dialectics, again + confirmation: i am not faking it. i am not a fraud.

enabling vs. support

isolation vs. time alone to feel

relaxation vs. laziness

overcoming fears vs. entering unsafe situations and betraying ourselves.

extraordinarily gifted vs. disabled and less-fortunate

young woman or old hag

young woman or old hag (unknown artist)

the trigger

I spent the weekend with a group of fellow ACA members (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) at a ski resort several hours away from where I live.

Having known several of these folks as an off-and-on member of their recovery group for the past year, I didn’t think twice about spending several days with them in a remote location.

They were safe, they were friends and fellow survivors; and as such, their friends were my friends.

I had what could be called by the psychiatric profession an episode (?). I yelled and swore and sobbed hysterically for over an hour, and was left alone in this state, but in clear ear shot of the 9 other members in the house.

I had become exhausted skiing and had not headed my instinct to rest. I had then become over-stimulated and gone into a state of extreme shyness, insecurity, social phobia.

Unable to join the group at dinner upstairs, I stayed in my bunk downstairs after a nap and phoned a friend with trauma and ptsd experience. I didn’t feel able to hide what was going on for me, but I also didn’t know how or if to share it with the group. She helped me identify that I was approaching a potential crisis state, and we decided that I would call up to the woman who had invited me to be there that weekend and ask if she would bring me some food in my bed.

The crisis became full blown when this request triggered the woman who owned the house to come storming down to my bedroom and inform me that there was no room service in her house. When I told her I had a medical condition that prevented me from coming up to the living room area, she demanded to know what it was, saying she had a right to know because it was her house. When I told her, she said that I should have thought twice about coming there in the first place; that her house was a place of joy and community. When I asked to speak with the woman who had invited me to the weekend, the owner of the condo said that she would not allow it, that she would not allow her friends to be burdened with negative feelings while they were staying in her house. That I could come up and join them when I felt ready to be in a positive space.

In the midst of all that, I had began to cry, then sob, then yell and swear at her through my sobbing, while covering my face and curling into a ball before becoming completely inaudible in my efforts to defend myself.

She personified my initial wounding. Then, the rest of the group personified it by the fact that despite my loud and uncontrollable sobbing went on for over an hour, no one came down to be with me. I was left alone, in shame and exile for how I was feeling. I phoned my ptsd friend again, and we decided that I was not in a safe place, and that I needed to find a way to get out of there as soon as possible, all through the sobbing, the whole conversation quite audible to the rest of the group upstairs if they had stopped to listen. I have no idea. From the snippets of sound I was hearing from them, it sounded as if they had simply continued with their evening, laughing and joking and being the happy recovery family. I then called my CoDA sponsor, who was sympathetic and actually in shock to hear what was going on with this group of ACA members, but completely stand-offish when it came to action, such as driving to pick me up or speaking with another member there at the house with me. She told me I would have to call on my higher power like never before to endure and survive and reminded me that I was physically safe.

When the rest of the group left to go tubing down the hill that night, I was alone in the house. I called two more CoDA people, who made me laugh and start to feel like myself again. I tried to find out if there were any shuttles out of there sooner than my ride with the others down the hill the following afternoon, but to no avail. So I packed up my things from the common living space and prepared to spend the next 12 hours in my bed, reading, writing, listening to music and anything else to forget where I was.

When the group came home, there was not privacy. I was sleeping in a bunk with one other, tucked in a passage way from the boot room of the house to the basement stairway. By now, I had calmed down and was able to accept the reality of being there, having to honour myself and my experience and relate to the others in the way that the situation needed me to in order to survive it. Two women ended up in my room with me, and after I joined into their banter about what had happened on the tubing hill for a few minutes, they asked me how I was doing. I told them that I was ready to go, simply passing the time until the next day when I could go home; that I did not feel welcome in this home. I told them what had happened for me, and that I had never lost it like that in front of others (in retrospect, I don’t think I’d actually lost it like that, period). They fostered the viewpoint of objectivity, understanding and non judgement, and encouraged me that everyone else was also of that mindset and that they would be happy if I was able to come up and join them for the evening.

