Laundry Lists and Recovery Part I

As a one time regular attendee at Al-anon meetings for adult children of alcoholics, I have been familiar with the laundry list for quite some time.  Even the flip side of the laundry list makes total sense, but the other laundry list is what totally blew me away, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

  1.  We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

Yep.  It was actually very hard for me to start publicly sharing this blog.  I mean, I started out writing the occasional blog post after the fact and sharing it with a handful of people.  But being really raw and real in the midst of a struggle, let alone sharing something as deeply personal as this, and not sharing it with just a couple of people, but with the general public?  Even so, that is easier than trying to build relationships, but I have been giving that a lot of thought lately.

2.  We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

At one time, yes.  That was me while I was growing up, until the time I was about 27.  I mean, my first rebellion was a few months before I turned 24.  Most people begin rebelling at about 13, maybe earlier, but I had been conditioned at a very early age to be perfect to avoid criticism and that I was responsible for my mother’s emotions (I should also add that my mother was the non-alcoholic parent, so I’m not really sure how that fits into anything.  She was an unrecovered adult grandchild of an alcoholic.  My father, the alcoholic, was never really around).

2. (from the other laundry list) To avoid becoming enmeshed and entangled with other people and losing ourselves in the process, we become rigidly self-sufficient. We disdain the approval of others.

Ah, yes.  There we are.  That would be me.  I don’t necessarily disdain approval from others (that’s the only part that doesn’t fit), but I have become very rigidly self-sufficient.  Over the years since I began my recovery, I found myself, and have been terrified of losing myself.  One thing I’ve realized is that I am really good at spotting unhealthy people now, and I know to run the other way.  The problem is that healthy people terrify me.  I’ve never been in a relationship of any kind (friendship or romantic) with a healthy person, so I don’t always know what I am doing.  Healthy people want to be in friendships with healthy people, but I don’t know what that looks like.  It leaves me in a bit of a bind.  I’m more comfortable around unhealthy people, but I am afraid of healthy people.  I think maybe I need to start confronting my fear and trying to let healthier people into my life, instead of going it alone.

3.  We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.

Sometimes.  I would say that I am sensitive to both of these, but I am not so sure I am frightened any longer.

3.  (from The Other Laundry List) We frighten people with our anger and threat of belittling criticism.

Again, sometimes.  See here’s the thing–I’m generally a calm person, and I am generally able to control my anger, but I do have moments where I have just been pushed too far, and I do not respond appropriately.  Now, I would say this is normal, except for the fact that because of my sensitivity to criticism, to being alone, I think that I likely have less tolerance than most do–and that’s where the problem comes in.  Luckily, I do not go to this place very often.

3.  (From The Flip Side of the Laundry List)  We are not automatically frightened by angry people and no longer regard personal criticism as a threat.

Yes, I would say most of the time, this is true–which is a good thing.  As I have said above, I do have my moments.  I slip up–I am human, but I am not automatically frightened by angry people.  Do I still want to steer clear of them?  Sure, but I am able to make that decision to act to get away rather than panicking and reacting.  I also have more tolerance for criticism than I once did.

3.  (From The Flip Side of the Other Laundry List) With our renewed sense of self-worth and self-esteem we realize it is no longer necessary to protect ourselves by intimidating others with contempt, ridicule and anger.

Again, yes.  I am finding this to be true more and more often.  I still slip, but I’ll find myself calmly responding or waiting to respond to someone if I am too upset to do this.

4. We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

This one is a tough one.  I would say this one is not true, except for the fact that most of my friends do this.  And the ones who aren’t, the healthy ones, I said that I more or less run away from, but that’s not entirely true.  I just don’t nurture those friendships–mostly, because I didn’t know how, but the result was that feeling of abandonment.

4.  We dominate others and abandon them before they can abandon us or we avoid relationships with dependent people altogether. To avoid being hurt, we isolate and dissociate and thereby abandon ourselves.

Well, I don’t tend to dominate and abandon, but I do avoid relationships, not just with dependent people, but altogether.  I do isolate–although I’m not sure I dissociate so much, but this one seems to be a lot closer.

According to The Flipside of the Other Laundry List, the way to heal is by comforting my abandoned inner child.  I am not entirely sure what I think about that honestly.   I wonder if perhaps that’s what I have been doing over these last several years?

I am going to admit something–I do not follow the steps exactly and not all of Al-anon makes sense to me.  The thing that I like most is that Al-anon is not a one size fits all program.  We’re to take what we like and leave the rest.  For me, life and recovery is a journey, and my higher power is leading.  The steps, these lists, they are maps, ways that others before me have found peace, but they are just one way.  Sometimes my higher power leads me off the map.  I don’t know what step I am on at this point.  Perhaps Step Nine?  which is making amends, but to me, where I am at is figuring out how to build relationships, and I’ve learned, that it’s not just about knowing how to make a relationship work–it’s about avoiding the wrong people to build a relationship with, and about not running away from the right people.

I’ll continue on with more characteristics tomorrow.



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