Many people struggle with addiction to alcoholism, along with trauma, other addictions, and compulsive behaviors. Many things can cause alcoholism and addiction, and here is one person’s experience with addiction, trauma, and alcoholism. To learn more about alcohol addiction and how it may develop, check out Comfort Recovery’s wonderful page Why is Alcohol Addictive? Why Some People Become Alcoholics.
I was born and raised in Dorchester, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. We lived in a neighborhood that consisted of row upon row of, middle class, two family homes. My grandmother and grandfather owned and occupied the second floor of our home. My grandfather had come from Messina, Sicily when he was ten with his father and never saw his mother or his sisters again. My grandfather was raised in a man’s world and worked in heavy construction, another man’s world. As a result my grandfather did not know a lot about and how to interact with woman. My father had the same crippling handicap because his family had come from Forgia, Italy (a small town outside of Rome) and after they were here a few years my grandmother, his mother, abandoned her family for another man. As a result, my father was raised by his older sister, Mary, and he like my grandfather, gravitated to a man’s world and grew and matured being ignorant of the woman, that is, their wants, needs, and desires. Unknown to me I was to pay a heavy price for my grandfather’s and my father’s ignorance.
I was the second child of five but being the first grandson in an Italian home my grandfather showered me with such Love and affection that even today, thinking about him brings tears to my eyes. For example, when my grandfather would arrive home from work I would run upstairs and when I would enter their apartment he would put a large smile on his face, reach out and tussle my hair, and said to me, “There is my little man”. My father worked two jobs the first fifteen years of my life so I hardly saw or related with him. My grandfather became my world.
I was the apple of my grandfather’s eye and my mother was determined to make apple sauce. I understand today that my mother needed something that she didn’t get from my grandfather, my grandmother or my father and when she saw me getting what she didn’t get but desperately wanted, well, she acted out “If I cannot get it then I certainly will not let you get what I want”. If my mother could hold it then I was beat with it. I was beat with knotted ropes; leather belts; and wire coat hangers. My mother breed fear in the five of us and as a result we never trusted each other, why? Because my brother or any of my sisters could turn me in, this would lead to a beating, so we became five very private and isolated children living in the same house. The physical abuse is the least of it because my mother would say things to me like, “You are never going to amount to anything”, or “What did I do to deserve you”, or “Have you lost your mind. What is wrong with you?” or “You do exactly what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it or I will beat you black and blue”. Which she did – often!
In addition, every time she beat me she would tell me that I was being beat because she “loved me”. Boy that was confusing because after a while the child, me, says to himself, “Could you love me less? It would be less painful”.
Suffice to say that my mother beat me into submission telling me all the time that submission, if you love someone, is the appropriate behavior. She also told me and sadly, I believed that I was never going to amount to anything. She did not say that I was never going to amount to anything in sports or music. She told me, and I believed, subconsciously, that I was never going to amount to anything in anything (including being a normal human being, whatever that was) and if I tried I would be defying my mother which would lead to a beating. In short, my mother had planted deep seated fears and anxieties in me that programmed me for suicide.
At ten years old I contracted Rheumatic Fever and had to spend a year in the Children’s Hospital in Boston. Up to this point in my life the hospital was the safest place that I had ever been and I did not want to leave. After a year in the hospital I was moved down to the first floor which meant that I was going to be discharged soon. During one of our afternoon sleep sessions I was sexually assaulted by a teenage male patient. I did with this what I always did with my emotions; I buried it and swore that it was going to the grave with me. The trauma did, however, show up on my body in such a way that I had a relapse and had to spend another six months in the hospital. I also developed a deep distrust of men that I would live with for a long, long time.
So let’s add it up, my mother had inbreed in me a deep fear and distrust of assertive woman and the sex abuse inbreed in me a deep fear and distrust of men. This did not leave me with much of humanity to work with so I started to move in lock, stock, and barrel to a cave deep in my own mind.
