Parental Abuse and AA

Questions and discussion about sexual or other abuse or assault, and support and help for survivors.
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This area of the boards is expressly for support and help for those who are currently in or have survived abuse or assault. It is also for those seeking information or discussion about abuse or assault. Please make every effort in this space to be supportive and sensitive. Posts in this area may or do describe abuse or assault explicitly.

This area of the boards is also not an area where those who are themselves abusing anyone or who have abused or assaulted someone may post about doing that or seek support. We are not qualified to provide that kind of help, and that also would make a space like this feel profoundly unsafe for those who are being or who have been abused. If you have both been abused and are abusing, we can only discuss harm done to you: we cannot discuss you yourself doing harm to others. If you are someone engaging in abuse who would like help, you can start by seeking out a mental healthcare provider.
MusicNerd
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Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:05 am

[TW/CW: emotional, mental, parental abuse]

Hi all! So, I didn't expect to be back so soon but here we are. lol

I’m currently in AA and I’m going through what’s known as the inventory step (Steps 4 and 5). Essentially, the point is to look at your resentments to see what your character defects are and where your part was in different situations you hold resentments towards throughout your life.

So I was talking with my sponsor (my mentor in the program) about why I cut contact with my parents towards the end of my college education because of financial fear (seen outlined in this thread here) before slowly letting them back into my life in the last couple of months. I told her about how I was repeatedly setting boundaries with them and they didn’t listen and they would flip out every time, and cutting contact was a last resort for me.

She told me that, because I waited until my last semester of college for financial reasons, that it was “pretty icky” of me to wait until then and that one of my character defects was using them for money and not setting boundaries enough.

This is a similar sentiment I heard others express to me in the program too after hearing what happened, and frankly I’m wondering like: was what I did “icky” and emblematic of my character defects? Is this victim-blaming for judging my last-ditch actions, or am I just overreacting and as they put it “acting from a place of hurt”? Should I even continue to be in the program if this is how people think?

Don’t get me wrong, I do think in other situations I have had issues with boundaries and in going cold on people. But this situation feels different to me in that I felt like I had no other option left after trying to talk with my parents multiple times, and I’m pretty sure the only reason why they’re being even remotely respectful to me now is because I cut contact with them for a couple years.

Sorry for the text-novel, I’m just not sure how to feel and I know that y’all are well-versed in areas of abuse. Thanks in advance for reading all this.

EDIT to add: the financial reasons were 1. finishing my education and 2. getting money back from my financial aid for rent and other necessities. I also wrote my parents a letter before cutting contact and explained why.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:19 am

Honestly? This sounds to me like maybe your sponsor just isn't experienced with the impacts of normalized abuse -- and how tricky boundary-setting is inside a dysfunctional or abusive family -- or how things are with people and college attendance right now who rely on parents in order to attend. These aren't character defects to me. The former is such a big part of having grown up with abuse and having to try and set boundaries in a family or system that opposes them. The latter strikes me as being about the shitty realities of trying to get a secondary education in this country right now. :(

I wouldn't consider this an indictment of AA, though, or something you should figure it about it or everyone else there. Just because some people in your current program are thinking that way doesn't mean they all do.

I can imagine, though, that this likely has you feeling out of sorts or unsupported within the program, which I presume you want to be working, or you wouldn't be there and so far down the line with it! Can you have a talk with your sponsor about this? Or someone else in the program?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:27 am

Hi, thanks so much for responding so quickly Heather!

So, my sponsor herself has been abused before, and she hasn’t really told me if the things some of her parents done were abusive or not, but she’s also not 100% unaware of abuse or dysfunctional families (since she’s experienced dysfunctional family dynamics too).

I did talk with her, since I wanted to let her know how I felt in an open but respectful way. I told her how even though I’m sure she didn’t at all mean to sound judgmental, that it came off that way to me. I also told her that I wanted to maybe work through the rest of my inventory with my therapist since she’s known me for longer and is no-BS but knows a lot of details about my life that others don’t. And my therapist is a black woman and would help me through my resentments with racism in a way that my white (but well-meaning) sponsor wouldn’t be able to.

She said she isn’t at all passing judgment on me and that she’s sorry if she made me feel that way. I do appreciate her apology but it’s kinda confusing to me how someone could think that making a comment like that (even if it’s unintentional) wouldn’t be viewed as judgmental?

