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Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #26

Adult Child of an Alcoholic, ACoA, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, Finding Peace, One Patient's Journey, Therapy For the Adult Child of an Alcoholic
Posted: August 3, 2015 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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–Sessions: 13 of 53
Monday, March 16, 2009 11:00am
Blood Donation, Apheresis, Number 288, 36 Gallons

I told her about my week. Last Saturday I was volunteering all day at the local High School. My youngest was in the marching band. My wife and I were involved in many aspects of the band program. On this day I was helping by being a crosswalk guard all day. The parking lot where the bands were practicing and the field where they were competing are separated by a busy street. I didn’t know that the cell phone reception was poor and my phone was effectively useless.

When I say I was volunteering all day, I mean all day. As 11pm came and went, I didn’t know that my wife was trying to call me. Around 11:30pm, my phone suddenly worked. She was upset, worried that something had happened to me since she hadn’t been able to call me.

I told my Elsie that I didn’t feel guilt about this. I could have done more perhaps to make sure my phone was working but I didn’t do anything wrong. I was where I said I would be and where I was supposed to be. She told me there was no need for guilt, only for empathy with my wife’s feelings of upset.

You may think that this story is very mundane, unimportant and not worth discussing with a therapist. The things that you or your therapist want to discuss during your sessions may not seem important, but they are part of the process. My feeling guilty about many things is one of my issues. This mundane event during the previous week was worth discussing because it demonstrates how I react to things.

As for my symptoms, last week was good. I had some aches last Thursday but worked through it. My throat was not an issue last week.

We talked about how I put off personal projects due to my fear that what I do won’t be good enough.

Elsie wanted to talk again about how I met my wife. She tells me that it is typical for an ACA to marry someone just like their addicted parent. Recall that ACA stands for Adult Child of an Alcoholic. ACA describes someone that grew up with an alcoholic parent. As an adult, the ACA exhibits a common set of behaviors. Marrying someone just like their addicted parent is one of these.

Now I see why Elsie asked, back in our second session, “Is your wife sane?” At the time, I thought this question was odd. Now I see that her question was really asking me if my wife was alcoholic or had behaviors consistent with that of an addict. At the time I didn’t see this connection. I only saw it when I was going through my notes, writing about each session and comparing notes from each.

Now that I understood what Elsie was really asking, I could answer more clearly, with more specifics. My wife is like my mother in that she is very smart and very strong willed. My wife has never shown any of the behaviors of an alcoholic or an addictive personality. She has an ounce of alcohol a few times a year, and when she does, she’s asleep very early in the evening. My mother smoked heavily for many years, while my wife never smoked.

You can see a pattern now. The therapist will ask questions that come from their experience. In my specific case her questions were about ACA. It may not be clear at the time, to the patient, why they are asking the questions. The relevance of the therapist’s questions become clearer over time. They have an idea where the discussion needs to go to address your issues. Let them lead. Ask any questions you have, but don’t expect that everything they bring up will make sense to you. They are leading your treatment. Let them.

–Sessions: 14 of 53
Monday, March 23, 2009 3:30pm
Blood Donation, Apheresis, Number 289

I asked Elsie if my symptoms were typical for ACA. She assured me they were.

The company I work for is not doing well and just had a layoff. I did not lose my job and I felt survivor guilt. Then it was announced that my company was being acquired and not everyone would keep their job. I just survived a layoff and now I have to go through what amounts to another layoff. I just don’t want to have to look for work. I worry that if I lose my job, I will be failing my oldest son who is in college, but I have saved the money for his first year already. I also worry about how to provide health care for my family.

Just worrying isn’t productive. I made a list of constructive things I could do. I could update my website with the recent book reviews I’ve done for a local software users group. I could update my resume that is posted on my website. I could create presentations for the local users group.

We talked about my job uncertainty. Elsie asked if we could live on less. We could because we had paid off our house to be ready to pay for college. I told her that I’ve seen job postings for what I do, but I’m not sure if they are real jobs. Sometimes companies will post jobs but they already know who they are going to hire. I told her about a local company that called me back in December. They asked me if I would need to give more than two weeks notice so they seemed really interested in me. I also told her that I had considered becoming a nurse since I knew several nurses and I like to help people. She said she knows nurses and they are making good money.

She said I need to take the ‘C’ out of catastrophe. This sounds funny, but it got my attention. She meant that I need to take the capital ‘C’ out of ‘Catastrophe’. I clearly had a plan and many options if I needed to find a new job. I was stable financially so my family would not be in danger if I had to transition from one job to another. My current job may end and I may have to find a new job or even train for a new career. None of these outcomes is a disaster. No need to worry about a catastrophe.

As a footnote, in the twenty-nine years since I graduated from the UC Davis School of Engineering, I have never been unemployed a single day. But I still worry that I will lose my job, and I feel I have to always have a plan for what I will do next.

As with the previous session, what we discussed during this session may strike you as unimportant. Again, this is what I was concerned about at the time, so I thought about it, and discussed it with Elsie. The process is simple. You tell your therapist about what is going on in your life and how you are affected. Mundane events from the previous week are useful to examine what your issues are.

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