This week’s HTYH is a continuation of a medical doctor’s story: My grandfather was the town drunk who died from drinking bleach in the Mayfield, KY city jail in 1934. My mother was the adult child of a chronic alcoholic who was physically, mentally and sexually abused by him. On the first page of the chapter entitled “The Family Afterward,” in our Big Book it says: A doctor said, “Years of living with an alcoholic is almost sure to make any wife or child neurotic. The entire family is, to some extent, ill.”
My mother was the finest woman, who ever lived, but she died prematurely of cancer in 1978—she was only 64 years old. I adored my mother alive or dead and, I miss her more each day, but she was goofy, and she had every right to be that way because she was a girl raised in poverty who never had any way of dealing with the guilt, shame, rage, fear, confusion and all of the pathology that came from her relationship with her father-my grandfather.
Alcoholism was on my father’s side of the family too, two of his brothers died from alcoholism and my mother and dad swore that no child of theirs would ever be exposed to alcohol inside their home. The result of them being exposed to the effects of alcoholism, however, still affected our home, it manifested itself in the form of “conditional love” and that becomes a trust issue for the child—I love when you do this, but I don’t love you if you do that? I love you when you’re doing what I want you to, but I won’t love you if you don’t. My mother used that pathology to create the perfect child—a king baby. If you looked at my resume’ for the first 22 years of my life you might think that, I had been groomed to be the Pope and I’m not Catholic. I was a perfect child and I was perfect for one reason—Momma’s approval and then it evolved into everybody’s approval. When I was in the 3rd grade I made the only “B,” that I ever made throughout grade and high school—my mother didn’t speak to me for 6 weeks. After getting that “B,” on my report card, daddy had to fix my breakfast because mother wouldn’t speak to me. That was the last “B,” I ever got because I wanted my mamma’s approval more than anything in the world.
One of the greatest letters Bill Wilson ever wrote was in 1953 and it was published in a 1958 “Grapevine,” it was entitled “emotional sobriety.” Bill had just gone through a horrible depression that began in 1944 and lasted until 1954. He wrote his second book, “12 Steps and 12 Traditions,” during the time he suffered through that ripping depression. For at least 10 years, from the time he got out of bed he timed his breathing with his steps in order to function. If that had been in this day and age, doctors would’ve prescribed at least 6 different brands of psychotropic drugs for him and he would’ve been institutionalized and we would’ve had the legitimate diagnosis to justify using every one of them. This is one of reasons I recently went to Dallas—I was trying to explain to the doctors there that unless the patient has crawled into a corner and is sucking his or her toes, we should first try using the program of Alcoholics Anonymous on them and make certain that they aren’t chronic alcoholics before we resort to giving them powerful medications—prescribing pills for an alcoholic is like trying to put a fire out by throwing gasoline on it.
After Bill Wilson started coming out of that crippling depression in 1953 he wrote about emotional sobriety and said that almost all of his emotional problems stemmed from his need for approval, he had become a people pleaser who needed, craved, lived for, and was motivated by people’s approval…