So I’m not really sure how to feel since I have talked with other folks in the program and one of them expressed similar feelings to my sponsor and said that I used them for money because I wasn’t living sober at the time. While another person said that she agreed more with where I was coming from, but that she’s not sure what exactly my sponsor could be thinking either.

(EDIT: it also makes me worried how other things that crop up would be reacted to by her, if she views this as not judgmental and more indicative of my character defects.)
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 11:55 am

Forgot to mention in addition to my reply above to your post: another thing in talking about my abuse with my parents was when I told her that while I was living with them I stopped telling them I was upset with something they did or said, since they would flip out and punish me for it, and she said this was indicative of my dishonesty character defect even if it was a survival skill. So, I kinda don’t know if I’ll feel safe moving forward with her, or with anyone in the program really.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:25 pm

I'm so sorry to hear all of this, just in that it sucks that something that is already a literal struggle -- getting sober, and going through the program -- has some additional struggles.

AA is so tricky in some ways in that it, and the way people do it and go through it, just doesn't always "match" with some of the things that we consider pretty basic and a given in communities/frameworks like advocacy for abuse survivors. If it helps, I think everything you're saying here sounds valid to me, and you certainly don't sound like you're bullshitting or trying to avoid taking responsibility to me. I obviously can also only speak for you in the context I know you in (here), but my sense of you is that it seems unlikely for you to be very dishonest UNLESS you were trying to survive.

Can I ask if you've talked to your therapist about this, and -- if you don't mind my asking or sharing it -- what she said?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:10 pm

Thanks, yeah it’s definitely a lot. I’ll be honest: there are a couple times in my life where I’ve been dishonest and it was *not* for survival purposes. Maybe it was to preserve a toxic friendship by being a “yes man” for them, or to avoid a therapist knowing I struggled with drinking because I was in denial and ashamed. Those instances of lying didn’t happen very frequently, but I’ve done it before and I 100% take responsibility for that, and I think it’s a very human thing to screw up in that way.

But I agree with you in that in most situations when I have lied, it was absolutely for survival purposes, and this was definitely a case where lying *was* for survival and it wasn’t for ego. There really weren’t any other options for me BUT to lie under those circumstances.

I haven't talked with my therapist yet, because I don't see her until Friday. But I’ll definitely see what she says, because I want to hear her insight as well.

And yeah, getting sober is super f-ing hard and it does suck to have this lack of understanding be so prevalent in the program.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:22 pm

Also, in addition to my response I just made above: I really appreciate your support in all this. For a second there I thought I was crazy from people’s responses in the program. But I don't wanna give up on staying sober so we’ll see what my therapist says I guess.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 04, 2019 1:56 pm

You have it whenever you want. I think you already know that I have a lot of admiration for you, and now you're adding to that pile of Music-Nerd-is-so-awesome by going for a really hard thing (sobriety) to the mix.

I'm curious what your therapist says, too, honestly. I feel like this is one of those things where you're in a tough spot because if you stop working the program, you lose a good structure (and one of the only ones) for getting and staying sober, a thing you obviously need or you wouldn't have sought it out. But being in it and not feeling supported or seen is obviously not okay or good, either. And, of course, one wants to make sure in this situation you're not finding ways to stop a hard thing, even though it sure doesn't sound like that.

I don't suppose there's another group close to you you could see about? I put that out there just because it obviously could be a (maybe) easy solution to this.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:41 pm

Aww Heather, thank you so much <3 Yeah, this is definitely a hard thing to go through but to be honest: I was willing to accept my defects when they applied to other situations she and I talked about. It’s just when it came to multiple situations of abuse or trauma that came up, this was not applied well and it definitely felt like lack of support and some judgment from multiple people.

But I’m definitely not trying to get out of the ridiculously hard process of getting sober, and you’re right to bring that up because it is hard. It’s more that I’m not a fan of false equivalences being drawn between character defects and survival skills used in an abusive situation.

So yeah, I’ll let you know what my therapist says because maybe she knows of other groups or options too. Or maybe she could help me do this step in a more trauma-informed way (since we are allowed to do this with a therapist or spiritual coach).
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:48 pm

I absolutely hear you, in all the ways. Please know I (and the rest of us, too) am around for any of this or support in other things as you need. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:15 pm

So... my sponsor just called me and I have some updates (already lol):

We talked and she basically was saying how the person she went through this step with victim-blamed her but she still had a “valuable experience”. And that no one is going to be perfect unless they’re a trauma-informed therapist in the program, and that I won’t be able to know how to sponsor someone with this if I don't do it with another person in the program, etc.

