The Road to Recovery


grew up in what used to be called a broken home. Now it is called a dysfunctional family and I am defined by a fancy title. I am now an ACDF—an Adult Child of a Dysfunctional Family!

Home for me was not a happy place. My parents' continual fighting ensured that. For their own painful reasons, my father and mother were unable to make a happy home. Eventually they divorced but my scars remained. My dad was physically present but emotionally absent. Consequently I felt unloved and rejected by him. And, while my mother was outwardly functional and held the family together, instead of her meeting my emotional needs, she leaned on me to meet many of hers which were not being met in her marriage.

Thus my parents' dysfunctions were passed on to me and I, in turn, repeated them in my marriage. And unless I resolve these, I will pass them on to my children. Some I already have.

Like my mother, outwardly I was very functional, but inwardly I was hurt, angry, afraid and insecure. To overcome, I needed to get into recovery.

As loved people love people so hurt people hurt people. And what we the parents don't work out (resolve) our children will act out in one way or another. This is because what we fail to resolve is destined to be repeated in one form or another.

The Bible pointed out 4,000 years ago that the sins of the parents visit the third and fourth generation.1 Probably more than anything else, it is the "emotional and relational sins" that are passed down from generation to generation.

Unless we who have been hurt break the chain from generations past, our children will be attracted to spouses from dysfunctional families and repeat the cycle and their children will do the same.

As loved people love people,
so hurt people hurt people.

How then do we recover? It isn't easy, but with humility, honesty, courage, persistence, God's help and, where necessary, the help of a trained counselor and/or a support-recovery group, it can be done.

First, face reality. Realize that you are not alone; most families have some dysfunctions because nobody had perfect parents. The important thing is that we admit our dysfunctions and avoid denial—the major barrier to recovery.

Sometimes when a family is in denial the one acting out negatively is made the scapegoat for the family sickness. Other members reason, "If he would change we'd be okay." However, in every dysfunctional family there are no innocent parties. All are contributing something even if it is being an enabling codependent, like the spouse of an alcoholic.

Second, accept responsibility. As long as we blame anybody else for our problems, we avoid facing what we are contributing—and never recover. It would be easy for me to blame my parents for my problems, but they were also the products of their upbringing. So I look at my family, not to blame, but to understand what I need to resolve. Blaming others for my difficulties is a handy excuse to hang on to if I don't want to grow up. And if I continue to blame I will B—LAME!

No matter what happened to me in the past, I am responsible for what I do about it now and for what I become. It may be true that "I was a victim in the past but if I remain one, I am now a volunteer."

Third, recognize the rules of dysfunctional family living, which have been identified as follows: you don't talk, you don't trust, and you don't feel. That is, there is no trust in sharing family problems openly and honestly. Family secrets are kept hidden. Members are afraid to share their feelings. And the family lives in denial.

Continued on Page Two

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