We’ve Got Friends Who Can Help
Worried about a friend? Dealing with some issues of your own? There are trained people who can help.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911 or your local police station.
General Crisis Support by Text
Crisis Text Line: Text SUPPORT to 741-741 (24/7). Our trained counselors can discuss anything that’s on your mind. Free, 24/7, confidential.
National Domestic Violence Hotline Call 1-800-799-7233 (24/7) Email the National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7)
RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network Call 1-800-656-4673 (24/7) Live Chat with RAINN (24/7)
Runaways, Homeless, and At-Risk Youth
National Runaway Safeline Call 1-800-786-2929 (24/7) Live Chat 7 days/week, 4:30 to 11:30 PM CST
Home Free Family reunification program provides free bus tickets to eligible runaway and homeless youth.
If you are interested in doing volunteer work that you can do from home, here is an idea for you:
While working as a Crisis Telephone Counselor for Crisis Hotline (CHL), we assisted CTL when we could so I am familiar with this organization. Now that I am no longer employed or volunteer with CHL due to having relocated, I have entered the volunteer program at CTL. Though I have been through a version of their training as a continuing education requirement and having been through CHL’s training, I am finding the CTL volunteer training to be very beneficial. This is a rewarding endeavor and for those who like doing things for others anonymously, this is your ticket. All training and working on the texting platform is done from your computer at home. You set your own schedule and the text line is open 24/7 so working it into your personal schedule isn’t difficult.
If you are nervous about crisis support, let me reassure you that you will be well-trained and their training includes live observations. Also, you will have all the tools you need right in front of you. All texts are monitored by a supervisor who is always available if you get stuck or need assistance. Though it is a mandatory reporting agency for imminent risk of suicide or homicide as well as child abuse, the reporting is actually done by the supervisor, however, these instances do not occur often. The way I look at it is “It’s just a conversation.” There is no script but you will learn active listening and productive conversation.
Rather than quote all the information regarding CTL, I am posting their FAQ sheet. You can also go to crisistextline.org
|Text START to 741-741|
Q: HOW DOES CRISIS TEXT LINE WORK?
- You text 741741 when in crisis. Available 24/7 in the USA.
- A live, trained crisis counselor receives the text and responds quickly.
- The crisis counselor helps you move from a hot moment to a cool calm to stay safe and healthy using effective active listening and suggested referrals – all through text message using Crisis Text Line’s secure platform.
Q: WHO SHOULD TEXT IN?
A: We exist to help anyone in crisis at any time.
Q: WHO ANSWERS THE TEXT MESSAGES?
A: Crisis Text Line crisis counselors are both rigorously trained volunteers and employees of our crisis center partners.
Q: WHAT CAN I EXPECT WHEN I TEXT IN?
A: You’ll receive an automated text asking you what your crisis is. Within minutes, a live trained crisis counselor will answer your text. They will help you out of your moment of crisis and work with you to create a plan to continue to feel better.
Q: IS CRISIS TEXT LINE ACTUALLY ANONYMOUS?
A: Yes. Crisis counselors only know what texters share with them, and that information stays confidential. We take your anonymity seriously. Check out our terms of service here.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES CRISIS TEXT LINE COST?
A: We do not charge texters. If your cell phone plan is with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon, texts to our short code, 741741 are free of charge. If you have a plan with a different carrier, standard text message rates apply.
Q: WILL CRISIS TEXT LINE SHOW UP ON MY CELL PHONE BILL?
A: Nothing will appear on your bill if your cell phone plan is with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon. If your plan is with another carrier our short code, 741741 will appear on your billing statement. Read about how this happened here.
Q: WILL CRISIS TEXT LINE WORK WITH MY PHONE?
A: Crisis Text Line works on all major US carriers, and most minor regional carriers. However, shortcodes (like 741741) are not allowed on many prepaid plans like T-Mobile’s.
Q: I HAD A GREAT EXPERIENCE WHEN I TEXTED IN, CAN I TEXT IN AGAIN?
A: You can text in again, if you are experiencing a crisis. However, you should not feel dependent on us. Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for long-term counseling, in-person therapy, or a friend.
Q: HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO WAIT TO TEXT WITH A CRISIS COUNSELOR?
A: Our goal is to respond to every texter in under 5 minutes. During high volume times, such as at night or when people are talking about us on social media, wait times may be longer.
Q: IS THERE A CHARACTER LIMIT WHEN TEXTING CRISIS TEXT LINE?
A: Yes, our system is only able to process 140 characters in one message.
Q: WHY AM I RECEIVING AN ERROR MESSAGE OR NO RESPONSE AT ALL?
Sadly, there are some carriers who have not adopted the use of shortcodes–and the small percentage of people with these phones, can’t use Crisis Text Line. (We hear that sometimes you get an auto-error response. Sometimes nothing at all. We know this is shitty and we wish those carriers would enable us). If your phone carrier doesn’t enable shortcodes, here is a list of hotlines you can call.
Q: IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO REACH CRISIS TEXT LINE BESIDES TEXT?
A: Yes, you can reach us through Facebook Messenger. Access to message Crisis Text Line is located through Facebook’s Safety checkpoint. This is accessible by flagging a user’s post.