Oh, and also if I do this step with my therapist then she doesn’t want to be my sponsor anymore which frankly at this
point... sounds fine, I guess?

I understand all her points, and I appreciated her sharing her experience with me, but at the same time I’m not here for the “if you do this with a qualified professional you’re screwed” type of mindset.

So, I probably won't have a sponsor by the end of the week, and I don't know if I will ever be able to have one who understands me after that point. But yeah... seems like my therapist might be the move, which really sucks; not in terms of working with my therapist, but in terms of how all of this has played out.

Sorry just had to get that off my chest. Thanks for listening to my word-vomit lol
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:07 am

Ugh! I'm not at all a fan of that response to you either. (Honestly, my dog is barking at me now because I just yelled "what a bunch of bullshit!" too loudly.) And anytime someone, in any setting, says they don't want to do a thing with someone if they are involving their therapist for themselves, all my hackles go up, too. That just always feels super red-flaggy to me. I'm so sorry, MusicNerd. This really stinks. :(

I don't think, though, that because this sponsor was like this you should figure no one else will be able to sponsor you well, either. That sounds self-defeating to me, and also like something that just isn't sound. I believe there's a sponsor -- or, if not in this framework right now, or period, for some reason, a dedicated support person to help you with your sobriety -- out there for you.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Tue Mar 05, 2019 8:44 am

Heather wrote:Ugh! I'm not at all a fan of that response to you either. (Honestly, my dog is barking at me now because I just yelled "what a bunch of bullshit!" too loudly.) And anytime someone, in any setting, says they don't want to do a thing with someone if they are involving their therapist for themselves, all my hackles go up, too. That just always feels super red-flaggy to me. I'm so sorry, MusicNerd. This really stinks. :(

Hahahaha! I definitely had the same reaction after hanging up with her. (Sorry for your dog barking at you though lol)

Oh yeah, a HUGE red flag popped up for me when she gave that ultimatum! I told her that I don't agree with the idea of making a false equivalence between character defects and tools for survival (which she called "coping skills" to make it sound cute I suppose? idk lol). I also told her how I specifically wanted to do this step with my therapist, because: 1. I wanted to work with someone who's trained in trauma-informed issues who knows more details about my life and history with abuse and 2. She's also someone I feel much more comfortable unpacking my issues around racism with, since my therapist is a black woman herself.

Mind you, I myself have worked in a former job with young people in a trauma-informed framework, and I still wouldn't consider myself to be a trained professional. It's very easy for someone to sit on their high horse and say what they would've done in an abusive situation without having been in that person's specific situation (She told me that she thought that because our situations were supposedly similar that she could give me advice in this way, but she also unfortunately hasn't realized that she has internalized victim-blaming from previous sponsors too in the name of holier-than-thou "spiritual awakening". This is sadly pretty common in the program, but that's a whole other post.)

So, for her to respond to my reasons for wanting to work with my therapist by giving that kind of ultimatum? Especially when it's already a suggestion that's given in AA literature anyway? My gut was like, "Absolutely the frick not!!" She's definitely not going to own up to her judgmental rhetoric (re: calling my actions "icky"). And though I'm sure it was unintentional, it's also kinda controlling to pose options to someone in that way for wanting a therapist's help. (Also, funny how she thought I'd want to work with her after all this? But I didn't say that since I felt it wouldn't do much good for the conversation to mention that. lol) Sorry, that was a whole text novel!

Heather wrote:I don't think, though, that because this sponsor was like this you should figure no one else will be able to sponsor you well, either. That sounds self-defeating to me, and also like something that just isn't sound. I believe there's a sponsor -- or, if not in this framework right now, or period, for some reason, a dedicated support person to help you with your sobriety -- out there for you.

You're right, that is a bit self-defeating of me. And to be fair, one of my friends in the program (who unfortunately doesn't qualify as a sponsor yet because she doesn't have a year of sobriety) was flat-out like, "Maybe you need a new sponsor, because that's judgmental AF for her to talk about your actions in that way. And good on you for doing what you needed to do to get out of the situation." So that gives me some hope in terms of finding someone (whether it's supposed to be in AA or in an alternate program) to sponsor or help support me in sobriety.

