Trust Issues, Anyone?

My venture into the Mental Heath Center in Iowa City was the beginning of  my journey towards survival. I had to sneak in as it was across the street from the Haunted Book Shop and it was the University of Iowa;  writers were hiding under every rock and books meant the world to each of them. Haunted was the place to grab your used poetry. I would sneak into therapy wishing I was hunting for poetry instead.

The stigma of therapy hung heavy and I did not tell anyone, not even Mel who I knew had been through therapy hell and back.    Stigma sucks.

My therapist eventually asked my mother to come in and talk; she felt that talking with Mommy would be a missing piece to my therapy

We were at a point of  ‘diagnosis’  schizo  maybe. nice.

My mother went in.


I waited in the lobby for her to finish what was to be the first session of many.  The thinking was that Mommy would go in alone once a week and I would continue my therapy.   We would eventually go through therapy together.

I didn’t understand at the time what the hell my mother had to do with anything; that is how messed up it is to be an adult child of alcoholics.  It had been made abundantly clear by my mother that my problems were mine and that I fucked up the family system. I took the blame and ran with it.

Forget the fact the I took care of my sister for years and made dinner most nights.   When you grow up with alcoholics you can not fathom that you are not the problem

My mother came out of that therapy session early. She had not even taken her coat off. She left without saying a word to me and that was the end of that.

She would not return.


A therapists office is not unlike a confessional; the therapist can not divulge what goes on behind those doors. I do not know what was said or not said, I do know that the outcome seemed to distress my therapist.

My therapist told me she would have to take a new tack in our therapy sessions. I could sense that she had hoped that my mother would take part.

And so it went…

It wasn’t until I was 25 that I found a therapist who called me on my drinking and drug use. Come to think of it, maybe I LIED about my drinking and drug use up until then.

Alcoholics lie. Yes we do.

…or did as the case might be.   (see my post Alcoholics Lie   Sept. 15th 2011)

I have been in and out, and mostly in, therapy since I was 17. I was in AA for a time in addition to therapy and have spent the bulk of my 12 step years in Adult Children of Alcoholics groups.

I am not crazy and I never was. I was just led to believe I was.

Was I led there by my parents overtly?     No. Did I take it on all by myself?    Yes.

I wish my mother had taken her coat off. Maybe that alone would have made some difference in our relationship. Maybe if she had just taken her coat off and stayed awhile, we could have begun a dialog that would matter today.

Mommy is now non verbal. Our talking days are over before they even began.

My mother can still glare at me. She is disappointed by me still.

She will point to my lips in disgust; no lipstick.

She will point to my hats in disapproval.

She will turn away from me and scowl knowing I am the only reason she is locked up.

Our talking days will never come and that is why I am eternally grateful to my therapist, Cathy, to my friends and to my Ayurvedic Doctor, Alakananda Devi, of The Alandi Ashram,  for listening and talking and listening again. I am grateful to my Sauna Club for being there and to all of  you who have opened your hearts and shared your thoughts with me.

As an Adult Child of Alcoholics, I  grew up  alone and  self-contained. I  didn’t need anyone because I knew that no one would be there.

It takes time and Love and words and tears to learn the truth; we are not alone and Trust must be meted out and earned.

My therapist of 25 years, Cathy, told me a very long time ago, “You can not trust 100% of the people 100% of the time, but you can and must begin to trust.”

Easy for her to say.

I remember my mother walking out of the Mental Health Center in Iowa city and not looking back. I learned working with my therapist that I could not trust my mother.

I learned from a friend my Freshman year at the University of Iowa, that I could trust someone.

Thank you Mel.    This ones for you.

Love,   Jen


I have found this Blog to be  very helpful    The L.I.S.T. ACA Group


The below is from the L.I.S.T. ACA  Blog….. (See my Blog Roll)

August 5, 2010

1. Low or no self-esteem
2. Often feels responsible and blames self
3. Inability to trust self and others (may trust, but trusts wrong people)
4. Sense of worthlessness
5. Isolation
6. Sense of being helpless
7. Strong denial system
8. Low or no body awareness
9. Numb the pain with drinking, drugging, sexing, eating, etc.
10. Physical and medical symptoms – may be a lot of body complaints
11. Prostitution
12. Suicide – taking anger out on self
13. Sense of emptiness
14. Loss of playfulness and spontaneity
15. Many become abusive

These defenses interfere with developing relationships on an adult level.
1. Silence
2. Denial – may be believing it’s not happening
3. Dissociation – “becoming the spot on the ceiling”
4. Numb feelings
5. Change feelings – from anger to ______________
6. Change meaning of abuse – child may be told, “This is good for you”, so child may think “Doesn’t
this happen to all kids?”
7. Isolation – stay away from home, etc.