And so I did. Without betraying my own reality, and with a bubble of protection from those I had spoken to on the phone, I was able to be present with myself and with the others. I endured until the next day and made it home.

In the car, it became clear that no one was going to bring it up. That if I remained silent and removed for the rest of the trip, that was going to be how it would end. So, I came out and asked for a clearing about what had happened and they engaged willingly.

They identified that the condo owner had been triggered, which had disrupted the interaction of me asking for help, and expressed sadness that I had had a traumatic experience this weekend. They told me that the condo owner had witnessed the woman I’d asked to speak with in a suicidal state, codependently wrapped up in other people’s dramas, and that this was a life-time pattern of hers. They said that if I had included in my request for some food, the reason why I was requesting it, that the exchange would also have gone quite differently. That when there was no explanation for why, it seemed strange, and they didn’t understand. The unspoken general response from the group became that I was being manipulative for attention, and that appeasing my request would be an act of what the 12-step community calls ‘enabling.’ In the 12-step sense, enabling describes the situation of bringing a six pack of beer to an alcoholic, in essence, enabling the dysfunction to continue. So to their minds, their response (or lack of) had been coming from a loving and compassionate place.

In that clearing in the car, another member related to the state of intense social phobia — the intense feelings of shame and shyness, and feeling unable to be around people. Her response however then went into how she had learned that if she was able to find the strength to ‘fake it until she made it’ she was almost always fine, and the fear diminished.

In the moment, I said nothing. My face glazed over and I stared far out into the distance through the car windows.


Since I’ve been home, I have been sleeping very little and processing a lot, alternating between empowerment & revelation and overwhelm & shame.
I feel like an outsider of the world.
Faking It

Faking It (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of my digestion was also around this notion of ‘faking it ’till you make it’ and realizing that once again, this approach is the opposite of healthy for me. I faked it till I made it in every moment of living for the first half of my life, and did it so well as to land myself in situations of impossible and unsustainable expectations. ‘Faking it ’till I made it’ betrayed myself, so long that it became a trauma in itself. I was untrustworthy. I was untruthful. I became exhausted, increasingly depressed, increasingly disconnected from myself and others. The greater the disconnect, the greater the over-compensation. My sense of self disintegrated and all that was left was a hollow shell and a scam. I was living a lie.

‘Faking it …’ is a death potion to me. The ultimate rejection of Self, a kind of suicide. That my strength must be real and authentic, or not at all, is a matter of life or death.

This process of radical honesty in order to heal means being at times awkward — strange — inappropriate. My understanding of 12-step fellowship was that we can accept this about each other and not react with suspicion or avoidance as others who are not in recovery often do.

In our pain, fear, confusion and over-compensation, we can hurt others just as we have been hurt ourselves so long ago. And so the initial wound lives on, passed on, from one wounded soul to another.

'Cracked' by Stephen Kline

‘Cracked’ by Stephen Kline

There’s a basic human instinct that tells us to help someone who is in distress. Of all the places I’d expect that to be missing, ACA is the last. Ironically, I don’t think anyone in CoDA would have left me to sob loudly and hysterically for an hour while carrying on jovially. Nor would they have pretended like nothing happened for the rest of the weekend until I asked for a clearing about it in the car. Even then, I don’t feel they got it. They felt proud of how their little recovery family had handled the situation because no one had acted codependently. no one had rescued anyone else. No one had been enabled.
If a man is dying on the side of the road, do we expect him to ask for help as we pass by? Are we enabling his dysfunction by helping him without his direct request?
So in the attempt to end codependency (and enabling), we can become the source of the initial abandonment and shame for others. And so the legacy continues, the wide pendulums from one extreme to another that bounce and ricochet down the tree of generations.
My trauma friend says that her and many of her peers have experienced this with 12-step groups — the hyper -vigilance and -discipline that can re-traumatize someone in trauma recovery. People in her trauma treatment program avoid 12-step work for the very experience I have had — the tragic and ironic absence of basic human compassion and caring that is the reason we are all here in recovery.
In the effort to rid ourselves of addiction, the heart gets thrown out with the bath water.

In recovery, it takes a lot to love ourselves. It is our life’s journey in getting well. And just as it isn’t easy to love ourselves, it is sometimes just as hard to love each other.

