Monday, October 20, 2014

More, Better, Different

...continued, from here...

By the early 1980s...after I'd left Santa Cruz in 1977, camped on Maui for a few months, gone back to Santa Cruz briefly and then down to Los Angeles briefly, went to Europe for a couple months, and back to Maui to live for two years...I was remarried and relocated to Boulder where I was now living.

I'd had no clear idea who I was during all that time.  I felt comfortable nowhere, I couldn't stay focused for very long on anything, had nothing to call my own and nowhere to hang my hat.  I felt utterly alone even when I was with friends, disconnected from myself and from life in general.  I felt like the perpetual outsider, a chameleon always trying to fit myself in to others' lives.  With no sense of identity, it was a lot less painful for me to go through the motions of married life again than keep trying to tough it out on my own.   Which was one reason why I found myself remarried.  The other reason was that I needed to return to the mainland, and I had no financial resources of my own at that point with which to do it.

In the early 80s, I did the est training for the second time and took most of the est graduate seminars and workshops.  By the mid-80s, I had returned to Santa Cruz (from Boulder), divorced my second husband and was living with another man.  I was simply unable to be with myself yet.  I had no sense of myself out in the world, making it on my own.  I felt so beaten down (figuratively mostly), so unsure of myself, still horribly shame-bound, and immensely uncomfortable in my own skin. 

I continued doing est work during this time, and also took major weekend workshops from one or another of Werner's spin-off trainers.  The thrust of all of this "technology" was to empower you to be your best self, to be more than you had been, better than you ever were, and altogether different from your former self.  Sounded great to me...except I didn't know who I was to begin with.  So in the end, all that work on myself just made me feel like I didn't/couldn't measure up.

In addition to those trainings, at the same time I listened extensively to Ramtha and Lazaris, two channeled entities who took the personal-growth movement by storm in the mid-1980s. In retrospect, I imagined I could take on those teachings and become a spiritual person without having to do the deep work on myself that proved necessary in the long run, work that I still didn't know awaited me.

I had always had strained relations with my mother.  Although I had married and left Los Angeles in 1971, even from afar her negative influence (her cold dismissal coupled with her invasive needling, her schizoid behavior and attitudes toward me, her neverending strident opinions on everything I was or did) followed me insidiously wherever I went and whomever I was with.  In 1987 a major personal event happened.  It was a dinner out in Palo Alto with me, my man, my mother and stepfather, my step siblings and their spouses. Consider for a moment the fact that I had become the stepdaughter for my mother once she'd married my stepfather in the mid-1960s.

At this dinner, after a couple of drinks, my mother just laid into me at table, she pulled every punch she had to get to me, to humiliate and disparage me in front of my family (this was certainly not the first time she'd done this), to push me away, to let me know that she thought I was sick and not normal.  I stuffed my rage momentarily, and as we walked out of the restaurant, I asked her what it would take for us to have a relationship based in the present (instead of her constantly bringing up minor mistakes I'd made 25 or 30 years earlier, as she just had).  She turned on her heel, barked "I'm not going to make you any promises," slapped me across the face, and ran out of the restaurant screaming, "I never want to see you again for as long as I live."

Something snapped inside me that night.  The following week, I got myself into 12-step recovery programs.  I still wouldn't realize for years to come that my mother was truly mentally ill (and no one else in my family would ever see that), but I had just groked that alcohol was always present when she became especially abusive of me.  So I began my recovery journey in Adult Children of Alcoholics.  Getting into recovery was a watershed moment for me.  From Adult Children I branched out to CoDependents Anonymous, Survivors of Incest Anonymous (yes, I was), and the Augustine Fellowship (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous).  I really worked these programs.  I went to one meeting or another most days of the week and sometimes twice a day, for three years.

This period in recovery was the first time I was able to begin to see that my problems weren't of my own making ~ i.e., that I wasn't innately defective as had been hammered into me.  That a lot of abusive stuff had been done to me, mostly emotionally and psychologically, but physically and sexually as well.  That my interpersonal difficulties and problems with intimacy were the result of my mother's madness and the fact that I'd had no positive role models for anything.  I also realized, now, that I wasn't alone; although people's stories were different, here were rooms full of other people who felt as sick inside as I did.

I read John Bradshaw extensively during this time, and got myself into a 30-day in-patient treatment program based on Bradshaw's work on dysfunctional families, at the end of 1989.  I did this deep, painful work on my own, meaning I had no family support for working on major family issues.  My family was then and always would be in denial about everything.  My mother had brainwashed them into believing that I was a bad seed, a constitutionally bad person, that I had been born with egregious character defects.  And they believed her ~ she was larger than life, not someone to take issue with over anything.  It was her way, or the highway. 

That event that happened with my mother in 1987 was the beginning of a nine-year split from my family.  In 1996 I initiated contact again, when I was in a much better place, and we had relatively peaceable relations for another four years until she went off on me again in 2000.  I was out of touch once again until a very brief time in 2003, which would be the last time I had any contact with my family.  My mother died in 2013.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

That time spent in recovery programs gave me a new lease on life, or at least supported me enough emotionally to begin to get my life together.  Until that time, as I said earlier, I'd had no innate sense of being able to take care of myself.  I thought I needed to be in relationship, I thought somebody would take care of me.  I know this thinking was probably common among some women in my age cohort, because that's the way a lot of us were raised.  But for me, it was also having been raised with relentless conflicting messages that left me unable to move forward, paralyzed  ~  "You can do anything you want to do in life!"  "I forbide you from doing that!"  "You're talented, you're smart, you have so much self confidence!"  "How could you be so stupid?  It's your own damn fault!  You made your bed, now lie in it!"   For this highly sensitive person that I am and was, that continual litany of psychological abuse completely incapacitated me.  I was already in my late 30s by the time I got into recovery.  I'd lost a lot of lost time floundering around in life.

To be continued, here...

9 comments:

Els said...

Speechless .... but sending you a lot of warm thoughts.
Take care, Connie !

marie ragons said...

Thank you for sharing, I am very touched by what you say! My mother was like yours and I am not cured of that and I think that I shall never cured!
Sorry for my English (I'm French)

Trece said...

AWESOME!!! I love finding more and more people who have spent and are spending time in the rooms. This blog post for sure is your BRAVE!!!!

Roberta said...

Thank you for sharing this very personal story. You are so brave.

ileneharris said...

I truly am at a loss for words and how to respond. Perhaps in person in a few weeks...

Karen Isaacson said...

heartbreaking, Connie. I am always dumbfounded by the depths of human cruelty but also by the power of human resiliency, and what gives someone the strength to break the cycle. yours is a powerful story, and I thank you for sharing it.

Michele Unger said...

Your story is profoundly moving, Connie. I can't imagine how difficult is has been for you but I am inspired by your tireless work and making yourself whole. Your bravery is enormous.

Blue Sky Dreaming said...

I am grateful for the healing groups of the late 80's and 90's. Not all so perfect but when finding the right 'fit', ... inner work, spiritual growth and soul healing became (for me)a step towards peace and unexpected joy.

Rone' Prinz said...

WOW!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing ALL this!!!! You are an AMAZING WOMAN Connie!!!