Dysfunctional family

My name is Lannie and I'm an alcoholic. I was sitting there thinking how little I have in common with today's speaker, Sue. She's young; I'm old. She threatened men with her period; I have never done that. But mostly, she emphasized her dysfunctional family, and my family life was wonderful. As I mulled that over, feeling grateful for having such a good family, I started thinking, “Except...”

In the big picture, my family was functional. My parents love each other and are still together after fifty years of marriage. None of us four kids wound up in jail or dead. My big brother even got over his heroin addiction fairly quickly and cleanly (except for a nasty bout of hepatitis C.) If there is one thing in my upbringing I can complain about, it is that we were not a very emotional household. When I think back, I cannot remember a single time I ever saw my parents hug or kiss or express affection for each other. We kids were always admonished to keep it down if we got noisy—but now I realize that noise is a byproduct of expressing emotions. If we cried, we were told to stop. If we were happy, we were to be happy quietly. I myself would throw terrible temper tantrums whenever I lost at a game of ping-pong or Candyland, and I was told that that was bad. (To this day I shy away from competitive games of any kind.) I learned very well that it was important to suppress my emotions, and later I found that booze could help in that immensely.

Another unfortunate lesson I learned from my parents was to keep my distance from people. When I was growing up, my folks never had any friends besides each other. Perhaps once every couple of months we would have dinner with the old couple who lived in the house behind ours, but that was it. All of our relatives lived on the east coast, but my family had moved to southern California in the 60's to take advantage of the aerospace boom. Later when I was an adult, my father confided to me that he had moved us primarily to get away from the family. Today my parents live in Carson City, Nevada; a brother and sister live in separate cities in Oregon; and my little brother lives in Indianapolis. Needless to say, we are not close, emotionally or geographically. I live here in San Jose with no husband, no children, no friends.

Thank you for sharing your story, Sue. I know what you mean about growing up in a dysfunctional family. I hope the program can help me un-learn the dysfunctional behaviors my family taught me.

—Lannie R, 4/2004

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