that Society is Simply Stupid
As I often mention in this blog, I am currently in counseling to work on my codependency and adult children of alcoholic issues. My recovery is still in its nascent stages, as I have just celebrated 7 months yesterday. These past 2 months, I have overcome a major underlying issue of my codependency and addictive tendencies, which was my lifelong struggle with my self-image. Self-image plays a major role in self-esteem. Self-esteem can be interchangeable with the terms "sense of self" and "spirituality," which means "having an awakening to one's self." In fact, the two main roots of any addiction are childhood trauma and low self-esteem. Since I had a low self-esteem, lack of sense of self, and was spiritually empty, I was primarily trying to control and fix other people, mostly my cousin who struggles with drug addiction, to fill that void.
There are five families of origin, which include 1. the actual family that raised you 2., community/neighborhood 3. religion or non-religion that you were raised with 4. your peers, and 5. society/the media. These are all considered the "family of origin" because they all play a role in shaping who you are. Since my parents always told me that I was beautiful and I was never mocked about my appearance from any extended of my family members, I believe that my negative self-image stemmed from society/the media and my peers. I remember when I first started preschool, I looked around and thought that the others girls were prettier than me. I would say I was about 6 or 7 when I actually looked in the mirror and thought that I was ugly. In first grade, I told my mom while we were shopping for clothes in Target that I was getting plastic surgery when I turned 18 to change my entire face (little did I know that at 18 I would be a struggling student who only made $80 dollars a week, lol). Being bombarded with magazines in the supermarket and television that glorified blonde-haired, blue-eyed, and supper skinny women made me feel ashamed to not look like them. Throughout elementary and middle school, I was bullied for my appearance and other traits. The distorted messages that I received from society/the media and my peers made me feel ugly inside and outside and ashamed to be me. As a teenager, I rarely posted selfies of myself on social media. I hated almost every picture of me, especially the pictures of me as a baby and child. From the time I was in 5th grade, going without makeup, even if I was just lounging around the house for the day, was like a crime because I hated looking at myself in the mirror without makeup. I dyed my hair for the first time when I was sixteen to cover up my natural black hair color instead of dying my hair to merely be creative or enhance my appearance. When I got contact lenses in 11th grade, I requested colored contact lenses to hide my natural dark brown eye color, but I could not get them because the specific contact lenses that I needed did not come in colors. For years, I did everything possible to hide any trace of my natural looks.
After getting stabilized in counseling my getting off my cousin's case, the real work began. Since I was no longer using another person to avoid looking at my own problems, I had to focus on myself. Boy, that was really scary. I had to rip off the bandages and dig deep down inside my infected wounds to remove the source of my pain. Through almost 2 months of intense therapy sessions, where I expressed feelings I never did before, got in touch with feelings I did not realize I had, and explored parts of myself that I never did before, I finally won my approximate 16-year battle with negative self-image. I just spent an entire day yesterday lounging around the house with no makeup on for the first time in years, and it actually felt good to be able to freely rub my face when I was tired and to be able to just get washed up and dressed before hitting the kitchen that morning. Today, I had to run quick errands so I only wore eyeliner and a light pink lipstick with just a sweep of blush, and I did not really think much of it or worry about what others thought of me. I now know that society was and is still simply stupid and my peers were young, ignorant, and cruel. I now realize that those were society's and my peer's problems, not mine. Their perception were their issues, not the absolute truth. After all, there are no absolutes in this life.
How to Combat Negative Self-Image Issues
(Photos taken from Google Images)
Teacher Appreciation Week 2019
This upcoming school week is (Monday, May 6th, 2019-Friday, May 10th) is Teacher Appreciation Week. Teachers are everyday heroes in our society that prepare the next generation to change the world for the better. Unfortunately, in today's society, teachers are not given enough credit by politicians, parents, students, and -in some cases- school administrators, which breaks my heart. The burnout rate in the teaching profession is high, causing many to leave the profession every year because many do not feel like their efforts are reaping any reward. The reality is that teachers make a positive impact on students' lives everyday because they are planting seeds in the minds of every student, which will help the students later in life as they advance further in their education, start theirs careers, and face different personal triumphs and tribulations. Teachers' efforts often take years to be seen because the seeds that they plant often take years to grow into a thriving flower for the students who take the time to water them. Teacher Appreciation Week brings to society's attention the significant role that teachers play in raising the next generation.
How I Came to Develop Such a Respect for my Teachers
During my elementary school years, I did not like school or take it seriously because I was bored and experienced bullying. I was indolent and only put in the minimum effort required to get honor roll to meet my mom's expectations. My fourth grade year was a major turning point in my education. My dad, who has been an alcoholic for most of my life, was sentenced to six months in jail. Since my mom had to work multiple jobs to support us, I was babysat my mom's cousin, who also happened to be a mentally-ill alcoholic and had two young adult children who were abusive drug addicts. Out of fear of burdening my mom and causing even more family tension than there was at the time and the fact my codependency issues started to surface at the time, I did not tell my mom and continued to let myself be babysat by them. After that ordeal was over, I was never the same again. However, never being the same again was not all negative. One of the ways that situation changed me was wanting better myself so I could rise above my adversity and not be like my two drug addict cousins.
While it was not until years later that I began to address my codependency and adult children of alcoholic (ACOA) issues holistically in counseling, my teachers played a significant role in keeping me on the right track through their inspiring words, kindness, humility, and effectiveness in teaching their designated subject. When I finally got into counseling the summer after I graduated from high school, I had to make separate lists of the positive and negative people, places, and things in my childhood and adolescence. For my list of positive people in my adolescence, the majority of those people were almost all of the teachers that I had in school. Now that I am actively working my recovery, I often refer to the wise words of my teachers during times of doubt and indecision. Looking back, I firmly believe the Universe placed me with every teacher I had for a reason.
The Positive Impacts Teachers Made on My Life
Many of my teachers were surprised to find out while I was in their class or after I graduated high school and became connected with them on social media that I was a child of an alcoholic because I was always got good grades and did not have any behavior problems. Last fall, I attended a seminar where former NFL player Jeff Hatch was speaking about his experiences with addiction that started when he in high school, lasted all through college when he was triple-major at the University of Pennsylvania, and during his NFL career. He stated to all of the teachers, guidance counselors, and other education professionals in the room "To not always worry so much about the kid who strolls into class 30 seconds late everyday, chews gum, and uses their phone in class. Instead, take the time to check up on the kids who are always doing everything right because they may be struggling with something and is using school to compensate." My mom and I gave him applause when he said that because that describes how I was in school. Just like Jeff Hatch, school was a place where I thrived even though I was struggling with a plethora of issues in my personal life.
Ironically, many of us children of alcoholics, addicts, and/or dysfunctional families are often the best students and employees because we become perfectionists and people-pleasers as coping mechanisms and/or because our dysfunctional family systems demands it of us. Even though we children and adult children of alcoholics may have it all together on the outside, we are often struggling on the inside and our personal relationships are unmanageable. The Adult Children of Alcoholics Laundry List is a helpful source in understanding children and adolescents of alcoholics because those behavior patterns often begin in childhood and the first chapter of the book From Survival to Recovery by the Al-Anon Family Groups, which explains why children of alcoholics are often the most successful people. I firmly believe in that saying "Knowledge is power" applies to everyone regardless of how old they are.
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.