Recoveries of all sorts involve standing alone. I have found that whether I am flushing away pain pills, eliminating certain foods from my diet, or chipping away at the brainwashing of a dysfunctional family, I am left alone, with my yearning and my discomfort. It is unpleasant; and this is coming from someone who is VERY comfortable being alone.
I’ve been practicing this enough now to see different responses from different situations. Around disordered eating, I mainly have a restless energy when sitting with an intense craving. Riding a wave of craving opiates, I feel the same restlessness but tinged with a splash of anger. But the most difficult reaction by far comes up when I try to look at certain relationships as they were, without denial and excuses. That results in a deep inner sorrow that is visceral. And it can bowl me over.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am the daughter of immigrants who grew up in a culturally hostile environment in the US South in the 1960’s. One way my parents sought protection for us was to instill a distrust of outsiders (i.e. ‘gringos’) and to drill into our young minds how ‘familia’ is your rock and your only source of support in a difficult life. This promoted isolation as we did not grow up within a large Latino community. Thus we pretty much kept to ourselves, with occasional gatherings with other Latino families. We weren’t geographical neighbors to those families nor did we have any exposure to Spanish language or Latino culture within our community at large. In hindsight, I think our experience of racism would have been somewhat less traumatizing if we had had a sort of community in which we could have been supported and validated. But we did not. Subsequently, I grew up with a clan-like sense of family bordering on fanatical. Now, Latinos in general have strong familial identities, but couple their disdain of individualism with a siege mentality state, and you get a very bonded, warped family loyalty.
So, now that I am delving into issues from my family of origin, I am breaking major taboos. Seeing the ways in which I was hurt is not only painful but it upsets my sense of safety in the world. I have needed to view mi familia above reproach similar to the way athletes only speak highly of their teammates when up against a formidable adversary. You need to be unified to rally your strengths. You need to forge a united front. Even though my parents have died, I still move in the world with this inner bearing. It forms my identity.
This identity was rattled badly this month as I was made aware that a key incestuous summer could have been prevented by my parents. We were in South America, visiting my extended family, and my mother was told by my sister that an elder male was molesting her, and she was moved from the home, along with my other older sister. Problem is, they left ME in that home, with the incestuous elder. And I was sexually abused, majorly, repeatedly, that summer. I can only assume they thought he would not go after one as young as I (I was the youngest). This knowledge is devastating and totally shatters my indoctrination of ‘only we will always have your back’ from my parents.
Not that I am ignorant of any familial dysfunction, but this was so profoundly neglectful that it changes the way I look at my parents and how they raised me in regard to familia. That was not the first time they knew the old man was molesting their daughters. I can’t excuse it anymore. I never understood why they forgave him after the first time he was caught, even if it took several years of him pleading. But a second time?! And they just just moved the two older girls? I cannot wrap my head around it. I am so utterly disappointed and this changes everything.
So, I am standing apart from mi familia right now. I am making space for me to look soberly at their actions and such and not caring more for their protection as my own anymore. One concrete result of this process is this very blog. It was on the same trip in which I learned of this devastating revelation, that I turned a major corner. Even though I enjoy writing, and feel a therapeutic release from sharing my stories, I always felt I could not speak openly about my incest recovery, dissociation, etc.for fear of shaming my family. But I realized that I needed to speak up for myself at any cost. And I simply did not care as much now. I guess that is the anger bubbling up. I am plenty anxious every time I publish a post but I am doing it, knowing that my parents (and some other family members) would be disapproving. I do not do it to bother them, but to put my recovery first, my life comes first to me now.
Standing alone in my recovery, away from the false security of substances and secrets, is unsettling. It is foreign, scary and tearful. The tears do not flow easily, they are stuck in my chest. They are stuck in the pains of my body, or maybe that is the anger. I do not have it all figured out. But I get stronger and I am learning to live in this new reality.