1. Share your story – you don’t need to deal with pain alone
2. Believe your story – you have a tendency to discount
3. Establish perpetrator responsibility – recognize it isn’t about you
4. Address the addictions used to numb the pain
5. Realize you can deal with the pain without mood altering substances
6. Learn to recognize, then accept, and then communicate feelings
7. Learn to nurture yourself
8. Build self-esteem and positive body image (affirmations)
9. Deal with family of origin – break the code of secrecy – by writing and talking with other people
10. Learn to be playful
11. Learn that now you do have a chance to live, you do have choices – YOU NEED NOT BE A
12. Take back your power – act responsibly, set boundaries that feel comfortable, control sexual
behavior – you can control who enters your life
13. Remind yourself of your strengths
14. Learn you can say “No”
15. Learn to give and receive criticism
16. Stop abusing others

Taken from the ACA WSO website

~ by Step On a Crack on October 17, 2011.

9 Responses to “Trust Issues, Anyone?”

  1. Same story on MOMS. My mom doesn’t have the ravaging disease that your mom has, but she reacted EXACTLY how your mom did re: therapy … there’s nothing wrong with ME! And so … as adult children of alcoholics we continue to believe, YES, it IS me who is the problem … when it is not.

    Stigma: Please understand my sadness here, i have to ask … you’ve been afraid to tell me, and i want to know … i can handle the pain of my whole life now and say it’s OVER, that shit has hit the fan and it’s long BLOWN outta here … and yet i have to “hear it” truthfully to OWN it … and i will (maybe sob) and let it go! I’m strong … so here goes.

    Even THOUGH i am an adult … what did people say about me? I feel like a was hiding all the time … that the truth was so awful i couldn’t tell anyone what was really going on … and yet there was a stigma upon me?

    Was it because everyone as far back as junior high school knew i was hospitalized for a “mental” disorder: Anorexia? Because people knew i, too, was seeing a shrink at U of I? Because they said i was a fucked up chucker? I’m not sure what you mean about the stigma. Please tell me. The truth is all i can deal with now. I have to deal and move on.

    Jen, as you know, i have always been a kind and tender soul: Sensitive. What people said about me is testament to their idiocy!

    I am so glad you are and were my friend, but how could you if i was stigmatized? It has dogged me all my life … now i question what i’ve been doing. I’ve been feeling strong about my “coming out” … it’s been like coming out of the closet … but there are new and changing pains that arrive at the door every day. Please, friend, let it rip!

    Love and peace,

    your friend,


    PS i’m sorry to use your blog as my selfish seeker of “truth”.


    • Sweetheart! I meant the THERAPY had a stigma around it not you, honey! I wonder how many of us were sneaking into therapy and just not talking about it. This was LONG before there was a SELF HELP section in every bookstore on the planet. The stigma was about anyone going to a shrink. I will email the more personal stuff. YOU were a piece of my salvation! If I did not know you were in therapy it would NEVER had occurred to me to consider going; you de-stigmatized it for me. YOU led me to therapy Sweetheart!

      Love always Jen


  2. Also, i like the links, and tips on learning about adult children of alcoholics and the recover (see my need for truth) above.

    Also, same rules apply for other psychiatric disorders. My mom’s clinical depression, panic disorder and narcissism; my dad’s anxiety disorder; and my brothers alcoholism.


  3. You’ve written another truthful post here that speaks to me, and I’m sure speaks to others who have been along the same kind of path. I hope you’re able to trust yourself now, you seem to be almost glowing with inner wisdom that you’re sharing. Thank you for your words.


    • You are very kind. I feel like I am in knee deep mud… Thank you for being here. I just noticed you have a new post! I will check it tomorrow! I will look forward to your Truth and Wisdom…Sleep Tight.. J


  4. Very touching. Thank you for opening the doors to your soul.

    This post is packed with helpful ‘take home’ info. Thank you for telling us the part about your therapy. I love therapy and always have to remind myself that it’s an unusual quirk of mine. You get credit for opening up about it.

    She never took off her coat. I have to guess that she never intended to. So sad.

    Did you start writing your memoirs before she was behind locked doors or after?


  5. There is such a statement in “she never took off her coat”. It says more than a physical act. So much more. Your focus to help others is great too. For me, helping others seems to help me at the same time.


  6. One thing i’ve been learning lately in the rooms and in my own personal explorations and relationships is that i’m the kind of guy who will apologize when you bump into to me. My go-to place is guilt. It’s all my fault. i’ll take the blame and apologize and punish myself and try to do better or at least erase myself so i can do no wrong anymore.

    My Guilt button was so huge that people would even press it by accident, not meaning to.

    Slowly, and with the help of intelligent people like you and captivating posts like this one, i am becoming more capable of saying “Stop. Its not my fault and i refuse to accept responsibility for this.” i am refusing to let other people judge and jury me.


    • AMEN to that ! It is a really remarkable feeling isn’t it? AND This is uncanny; I just finished my post for today and I was thinking of all the alcoholics and drug addicts I know and love. I think you will get quite a kick out of the next post. I swear, just when I think I have IT figured out, I am reminded: Keep Coming Back. I love the image of the giant guilt button; nice imagery. I am sorry by the way if I have offended you in any way. Wait…. get thee to a meeting I say to myself…. Peace Brother, J I will post soon I hope it makes you laugh…


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