So, I'll talk with my therapist on Friday and see if she'd be open to doing this step with me and go from there I guess. This is just super exhausting to have to deal with this kind of thinking in a space that's supposed to be safe.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:11 am

What your friend said. 100% what your friend said. Co-sign utterly. And to all of what you're saying here. I really son't see anything to suggest that you're not thinking about this soundly, or that anything here is about you trying to get away with something, denial, avoidance or quit a thing to make things easier on yourself.

Again, I'm so sorry this has gone this way, especially when you got this far into the process. You deserve better.
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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:16 am

Thanks Heather, I appreciate you and your support as always <3
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Tue Mar 05, 2019 2:53 pm

You got it, absolutely. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Fri Mar 08, 2019 2:27 pm

UPDATE: I just broke up with my sponsor today! My therapist agreed to do this step with me (and in fact was encouraging of that idea as a general practice for this step, especially for parts of the inventory involving abuse and trauma with a trained professional).

I was also pretty straightforward in my thoughts to my (now former) sponsor and texted: “Hey! so, I felt pretty uncomfortable with the ultimatum that was given on monday re: choosing between you and my therapist. But I talked it over with her and gained some insight and I think it’s best if we go our separate ways. But thank you for working with me and see you around!”

Let me tell you: that was nerve-wracking AF to call it what it was (a.k.a. an ultimatum), but I also wanted to be honest about my feelings (which my therapist assured me was not an inappropriate thing to say).

So yeah, still nervous about her response but I’m also trying to remind myself that her response is not my responsibility.
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:11 pm

If I had pom-poms, I’d be shaking them. :)

I’m glad you had the support and help of your therapist in this (I suspected you would, but you never know), and we’re able to do this for yourself and stand up for yourself. I’m sorry you had to, but glad you did. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:16 pm

I could totally see you with pom-poms!! haha :D Thanks so much <3
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:00 am

Another UPDATE: you were right, Heather! It was self-defeating of me to think I couldn't find a sponsor who would understand.

I met with my new sponsor today, and told her how I was planning on finishing my 5th Step with my therapist, and she was like “That’s great!!! That’s awesome! I’m a big fan of doctors and therapists, so go for it!” So, even though she and I are going to start from Step 1 (since I’m new to her) she’s encouraging me to finish working through my 5th Step with my therapist since her literal words were, “If you’re finally ready to work through your trauma now, then don’t wait!! Just go do it with her now.”

So yeah, I’m super happy and grateful to have picked her, and I’m looking forward to
working with her. :)
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:16 am

Oh my goodness, that's such wonderful news! Thanks so much for sharing it with me, and I couldn't be more glad. It also sounds like you're winding up with a really solid, rad circle of helpers and supporters, and that's so very great. :D
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby MusicNerd » Mon Mar 11, 2019 10:22 am

Heather wrote:Oh my goodness, that's such wonderful news! Thanks so much for sharing it with me, and I couldn't be more glad. It also sounds like you're winding up with a really solid, rad circle of helpers and supporters, and that's so very great. :D

Thanks!! Yeah, I really do feel like I’m winding up with an awesome circle of supportive people. I think learning to stand up for myself and set boundaries has been a HUGE part of that, so I’m very grateful to have finally learned that those are good things to do. :)
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." ~Dr. Seuss

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Re: Parental Abuse and AA

Unread postby noaccount » Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:53 pm

Hi - I have not been interacting with other people's threads on this site because
- 1 I am an adult and a mess, not a teenager or a staff/volunteer, and not someone who should probably be influencing the people this resource is made for, and
- 2 I need to avoid getting back into a compulsive loop of "if I do enough work, enough mutual aid, enough anti-oppression organizing, somehow I will earn space to live / it will become safe for me to ask for help"
But since I see you're also over-20 I feel more comfortable saying this:

I agree w most of all of what Heather said -
the only difference being, the objections/red flags she raised, I *would* consider somewhat a criticism/reflection on 12-step methods -
I think, looking at the lists of things that continue to traumatize or limit us, and looking at our own possible unhealthy behaviors or beliefs, are both IMPORTANT steps -
but to take them and try to make them the SAME step, is to open the door to a LOT of victim blaming, and creates a weird template for saying "whenever something is haunting or traumatizing me, there must be something I could have done/thought better" (if that makes sense?)
and I think that's something you deserve better than, and everyone deserves space to grieve, and process, and name and be outraged by injustice, without it automatically being associated with "how am I at fault because I 'resent' this?" (you're not!)


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