Old paperwork and greeting cards for holidays and birthdays were discovered during a recent search of a drawer I had neglected for some time. They were ones I had given rather than ones I had received. I opened it after feeling somewhat impelled to. It was addressed to my father, and the stick-like handwriting I formerly used but had long since forgotten was there. The emotion contained therein, though, was more important.
It stated, “Daddy, I love you.”
I was immobilized and felt torn between the kid I once was or the adult I became as a result of a para-alcoholic childhood that was unstable, dangerous, and sometimes predatory.
I reread, “Daddy, I love you.”
I questioned the author of the sentence: who was it? I guess that’s how it started for me and my dad. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way. I questioned where the affection had vanished to.
My soul had obviously been ringed and strangled by the dysfunctional sickness, compressing it from whatever it was to the point where it was not like a growing plant.
Many hints as to why were revealed by taking a look right back at the difficult path I was made to travel.
Inflicting on me the same patterns of abuse that a raging alcoholic victimized him with as a child, my father had no grasp on the reasons behind his actions, had no concept of what was right or wrong, had no compassion or empathy for the harm he caused me, and had been just as devoid of love as I was.
The “Adult Kids of Alcoholism” textbook (Global Service structure, 2006, p. 6) counsels, “As children and teenagers, we weren’t provided with a true or continuous instance of love.” “So how do we as adults know it or identify it? Our parents humiliated or denigrated us for being weak kids. They referred to it as love although they were perplexed. In the belief that they were being loving parents, they passed through what had been done to them. Many adults described what they thought was love or intimacy as codependence or strict control.
One adult kid said that while his grandparents “said they loved him,” he couldn’t recall ever feeling secure or cared for as a youngster (ibid., p. 270). “His alcoholic father cursed his kids and threatened the family.”
In such circumstances, trying to mature and develop personally is akin to attempting to construct a 100-story tower block in the middle of a hurricane. Finding love inside it may be as challenging, particularly during and after bouts of verbal, personal, and even physical violence.
As stated by Michael R. Breggin so “Guilt, Shame, & Anxiety: Recognizing and Overcoming Bad Emotions” (Prometheus Literature, 2014, p. 228), “We cannot feel safe while getting mentally bullied or manipulated if we want to appear as loving as we can inside a relationship.” Love tends to wither away without confidence and security, and it develops when those things are present.
As has frequently been said, personal perception determines reality, and maintained parental wrongdoings cause hairpin triggers in children and, eventually, in adults, making them doubt their reality and robbing them of their trust in others, a number of whom later in life serve as parent-replaced authority figures.
Breggin adds, “When we perceive someone who is bullying or exploiting us, we don’t require them to be objectively correct” (ibid., p. 228). “Our own perspective is what matters. Each of us has the right to take action in response to emotional injury by either demanding an end to it or withdrawing ourselves.
However, those who were forced to endure such treatment as children enjoyed no other option but to put up with it as it was gradually lessened and reduced down by those who served as most significant role models. The fact that this was carried out by such individuals just serves to further confuse the meaning of “love.”
We typically resist when faced with the consequences of emotional and verbal abuse, pursuant to the “Adult Daughters of Alcoholics” handbook (op. cit., p. 30). “We found it hard to accept that those who claimed to care for or love us would lie. If someone called us lazy, shameful because or embarrassing, it must (have) been true because they were the people who mattered the most to us. If we have a neutral viewpoint, we will discover that this was merely verbal abuse masquerading as love. A loving parent would never say things like that to their kid, however.
It is a thin veil concealing parental inadequacy—and certainly betraying one at that—because children do not examine their harmful and degrading treatment, fooling themselves into thinking that it is caused by their own shortcomings and inadequacies.
“Love can possibly hurt you,” argues Breggin (op. cit., pp. 223-223). “Love may have let you down. You may have been duped by love. People who use the word “love” or make references to a loving God may have earned your mistrust because of betrayals in their family or church. Dad may have persuaded you that your life was doomed, and your preacher may have warned you that you would burn in hell. You could have been chronically angry or numb as a result of losing love too many times.
Living through an abusive and drunken environment is nearly the height of insane, which is almost the exact opposite of love.
Breggin notes that it is difficult to be love and mad at the same time (ibid., p. 244). This is so because love ties us to other people, but insanity has all about being cut off from others.
Lacking tools and being undeveloped, an infant who is defenseless against this madness seeks assurance and refuge by going deep inside, cocooning his inner child, which, if not realized and understood, stays frozen in time at the precise time of creation for the entirety of his life. It is substituted with the artificial construct known as the pseudo-self, which is unable to truly engage with others and the Lord, who is the exact definition of love. It cannot integrate it; instead, it interprets it as a smokescreen or distorted static.
Alcoholism, a major contributor to this activity that increases chances of survival, is obliterated.
In accordance to the “Adult Offspring of Alcoholics” guidebook (op. cit., p. 357), “The cost of our persistent allegiance to drink is the loss for our ability to love.” “By not resolving the violent issues that threatened to split up our families, we lose the ability to give and receive. In order to handle the uncontrollable turmoil within, we internalize these tensions and carry them onto adulthood.
Codependence, a condition of lost selfhood that drives the individual to “plug into” another in an attempt to get attention, validation, and love—typically from people, like his biological parents, who are unable to provide it—is bred by unstable upbringings.
According the author of the “Adult Child of Alcoholics” guidebook (ibid, p. 60), “Our experience reveals that the heavily reliant rupture, that generates an outward focus on acquiring love or affirmation, can be caused by a dysfunctional childhood.” “…The desertion by our guardians or other caretakers is what causes this inner rupture. The desertion prepares us for a life if always seeking safety and affection elsewhere.
The most valuable spiritual resource in the world, according to Breggin (op. cit., p. 222), is love. “The ability and longing to love & be loved is at the very foundation of who we are.”
He continues, “(yet), all of the suffering and pain apparently connected to (it) has a lot to do with the imperfect ways of how we individuals relate to each other” (ibid, p. 244).
I understand that I am the result of all that has happened as I put the greeting card in in the drawers and that the distinctions between my father and the father I lost were due to the presence or lack of love.