If you are the adult child of an alcoholic, there is no doubt you have suffered trauma in your life. More than likely you may even be suffering from some form of post traumatic stress disorder. When events occur in the Now, that remind you of a traumatic event from your past, it is all too easy to be pulled back into a negative spiral.
Perhaps before your father beat your mother, he would have a glass of Scotch on the rocks. Today you might tense up every time you hear ice cubes clang against the sides of a glass. You might feel anxious every time you are at dinner and you hear someone order Scotch on the rocks. And if you are experiencing any signs of angst under these circumstances, relax; you're normal.
That's right dear one...YOU ARE NORMAL!
In fact, your response is absolutely appropriate given your unique circumstances.
Your brain is so highly sophisticated that it has the ability to recall all circumstances, sounds and etc, that occur before a traumatic event occurs.
If you have been unfortunate enough to live with a violent alcoholic, there are certain cues your brain absolutely had you look out for on a fairly consistent level.
Why you ask? Why would your brain innately cause you to be hyper-vigilant--and cause you to lose yourself and instead focus on the outside of you, and have you feeling like the rug was going to be pulled out from beneath you every moment of every day?
Because your divine self--did not fear its inner world, but your being knew you needed to pay attention to the outside--because an attack could occur at any time.
Yes dear one--your hyper-vigilant way of being--served you then, and you were NOT crazy for feeling like your world could fall apart at any moment--because it quite possibly could have.
KUDOS TO YOU DEAR ONE!
So what do we do now when as adults we wish to turn that volume knob down?
What do we do now, to help us NOT feel so on guard all the time?
Well, there are many things we can do today to help us manage our over sensitivity to our environments. One of those things is coaching with a mentor. We can also go to 12 step meetings, journal our reactions as well as over reactions, and incorporate meditation into our daily routines.
One of the most helpful tools I have used on my road to recovery is cognitive reframing.
What's cognitive reframing you ask?
It is a deliberate and conscious process by which trauma survivors learn to reframe and or restructure the way they see their pasts and selves.
For instance, if I know that my heart starts to beat fast every time I hear ice hit the sides of a glass, I could in that moment harness my anxiety, bless it for helping me tap into my flight or fight responses when I was a child, and then within my own mind, talk myself off the ledge with thoughts like,
"Okay I can feel my heart beginning to beat fast. Oh yes, I know why. I just heard ice hit that mans glass over there. Yep, that's the sound I used to hear right before daddy got explosive. Of course my brain is being triggered, because it is designed to help me stay aware and to help me avoid being harmed. I remember now. I am not six years old anymore and daddy isn't lurking down the hallway of our house waiting to take his rage out on me or my mom anymore. I can stop in this moment and remember to love my little child Self--and help my brain let go of its need to help me stay on guard anymore. This is one trigger response I am willing to release."
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