Hi Readers, I haven't been blogging the past couple weeks because I was in the process of finishing my new book Let Go, Love Life (the link is on the "Books" page), family drama (which I will get into), and going back to school for the spring semester.
As you know, I am in codependency recovery from my cousin who had a substance use disorder. He is now sober and engaged to his fiancée but does not work a program. About a week and a half ago, my mom and I decided to go over to his house to at least get closure and congratulate him on his engagement. His fiancée, whom I never met before, answered the door and started yelling and cursing at us. She made it clear that we were not to come back there again or mail anything to the house. I civilly congratulated her on their engagement and walked away, calling her a mother f****er as I was walking away so her neighbor would hear (I rarely use that kind of profanity, so you could tell I was livid). My cousin must have told her lies about my mom and me. He did not even reach out to apologize for her behavior. Ten years ago, he never stood up for me when his now ex-girlfriend treated me bad, and ten years later (even though I am an adult now, this is happening again, even though he is sober.
The Lesson: What is Real Love?
Even though I am fuming and greatly disappointed in my cousin, I still love him as my cousin. However, the love that I have towards him is a different kind of love. As opposed to before where I was trying to control and fix him and would stop at nothing to be in his life because I loved him so much as he was my favorite cousin, I now am willing to let him go and do whatever he needs to do/be with to be happen, even if I am not a apart of it or approve of who he is marrying. There are a variety of reasons why he may now want me to be his life such as being triggered, unresolved anger, unwanted reminder of his active addiction, just not interested, etc. Because I love him, I have to respect what he wants, even if that includes not wanting me in his life.
I learned in my Psychology of Human Sexuality class last semester during our chapter on love and intimacy that you know when you truly love someone when you can let him or her go and can live without him or her. If you love someone, you respect their wishes as a separate human being from you. Unlike a year and a half ago, I can let him go, build an amazing life for myself without him, and have faith he will come back someday if it is meant to be. If it meant for us to ever see each other in this lifetime, the Universe (what I call my Higher Power) will make it happen in the right time and in the right way, which do not think is any time soon because he is still not well. Manipulating the situation will not do any good; it will only backfire. As they say in the recovery programs, "Love them, pray for them/wish them well, and let them be who they are."
The best thing I can do is to wish him well and pray for him while taking care of myself and living my best life. The only alternatives are to live in misery and bitterness while he lives his life not even giving me a thought and/or follow him and stalk him, which will definitely not work, make him recoil even more, and land me in jail (I'm only half kidding). I am only 20 years-old. From the time I was 10 until I was 19, I lived and breathed him when he did not even care about me. I lost 9 years to him; I do not need to lose anymore. I have my whole life ahead of me. I am now a second-semester sophomore in college with a 4.0 GPA, have an internship lined up this summer, recently took a volunteer position at my spiritual center, am working really hard to better myself in counseling and in my recovery programs, made a new great friend, declared a double-major in world religions, and wrote another book. There is so much I already have to look forward to in my life and so much more to come. My 20's are going to be an exciting my time because I am so close to getting out on my own and building my own life. As my therapist said, I do not have to wait in his "waiting room" anymore. Regardless if that day comes where we reunite or not, I have to take care of my and do what I can to live an amazing life. It is not the problems that we face; it is how we solve them. Thankfully, codependency recovery ha given me the tools to solve them.
Description:"We are not human beings have a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience" and true spirituality is "having an awakening to your own personal spirit/soul/self" are the greatest lessons that author Bria Rose Riley learned in her codependency and adult children of alcoholics recovery. Through a series of vignettes, she shares the Universal Lessons that she has learned and applied from her personal experiences, observations, and reflections and the people she has encountered on her journey, various recovery programs, New Thought-Science of Mind spiritual teaching institution, and writings of great spiritual teachers of the past and present. She shares these Universal Truths with you to strengthen your soul on your journey in this earth school, allowing you to shine like the amethyst that you already are.
Looking at a 1/11/2010 through the Eyes of Gratitude and Lessons about Abuse Cycle and Having Compassion for Abuser
A Day of Gratitude that was Once Viewed as Tragic
11:11 in numerology (a New Age spiritual practice that is tied in with astrology that many of my fellow spiritual students of New Thought-Science of Mind and I believe in) means," 'master number' which signifies intuition, insight, and enlightenment. When paired together, 11 11 is a clear message from the Universe to become conscious and aware. Many people suggest that seeing 11 11 signifies that your spirit guides are attempting to contact you."
10 years ago today on 1/11/2010, I had just returned to 4th grade at Holly Glen Elementary School in Williamstown, New Jersey after a 2 week Christmas break and a week off with a severe ear infection. As usual, my mom om picked me up from school that day, and sure enough just 2 days before he went to county jail for 7 months, my dad was drunk. My mom had to go to work, but my aunt, who we were never close with, simply refused to watch me and suggested for my mom to bring me to their cousin's house. I did not even know this cousin other than by name and seeing her at family events, so I decided to be open-minded and try it. When she answered the door, she was superficially charming. Shortly after, her then 20 year-old son came down (the infamous cousin whom I developed a major codependency problem to). He made me nervous, but he seemed quiet and innocent. Later, her other son (then 21 years-old) came home, furious at his girlfriend who is now the mother of his 2 children. I thought that it was okay because it was only for one evening after all. One night became almost 3 more months of weekly abuse and almost a 9-year codependency problem. You see, this cousin had alcohol use disorder and possibly anti-social personality disorder and her two children had opioid use disorders. I am in awe that today marks 10 years. I used to see today as a day of despair, but now through the eyes of gratitude, acceptance, and recovery, I see it as the beginning of a spiritual journey. Just like the phoenix, I rose from the ashes. I found my passion and purpose through one of the worst experiences of my life. As I read this week, our hearts need to break open in order to allow the light to shine through.
