Monthly Archives: December 2016

Friday Sober Inspiration: Stop Abandoning Yourself

chris-carr-stop-abandoning-yourselfThis is another excerpt from Sally Brampton’s ‘shoot the damn dog’ because her words are too powerful not to share.  This passage is about self-abandonment where she has a discussion with her therapist who explains that she needs to stop abandoning herself.

“‘Stop abandoning yourself’ a therapist, Elizabeth, once said to me.  ‘What?’ I didn’t understand.  She explained it like this: 

  • Every time you feel sad and swallow down your tears, you abandon yourself.
  • If someone hurts you and you pretend that you are fine, you abandon yourself.
  • Every time you don’t eat, or fail to feed yourself, you abandon yourself.
  • If you are tired, but refuse to rest, you abandon yourself.
  • If you drink too much and poison yourself with alcohol,  you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for what you need from someone with whom you are intimate, you abandon yourself.
  • If you don’t ask for help when you need it, you abandon yourself.

‘You suffer’ Elizabeth said, ‘from a failure of care’.  From who? ‘From yourself’, she says. And before that, from your parents.  They are the ones who should have taught you how to take care of yourself.

An inability to take care of oneself or soothe oneself is a sign of immaturity.  It is a failure of understanding, or of teaching.  If you are not taught as a child how to take care of yourself, you do not know as an adult.  The pattern becomes ingrained.  You are now an adult inhabited by a child.  The child pleads, the adult overrules.  You deny yourself proper care.

And so, as I understand it, I adjusted to constant loss as well as the inability to articulate any distress on, as one therapist described it, an ‘adapted’ level.  The term, ‘adapted child’ was originally used by Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis in the 1950’s.  Essentially it means the compliant, orderly side of us that hides anger, pleases others and generally acts the good boy or girl.  The more the behaviour is rewarded (and the more that any other behaviour is punished or, more usually, ignored) the more we adapt ourselves to keeping quiet and not making a fuss.  Put in another way, we adopt the position known in therapeutic terms as ‘abandonment or withdrawal’.

It is not, either, only the still, pale, silent child who has withdrawn.  Withdrawal takes place at a far deeper level and may be disguised by a bright, lively and social exterior – the sort of exterior that indicates compliance because compliance brings its own rewards.

A child who feels ignored or misunderstood turns that message against themselves.  It becomes, ‘I have no right to  feel the way that I do’.  And an analyst will, inevitably, take that to yet another level.  A child whose deeper feelings are constantly minimised, challenged or simply ignored, ends up believing, ‘I have no right to be the way that I am.  I reject myself’.”

We unconsciously reject ourselves so don’t even realise when we are then abandoning ourselves.  And booze is a really good salve for self-rejection.  No pain, no feeling right?  It also helps us play up to that bright, lively social exterior that hides our withdrawn inner self.  This could have been describing me.

Now you see why sober self-care is such a big deal out here in the recovery and sober blogging community.  Self care is the opposite of a failure of care.  Self-care is nurturing and restorative.  January is a good month to start non-alcohol focused self-care 🙂

Christmas Day Blues

So I listened to this last Saturday night – after a day of District Nursing and before going to a wedding reception.  I wanted to listen to it as the image (see left) and brief description called to me.  The podcast description said:

Laura McKowen and Meadow DeVor discuss the not-so-pretty side of the holiday season, the ghost-ships of Christmas Past, how to honor what you’re really feeling, and why we must invite grief into our holiday traditions.

For me it felt like listening in on two sober friends sharing through tears their experience of grief and how difficult this day and time of year can be.  The grief that we might feel for a sense of family present, lost or never had.  The grief for the drinking that we can no longer engage in when we feel like all around us are.  The grief for the loss of the ability to check out from difficult things that alcohol offered us, temporarily at least.  So many things –  which boils down to the death of the ideal.  Pre-meditated expectations and resentments writ large in my case.  It was an important discussion and I wanted to share it here today in case you are feeling this way.  I wrote about grief here.  You are not alone.

Have compassion for yourself today of all days.

If you are really struggling please reach out to someone.  I used to volunteer for the Samaritans and they will be manning the phones, texts and emails today just like every other day.  I shared their contact details here.