...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Growing up Christian, child of alcoholic

As an adult child of an alcoholic, the standard quiz of the coping traits sometimes left me more puzzled and feeling, well, different. Working with a skilled spiritual director, and teacher of the Enneagram, equipped me to better see and appreciate the child I was meant to be, born to be. At the beginning of the retreat, we shared our earliest memory of experiencing joy. We recalled what we were doing at time. As a result, I have been able to discover a continuity between that child self and the self that emerged.

I "grew up Christian," baptized and confirmed and strengthened by family and a healthy community of faith. Trust in a loving God has played a huge role in healing and recovery. My faith heritage and congregation was largely safe and accepting. Not everyone has that. Telling my story may help those who live with any kind of church/home dichotomy or dysfunction. For those who have been wounded, the healing can be in asking who it was who hurt us. In most cases, it is not really a whole church., but rather, an individual.

In childhood and adolescence, my emerging self struggled to control, manage or avoid the explosive people or situations around me.
I now know I am responsible for my own actions. I cannot control people or situations to avoid my pain or fear. Even as I love and serve others, I surrender regularly, prayerfully, to God's love and care.

Then, I was comfortable reducing conversations to pablum- and even tried not to feel or think anything at all. My recovery has required a continuing practice of becoming aware of myself, including harmful self-talk, as well as my body. I now attend to sabbath, gratitude, and better breathing. I am open to joy and delight in being alive, not just consumed with fight or flight.

Then, I numbed-out, emotionally and chemically. I now realize that anything I put into my body can become an addiction, or it can be helpful and healthful. I can exercise regularly to increase my energy level, endorphins, and sense of well-being.

That old self invested in keeping the peace, especially once the booze started talking. Some people are unhappy. I am not wholly responsible for the world's well-being. This is not easy, but I am working on giving priority to what is mine to do even though people pleasing is in my DNA.

Next, I share how coping with an alcoholic parent can become a curse in ministry, driving our worst self, or a gift in service to others, inviting us to know a deeper healing, love, and grace.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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