.

Other studies have explored whether the cyber-relationship substitutes for an unmet need in an actual relationship.3–5 Together, these studies indicate that cyber-relationships can provide a sense of belonging, warmth, and well-being.

InternetAddiction

A study by Bell et al. revealed that the parent–child relationship was a primary experience of the child, as parents retained a substantial influence on the development of adolescent social relationships outside the family (8).

Feldman and Wentzel also found that parental child-rearing style and social support from the family were positively associated with whether the adolescent was trusted or liked by his or her peers (9). These studies collectively suggested that warmth, support, acceptance, and love in the parent–child relationship are directly related to the child’s closeness to peers, satisfaction with peer relations, and acceptance by peers.

In this study, we identify predictors of Internet addiction by constructing a model from elucidating the linkages among Internet addiction, parent–child relationship, interpersonal relationships, and social anxiety. This finding is consistent with the positions of Suler and Young, who have said that addiction to the Internet is a reaction to poor adaptation in the real world (5,14).

Most individuals who are addicted to the Internet experience more social anxiety because of bad social skills and frustrated personal companionship, which in turn may be shaped by qualities of the parent–child relationship. Anxiety picked up from caregivers or parents in the early stages of development, however, can be overcome and social skills can be improved if people develop good relationships during adolescence(6).

References

1. Liu, C. Y., & Kuo, F. Y. (2007). A study of Internet addiction through the lens of the interpersonal theory. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(6), 799-804.