At twelve years old my grandmother died and at thirteen my grandfather died. I was despondent because without him I was all alone in an insane asylum called “my home”. I felt abandoned and I was terribly fearful, although I do not think that I could have verbalized it back them. At fourteen, I had my first alcoholic drink. When it went down and hit my stomach a wonderful thing happened, I was not afraid anymore! I didn’t know whether God existed or not but I had found something that really worked. It worked so well that for thirty five days rather then go to school I played hokey and went drinking. I quickly developed a habit of alcohol abuse.
Through a set of circumstances I found myself in the computer programming business. I was very good at it because it just came natural to me and I lived it. What better way to hide out from my fellows then to sit in front of my computer and get lost in computer programming. I loved it and it probably saved my life. I didn’t, however, ever consider stopping drinking. I got married, had children and tried to live the normal (whatever that was) family life. I tried AA once but after eight months I drank again. This time, however, the drink wasn’t working so I complimented it with drugs. The result was that after two and a half years of booze and drugs I ended up in a detox with DT’s. When they say that it is, “AA or Amen”, I was in that place and I went to AA with the attitude that I did not have any idea what sobriety was and then, I didn’t really care; I just did not want to die. I have not had a drink or a drug since, which at this writing is 28 years ago.
I then got divorced and remarried and my sponsor moved to New Hampshire. Unknown to me he was the only man outside of my grandfather that I completely trusted. When he left I again moved back into the cave in my own mind. For the next twenty years I would work feverously on a project and for some reason and in some way I would kill it before it had a chance for success. I worked for eight years in the Asia Pacific Rim and spent two years in Singapore always with the same result, which was, when I was reaching “success” I would kill it by resigning or doing something that resulted in me being fired. I know today that this behavior was a direct result of the lies that I had accepted from my mother buried deep in my subconscious.
At sixty years old I was laid off which gave me a lot of free time. My then wife and I started to go to therapy because our relationship was coming unglued due to strain that our role reversal put on our marriage. One day the counselor looked at me and suggested that I get a dog. When I asked why she responded that she was concerned about me committing suicide, which is exactly where I was. I have spent the last two years in therapy and the sex abuse, emotionally, surfaced or I should say exploded. When we bury feelings within ourselves they are not buried dead; they grow and grow and grow. I have cried and cried and cried. You know they do not call it “rape” for nothing! Only someone who has had to deal with the soul-shattering pain can understand what my counselor meant when she said, “You have been through the most difficult thing that a man can deal with.” Amen, but I had to also deal with the fact that if I could have dealt with this sooner my life and the lives of those around me might have been different. Words cannot describe the pain when I could see quite clearly the cost of denial to myself and others. There is a phrase that goes, “wailing and gnashing of teeth” – well that is exactly how I felt.
I thought that I had recovered, that is, I was now a survivor. Little did I know that dealing with the sex abuse would be just removing the cock from the bottle of my emotions! Then everything exploded at once. I was in such a state that I had to spend some evenings at the local Crisis Center. I have had to deal with the trauma related to my mother’s abuse. Then I had to hurt all over again but I did uncover those sick belief systems that my mother had inbreed in me and which, because I believed the lies, they sabotaged any hope I ever had for building a successful life.
I am and have been through all my experiences, a spiritual person. I often look back at where I have come from and say to myself that I would never have survived without God. I believe God has now purified my soul so that I can now become all that He created me to be. Painful it has been, yes, surgery on the soul is painful but now comes the Glory of His Healing.
However now I find myself, a “senior” citizen who has no idea of what Love, unselfish and unconditional from a woman really is – I never experienced it. In addition, because of my inner trauma I have been incapable of Loving, really Loving, another human being, including myself. I am waiting in nervous expectancy to see how God is going to handle this for me!
My experiences have taught me that I am not unique. In that regard, if there is anyone out there or who reads this that I can help I hope and pray that they may receive the blessings of healing that I have received. I did it – so can you!