And yet, this is our only hope. If we cannot love ourselves and each other, who will?

I am no longer sure of the right healing place for me to be. I’m not sure if ACA is a safe place for me to be. I am floating in the ether.


9_fence_posts (unknown artist)

enabling vs. support

isolation vs. time alone to feel

relaxation vs. laziness

overcoming fears vs. entering unsafe situations and betraying ourselves.

extraordinarily gifted vs. disabled and less-fortunate

We live on these fence posts because of the split that our dysfunctional upbringings created in us. The chronic doubting of our own impulses and inclinations, the questioning of what is real, the unrelenting base of confusion, the existential angst that rots our foundations like a termite. We abandon ourselves and each other. Mistrust ourselves and each other.

From the perspective of my diagnosed illness, this situation is a stellar example of it. That I can have that kind of experience — externalized or not ,– that I can lose control of my emotions to such an extent, and then talk about it so sanely and with such clarity is an illustration of the split in me between my mind and my heart.

I believe it is a distinct characteristic of my illness.

It is an illness because it confuses people. It confuses me.

I get mis-diagnosed and mis-understood.

People think I am being manipulative for attention.

And in my own confusion, I feel like a two-faced fraud.

Related articles



bpd and codependency — writings by aj mahari

The parallels between Codependency and BPD have been obvious to me from the start, but I had never heard anyone else speak about this.

If you are finding the definition of codependency illusive, you are not alone and you may be as happy as I am to find these sites. Thanks, AJ 🙂

How is Codependency Experienced?

BDP and Codependency (Patterns of enmeshment)

Codependents Speak Out

Basics and links of Codependency

Also, here are 2 downloadable documents from the above sites, which i found to be quite illuminating, even after I have heard of, discussed and read about boundaries and codependency for many years.

Signs of Poor Boundaries

Unresolved Codependency


60 volts through a 2 volt circuit + illusive roots of trauma & another letter to the universe


I want to feel connected, but I get easily exhausted and need to be by myself; I need a lot of time to myself, but then I feel disconnected and isolated.


I escape into practical and/or assigned tasks, and become impulsively and compulsively engaged in them to the point of neglecting relationships, balance, self-care and other commitments.

This is a revelation to me. I don’t know why I had never had this thought before. Pare workaholism and perfectionism, and you have a perfect recipe for snapping in two. For the first time in my life I am naming this illness in me; and I do feel it as an illness. The 12-step community would compare work to me to a bottle of booze to an alcoholic. I feel that. I am drinking; I am drunk. I am ill with a sickness that has been unnamed in me.

I found the pages of the Workaholics Anonymous website illuminating.

Finding balance

There are so many wonderful people and events to get to know, ways to become involved. I cannot do them all at once. That there are possible connections with so many people that may simply be missed because i cannot handle the stimulation, is a revelation to me. I feel anxiety in choosing which ones I can do, and with all the people I said I would call, and genuinely want to call, but simply can’t. On one level, I miss the spaciousness of knowing fewer people here, and having fewer involvements, which brings me right back to the duality of connection vs. time to myself. Really, it ties everything together. When I become involved, I become the workaholic and I become overstimulated and exhausted. The focus on me and my healing, confronting the unknown in the absence of escape, truly feeling alive and present, is lost in exchange for a sense of connection. I am confronted with the need to choose between the two.

Mending, clarrifying the story

In a meeting with my sponsor in CoDA and attempting Step Four, I was confronted with a seemingly simple question: As a child, were there people in my life I could talk to and go to for support? I quickly spiraled down into a pit of confusion. I became tearful and inconsolable in this confusion. It would be so much easier if I had experienced blatant abuse or neglect in my childhood. Not having these, but experiencing all the symptoms as if I had, creates a chronic and destructive split in me — the seemingly eternal and fundamentally incapacitating question of whether I am over-dramatizing or minimizing my experience. What is the truth of my childhood, and my experience of life? What am I a survivor of? What am I healing from? What justifies my need for recovery, compassion and support? Am I being a whiny baby? Do I need to give myself a good kick in the ass, or do I need to find more compassion to soften my expectations, sing my praises, and feel more proud and triumphant for being a survivor? How do I feel? What is the truth? This is the hurricane within, the earthquake splitting the psychic ground on which I stand, creating the voids — the blank places of numbness in me, like icons on the screen that are there, but un-clickable, greyed out. There is a lifetime of pain that was brought out by this simple question. And this is the beauty and healing of CoDA experienced again–that these things in me can be expressed, made tangible, and witnessed by a fellow compassionate human being who accompanies me in the most important work of witnessing them myself. No longer will they lie dormant like termites, eroding my structure. I am acknowledging the confusion in me, and the pain that it creates.