The Abuse Cycle: It Screws You Up
This year on January 11th, my abuse awareness theme is the effects of abuse/having compassion for your abuser. In recent months, my third counselor at the Starting Point Inc. in Westmont , New Jersey (completed a program with my first and my second moved on to her 2nd internship- both were wonderful) pointed out how I have been affected by the abuse cycle. I have learned about the abuse cycle in my 12th grade health class, but I did not think applied to me because the abuse was mostly emotional and mental. The abuse cycles goes something like this: It starts out with the abusive incident (for me, it was getting extremely yelled at, being made fun of berated, physically pushed around, manipulated into doing things to help them w/ their drug use, forced to watch drug use/sexual activity, etc.), followed by apologies (for me, it was my cousins' mom making my favorite food, buying my favorite snacks, letting me watch my favorite TV shows, etc.), followed by rising incident (cousins coming in high and getting angry at me for not doing what they told me to), and finally the whole cycle starts all over.
Having to be put through this cycle, especially as a child, literally messes up your brain, confusing it, which makes it harder to recognize what is exactly going on and to get out. It tricks us into thinking this person is not doing anything wrong or it will get better and go back to the way it was in the beginning. Abusers often "gaslight" (manipulate them into questioning their psychological well-being) their victims into thinking that the victims themselves are "the problem" or more of "the problem" than they actually are. When I mustered up the courage to call my cousins' mom a month ago to try to make amends, I found myself apologizing a lot more than I should have. But I later wrote her a letter nicely telling her how it is using plenty of "I" statements. Currently, in therapy, I am working on realizing that I am not responsible for what happened and that my reactions towards what happen were normal. Logically I know, but my heart and soul is struggling with it.
Having Compassion for Someone Who You Think Deserves it the Least
Now to the more interesting stuff, having compassion toward your abuser. Going through my own mental health struggles and addiction of codependency and studying psychology in high school and college has really taught me a lot about humanity. For a long time, my heart was closed. I had NO compassion for anyone, let alone my abusers. However, when my Abnormal Psychology professor said, "There is nothing I am incapable of given the right circumstances," it really mad me realize that we are all born as innocents, are affected by our experiences in life, and reflect how those experiences affected us in our behavior. In my 11th grade English class, my favorite story we read all year was A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. The one quote towards the end (see above quote) taught me that those who need the compassion the most are those who you would think deserve it the least.
Today, I read something in Strengthening my Recovery, that said, "No one is to blame in an alcoholic/dysfunctional family. Dysfunction is inherited." I know that my cousins and their mother have been through their own horrific traumas (e.g. sexual abuse) and thus have their own addictions, behavior problems, and possible co-occuring mental health disorders as a result. Essentially, they are lashing out in their own behavior. For example, my one cousin, who is sober and now getting married but does not work a program and carries a lot of anger (especially toward me) and is very manipulative (still toward me as I saw last week), makes himself look like a tough guy on the outside by covering himself in scary tattoos and dressing like a gangster in order to avoid looking within. It does NOT excuse what they did to me or others and does not make it acceptable for them to be in my life while they are still acting out, but it explains why they were not capable of giving what they were supposed to such as, love, protection, nurturing, emotional validation, communication, etc. They are still human, and it could have easily been me if I did not seek the proper help. Life is complicated, and there are a variety of factors why people do what they do. We need to set boundaries, but at the end of the day, we need to recognize the humanity and the oneness of all life. I still love my cousins, but hate what they did and hate the disease even more.
I Have the Power Now
Please feel free to "Share" on your social media. if one person is motivated to get help it will all be worth it. It is a Universal Truth that a Power Greater than Ourselves (regardless if you call it the Universe-the name that resonates with my soul, G.o.d., Higher Power, Divine, Infinite, Jesus, Allah, Great Spirit, etc. or believe it is an energy like I do, a father or mother sitting somewhere, multiple people with different powers, or something completely different) uses all things for good. My WHYY interview on codependency is airing in February (will post the link and provide dates/times later). I am in the process of writing another book on personal spirituality, and I will be interning or Camden County Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse to learn how to educate/prevent substance use and addictive disorders in the community and the innerworkings of the non-profit sector this upcoming summer. I was listening to the talk I gave at Jal-Con 2017 in front of 200 people on CD yesterday for the first time, and while it was a great talk that reminded me of some great tools, my recovery at the time was solely intellectual. I have to thank my counselors Vince, Allison, and Sarah at the Starting Point; Al-Anon homegroup on Tuesday Nights in Washington Township; my spiritual, so not religious mentor Rev. Margaret who shows a spirit of love, open-mindedness, and humility that I never thought I would get from someone with the title of "minister" and the other members of Joyful Gathering Spiritual Center (located inside of the Starting Point in Westmont), Mom, Dad, spirit guide Grandmom Rosie, pets, and even those who gave me a hard time on the journey because they all taught me something. I now practice what I preach (not perfectly at all) and can live instead of merely exist. Now I am going to bed because I am hitting the shore later today with my friend I met at my spiritual center. I am the 20 year-old NOW and I am recovering and regretless.
Bria Riley is a published author, recovering codependent and adult child of an alcoholic, who is active in several recovery programs. She knows the turmoil and heartbreak of growing up in an addiction-stricken family and wants to help others who have also been affected by addiction through her writing.