F.R.E.E.   Family Recovery thru Education & Empowerment


Recovery Story

You Don't Realize How Deep This Is Until A Tragedy Occurs...

Somehow I never thought that when I was 49 years old that being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic would still have such an effect on me.  When a sudden eruption of emotions fills our lives, we tend to start reverting very quickly.  Just such a thing happened to me that I knew would happen someday, but dreaded the day when it arrived.

I received a telephone call from my brother who has not talked to me in 7 years.  This is part of my familyís dysfunction; they punish you with silence.  The problem is the crime does not fit the punishment.  When I heard this voice on the phone, I did not recognize it.  I wouldnít say anything, and when he said, ďThis is your brother,Ē I thought it was a sick joke.  After listening and trying very hard to hear the voice, I knew who it was and it hit me that this telephone call was not going to be good.

ďMom had another heart attack!Ē  My knees buckled.  All my life my father told me, ďYou are killing your mother.Ē  About 8 years ago when the last heart attack happened I fell apart.  No one around me knew why.  I was frozen, stuck, could not move.  What they didnít know was my mother was dying and it is my fault.  Wow!  Here I was over 500 miles away, hadnít been around my family in years and it was still my fault.  You see, those messages they send us as children have more power than we even know.

My silence on the telephone this time was different.  I knew I was not responsible for what was about to happen even though my family would like me to continue thinking that.  I was concerned and wanted to know was the doctors had to say.  My father came up in the conversation and what happened next may shock you, but not me (you see, ACAís are trained well).  I was told not to visit on Thursday or Friday because one of my brothers would be there.  My father didnít think it was a good idea for both of us to be in his home at the same time.  Anyone want to bet that they didnít tell my other brother to stay away, but only me?

Oh, but they forgot one thing.  After 14 years of recovery, this is not my problem, but their problem.  The first step tells me I am powerless over their behavior, and therefore work the next two steps.  The more information I was given the more dysfunctional the story became.  It appeared to me just like it was when I was a child.  Three weeks prior to this call the heart attack actually happened.  They waited to call me; they wanted me to feel the guilt again.  Now, I really hate to say what is next because it really makes me sound as if I am doing something wrong or missing the point.  I have worked with over 13,000 people with similar problems and families.  Not one of them even closely resembled what was about to happen.  After almost 30 years of being away from that mess, my mind immediately ran back home and into all the chaos that happened to me and for the first time I came up with a different conclusion.

Every family I have seen or heard of has been able to resolve this problem by working the steps, making their amends and believing in God.  I did all those things and more; the result was the thing I would say was different.  It isnít that the program doesnít work, the steps are flawed, and that God is punishing me.  It is the fact that I made all of my amends to my family many years ago; they havenít let go of the past.  Gee, I am still being considered a hostage.  You canít be a hostage if you donít let them take you.  I have a solution.

The solution is simple.  Do I go and visit the family that taught me not to trust was the thing I needed most in life?  That intimacy is a term that other people do, but not in our family?  That when there is a problem, deny it, blame it on someone else?  Or do I go as who I have become and take God with me?  No matter what I do it will be brutal.  It always has been brutal and why should I expect that to change?  They havenít changed but for the first time in my life, I know who the enemy is.  Would it surprise you to know that the possibility of a fistfight breaking out under certain conditions exists?  What they donít know about me is that I know how to call 911.  I know how to press charges against those who hurt me.  I know how to set boundaries.

I have to go and say goodbye to one of the people in my life who trained me to have an ongoing mess that will take a lifetime to clean up.  That is sad for me.  I want my mother to know that I love her no matter what happened.  I want her to believe that I have forgiven her for all she has done.  This is not the blame game anymore; this is all about being a mature adult and walking my talk.  I am sure that my mother and I will reach an agreement, we have in the past and see no problem with that today.  My father on the other hand will make sure that no matter what happens it will be my fault.  God, you are awesome!  You remove me from a situation before it almost kills me and place me into the lives of those who need structure, guidance and support.  Now the test comes.  Will I be able to live up to what it is I have told other people for years to do or will I fail?  Failure is a choice and I choose not to fail.

My motherís passing will not stop the voices I hear in my head calling me stupid and a failure.  Nor will my father who will now come with a vengeance be stopped.  It is my responsibility to end this.  I divorced my father 7 years ago.  Went to the courthouse, got the papers, filled them out and mentally filed them.  After asking for my dignity back in the settlement, six months time passed and I was better.  I am not over this, just better.  What my father doesnít know about me will cause a problem.  I am no longer intimidated by the way they choose to act.  I am a man, a God fearing man!  Confronting my own addiction was the first time in my life I stood up for myself because I mattered.  Believe me, it is about to happen again.  The details do not matter; only one thing does.  Will I treat them with respect even after what they did to me?  Yes!  Will I act as a mature adult and do what is necessary for me to say goodbye?  Yes!  Will I take the focus off of them to defend myself against their attacks on me?  No!  Will I survive what is about to happen?  Yes!

It is my opinion that when someone dies the only thing they have is their character.  The memories of my behavior to some people will always be painful.  I want to remember my mother in my own way.  Not for abandoning me, hurting me, leaving me alone in the world to defend myself.  I want to remember that she loved me, maybe not for who I was, but deep in my heart I know one thing.  She wanted me to succeed.  Today, I have done that, they just donít want to hear it or accept it.  Sounds like denial to me!  


By John Banks, CAS
and founder of F.R.E.E.

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This page revised Jan 15, 2009