I’m the crazy one? No, I’m the one that got away. One of my cousins said that to me a while ago, “you got away.” Almost with a tinge of envy, like he didn’t feel he had the power to get away from our very sick dysfunctional family. I’m not sure if your family uses the term “We put the fun in dysfunctional.” My aunt, his mother used to say that. Fun? I’m sorry, but I don’t consider people getting drunk, vicious and violent at times fun. I’d say with my family it was more like “we put the F**ked up in dysfunctional family.”
My cousin that I am referring to and I are barely 3rd generation Irish on my father’s side. I say barely because I think my grandmother was practically born on the boat on the way over from Ireland. She was the only child out of something like 8 that was born in America. She had black hair and beautiful blue eyes. She was absolutely gorgeous and funny too, God did I love her. She was a fun grandma, she practically raised the cousin that I am referring to. She used to tell funny stories from her days working on Wall Street and stories about Manhattan. She also used to say over the years that she was told to “marry a nice Irish Catholic”, so that is what she did or so she thought. Same with me grandma, except mine was German and I was fooled too!
My grandfather was perfectly fine when sober. Some might even say a very nice man. However, when he was drunk, he’d kick the Thanksgiving Turkey down the street or throw the Christmas tree outside. One of my aunts (admittedly) if not both, were sexually abused by him. My father and his siblings were traumatized, it has not worked out well for them. It hasn’t worked out well for their children either. We’ve all been exposed and traumatized by the drinking and violence as well.
As I’ve mentioned my father is an alcoholic and violent. He did time in SanQuetin, he’s the type of guy that would beat the shit out of someone then throw them in his trunk and drive around with them in it, he was a real fun time. The violence I personally witnessed as a child, along with my cousins, at the hands of him was traumatizing. So much so that during one of my EMDR session for the trauma the Dr. I worked with asked if she could video tape my sessions for review with a group of other doctors that she worked with on research and studies. The Dr. stated that in one session I “shook for over 45 minutes.” I developed PTSD at a young age. I am convinced all of my dad’s side of the family has PTSD in some form, but they are so numbed out from alcohol and drugs, it’s a wonder they feel anything at all. Both of my aunts his sisters are alcoholic’s. All but one uses drugs, at least illegal ones anyway, in which they’ve par taken in in front of all of us since we were children.
My father used to grow marijuana in the woods behind his house. He used to go out at night with a zip up sweatshirt on, fill it with marijuana leaves then bring them in and lay them out on newspaper to dry. He later had an elaborate growing system in his basement until my younger brother became a teen and they got nervous about getting caught. Oh, how I would have loved for him to get caught. Not to do heavy jail time, just to break the illusion of some sort of perfect family. I was 8 years old the first time I ever smoked pot and got high. Third grade, let that register for a moment. It was with my Aunt’s husband’s son who was older and babysitting me and my cousins at the time. I was 11 the first time I ever got drunk. How I didn’t become an alcoholic or drug addict is miraculous to me.
The family used and abused harder drugs. They were both used and talked about frequently in front of us at children. One minute we were playing in the living room and in the other room over, with company, you’d hear, “Would anyone like a doobie (or a line of coke)? Oh, don’t mind the kids.” My cousin and his mother both moved to New Hampshire from California because they were addicted to meth-amphetamines or in California as we referred to it, “Crank.” They are also both severe alcoholics. All of my cousins on that side of the family are either alcoholics, drug addicts or both. Functioning addicts, although sometimes barely at times. Yes, were all set cause it’s a family that can still go to work with a hangover. My twin sister is a pro at that game. I know at least three of my generation in the family have confirmed childhood sexual abuse. There’s most likely more that have not come out yet. To my family I’d say, “Tell me again how your all set, using booze and drugs to numb your pain, how’s that working out for you?”
My oldest cousin was so drunk once he drove off the road on his motorcycle, went flying and hit his head into a rock and was tragically head injured at the age of 18, just when he had his whole life ahead of him. Years later he died in a car accident while my younger cousin was driving back from the family’s ski condo in Waterville Valley. My family has been riddled with tragedy. I always say,” Were like the Kennedy’s, Irish and all.” Another cousin of mine, the only one I ever felt close to and the only one in the entire family that I invited to my wedding 3 years ago, tragically died a little over a year ago when he went to his mother’s house, my Aunt, put a gun in his mouth and blew his brains out. My beautiful cousin gone, just like that. My family and their sickness destroyed him. They nearly destroyed me.
Tell me again how we “put the fun in dysfunctional”? I’m not seeing it, there’s nothing fun or funny about what has gone in my family. The scariest part is that the family carries an illusion that it is a highly functional family, even a successful family. My father owned a Real Estate company. My Aunt did as well with five offices at one time, wealth does not equate to functional, my friends. My cousins had top notch educations, one went to Holderness a prestigious school here in New Hampshire. None of it changes the fact that it is a sick dysfunctional family, in which all of the members were traumatized and acting out of that trauma, all while playing the charade of highly functional, successful family.
I’m sure that many reading this have their own stories similar or much worse than this family’s. Families with sexual abuse, other abuses, alcoholism, drugs and violence in them. My family’s story unfortunately is not all that uncommon. Thankfully, you like me, are not the “crazy one” as they would like you to believe. You, like me, are the one that got away! I miraculously am the only one in my entire family on my father’s side that did not become an alcoholic/drug addict.
I made the conscious choice that I did not want to be a part of a family which allows (and accepts) drug use and drunken behavior (including violence), especially in front of children. I got out and I recovered from the abuse and trauma. Getting away is the first step, then comes the recovery. The best part is, the sick family dysfunction ends with you! You are brave and courageous and because of you and your example the dysfunction does not have to be carried down traumatizing another generation.
My family, as well yours possibly, are numb. So numb that they have never allowed themselves to fully face the pain and shame, and release it. Where do they think it goes? What happens when the booze and drugs stop working? They always do….the pain has to come out somehow. You can only shove it down for so long.
When I was younger I used to “party with the best of them.” I used partying to drown out my pain. The problem is, the party ends and the pain is still there. I had to find another way to deal with the pain and release it, instead of numbing it out and shoving it down. I had to feel it, all of it, raw and real. It was F******* painful! Being in a ball on the floor sobbing in pain, it’s not fun, but when you get to the other side of the pain you get to experience a true high, JOY!
By allowing myself to feel those depths of pain, I was then able to experience the highs, not from drugs or alcohol, but pure joy. A joy which I had rarely if ever experience before doing this very painful recovery work. When you are numb to the pain you are numb to the joy, too. You miss out on the true bliss that sober recovery can bring. Releasing the pain, letting yourself feel the feelings is not easy, but facing life sober and getting to feel all of it, is so much better than walking around numb ever was. This is recovery and if I can do it you can too!
Wishing you well on your recovery journey Anne-Marie Wiesman