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It is not, either, only the still, pale, silent child who has withdrawn.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 🙂

16 thoughts on “Friday Sober Inspiration: Stop Abandoning Yourself

  1. ooh – this is soo monumental – and soo relevant…
    Thank you soo much. As the year is closing, and day one is still to become a reality (again…). THANK YOU! This also helped to take a look at my relationship with my teen kids.
    Self care is soo important – something i alcohol “addictees” overlook. and something vitaly important to empower our kids.

    1. Hey Jen Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog! Here’s to 2017, day one and self-care 🙂

  2. It is hard for me to realise I hid my self behind the facade of alcohol or so many years. Now I’m sober I realise that I was so alright. I’m good enough and more. Irony is alcohol made me look like a mad woman anyways! thanks, x

    1. Hey Fran Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog! I think so many of us hid behind the facade of alcohol thinking it was adding when in reality it just took away x

  3. ‘An adult inhabited by a child’ – such a telling description. Thanks for posting this.

  4. This was really good!
    It is so true that we have to learn how to take care of ourselves.
    I am still learning, but at least I have a chance now!
    When I was drinking, I would’t have had a chance to learn!
    xo
    Wendy

  5. So powerful and so true! And so easy to forget at times! I find myself abandoning myself in so many ways and often! It’s constant ongoing work. While this is something I know and have worked on through the years I hadn’t thought of it in terms of abandonment. My guess is that most of us have some sort of abandonment issues which I suppose comes with being human. But we don’t have to abandon ourselves.
    Thank you for this.
    Happy New a Year!

    1. Hey Lynne I think you’re right that this is part of the human experience 🙂 As you say acknowledging it is part of the healing. Happy New Year to you too!

  6. Thank you for posting. I’ve been thinking recently that the self care part of my recovery could do with some tending. Even though I feel very anxious about going I signed up for a yoga in recovery workshop in January and aim to make that the first event in a year of self care and kindness to myself and others. Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you too Manda and that sounds like a wonderful kick-start to a year of self care! 🙂

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