Tag Archives: alcoholic

No Longer a “Bubble Girl”

What was meant to be my protection actually numbed me from experiencing any feelings at all. This “bubble girl” had an unpenatrable outside barrier that kept me “safe” from being harmed by anyone, but it isolated me from true relationships.

Why did I finally feel the need to break free from the bondage of never letting people get too close…to see the real me…to trust again? 

It was so lonely in that bubble. I seemed too good to be true to those who thought they knew me. Friends and family didn’t think they could be real with me, since I had this facade of perfection. Who can trust their deepest struggles with one who acts like she has none?

My bubble was control. If I could control my feelings, my influences, my circumstances, I’d never be hurt again. As I am learning, this type of response is typical for one growing up in an alcoholic home. Control feels safe, but it’s really a prison of ones own making. Like John Travolta’s character in the 1976 movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, I needed to shield myself from harm, even if it meant isolation.

                                                                               
To protect myself, I tried to please everyone. Sometimes, that meant being so cautious that I wouldn’t speak truth, even if it would have been helpful. My automatic response was to keep peace at all costs. Part of that cost was striving imperfectly at perfection and failing miserably. Another hefty payment was paid by those closest to me, since they didn’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with one who seemed to have it all together. 

Unfortunately, everyone loses when I choose to remain in my bubble. I know I’m a fraud. My feelings, good and bad just get stuffed, so I’m not really living. My friends and family feel alienated and try to shield me from their shortcomings. And where is God in this equation?

Trust is a big deal to me. I guess it’s because of the trauma I faced as a child, and I felt abandoned and alone in my shame. I didn’t even feel I could trust God. Relationships are based on trust, and it just didn’t seem like it was worth the risk to be let down once again.

God didn’t relent on His pursuit of me, though. He sent me a man to show me that someone could know the real me, the imperfect me, and still love and take care of me. He sent me a daughter and son who whittled away at my false image of perfection and gave me an understanding of what unconditional love means. And, when I was at the end of myself, God swooped in to rescue me from that ridiculous bubble I had constructed and covered me in the shadow of His wings. 

Because of God’s unfailing love, I can be real. I can admit my mistakes and talk about my painful past without being driven to despair. I can be free to love. I can be approachable. I can give hope to others who are trapped in their own bubbles.

Oh, every now and then, I am tempted to lock myself away in that deceiving bubble that promises safety. It’s still difficult to do or say something that might “rock the boat.” When it’s too painful or frightening to deal with a new situation or resurrected memory, I must resist that urge to withdraw and let God redeem yet another crisis for His glory. Praise God, I’m no longer a “bubble girl!”

#livefreeThursday

Giving Up On Reaching My Dad

Remembering since I was just a tiny girl the words I heard from my father’s lips, “You’re Daddy’s Little Girl,” makes giving up trying to reach my Dad so painful. You see, he’s made so many choices to stay in his own world and reject his family that I cannot continue to have contact with him any longer.

As far back as I can recall, it’s been an emotional roller coaster with my father. He started out being my hero, and I was his princess.

I was the first born to my parents in 1960, and they were so excited. A colicky baby from the start, I needed to be held almost constantly. Dad was a welcomed sight to Mom, who was worn out from taking care of me all day and quickly handed off the miserable baby to him when he arrived home after work. She speaks of many nights that I slept on his chest.

My world was rocked quite a bit when my parents came home with a baby girl when I was 3 1/2, and suddenly there was competition for Dad’s affections. I think my charming skills were turned up a notch, so I felt pretty confident I remained the real “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

Convinced he loved me more than Mom did, which of course was not true, I remember trying to escape from my dreaded four-year-old vaccinations by running to my Daddy in the waiting room. Surely he wouldn’t allow any doctor to hurt me. I was devastated that he helped Mom hold me down back in the examination room to get my shots.

Things start to get spotty after that memory. Dad began working late and coming home drunk. Although I was pretty sheltered from what was really going on, I did notice we had to move from our large home to an apartment. I had to change schools in kindergarten and had to give away my beloved Barbie house my aunt made for me.

My baby brother born at the end of my kindergarten year, but I don’t remember anything about it. Things must have been really rough at that point, because I was 6 1/2 and should have been very excited. I have a brief memory of my first grade teacher and classroom. In November, my Dad brought my mother, sister, brother, and me to live with my grandmother in another city.

Abandoned by the one who claimed that I was “Daddy’s Little Girl,” I didn’t know what to make of what was happening in my world. One day, while he was visiting us, Dad asked me to fill out a questionnaire he wrote out. It asked who I thought was responsible for their divorce and other totally inappropriate questions for a young child who had lost her home and her father. What was his purpose for this manipulative activity?