My mom and I go numb together; we stop communicating on the level it takes to know each other, and feel connected with each other. This is her seemingly-permanent state of being, and what is being countered in me by my recovery community and healing experiences. Thaw the feelings, speak them, live them, feel alive. It does not seem part of her way of being to live on the level of consciousness that I need in order to be okay, in order to not feel alien, alone and delinquent. There is this clash with us. It can be hard for me to be fully present in her interests, which seem like trivial distractions to me, and which are part of a reality and way of living that has been invalidating to me. We are, in this way, mismatched spirits, which is a term I am using from the book Psychotherapy of the Quiet Borderline by Vance R. Sherwood and Charles P. Cohen, both Ph.D.’s (see my post on precocious ego development for excepts of this book). Her self-described “numbed-out” state is dysfunctional to me, though completely normalized in her. I cannot normalize it, so how do I be with her? Where and how do I separate myself from her reality? The reason I become so annoyed and disturbed by the fact that her numbness keeps her in so many cycles of struggle is that I have not found a way to separate myself from that reality. I have taken it on as my own in order to connect and feel close to her, but this has cost me greatly, and i cannot continue to do so. I guess the theory that seems to be presenting to me is that for a deeply sensitive person such as myself, what is normalized in much of traditional / mainstream society, becomes a traumatic abuse to me, and that is my abuse.


Dear Universe: How do I contain these forces in my psyche? How do I contain the creativity that flows through me like a thousand volts of energy through this 2 volt circuit? How do I enlarge my circuit and avoid electrocution?


journey of healing: part 2

Osho Zen Tarot card for Healing

Osho Zen Tarot card for Healing

alternatives to traditional mental health services

Growing up in the valley, my impression of the area matched the nickname for Duncan, BC of “drunken duncan”. returning here as an adult, I have been struck by the growth of the holistic community of healing. i am surprised to find myself settling in, in a brand new reality of growth, with no plans of going anywhere else soon. i feel at home here, surrounded by others on a healing journey, through alternative health practices. i am loving the land of lush green and comparatively mild temperatures to my adventures in northern canada. it is good to reconnect with the shoulder seasons again, seek out new hiking trails, and get lost in the woods with my iPhone camera.

My experiences of alternative healing here have been far more powerful than traditional mental health programming.

In CoDA (Codependents Anonymous), i attend one or two meetings each week, which are an opportunity for my authentic person to be witnessed, without judgement. by also witnessing the authentic expressions of other members, i see that i am not alone, and i am validated as in no other community i have found. i am struck by the power of the simple, universal human experience of listening and being heard. no higher education, research or government funding is necessary to perform this ritual. it is simple. anyone can do it. no equipment or expertise is necessary. it is innate in all human beings, and provides the deepest healing. last week, a new member proclaimed after listening to shares from everyone in the room, “everything, absolutely everything that was just shared — this should be broadcast on television. everyone should hear it. these meetings — they should be utilized in hospitals, schools, retirement homes, community centres. this is the best therapy i have ever had.” i couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. i wish all the people i love would get themselves to a CoDA meeting. the opportunity to express freely and be heard speaks directly to my invalidation trauma. it is a practice of exactly what i am trying to do in my life: simply “show up” in whatever state i might find myself in, embrace and express all of myself and stop wasting energy and isolating in order to hide the shadows, stop being ashamed, stop coping alone.

