Thursday, January 30, 2014

alcoholic family wheel of abuse

drawn, configured, written and conceived by Lise Winne
© 1/30/2014
inquiries: lilacgrovegraphics (att)

The way this wheel works:
It starts on the red and then goes around and around until the victim
starts a new life after experiencing the grey part of the circle a number of times. 
If all family members get help, it increases the chances for a better outcome. 

This wheel was inspired by the cycle of abuse wheel (which is almost always portrayed as between two people). I go a little further than that for the alcoholic family and include all of the enablers in the wheel. 

Alanon is basically a program for recovery. When you are in recovery and learning to cope, you realize the coping methods can be used in your other relationships as well (including any toxic family members, co-workers, anyone). 

"When you're living with an alcoholic, it's ALL about them" is what I remember hearing in my first meetings by some of the attendees.

True, but....

Other people (and family members around the alcoholic) can be just as toxic as many alcoholics, even people who are sober. They can pick fights, send you a barrage of insults and labels, reject you for no apparent reason other than to see what kind of rise they'll get out of you, play with your emotions to see if you'll grovel or to see how valuable they are to you, pit people against each other, play nasty favoritism games, threaten and intimidate you, tell you that you're making mountains out of molehills when you're hurt, and so on. Some sober people can be as controlling, deceitful, angry, threatening and self centered as many alcoholics.

What I have witnessed with crazy, controlling, abusive, provoking, rejecting, upsetting families is that when a family member attempts recovery (through a program like Alanon) and they start setting up healthy boundaries or of challenging other members to stop a blame game (for instance) the other family members always seem to want to drag the person who is trying to be more healthy about communications back into the dysfunctional fray again.

Someone I know likened it to a bucket of crabs. If one attempts to get away, then the other crabs try to pull it back in again. Ugh...

"My whole family is about sick forms of communication: telling each other what to do every second of their time together, attack-then-defend situations at every turn, unsolicited advice, everybody's a busy-body, everyone is trying to take control, manipulate and teach someone something, everyone is talking over each other and not listening, then there's the jostling for alliances, power and betrayals which cause a lot of hurt, fighting and gossip, and then there's the abusive, self centered alcoholic at the center of everything," a woman told me, looking exasperated. Exactly. Most alcoholic families seem to be like this. 

By the time most people come to Alanon, they are in extreme pain from all of this nonsense. Many have been shunned from their families as a tactic to get them back in line again. A lot of Alanon members adopt each other as their new family, just so they can have some form of deep, respectful communication with people who are serious about working on themselves, who want real love without a myriad of conditions, so that they can enjoy fulfilling relationships somewhere in their lives. Many Thanksgivings and Christmases are planned with the adopted Alanon family members. I notice many are polite to their biological families, but keep them at arms length. The arms-length approach often takes their biological families seven years to accept (ouch! ... but until then, there is often a silent chasm -- the family often steps up the shunnings and insults, the cold hearted replies and rejections, the nitpicking criticisms and on-purpose hurtful acts). No one seems to like a person who is changing. Everyone wants them the way they used to be, even if the way they used to be was a person in an excruciating amount of pain with no voice and very low self esteem. What happened to the quiet malleable one we could mold? What happened to our meek little mouse we could insult if they got out of line? they ask. The sicker family members will insist on malleability, submission, drag-in-the-mud communications and dirty politics no matter what is at stake or for how long. They want the family member who is taking the brunt of all of the abuse to remain silent.

But silence in a situation like this is never golden. Every time the victim goes back to a dysfunctional abusive alcoholic family, it gets worse for them.

Shunnings in dysfunctional alcoholic families are as common as women in third world countries who are brutally raped being shunned by their families and stoned by their villages. It's the western version of it...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

abuse means never having to say you're sorry

name of artwork: Abuse Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
© 2014 by Lise Winne
(for inquiries regarding licensing this image contact LilacGroveGraphics ((att))

Have you ever felt that "Dr. Jeckyl/ Mr. Hyde" is living within someone? Especially someone who is abusive? Have you ever wondered what abuse is and if you're really being abused (especially if you aren't being hit)?

I found this article by Tamara Star to explain it best. In it she says, "controlling behaviors, shaming, refusing to listen, talking over you, blaming, emotional abuse, yelling, lying, neglecting ... intimidation and psychological manipulation are all examples of abuse."

My relationship with Johnny (the impetus for starting this blog) was all about the above. I never got any kind of break from it, ever. You can read my particular story HERE (for the in-depth version). It was also about:

- walking on eggshells
- keeping quiet to keep the peace (because anything could set him off)
- not speaking my mind to keep the peace (again because anything could set him off)
- trying to repair arguments only to be talked over, intimidated, belittled, lectured and screamed at
- allowing his hypocrisy, taunting, lack of fairness and heartlessness to flourish without comment in our relationship because I accepted too easily that his morality and integrity were hopelessly lost 
- forgiving and justifying his bad behaviors which only made the behaviors worse in him
- feeling relieved when he finally screamed that he hated me because it meant that I didn't have to be invested in whether I meant anything to him and that I could quit trying to appease or fix our relationship (he said it when I finally confronted him about his drinking) 

His drinking intensified all of the above, of course, i.e. the more he drank the worse his behaviors got. Since he started drinking between 9:30 and 10:00 every morning, I never got any relief. His drinking also made him paranoid and see provocations and conspiracies where there weren't any. His irritability knew no bounds (nor did his venting over a singular insignificant occurrence for hours on end).

I never got to the point where I lost my self esteem or started to question my worth though. He tried very hard, it seemed to me, but perhaps I've lived too long and have already experienced unconditional love and approval from people I respect so as not to need his love, admiration or approvals. I could also endure long, extreme bouts of "the silent treatment" because I am used to keeping company with myself and my work. But, I could see how even I could lose my self esteem after awhile if I had to endure years of it. I was extremely lucky to finally be out of this situation with him. Not everyone can be so lucky, particularly children.

At Alanon we learn that dealing with alcoholics is too much to bear alone, without the support of others. In fact, it seems to me to be impossible. I can see that an alcoholic who is in a continual state of irritation and rage (common) and where communication is always abusive (can be common in alcoholics who want power and control over others) could totally break another human being, destroy them. So many newbies come to Alanon looking so totally ravaged and dejected as to look gravely ill. It's not uncommon to have a triple whammy of psychological symptoms all at once: severe PTSD, suicidal thoughts and depression. The stomach is the first place where illness seems to manifest.

Ever since I have been active in this cause I have noticed that most people cannot live with angry alcoholics. The non-alcoholic may feel committed for awhile, but at some point it becomes too much and they make a break for it. Sometimes the angry alcoholic turns into the dysfunctional drunk who can't work and whose liver is giving out. Then it's not so likely that the alcoholic will be abandoned, but that is only because they entered another phase of the disease quickly before the victim could plan to leave.

As for the blog/article I opened this post about?
I left a comment on it and Tamara Star responded! My comment and her response below:

Lise: One added difference and dimension if the person is an *abusive alcoholic* is that the alcoholic often sees provocations and conspiracies when there aren’t any. Such a bad combo in addition to all you have stated above. And so awful for the people around them!
Worth exploring?
Tamara: Hi Lisa,
It’s a lethal combo, especially when combined with someone that refuses to get help ie: AA
Hoping whomever it is involved in this situation is getting the support they need to either be strong and hold tight as the person goes through AA, or to find the strength to walk away.