Q: IF I REACH OUT VIA FACEBOOK MESSENGER, DOES ANONYMITY APPLY?
A: Yes. We do not have access to your Facebook profile. The only know information about you that we’ll know is what you share with us.
Q: IF I REACH OUT VIA FACEBOOK MESSENGER, WHO HAS ACCESS TO THE DATA?
A: Three parties: you (in your Messenger thread), Crisis Text Line, and Facebook.
Q: IF I REACH OUT VIA FACEBOOK MESSENGER AND I WANT MY DATA DELETED, WHAT DO I DO?
A: Message us back with the word ‘LOOFAH’. We’ll scrub your data from our system, and make a request to Facebook to do the same.
Q: IF I REACH OUT VIA FACEBOOK MESSENGER, WHICH TERMS OF SERVICE APPLY TO ME?
A: By contacting Crisis Text Line through Facebook Messenger, users agree to Facebook Messenger’s Terms of Service, as well as Crisis Text Line’s Terms of Service.
Q: WHAT ARE ALL OF THE CRISIS ISSUES YOU TRACK? CAN YOU ADD MORE?
Q: WHO CAN APPLY FOR ACCESS TO CRISIS TEXT LINE’S DATA?
A: Data access is available to approved academic researchers. The application will be available here in late January 2016. Otherwise, please visit www.crisistrends.org to see the latest trends in how texters are experiencing crisis.
Q: HOW CAN I DONATE TO CRISIS TEXT LINE?
A: You can donate via Paypal (link here) or by sending a check to:
Crisis Text Line
Attn: Finance Dept.
24 West 25th Street, 6th Fl
New York, NY 10010
Q: IS MY DONATION TO CRISIS TEXT LINE TAX DEDUCTIBLE?
A: Yes! Upon receiving your donation, we’ll send you a thank you letter that clarifies your donation is tax deductible.
Q: IS CRISIS TEXT LINE REALLY A NOT FOR PROFIT?
A: Yes, we are! Here are our latest financials as proof.
Q: HOW IS CRISIS TEXT LINE FUNDED?
A: We’re privately funded. This means we receive funding from foundations, individuals, and corporations.
Q: WHERE CAN I FIND CRISIS TEXT LINE’S FORM 990?
Q: I SAW YOU RAISED A BUNCH OF MONEY (WOOHOO!) FOR THE ORG. WHERE IS IT ALL GOING?
A: We are focused on three main initiatives: (1) supporting our Crisis Counselor community with better products and more emotional support, (2) integrating with tech companies to provide support to users inside things like After School, Kik, YouTube, and Facebook Messenger, (3) white labeling our service for other orgs and locations– providing a free text service for the National Eating Disorder Association and cities like Newark and Atlanta.
Q: WHO CAN PARTNER WITH CRISIS TEXT LINE?
A: We partner with not-for-profits, colleges and universities, and corporations. Want to partner? Fill out this form!
Having technical issues with the site or text line? Check out our Help Center.
Q: CAN I GET MARKETING MATERIALS WITH THE CRISIS TEXT LINE SHORT CODE TO SHARE WITH MY COMMUNITY?
Q: WHOM I CONTACT FOR A PRESS INQUIRY?
A: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: HOW CAN I BECOME A VOLUNTEER?
A: We are always accepting applications! Apply Here.
Q: WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A VOLUNTEER?
A: To become a Crisis Counselor, you must:
- Pass a background check – that means no felonies and no violent or sex-offense misdemeanors
- Have a US Social Security number (in order to complete the background check)
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have access to a computer with a secure, reliable internet connection
- Commit to volunteering 4 hours a week for 1 year
Q: WHAT’S THE TIME COMMITMENT OF VOLUNTEERS?
A: We ask our volunteers to commit to volunteering 4 hours a week for 1 year. Volunteers are able to break up their commitment into two 2-hour shifts each week if they would like.
Q: HOW ARE VOLUNTEERS TRAINED?
A: After a rigorous application process, our volunteers complete a 34 hour training course over 6 weeks. This includes ongoing simulated conversations and personalized feedback from our experienced trainers as well as 8 hours of on-platform observation. Training content is based on best practices in crisis counseling and Crisis Text Line data.
Q: WHEN IS YOUR NEXT CRISIS COUNSELOR TRAINING?
A: We accept applications on a rolling basis. A new training cohort starts every two weeks, so apply whenever you want! We’re excited to meet you!
Q: WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A CRISIS COUNSELOR VOLUNTEER?
A: Check out our blog to read stories from our volunteers.
Q: ARE VOLUNTEERS SUPERVISED?
A: Yes. Our experienced supervisors oversee and assist our volunteers, when necessary, while on the platform.
Q: IS CRISIS TEXT LINE COUNSELING?
A: No, our specialists do not counsel, but rather practice active listening to help texters move from a hot moment to a cool calm.
Q: WHAT IS ACTIVE LISTENING?
A: Active listening is when someone communicates in a way that is empathetic, understanding, and respectful. It includes focus on the texter and thoughtful answers.
Q: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRISIS TEXT LINE AND THERAPY?
A: Crisis Text Line is not a replacement for therapy. Therapy includes a diagnosis made by a doctor, a treatment plan of action, and a patient/therapist relationship. Crisis Text Line helps people in moments of crisis. Our crisis counselors practice active listening to help our texters find calm and create an action plan for themselves to continue to feel better. Crisis Text Line’s crisis counselors are not therapists.
Q: WHO STARTED CRISIS TEXT LINE?
A: We were founded by our CEO, Nancy Lublin. After seeing a need for the service we provide, Nancy hired a team to build what is our current platform. The original team included a data scientist and an engineer. Hear our story here.
Help Make it Happen
Want to start a crisis text line in your country? email@example.com
If you are in crisis, text START to 741-741.
Keep me posted
MYTH: YOU MAY REPEAT YOUR PARENTS’ RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS.
How you carry your childhood baggage is more important than the fact that you have any. “Nobody escapes childhood without some crazy buttons and triggers, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great relationship,”John Gottman says.
Tom Bradbury, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, coined the phrase enduring vulnerabilities for these historical triggers. Certain words and actions might dig up old feelings and provoke a reaction. Make sure you and your partner understand what sets the other off, and avoid those weaknesses.
Circumstances from your past could also prompt what psychologists call projective identification- an example is taking something from your childhood and applying it to your partner. If you had a distant cold parent, for instance, you might assume your partner is being distant and cold too. Instead of blaming your partner’s character, explain how the actions make you feel and what he or she can do to help you feel better.
I knew a man who was so eat up with his emotional baggage that he ran the gamut from tears to violence. He used braggadocio and alcohol to cover his feelings and built a very high wall believing it would protect him from emotional pain. One never knew what would trigger his anger and/or violence. While I understood how his background played into his emotions and actions, there was nothing I could do to change it. While I was somewhat of a balm for his pain, he often saw me not as myself but as his mother.
When I met Danny, I was shocked to find that he was very much in touch with his emotions. He would let me know when I hurt his feelings rather than do the “macho” thing of acting like nothing bothered him. I fell so in love with this man! I felt safe with him because I didn’t have to guess about how he was feeling and there was no fear that I would unknowingly touch off a spark that would cause him to physically harm me.
Eventually, Danny grew tired of all the analyzing we did through counseling and discussions. That was when I began learning to lighten up in the realization that both of our lives had been so full of drama that it was stifling our relationship. We both still have things that can trigger a negative response but the truth is that we cannot judge each other with our individual pasts.
Enjoy life with your spouse! Don’t judge him/her based on your past, instead see them for the person you know them to be. Look for the good and give him/her a pass when they exhibit human behaviors. No one has a perfect marriage but we can come darn close.
While I would like to make excuses for them, their actions affected my life. When I look at my early adulthood, I know that I also grabbed excitement over good judgment. I can blame my parents lack of boundaries and disregard for their moral upbringing as setting a poor example for me to follow. I could say that their parents were too strict so that the taste of freedom was overpowering. But what of me, I knew right from wrong no matter how I try to spin it. My parents were not strict and they always allowed us to voice our beliefs and position in any given situation. Infidelity on my part has not been one of my transgressions but what of my other transgressions? As long as I know right from wrong, I have to take responsibility for my mistakes. However, I strive to remember that though I make mistakes, I am not a mistake.
The thing is, these people were not down in the dirt, classless people. Too many people believe that to cheat you have to be low class, to be an alcoholic you have to be non-productive and passing out in the gutter, to be an domestic violence abuser you have to be a blue collar worker. Bullshit. Regardless, this was a most embarrassing and painful time in my life and when I learned to emotionally detach in order not to feel. I have been cheated on and I was so detached that I am not sure I even cared. Perhaps I didn’t care enough about the person but I think it was more “love or a relationship at all cost”. When I had enough I just walked away and looked forward to a new start, not letting myself feel anything. You see, anyone who cheated on me believed that I would always be there when they were through “sport fucking”. I could tell you that they didn’t care about me but that would not be true, they always wanted me to be there when they wanted more than just a “lay”. I would make myself stay until I was sure I wouldn’t go back. I tortured myself in order to see the ugly truth. If it happened to me today after learning a lot about how I got to be the way I am, I would be destroyed emotionally but I would walk away because I deserve better.
When I was in my late twenties, my father went through what I would have to call “the middle-age crazies”. There was a young girl who was living with an older man in the neighborhood. My dad hired her to do some work for him in his remodeling business. She claimed her significant other was abusing her so my dad talked my mother into letting her stay with them. My dad started to stay up talking with this girl late into the night. The thing about my dad was, like me, he was very friendly and never met a stranger. We all thought he was so innocent that he didn’t realize how things looked to the rest of the world. I cannot tell you now how innocent he was or wasn’t, not after this incident. But let me give you an example: My mom came home from an out-of-town convention. She rode with some members and co-workers so when they brought her home, they came in to say hello to my dad. There was this early twenties girl having a drink and my dad was in the shower. As the story goes, my dad picked up this girl hitch-hiking and agreed to take her to the next town that was about 20 minutes away. He told her that his wife was on her way home so he needed to wait until she got there and they would both take her. He brought her to the house and fixed her a drink and went to take a shower. My mother believed this story because Dad always appeared to be so naïve and goodhearted.
My dad continued to commiserate with this young woman night after night regardless of my mother’s anger, she told him that the girl had to go. She went and my dad went with her saying that they were in love and eventually even saying they were going to have more children. OMG! My brother and I tried to talk sense into him but he was insulted that we didn’t think a young girl could be in love with him. He was offended that we were siding with my mother and wanted nothing to do with this girl, after what my mother had done to him. I was very emotional over their impending divorce. My mother was actually distraught and her drinking escalated. I received many drunken crying calls until I started ending the call as soon as I discovered she was drunk. You can’t reason with a drunk. During this time, my mother showed more emotion than I had ever known her to have.
Mom found out that the girl had a hysterectomy and couldn’t even have children. Mom tried to talk to my dad about it but he wouldn’t believe her. She talked to the girl and she told my mom that “they” didn’t want my parents’ home that “they” only wanted his business. My mom told her that she had better not hurt my dad. That was when I discovered that my mother was all about unconditional love. She insisted that my aunt, my mom and I go visit my dad at his apartment one night. The girl had split by then after finding out that my dad didn’t have any money. Somehow my dad ended up coming back to my parent’s house for the night. Now I know that this part is crazy but as I told you, I was emotionally stunted. I actually cried because my mother wouldn’t let my dad sleep in their bed. I felt really sorry for him. My mom had to talk me down, it was ridiculous but I can still remember how it felt.
My dad and mom reconciled and were very close. They finally realized that neither of them wanted anyone else to be parent to their children or grandparent to their grandchildren. Dad had a major heart attack and mom spent every moment she could with him, even staying with him at the hospital and driving to work an hour and a half away. She took care of him and they were happy until he died.
Continued Part Three
My parents were avid members of the Church of Christ when I was very young. They did not drink but I have almost no memory of those days most likely due to the molestations. I blocked out much of my early childhood due to having been molested by my grandfather and a babysitting church member as well as having been prompted in sexual acts by a neighborhood teenage boy. I only mention the molestation as it relates to the lack of memory
As I have written before, my parents started hanging around with people a group of young couples that like them had stable family lives. That is, until they were romanced by the feeling of freedom that alcohol gave them. I could see my parents becoming wilder with every get-together. They were functional but spent a lot of time with these friends, two of which died tragically. While I grew to hate (strong word that I normally don’t use) the two men, I loved and love the two women. I am not going to get into the details of that scene but if you are interested, read my post “Dramatic Exits”. Suffice it to say that I was confused at the change in my parents’ behavior.
My father was an industrial painter/sandblaster and he traveled. If the company paid for his lodging, we went too and sometimes my mother would leave us behind and go be with my father over a weekend. I had separation anxiety so I hated it when my mother was away. I was known to cry when she was leaving and she would end up taking me with her. I still have separation anxiety but that is a whole other subject.
When I was around 9, we lived briefly out of state where my dad was working. My mom, siblings and I went to Texas for a holiday and were staying with this neighbor and his wife. They put all of us kids to bed and went to a New Year’s Eve party in the neighborhood. Being my vigilant self, I stayed awake in self-protective mode. I became aware that mom and this neighbor had come into the house and were arguing. According to him, my mother was flirting with one of the neighbors who was married and he was lecturing her. Mom had come back to the house because she was determined to leave and go spend the night at her mother’s house. She was going to leave us at the neighbor’s house. I started to cry so mom took me with her. When we got to my grandmother’s house, she and my grandmother argued about my mother screwing up and running home to mama. When we got to another couple’s house where my siblings ended up, mom stayed in the house leaving me in the car for a long time. Eventually she came out and it was obvious that all was forgiven and we headed back to my dad. When we got back to my Dad, my mom left the house and my Dad went looking for her. When they got back, I heard them arguing and the name of a man my father worked with was mentioned. At the time, I thought my mother cheated on my dad with this co-worker of my dad’s. When I left my ex-husband after he gave me a black eye, my mother told me that she had found a woman’s panties somewhere behind the house. She says that my Dad and his co-worker had two women to our house. She said he was the first to cheat. Because it was my mother’s way not to say anything negative about my dad to us or to allow us to speak negatively about him, she allowed him to expose her infidelity to us but never told us that he was the first to cheat. We moved back to Texas when Dad’s contract was up.
As relationships developed, I became aware of some pretty ugly stuff. One of the men, our next-door neighbor, beat my mother at a hotel where she was supposedly attending a business meeting. I don’t know the truth of the situation but her story is that he followed her there because he thought she was having an affair and beat her up. The story doesn’t make sense and I think it is probable that my mother was indeed having an affair. My memory of that night is spotty as is typical of my early memories When my dad came home we three kids were in bed. My mother was crying and I heard her telling him what happened. My dad went over to their house, through the garage and into their back door. Our three bedroom house was fairly small and the houses in the neighborhood were close that I could hear the scuffle. I can’t tell you how that ended but I can tell you my dad had a quick temper. My parents and that couple did not speak for a long time until their young son who was close to my mother, came over and told mom that his mother wanted her to come over and have coffee. It was a ruse on his part but that started the forgiveness process. I still can’t believe that my parents would forgive what happened.
Later, we ended up moving because my parents felt that the man was too intrusive. Once, he called our house and told my father that my mom was having an affair; he had been spying on her. I was on the other end of the line eavesdropping. As I have said before, I was and am hyper-vigilant, you can see why. I wish I could tell you that eventually the relationship between these people and my parents ended but though it has waned and they rarely see each other, my mother still visits with them periodically. My mother says I should forgive this man because it was all blamed on alcohol but he is one person that I cannot be around, he has always made me feel uncomfortable.
As a preteen, I spent the night with my aunt and her niece once and we were talking girl talk. I told them that this man raped my mother because that is what I believed. Needless to say, she told my uncle who was my mother’s brother and he told my parents. I had a “talking to” about telling family business or some such thing but I am not sure that anything was explained to me at that time. That may be when I was told that he was the reason we moved.
My parents graduated to joining the Elk’s Club and hanging with other partying couples so things started to get worse. By then, my mother had worked at several jobs and was working in retail. She got her jobs by knowing people since we lived in a small town. She worked late hours in a nearby town so I became surrogate parent and wife (not sexually). My dad took me to the store where I bought groceries. I cooked his breakfast, made his lunches, ironed his clothes, my sister and I cleaned house, and I cooked family meals, if you could call them meals. I was not in an abusive situation but I was resentful. As my mother’s emotional distance with my dad and her drinking escalated, he would talk to me about his suspicions that she was being unfaithful. I hated it! I didn’t want adult responsibilities and confidences, I wanted the innocence I could never remember having. I wanted the parents I never remembered having. I wanted them to want to know that I wasn’t o.k., to ask how school was, what was happening in my life, why did I miss so much school but they were so caught up in their own growing up that my siblings and I were being left behind. Thank God, the parents of my best friend who lived in the same neighborhood treated me as one of their own and my parents treated her as one of their own so I had some guidance. Eventually, my dad caught my mother with another man and came home and told my siblings and me all the details. I can’t believe that when my mother came home, she was unhappy with him but as I remember, we still went to our lake house for the weekend, so confusing. As the arguments progressed, my father left and went to stay with his mother. Mom was out a lot and when she came home was usually drunk. My dad tried to talk us into going to live with him at my grandmother’s house and we felt guilty because we were very attached to our mother and didn’t want to leave our home. I repeated that same loyalty with my abusive ex-husband.
My dad ended up in a hospital with tuberculosis he contracted from a co-worker. He was in the hospital for several months and supposedly he and my mother reconciled. However, her children knew that she was still cheating on him. My mother has admitted to me that she prostituted herself. I was told later by my sister-in-law that Mom had sex in return for alcohol. She actually introduced us to a man she was having an affair with and we were very uncomfortable. My dad says the man eventually “dumped her”. While he was in the hospital, my dad called me at the teen club to ask where my mother was. I was embarrassed and resentful. Before he went into the hospital, he told me that my mother couldn’t love me or she wouldn’t be neglecting me as she was because Mom hadn’t picked us up from the swimming pool. Dad later denied to my mother ever having said this; my own father called me a liar. I know that my mother loved me but she was not present in the lives of my siblings and I. She came into my room while I was in bed one night and kissed me on the forehead and said, “Goodbye”. According to my brother, she had been out with the guy she was having an affair with and apparently decided to leave us . She didn’t and I’m assuming she realized that emotionally she could not leave her children. I am unsure as to what her thought process was but she didn’t leave. That she didn’t leave does not remove the feeling of abandonment but I suppose in a way, she had left a long time before that.
I felt suffocated, so suffocated by my father! So much so that when he came home from the hospital and I was at home sick (again), I cried when he walked through the door. He thought I was crying because I was happy to see him but it was just the opposite. I resented his coming home because I felt burdened. He even laid down in my sister’s twin bed in order to spend time with me. I know how this sounds but I wanted to scream. I know that I should have felt sympathy and been glad he was out of the hospital but I was emotionally smothered. Perhaps as I look at it now, his presence forced me to acknowledge my own feelings that I was stuffing or ignoring about what was going on with my mother.
My emotional growth and maturity was stunted at that time, age 15. I couldn’t cry for a year. The next time I cried was when my parents talked divorce one night while the three of us were on our way out to dinner. It was the first time I spoke out. I told them how stupid they were being and that there had to be something that brought and held them together. I was 16 at that time. I wish I could tell you that the cheating stopped but it continued well into my adulthood.
Mom was quite a flirt especially when she was drinking and it was an embarrassment. My dad would just laugh and say, “That girl!” She would act my age when my friends were around so they thought she was cool but I wanted a real mother.
My dad’s friends, who I suspect were his friends to have an excuse the be around her, would come by our house unexpectedly when my dad was not at home. We lived off the beaten path so were they “just in the neighborhood”? as they proclaimed? I think not! My sister and I would sit in the room with them as baby-sitters so that my mom could not have sex with them. No, she wouldn’t do that with us in the house but we were still vigilant. Oddly, my sister and I never knew that we were both doing the babysitting thing until we were adults.
Continued Part Two
Control is an illusion. When we most believe we are in control of a situation, we are actually out of control.
I believe the driving force of the need to control is fear. An acronym for fear is “False Events Appearing Real”. We fear what will happen if we let go and let life happen. I have found that when I let go of trying to control the world around me, my life is fuller and a lot more peaceful. When I keep the focus on myself, my relationships are better and I am less anxious. It is not an easy thing to do, letting go, especially when the need to control life around us was developed out of necessity to help us survive physically, mentally or emotionally. It’s hard to tell ourselves that part of our lives is over and there is no longer a need for what is sometimes called “white knuckling” (holding on so tight that your knuckles turn white). Like an addiction, letting go has to be done one minute at a time because the need for control touches every area of our lives. Try asking yourself in each situation:
- “What am I afraid will happen?”
- “Is my fear really logical?”
- “What am I running away from?”
- “What am I hiding from?”
- “What will happen if I don’t try to control this situation?”
- “Am I helping or hurting?”
- Is this my business?
I struggle with control issues. In the past, I could spot them in others but didn’t see them in myself until I realized that I have a need to control what others think of me. When I came to that realization, I began to look at possibilities in other areas of my life. I see it in my writing, the need to give every detail of every situation in order to ensure that the reader perceives what I have written as I believe they should. I cannot control what someone takes away from my writing just as I cannot control what people think of me. Every person is made up of life experiences and they have developed their individual beliefs, interests and opinions. Still it is difficult to let go of the illusion.
I feel that I have to make excuses or give reasons for any thing I say and/or do so that I can control how it is received. I try to make others understand why I am the way I am. It may be acceptable in this venue because we are all striving to learn from and support each other but it doesn’t work in my everyday life. My new goal is to accept myself as I am and stop worrying about what other people think of me because I cannot control their perception of me in any way. We have a saying in Ala-non, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” It took me a while to make sense of this saying but that was because I didn’t get the concept behind it. Yet, when I look at it as meaning as, “I cannot control what others think of me” the meaning is clear.
If you believe in God, the concept of “letting go” is simply “Let God and Let God.” Letting go is learning to trust that things will work as they are meant to. I have a friend who has a sticky note on her mirror that says, “(her name), Thanks but I don’t need your help today, Love, God.” Another tool that some of my friends use is a God Box. When something is worrying you, write it on a piece of paper and put it in your God Box. Once you have placed the problem in his hands, let go of it. This will only work if you let go of the situation. I have a tendency to turn it over then take it back, turn it over, then take it back like a Yo Yo.
God doesn’t expect us to let go of the steering wheel. For example, we can’t say, “I can’t pay my bills God, you take over” and sit back and wait. He expects us to use the knowledge and tools we have to solve problems to the best of our ability. If you are not a believer, the concept of letting go still works. When we try to control a situation, we usually end up making the situation worse, so just let go.
The burden of trying to control everything around us is stressful and exhausting and it’s not our job. What would life be like if we just put that burden down and put that energy into something more positive? Would it feel like freedom?
So you think you’ve escaped alcoholism, not a chance. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be effected by alcoholism.
Alcoholism affects everyone who comes in contact with an alcoholic. It could be a parent, a sibling, a relative, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, child, or a co-worker. That is why Ala-non, is a support group for families and friends of alcoholics not just families of alcoholics. You may not have the disease but I can say that you have the ism’s without ever having met you.
It is said that alcoholism is a family disease and I believe it with all my heart. I grew up in an alcoholic home. Why do I call it an alcoholic home? Does that mean that all my family members were alcoholics? No, our home revolved around my alcoholic mother because her actions or in-actions affected every one of us. Our emotional make-up developed around coping with her drinking and the effect it had on us. I like to see my mother as having alcoholism rather than as an alcoholic but it is my habit to use the term alcoholic which is unfortunately a label. She grew up in an alcoholic home just like I did. I have the utmost love and strive to understand because but for the grace of God, go I. As alcoholism is said to be genetic, I could have followed in her footsteps. I am lucky, I don’t like the taste of alcohol and yet I am unlucky in that I don’t like not having control. Why is that unlucky? Because I have to fight the tendency to control everything around me to ensure that it doesn’t give me that feeling of not having control over my life and to avoid the helpless feelings I had growing up. I also believe it is a learned behavior, we do what we know and alcoholism is what we know.
That is why even though you think you have escaped the parent or ex, you are wrong. You were affected and I can prove it.
Do you have problems getting along with others?
Do you have control issues?
Is your relationship picker broken?
Are you hyper-vigilant?
Do you fight depression?
Do you lack confidence?
Are you an under or over achiever?
Are you a people-pleaser?
Are you a care taker?
Are you a fixer?
There are many other symptoms but I’m sure you get it and you know which one of these have developed in you.
In my work as a Crisis Call Counselor, I could pretty much bet that regardless of the crisis, the conversation would eventually reveal that the caller had been affected by alcoholism, either theirs or someone in their past or present life. I consider alcoholism an “emotional” disease because it can bring about anger, sadness, depression, resentment, etc. in the alcoholic or those affected by a person’s drinking. The reason persons affected by another person’s drinking are considered to be co-dependent is that while the alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, the affected person is addicted to the alcoholic. I have had so many friends, boyfriends and a husband who were addicted to alcohol and in the beginning of the relationship, I didn’t know there was a problem. It’s like a magnet! I have friends in Ala-non who say it is because alcoholics are charismatic and exciting. Perhaps we see something in their personalities that we wish we had.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I’m not with him/her any more, so I don’t need Ala-non.” I have thought that myself but I always end up going back because my ism’s become overwhelming. This post is not meant to advertise or push Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics, yet it is what I know so I do highly recommend them. Just like the person with alcoholism, only you can decide that you need help and what support is best for you. I have been told, “When it hurts bad enough, you will get help.”
“Co-dependent No More” by Melody Beattie is a really good book for understanding the effects of alcoholism. I read this book like a person dying of thirst drinks water. It told me that I was not crazy and there was hope.
People addicted to alcohol and/or drugs will to try to convince others that it is your fault, don’t take it on. Think 3 C’s – You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of, alcoholism in you or someone else is not your fault but it is your responsibility. If you are afraid of the alcoholic becoming angry because you are seeking help, 12 step support groups are anonymous as is therapy. If you go to a meeting or see a therapist and you are not comfortable with the environment or personalities, try another meeting or therapist. There are many meetings and therapists available. If you are in a remote area, I understand that there are meetings online. Just do an Internet search of Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics. There are two daily readers, One Day at a Time in Ala-non and Courage to Change that are utilized by Ala-Non. I find ODAT (nickname) useful when you are in a relationship with an alcoholic and Courage to Change is a good all-around book. I mostly use Courage to Change and it seems to be a favorite among recovering Ala-Non’s. Before using these books, it would be helpful to do some research on alcoholism. People active in Ala-Non attend open AA meetings to learn what the person with alcoholism experiences.
Whatever you decide to do, know that you are not alone. Everything you have experienced, someone else has experienced. It helps to talk with other people who are experiencing the same thing or who have been there and survived.
There is always hope.
For me and for anyone who knows or loves someone who was sexually abused, this may be the most important part of the sharing my experience on this topic.
There was no support, validation or comfort, it was just an experience to be hidden from the world because it became my mother’s shameful burden. To this day, I can remember telling my mother about two abuse situations while she was giving me a bath and for the life of me, I can’t remember the words I used or any reaction on her part. That doesn’t mean there was no reaction, it just means that it was so minimal that I, as a young child, never saw it. My mother tells me that she protected me by not allowing the baby-sitter or the neighborhood boy to have access to me or my siblings but was that enough? She says back then people didn’t talk about “such things” and certainly didn’t take legal action. But she never even told my father. Never, ever.
I love my mother. She has made a lot of mistakes and bad choices in her life that I know came from her growing up in an alcoholic home with a pedophile father. As they say, shit rolls downhill. All my life, I have tried to force her to tell me why she did things she did because her actions or in-actions have had a huge impact on who I am or am not. She is only now that she is 84, forcing herself to give me answers. She has given me permission to ask her anything I need because she doesn’t want to leave me with questions. Unfortunately, my blocking out painful experiences is also my mother’s way of coping so while she knows things happened with her father, she cannot recall the details. Like mother, like daughter. She has gone through her whole life blaming everything bad that happened to her on alcohol. Her father had alcoholism, her life changed when she, my dad and their friends started to drink and she was affected by alcoholism and all the mistakes that go with the release that alcohol gives from inhibitions and pain.
I believe that my mother hid my molestation because she was afraid that her secret knowledge about her father would come out. She loved her father so deeply that she sacrificed her children’s well-being for that love. She said we never showed signs of his having molested us without even realizing what she was saying. What I heard was that she knew what he was but she believed he never did it to us. She remembers him being drunk and french kissing her goodnight and her saying to him, “You are not my daddy!” Coincidentally, one time the words “You are not my daddy!” came out of my mouth as an adult. I think I might have been angry with my dad at the time but he was no where around. I remember being shocked and confused that I would say such a thing. Mom’s sister told her that their father molested her but my mother wouldn’t listen. When you put someone on a pedestal, they can’t stay up there and you often can’t let yourself see them fall. She tells me that she knows something happened to her but she has blocked it out. I have encouraged my mother so many times to seek counseling but she is so filled with shame that she just can’t.
When I worked for a police department, I was filing and came across a card that told me that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation. My grandfather was dead at the time and I guess I had a need to totally remove his existence. I went to the evidence technician who is responsible for criminal reports and let him know of the death so he could remove the record, which was standard. Lest you think that the entire history was removed, no, it wouldn’t be as the records were put onto microfiche at that time. In fact, that is why I couldn’t read the actual report on the incident, it was on microfiche in storage. I am not a rule breaker but I would have looked up that report if I could have. The evidence tech asked me if this man was a relative and I told him that he was my grandfather. I have never forgotten that he looked at me kindly and said, “We can pick our friends but we can’t pick our relatives.” and told me that he would take care of it. Since that time, I have learned from my mother that my father actually bailed my grandfather out of jail. She says they believed that the young girl was lying. Reading between the lines, it is easy to see that my mother couldn’t have believed the girl was lying. Another child sacrificed. My aunt was very angry that the judge dismissed the charges though she probably kept this to herself until she told me. My father’s naivete has often frustrated me but not more so than in this instance. However, my mother hid so much from him. Once when I told my parents that I was very uncomfortable around the husband of a family friend, my father told me that he knew the guy would never do anything to my father’s children. So Dad, he would molest his stepchildren but not your children? Wake up and smell the coffee! I was actually hurt that he would not proclaim to stay away from the man in order to help me feel more comfortable. Naive or lacking courage? The man ended up shooting his wife and stepson. You can read about it in my post “Tragic Endings”.
My grandfather molested my cousin, sister and me and we never told anyone. My not telling about me was understandable, I blocked out the details, but my cousin and my sister told me about it happening to them. I was the oldest girl grandchild so chances are that I had the experiences prior to theirs. The three of us talked about why we didn’t tell anyone and we all agreed it was that we didn’t want to hurt our parents who had so much love for this man, a love we all resented. If we couldn’t tell how could I expect my mother to tell. She and I have had several very honest conversations about this and while her answer has hurt me, it was extremely honest. She says she would never have taken action because she would not have wanted to split up her family. I don’t think she is alone in that, after all, isn’t that why my sister, cousin and I didn’t tell. She says not only did she love her father but her mother was a woman with no education, means of support and had 5 children. It strikes me that she said her mother had 5 children which says to me that she was not talking about my molestation but hers. However, she made it clear that she would not have told anyone had she known about me and my sister. She was not the exception, she was the rule during those times. If we look the other way, it didn’t happen. I was hurt when my mother made her admission to me and told her that it was her responsibility to protect her children, we weren’t capable of protecting ourselves. A few days later, she called me and told me that she was haunted by what she said and that she would answer any questions I had. Oddly enough, after that it was difficult to want to bring the subject up. It was like I finally had what I needed, her acknowledgement that she was wrong not to protect me. However, we have talked about it since and while she knows she was wrong, she still contends that she would not have split up her family. I have to accept that because nothing is ever going to change it but it is hers to live with. So my dad died never knowing the family secret. He never knew why I pursued therapy, he never thought I needed it. He didn’t know that my continuous talking, talking, talking and difficulty not filling the silence were symptoms of a person with a painful secret.
There was no education when the abuse took place. People were truly ignorant, willfully so. I don’t mean they were ignorant of the fact that it took place, they were ignorant in the fact that it would matter. There was no courage when it came to emotional situations. It was easier for a man to kick his daughter out of the house for having sex than it was to try to understand why she had sex. It was easier to turn her away than to listen or talk with her. I know of several situations even within my own extended family where the child was blamed for being molested. The thinking was that the child brought it on herself by being promiscuous. So much easier to sacrifice you own family than to have the courage to confront. A child cannot be held responsible for an adult’s actions. If a child is promiscuous, there is a reason in my opinion. The word “incest” is abhorrent to most of us. Its creepy that a relative would have sex with their child relative. However, when I was in therapy, I attended Incest Survivor meetings and incest was considered to be the term used in relation to any adult who is responsible for a child and betrays the trust of the child. If a child is dependent on an adult, he/she she has to place their trust in that adult so the child doesn’t usually have a choice in what happens between the child and the adult. I can tell you that I have been to several different genres of support meetings and I would have to say that the people in the Incest Survivor meetings appeared to have been the most damaged emotionally and mentally. There is so much shame, anger and sexual acting out. Each person thinks another pers0n’s experience is worse than their own but they are all horrendous because they were so very betrayed by someone who they were supposed to be able to trust to take care of them.
I can’t help but wonder how different my life would be if my mother had the courage to step up. What if my dad had known? Would he have had the courage to fight for me? Sadly I doubt it. My brother was angry with me for telling him about my grandfather because my grandfather was his idol. He didn’t say that he didn’t believe it, just that he didn’t want to know about it. Can I judge him? No, I can be angry but I cannot judge him. Our whole lives have been complicated by the dysfunction that has passed itself down but the one thing I know is that we survived. In spite of all the dysfunction my siblings and I lived through, we all survived and have gone on to live productive lives. The odd thing is that I attribute that to the love and support of our parents. No matter how crazy things got, the three of us hung on to the knowledge that our parents loved us and wanted the best for us. When my mother was in a downward spiral, she was still our anchor because dad was the supporter and she was took care of the children. She took on all the burden to protect him from worry and responsibility and his children were shortchanged.
We somehow knew that we had to hang in there until our parents grew up enough to come back to us. Because in our very early years, we had a good, solid family and it stayed with us. My mother said to me recently, “I always wanted to be a good mother.” and I was able to tell her that in some very important ways, she was. Even during the chaos, when we made mistakes our parents didn’t punish, they talked and we actually listened. They always let us have our say and if they felt we were right, they would concede. We were rewarded for honesty by having our parents let that be enough to convince them that we were aware of our misdeeds. We were never shamed. We have all had our trials but we have our own families and we try to do our best for them.