'artist footprint' by Monica Palermo

'artist footprint' by Monica Palermo

Through my involvement with CoDA, I was also introduced to the work of Systemic Family Constellations. There is a group here in the Valley of trained facilitators in this work. They don’t have a website, and run completely from word of mouth. after attending four workshop events, i got to do a constellation of my own last week. what is a constellation? a constellation is an intuitive physical representation of past and present ancestors in relation to each other and to the person who has initiated the constellation, whom i will call the subject for the sake of this writing. other workshop participants are intuitively chosen by the subject to “represent” his/her-self and the ancestors in his/her family system. the phenomenological aspect of the work is that it is positively inevitable that the healing that needs to take place will happen in each constellation, simply by placing the members of the family in physical representation to each other, following physical impulses to move and voicing physical and emotional sensations experienced by the people representing. the stories and struggles that are revealed are inevitably relevant and particular to the subject’s inquiry, and also always representative of universal family systems and dynamics across cultures and ethnic backgrounds (collective history). what is necessary to be healed is a person or event that has been shunned from the family, unspoken, and repressed. when this truth is acknowledged and witnessed, the family system experiences a catharsis; and deeply rooted patterns begin to shift in mysterious, sometimes imperceptible, ways. things that were previously experienced as being impossible often take place — for example, long-lost family members make contact, members miraculously find forgiveness and openness, re-connections are made where hope had previously been lost, a member’s luck or overall experience of life changes dramatically. there is a lot of compassion generated with this work as we witness in our own and others’ family systems that no one is ever to blame for the patterns in our families. They are the cumulative result of generations upon generations of human life, internal and external circumstances. all they (destructive family patterns) need in order to be healed is to be identified, acknowledged and heard — released from exile.

'frozen heart' by ttoj

'frozen heart' by ttoj

In my constellation, my inquiry was around the phenomenon of abandonment, isolation and separateness in my life. as with most initial constellations, the facilitator approached mine by guiding me to select representatives of my primary family and me — my mom, my dad and me. the acknowledgement of an adopted blood sibling of mine became the focal point of the constellation, and i selected a representative for him as well. the representative of my father felt deep shame and torment; a paralizing grief was expressed, though it seemed that this was only the tip of the ice burg. when we brought his ancestors into the constellation, from two very diverse ethnic backgrounds, one of them expressed feeling “faceless.” it was interesting to me that this representative also expressed feeling shunned. my mother remained pleasant and responsive, but seemed somehow removed or detached emotionally from the situation of her son. my family system was described by my representatives and the facilitator as feeling “frozen” — that this one constellation could only serve as a gateway to more in the future, which could delve further into the roots of being frozen. when did my family system become frozen and why?

What i have taken so far from this process are the implications for me of growing up with two “frozen” or numbed parents, who were part of frozen and numbed family constellations of their own. my question wasn’t answered other than to confirm that there are roots of isolation that run deep and are far-reaching in my family; and just as none of my ancestors are to blame, neither am i. these are not defects of character, but the product of my family’s evolution.


the fear

unknown image

unknown image

the fear that no one will ever know me as i really am.

i am too subtle, too complicated for anyone to ever figure out.

i fall off the planet at this thought, feeling condemned to isolation and hopelessness.


reconciliation / amends

forgiveness collage

This afternoon, I was inspired by a brief interaction with someone from my past whom I have worked very hard to forgive. A few minutes after the interaction, I wrote this mini forgiveness manual for myself. I hope i remember to check back here the next time I need to forgive someone.

(HP = higher power in 12-step recovery language)

  1. I thank our HP’s for bringing us together to learn, and for all the good things about our experience together.
  2. I pray for the shortcomings of mine revealed in our relating to be removed by my HP.
  3. I pray for the need to continue re-enforcing my negative core beliefs to be removed by my HP.
  4. I forgive myself and I forgive you for the humanity we lived.
  5. I pray for your continued growth, happiness, health and well-being, like all human beings on this planet, especially those of us in recovery.

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perfectionism and prayer

Today, I am digesting an experience of seeing my perfectionism sabotage my relations. It is painful, and feels out of control. I have prayed for the insight that will allow me to release this to my hp (higher power / CoDA lingo). I woke this morning at 6am and wrote:

Everything ego-based eventually comes tumbling down — everything we attempt to hide is inevitably and relentlessly exposed. The solution is to stop hiding it. Nothing can bring us to our knees if we are already there.

unknown image of prayer

unknown image of prayer