As devastated as I was, my mother was completely overwhelmed with being dropped off at her mother’s house to raise three children on her own. It seemed to me that Dad was the only one who cared about me, though he rejected us, because Mom wasn’t able to talk to me about how I felt. So the deception began…

We were so poor that my precious mother, unbeknownst to me, washed one pair of frilly socks every night for me to wear to school. Dad only sent Mom $150 per month for us to live on, and she had been a stay-at-home mother since I was born. It was so hard for her, but I still thought he was the one who really cared.

While we were still living with my grandmother, I remember him driving up in his new Ford Thunderbird with electric windows. He had left Mom with an old, red Dodge Dart that bled it’s color on the rag when it was washed. Dad would take us out to eat at fancy restaurants when we visited him on weekends that we could never afford on Mom’s small salary and tiny child-support payments.  We loved visiting with him and being spoiled.

It was nothing but a con. A ruse that lead to me thinking I was so special and “grown up” that I looked forward to  being the “bartender” at Dad’s office parties on Friday nights and even making a drink for myself. Living a life on weekends that my mother would never allow set me up for years of sexual abuse at his hands.

I don’t even know how I coped with this double life during those years. I think I never allowed the two worlds to intersect and was close to having multiple personalities. The two worlds did  collide, however, when my sister told me of Dad’s advances towards her one weekend. We told Mom as soon as we got home and never had to go visit our father again.

Although it sounds sickening, once I was safe a few years, I missed the “wining and dining” part of my life and hated never getting to see Dad except for holiday gatherings at his mother’s house. I began seeing Dad on a very limited basis as long as I had an escort. I didn’t feel threatened any longer and thought no harm could come by having a more normal relationship with him. Actually, I believe my memories of the abuse were suppressed to the point I had no recollection of them.

Through the years, it has been a very strange relationship. This is how alcoholic families are sometimes. No one really ever talks about what’s wrong. Everyone just pretends all is well. What’s in the past is over, so you just forget about it. You don’t tell anyone who may be hurt by the truth, even if the perpetrator gets by “scot free.”

The trouble is, eventually, the layers of pain and anger ignored all of those years begins boiling under the surface and erupts. That happened when I was all stressed out by my little girl who had a strong will. All the while protecting myself and my father from what would happen if anyone really knew the truth, I inflicted emotional pain on my own child who was probably only acting out the frustration she felt from my pressure to give my children a safe and loving home.

While dealing with my past to keep it from ruining my present, I allowed memories to resurface and be healed by God. During this time, I even spoke to my father, who told me he was sorry for what he had done to me. I worked through forgiveness, and felt peace for the first time in years. Would we ever be able to have a real relationship again? We did maintain a holiday relationship as long as my paternal grandmother was alive, because she held the fragile family together. He didn’t even attend her funeral. I haven’t seen him in many years.

What hasn’t changed is my father’s lifestyle. He has been addicted to alcohol, pornography, and sex all these years. When he brought us to my grandmother’s house in 1967, he had been married to his second wife while he was married to my mother. He had multiple affairs before his second marriage ended, with women the same age as his daughters. Even recently, he has pursued relationships with teens. And those are only the things I know about, so why would I continue to reach out to him?

Mom and Dad met at church. He sang in the choir and was a deacon at the church they attended when they were married. He even felt called to be a preacher at one time. Even now, with his immoral choices, he says he believes that “once saved, always saved.” Dad has left a trail of carnage of ruined lives, but he claims that he is a believer. I know he’s not. He’s as deceived as those he’s charmed.

I’ve been praying for Dad’s salvation for many years. Whenever I read an inspirational blogpost or email from my pastor, I forwarded it to him. Usually, he would reply in a positive manner and thank me for sending it to him. I liked having an opportunity to influence him somehow to stop living for himself and give his life to Jesus and still stay safe from his web of deceit.

Our communication was pretty sporadic. I would wish him a happy birthday, and he would do the same for me. I was his friend on Facebook but had to unfriend him to avoid seeing him pine away over losing the love of his life, who also happened to be in high school. We would text message on occasion, as well, but that all ended this past fall.

After the death of my step-grandfather, his step-father in August 2015, I had some brief contact with Dad by text message about the funeral. He was unable to attend the funeral because of some heart problems, as he also claimed when his mother died. My mother and I drove three hours to the funeral to be there for my uncle. Unfortunately, the lack of relationship with my father kept us from seeing my uncle during the years between the two funerals. My uncle was thrilled to see us and invited us to the family meal after the service and to my grandfather’s house to finish catching up with each other.

Keeping the truth hidden all these years from my Dad’s family about the sexual abuse came to an end that day. My mother and I finally felt free to tell my uncle and aunt about what happened so many years ago. He was so hurt that I didn’t feel comfortable telling him so he could have stopped it. I felt more free, since I was no longer protecting my father at my expense. Why did we feel the need to keep that secret?

