...My father is an alcoholic. He has been dry for many years, but as I've been reminded many times... Like the Marines, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic. Anyway, my father has been dry for 22 years. (I'm 27, so I'll leave it to you do the math.)I've had many thoughts and questions and (admittedly) reservations about the path you and your family are walking to face this problem....I just wanted to take the opportunity to let you know I'm reading, even if it's been mostly silently.
From my own personal experience for my own personal reasons, I don't hold any stock in self-policed or family-policed moderation being the best path when it comes to something a person was previously addicted to. But if you can do it? If it's a better path for you to follow ...Then I wish you all the best in it, and maybe I can learn something new by watching...
And I imagine that Chloe may very well speak for many who have simply chosen to not get into that conversation with us. It isn't any surprise to me that she would feel like she does about this issue of alcohol addiction and approaches to recovering from that. It doesn't really surprise me that most people would react exactly like this... It is the way that most of us, but especially those of us who grew up in alcoholic households, are taught to view the challenges and realities of alcohol use and/or abuse. Within our culture, the alcohol recovery and rehabilitation industry has become so entrenched and so ubiquitous, that we mostly don't even recognize it when we parrot the lines we've been given with regard to alcohol and addiction.
"They" have done such a great job of scripting the conversation that there is essentially not a person who does not immediately fall into the accepted recitation of what "everyone knows" about the subject.
I'll be the first to validate, absolutely, the sense of disquiet experienced by Chloe as she considers the stark discussion here about alcohol use and the intent to moderate that use. Like her, I grew up in a family with two parents who were alcoholic. My mother was the most actively abusing of the pair of them. Her natural bent toward meanness was exacerbated by alcohol use, and my brothers and I lived in continual terror of her. The abuse she inflicted on me before I was old enough to be verbal left deep marks in my psyche that were only revealed when Master and I first began to delve into intense sadomasochistic play, and I'd spin off into not quite remembered darkness. As for my father, his drinking left him unavailable and uninvolved. She abused and he was not aware enough to prevent it. I survived and so did my brothers. I honor all those children, like us, who survived and grew up in spite of childhoods spent awash in the craziness of boozed up parents.
I was a very young adult, and a new wife and mother when I first became aware of the new label being applied to people who had grown up like I did. It was 1983 when Dr. Jan Woititz, wrote the New York Times Best Seller, Adult Children of Alcholics. The book became the definitive work describing the issues specific to those who were raised in families impacted by alcohol, drugs and the dysfunctional behaviors of others, Woititz became the mother of the movement that would forever enshrine the concept that no one ever completely escapes the depredations of an alcoholic upbringing. Her book elucidated 13 characteristics of adults who grew up with alcoholic parents:
1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.
2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.
5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.
6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.
7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.
9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.
11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
And there you go -- nice and neat and tidy. Check off "yes" or "no" and if you get 7 or more positives, you know who you are... Or something like that. The damage is done. You are what you are. Ruined in your formative years and forever unable to be anything EXCEPT an ACOA. Well, I rejected that tidy little diagnostic trick when I first encountered it, and I reject it to this day. I acknowledge that I was a child who had the bad luck to have parents who were addicted to alcohol, and who abused it on a regular basis. Too, I generally lay claim to the status of "adult." I am, to be sure, the product of all my myriad life experiences, and the circumstances of my childhood are part of that picture -- but not all of it, and not, in my view, the most significant part of it.
The checklist of characteristics doesn't describe or define me. The memories don't disable me. The things I missed as a child do not cause me to long for them without hope of ever being satisfied, now some 50 years later. I am not that child, although I love who she was. I am not that child, although I honor her strength and courage. I am not that child, although I value the lessons she learned. My alcoholic parents lived in their own sort of hazy hell, and because they were our parents, and because we loved them, we hovered around the edges of their torment -- until it was time for us to grow up and move on. I don't know about my brothers -- their lives are their own, but I am not anyone's "adult child." I am an adult -- well and strong and good. Period.
So, I understand when people like Chloe lead with the story of their alcoholic parent. The experiences of having a drunken, unavailable, unreliable, abusive parent is frightening and sad. There are any number of ways to HAVE a parent who is less than ideal -- who is ill or uneducated or poor or crazy or preoccupied or old or overweight or selfish or... Most of us grow up anyway. And if we are lucky and strong, we grow up to be OK in spite of whatever befalls us.
I knew, when I met Master; when I agreed to be His, that He drank. I knew that He drank a lot -- and I knew that He drank at a level that was not considered to be healthy. I saw His drinking behavior, and I saw how He managed His life and affairs, and I believed that His alcohol use was a part of His life that was under His control. I chose, with full awareness, to accept those realities and join my life with His. For all the years we have lived together, that has been our way of living and it has been good. I have not one single regret, nor do I give any credence to those who simply write me off as a co-dependent enabler in an alcoholic constellation.
And then He had His bariatric surgery. When He resumed drinking after the prescribed months of alcohol avoidance, everything was different. At first I had no idea what was causing the wildly out of control behaviors that became the norm. It wasn't that He was drinking more than before, but things were spiralling out of control. I watched and worried and I talked and talked to Him in His sane and sober hours, trying to make Him understand what I was seeing and experiencing. Although He occasionally reacted to my efforts with scorn, accusing me of exactly that ACOA damaged goods thing, He also listened to my reasoned arguments, and in time we reached some agreement as to how we'd proceed with the problems I'd identified.
What we are engaged in now, with our power based approach to regaining control of the drinking dynamic in our lives, flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom that we share in our culture about alcohol addiction and recovery. We have rejected the "facts" of the situation as promulgated by an industry that rakes in millions of dollars in fees for the treatment and management of alcoholism, and chosen to strike off into relatively uncharted territory. We have no guarantee that the path we are following will lead us to success, but we are determined. We've lived by our own rules and our own lights to this point, He and I. This will be no different. I know that will make many people nervous and uncomfortable. I am grateful for those, who like Chloe, have been willing to sit with their own discomfort and follow our journey though this.
We are encountering a number of challenges that we did not anticipate. He feels disoriented and unsettled. He feels unsure about the role that alcohol played in "who He is," and is unsure "who He will be" in a more sober life. He is grieving. He is sad. While, intellectually, He understands that I've pushed for change out of concern for His health and our relationship, He FEELS that I've taken control, and that He is now in the position of submitting to me. Our accustomed relational dynamic is changed, and neither of us knows what to expect going forward. We are, each of us, coping with a tidal wave of feelings and fears. We are working to be honest with one another. We are trying to remember to listen to how the other one feels. We are holding on to each other. We are trying not to hurt each other. Some will notice a distinct lack of regular or normal or recognizable BDSM or M/s related material in what we are posting. That is the simple fact of our lives just now.
We will go forward. Perhaps it will be next week or next month or next year before we find ourselves in some sort of accord and alignment in our new life together. When we get there, we will be who we are with one another. I don't honestly know, today, what that will be. For those who have followed us BECAUSE we were M/s, or BECAUSE we have practiced BDSM, I completely understand if all of this leads to a choice to read elsewhere. This web log has never been primarily about the kink we enjoy, and it has never been mostly about our poly lifestyle. We've always written frankly about our lives and our ups and downs. That will not change.