Home is where my heartache began. I found lots of ways to run away from my emotional pain, but as I look back on it, I know it was always there. It was hard to ignore when, out of obligation, I chose a Hallmark card for my abusive father. I hated reading the nice things the cards said about dads. I wanted a card that just said “Happy Whatever” or one that said “May you have the kind of day you so richly deserve”. I chose the card that expressed the least amount of sentiment, bought it and felt relieved that the ordeal was over for a while.
I overlooked other signs of living in a dysfunctional family. They included always playing at friends’ houses, leaving home asap and choosing friends who had a sense of humor. The laughter we shared gave me respite from my emotional pain. The pay off we get from growing up in an alcoholic or another type of dysfunctional family is a sense of humor. No one could withstand the pain without one.
In addition to laughing and smiling to hide my true feelings, I played lots of tennis. For me, it was a medication better than chocolate, alcohol or drugs. It kept my emotions at bay until I was thirty-seven and my younger son was in junior high school. Then I started to receive weekly phone calls from the school’s vice principal. In his first call he said, “Mrs. Poor, this is Mr. Norton.” A few weeks later he called and said, “Deb, this is Scott”.
Jason’s acting out behaviors did not go away. I wrote a letter to my high school French teacher. Back then, we called her an old maid. She devoted her life to her students and after graduation, many of us still kept in touch with her. My letter was long. In it, I poured out my heart. She answered it with one sentence. It read, “So, Jason is like his mother”.
For years, her response bothered me. I felt guilty. I blamed myself. My childhood had left me with a type of insurance that only codependents can get. It’s called My Fault Insurance. We readily take on the responsibility and blame for everything that goes wrong.
Lucky for me, I found good self help books, good therapists and a wonderful support group. All of them helped me to stop taking responsibility for things I had no control over. My new approach helped me to lighten up. I even laughed at what my French teacher wrote. And when someone asked me if I’d have children if I had my life to live over, I said, “Yes, but not the same ones.”
With my background, I was a shoe in for becoming a therapist. My social work course of study taught me to be warm, empathetic, genuinely concerned and to ask open ended questions, ones that could not be answered with a yes or no. Doing these things help clients find solutions to their problems. Most of the time, I stick to these basics because they work. However, I have one exception. When a client tells me that they are closely associated with someone who drinks a lot, but they know he or she is not an alcoholic because this person does not drink every day, I explain alcoholism. Waiting for an alcoholic to drink daily before doing anything that might help them is like waiting for your house to burn down to its foundation before calling the fire department. Doing either of these things begs the question: What’s left to save? E-mail me to learn how interventions work.
I have worked as a psychotherapist for more than thirty years. During that time, I have learned that too many people suffer in silence for too long. Something has been bothering them for a long time and they can’t think of anything that will make it better. For this reason, I offer FREE e-mail consultations. E-mail me and I’ll do my best to give you the information you need.