For whatever reason, I have not heard from my father since the day of the funeral. I don’t know why. When I sent him a text on his birthday in November, it was ignored. His email address has changed, so I couldn’t reach him that way. He didn’t contact me on my birthday in December. Apparently, after all these years of trying to do what I felt was helpful to bring him to Jesus, God let me know it was time for me to stop.

God is mighty to save. I cannot save my father. God is able to reach him. I have been cut off from having any communication with him. God can change his heart. It’s pretty sad that Dad doesn’t love us enough to stop living for himself, but it’s not up to me to make him change.

Giving up on reaching my Dad means, as I am learning in Al-Anon, I must “Let go and let God.” I will keep praying for Dad and trust that when I say, “Thy will be done,” I can rest safely in the arms of my Heavenly Father, who will never leave or forsake me.

#livefreeThursday

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Cross_in_sunsetWhat in the world is wrong when you have everything you’ve ever wanted and are still miserable?  That’s where I found myself at the ripe old age of 29. Being happily married to my first date and having the privilege of staying home with our two children in our newly renovated first home just didn’t cut the mustard.

I was going downhill fast, thinking I was going crazy, dealing with a  strong-willed 4-year-old daughter and a bulldozer 3-year-old boy.  My gynecologist who had delivered my two children in two years advised me that the chronic pain I had been enduring was probably the source of my misery, so after a hysterectomy, I’d be fine.  I clung to that hope.

Fast forward a few months, and the absence of pain made no difference in how I was feeling. I was a “donkey on edge” and couldn’t figure out why.  There was no real trouble in my life. I should have been happy. Lots of women stay home with their children and many deal with strong-willed children. What was wrong with me?

A search for the source of my problems began. My childhood was pretty tainted with the divorce of my parents at the age of 6, sexual abuse at the hands of my alcoholic father,  and living with an abusive, unfaithful alcoholic step-father. Maybe growing up in such dysfunction was why I was so despondent. Look no further than the new Oprah Winfrey show to see that all of your problems can be linked to your past.

Reaching back to find what I needed to go forward, I looked inward to fix myself. At that time, the mid-1980’s, self-help books flooded the shelves of bookstores and libraries. I had always been successful when I put my mind to do something, so it never occurred to me this time it might be different.

At this time in my life, I believed in God and knew He could be the solution to my emptiness, but I refused to turn to Him. Like a 2-year-old, I wanted to do it myself. He would come in and change me, and I wasn’t willing to be changed. None of this was my fault, after all.

Spending time in meditation, talking to my “inner child”, wallowing in my sorrows, playing the blame game, talking to my family and friends, trying to “pick myself up by the bootstraps”, nor any other thing I tried to do on my own worked.

Thankfully, I discovered shame to be at the root of how I felt. It didn’t matter how much I had accomplished, I just didn’t measure up to my own expectations. I couldn’t do enough to ditch the shame I carried. That lead to reading John Bradshaw’s book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, which pointed to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous for recovery.

Desperate for relief, I began to explore the 12 Steps, which began with admitting I was powerless over my shame and my life was unmanageable. I also saw that only with God’s help would I ever find freedom. My depression was caused by the anxiety in my heart from trying to be my own god. “I did it my way” had to be replaced by “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.”

Sin was the root of my sorrow. My own sin, not those who had hurt me. As a young girl, I had walked the aisle of my church, said a prayer to give my heart to Jesus, talked to the preacher, was baptized the next Sunday, then set out to live my life to the best of my ability. This was a little girl who was being sexually abused on weekend visits to her father’s house looking to feel clean, not a surrender of control to Jesus and trusting in His righteousness.

A pastor told his testimony of having a two-step salvation experience, much like mine. He repented of his sins as a child and of his righteousness as an adult. It was sin for me to live my life on my own power, on my own terms, without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells me that anything done without faith is sin. My best is considered as filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God.

Believing I could be a “good Christian” without God’s power seems so absurd, but that’s what I was doing. I hadn’t given up any control of anything to God, except for where I would spend eternity. There was no abundant life in me, only death that comes from the sin that separated me from my gracious heavenly Father who longed to set me free from the chains that bound me.

When I wrote the prayer of submission to God, the weight of sin and death fell from me immediately. I was overwhelmed by His grace and love. The shame that had consumed me was carried by Jesus on the cross. Admitting I had been spending my whole life working for the righteousness God had freely given me set me free from despair. I forgave those who had harmed me, and asked God to forgive me for spending so many years pushing down the pain without asking Him to heal me.

It is a matter of life and death. God gives us a choice. “Years I spent in vanity and pride” led me to desperation that would have ended in death. Life begins when I come to Jesus daily “just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me.”

#livefreeThursday

Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday