My Work As A Therapist And Substance Abuse Counselor Did Not Prepare Me To Counsel My Children Or Grandchildren
It just does not work that way! Or does it? What do you think?
Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash
There is an elephant in the living room, and in this case, on the other side of the fence, and no one is talking about it and when the scapegoats in the family bring it up, they are told. No, silly, there is no elephant here! Or “What the hell are you talking about now? Are you crazy?”
Alcoholism and Drug Use were a part of growing up in my family. (There is a children’s book with the title, An Elephant in the Living Room)
I had a large family growing up, and I have a large family now. Only instead of being one of the young ones, I am now one of the old ones.
With my children, I broke the alcoholic/addicted family rules. (I am not sure who came up with these rules but I have known about them since 1978 or so.)
1. Do not trust.
2. Do not feel.
3. Do not talk (or ask questions)
Those rules were strictly applied in my family growing up. So much so that I continue to be affected by them to this day. Forty-plus years later. My children do not appear to have adopted those alcoholic family rules.
I married an alcoholic and became an alcoholic. I sobered up when my children were young. Too young to remember my drinking. After fifteen years with their dad, we divorced and he later died from his illness.
After a couple of years, I married a man that had a son. He became my son and my children’s brother. Then after 13 years, we went our separate ways, and about a little over a year later, I married a man with four children. Together we have seven children, 26 grandchildren, and 9 great-grandchildren.
We have been together now for 22 years, and we have one daughter that struggles with addiction and her mental health, and two grandchildren that are struggling also.
Can I help them? I believe I can love them and pray for them. I cannot counsel them, nor do I wish to. My husband will say, “You just have to…” And I will say, “When I see that working, that is what I will do!” He forgets that I did this work for many years, and I still do this work.
My group is not substance abuse or mental health therapy today, rather it is a culture group. I was told it is important to stay in my lane. To me, this means to stick with the culture and how the culture helps us heal. Will my family end up in my group? Probably not.
The other thing I do is training substance abuse and mental health counselors primarily. I teach an online college class and 3-day culture training and 90-minute to three-hour presentations at counselor training conferences. Will my family attend? Probably not.
I know they won’t get it through osmosis. My grandson said, “Grandma, why did everyone give up on being warriors? I said, “I never did. I have always been a warrior.” He asked how I did that and when I started to tell him, he said, “Why did you never tell me that?”
They can be around you, hear what you have to say, see what you are doing and still not see, listen, or understand. They don’t know what you have done your entire life.
Whereas my group members thank me every week. My supervisor tells me that I get the best evaluations from program participants. I enjoy my groups and my time with people struggling with depression, anxiety, and panic and who are suicidal. That 1 1/2 hour each week, I can be helpful.
I would like someone to be that person for my children that struggle. I know the importance of setting a good example. I don’t like being around family when they are struggling with depression, anxiety, and panic or who are suicidal. I know I can’t be helpful, as much as I would like to be!
Thank you for reading this article. It was first published in Mindful Mental Health on Medium!
About the author
I am married and we have 7 children, 25 grands and 9 greatgrandchildren. I work part-time as a culture consultant. I started writing A Poem a Day in February 5 years ago. I've written 4 - 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo. Now Vocal and Medium.