Shame

I  just finished reading an old article about the now deceased Scott Weiland (musician).  He’d had a long history with drugs and alcohol. He said:

I have this dark place. It’s a place of loneliness. It’s a place of complete shame and self-hatred, where I deserve to feel all alone because I’m the one who has caused me to feel the pain that I feel, the loneliness and the sorrow that I feel. And I feel like I deserve to feel that way.

I know where it comes from. It comes from my parents divorcing, you know, abandonment and all that. And it also comes from a lot of guilt and shame. And I guess feeling that you caused that feeling yourself becomes its own self-perpetuating thing; it takes on a life of its own.

You know, abandonment and all that.

It made me realize, that even with some “advances” in people understanding that adoption is traumatic, I don’t think there is enough realization of this…this shame. This belief that something inherent within me (because it couldn’t be something I *did* – I was too young) is so awful that it caused an entire clan of people, and all their support systems, to recoil from me and run away.

You can tell me until I’m blue in the face that that isn’t true, and I can shake my head and nod that that makes logical sense.  I can even say it out loud, and tell that to others in their situations. I know it’s not *their* fault.

But deep down, deep deep down, I will never believe you. I KNOW it’s something inside me.

I hope more advances can be made in this area.  Not just telling someone it’s not their fault, but convincing them beyond a shadow of a doubt.

;

 

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Adoptees and Codependency

OK, let me rephrase that…ME and codependency.  I can’t speak for other adoptees, although I know from listening to many of you that you struggle with the same things.

From Unwelcome Inheritance by Lisa Sue Woititz and the late Dr. Janet G. Woititz (I didn’t mention on my last post that she is the founder and author of Adult Children of Alcoholics so she has some cred, 😉 ) — she’s quoting Melody Beattie from Codependent No More:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.

also (her own words, no longer quoting the other book):

This is the nature of codependency, where a person is so preoccupied with the other that they are distracted from their own life.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying I am the adult (adopted) child of an adult child of an alcoholic, who may or may not be an alcoholic in his own right…I still haven’t figured that one out. My adoptive mother is definitely codependent, well, when she’s not waffling between that and stonewalling hostility.

Soooo…I may have picked up a lot of these behaviors not due to adoption but because of my home life.

But I think adoption played a huge part and here’s why — the adoptee as an infant and child has a biological drive to be kept, or die. Paraphrasing Paul Sunderland, they are thinking “what does a person have to do to get on around here…I’ll do that” and “that was traumatic, I’m bloody well not going to let that happen again.”

If codependency is a preoccupation with what others want to the point that their own lives get pushed back, I think adoptees fit the bill.  It would take a very special, highly aware parent to even notice this was happening, let alone try to stop it.  Adoptees often morph their behavior to please their parents, cater to their parents needs over their own.

In my own life, I was a super good girl. Any time my parents were mad at me, I was in a total panic and truly felt like I was going to die.  My parents derided me for being so sensitive, but shoot…who wouldn’t cry if you were worried that the C you got on your report card might just be that final thing that got you sent packing.   It definitely wasn’t a conscious thought, “I’m going to die” but looking back I can remember how my body would react.  Severe anxiety, heart pounding, that feeling like your going to wet your pants.  I thought that was just how people felt when their parents got “that look in their eye” but I don’t think all children feel that way now!

So of course I didn’t WANT to feel that way and walked on eggshells around my parents to avoid it. I was obsessed with their behavior, I was codependent. Since it was since I was a tiny baby, my sense of self is nil, I’m always just “whatever the other person wants.”

Unfortunately I’ve taken this into many other relationships.  Trying to climb out of that mess now.

Do you feel this way as an adoptee?

Feeling like Atlas

Today I was reading Unwelcome Inheritance: Break your Family’s Cycle of Addictive Behaviors by Lisa Sue Woititz and the late Dr. Janet G. Woititz.  The reason I’m reading it is another post for another day, but I was struck by one line in the introduction.

She says a particular chapter suggests that ” we ACoA [Adult Children of Alcoholics] expand our life view to include the other generations of our families. Doing this helps us to see ourselves as part of history, which takes us out of and beyond ourselves.” (emphasis mine)

I don’t know about you, but as an adoptee I have always felt the great burden of the lack of this in my life. I always felt dropped from outer space.  “Viewing other generations” of my adoptive family just felt weird, foreign, not mine. Hearing that the grandfather of my adoptive mother stowed away on a cargo ship to reach America was fascinating, but just as personal as if I had heard it about my friend’s great grandfather.  I care(d) about my adoptive family, so what was amazing for them made me happy, but I was happy for *them* not *for us.*

Being other in a family of not other made me stuck in myself, and not in a selfish way — I was not full of myself or thinking I was top dog or anything — but because it felt like my story began and ended at me, I felt everything was up to me and everything was because of me and my fault.   I say “felt” but honestly, I have a very hard time shaking this and it’s really still present tense.

This is a horrible burden for a child. Your family abandoned you, you have the weight of the world on your shoulders, you somehow have to “fix” it because it hurts, you have to “fix” your family because they wanted a girl and couldn’t have a girl and you’re it, you’re that girl it’s all up to you…and you’re seven.

Why adoptees become addicts

From an article on Amy Winehouse:

Here’s why: a key pillar of addiction is often self-hatred and an inability to see oneself as worthy of love. In songs like “You Know I’m No Good,” and “Back to Black,” Winehouse made those feelings painfully plain. If you’re an addict, that belief has probably always been with you. You may make a desperate attempts to pile up evidence otherwise—Look at my million-selling songs! My stadiums full of adoring fans! My husband who tolerates whatever I dish out! But it can’t possibly be enough.  You know that if they really knew you, they’d hate you.

For obvious reasons, this makes relationships almost impossible.  The stress of being unable to take in love and social support feels unbearable and can warp the personality.  Indeed, research suggests this may be one of the worst forms of stress we can experience, since our emotional systems are designed to be buffered by social contact and cannot balance themselves without it.

So many adoptees walk around with this belief…that deep down they are unworthy, that if people *really and truly* knew them, they’d hate them.

Addiction isn’t always the stereotypical alcoholic or messed up junkie.  No, addiction is often the woman next door who quiets her pain with food or books, or the teen who really can’t live without that phone, or the 40-something guy who feels that fight or flight response kick in when anyone in his life shows some unhappiness, and will either do anything to get that back or shut everyone out before it happens again.

Paul Sunderland has a wonderful lecture on Adoption and Addiction.