I am a recovering addict. First, however, I am a child of addiction, mental illness and generalized family chaos. This primary condition greased the skids for my later attachment to the quality of MORE. (More booze, more lovers, more things, more food… just MORE.) Addressing this underlying issue- growing up in what we used to call a “dysfunctional” home had a huge impact on the development of my character and the expression of some of my biological traits.
That is saying a lot. My character and my body are impacted by occurrences in my formative years. The unpredictability, the waves of anger followed by periods of desperation, the uncertainty of economic security, the moving, the separations and the drinking all informed my nervous system, my cells, my emotions and my mind. They informed me about how unsafe the world was, how unlikely I was to receive consistent comfort or support. I yearned to know what I needed to do to maintain some internal balance in this chaotic environment.
I yearned to know what I needed to do to maintain some internal balance in this chaotic environment.
I was the eldest child and grew up fast. I was the “responsible one”. I first did this by becoming the hub of stability for my family. I was the one who could solve problems, break up fights, soothe the hurt, organize the meals, clean the house, handle the emergencies, anything that had to do with others. My fears, needs, and pain were pushed down most of the time. They would surface in rage. They would surface in hysteria. In later years they would surface in rebellion, and manifest in my addictions. The bottom line was that I was THE ONE. I couldn’t rely on my parents. I couldn’t rely on my grandparents. They lived far away, were not cozy people when I did see them, and all died at early ages. I couldn’t rely on my other relatives. They, too, were reeling from dischord of their own.
I tell you the above to tell you this. I grew up feeling that there was no wisdom in my ancestors. I was the parent so the family wisdom, selfishly, resided in me. Emotionally abandoned I looked back at my childhood for years with nothing but pain and resentment. I longed for those societies that felt their parents, their tribe, their culture was a source of pride, ancient teachings, a lineage of ancestral guidance. I had nothing but dusty mental polaroids of disunity, discomfort and disease. In fact, most of my childhood memories are visceral and not visual. I feel the uncertainty and pain but I don’t recall the situations. Even within my family, there are few stories and none of them were good.
So how do you join a wisdom circle, a gathering where you call on the intergenerational strength of your ancestors with this kind of history? Even once you have done the work to release the resentments, the longings and the pain – how do you reach back for strength, insight and knowledge? I lived my first decade or more being the resource, the strength, the solution finder. I have never, even to this day, been comfortable with going to others for help. Now the contradictory factor is that I consistently go to others for approval. But seldom for support. I envy others who come from cultures who revere their elders, their history, their culture. Even when the generations have been displaced, disregarded or disrespected. They hold to these roots.
I have never, even to this day, been comfortable with going to others for help. Now the contradictory factor is that I consistently go to others for approval. But seldom for support.
As someone who is a “Heinz 57” of mixed northern European descent, I had little to hold on to historically. I have many cultures in my lineage, but nothing grand or specific to reach back for to sustain me. My parents themselves were distant from their distant relatives: by father unsure of his past and my mom an American child: a second generation on both sides. Nothing distinct or distinctive; both parents were the offspring of desperation. One side trying to move out of the poverty of Texas, the other who had grandparents fleeing the Kaiser’s hold on Europe. They, too, were alone. They, too, were the ones who couldn’t rely on family, on elders. They brought with them fragments of tradition and did their best.
Yes- they did their best. It was exhausting to them, too. Their parents were exhausted, were unmoored, felt disenfranchised. They, too, suffered from societal estrangement that manifested in addiction. Their biology bore the scars of schism; that cutting off from ancestral supports. The desperation of poverty, the disavowment of your land of origin due to feelings of shame and separation. Anxiety and separation become part of your metabolism, your nervous system, your mental outlook. And many of them turned to alcohol or married alcoholics.
Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is both a blessing in the form of a source of pride and an alienating curse. It is and was the way to survive. A friend of mine explained to me that perhaps, by getting well myself, by looking for sources of strength in my parents, in their parents, I could be part of the healing for my ailing ancestors. Now, this is again a childlike form of “Me Do” – the voice of a toddler. I don’t mean it like that. May I look to my parents, my grandparents, and the ages before them for the tenacity, for the desire to be loving and kind. They, too, suffered the friction between how they were behaving and how their true self wished to be. The were ailing.
May I look to my parents, my grandparents, and the ages before them for their tenacity, for the desire to be loving and kind.
Perhaps I can reach back to my ancestors and in finding compassion for them, I can more deeply experience compassion for myself, for my kids. I won’t have the same stories or traditions that some other cultures have. I can make my peace with that. And possibly I can add that to the story that unfolds in the future.
Read tomorrow about the wisdom of our recovery circles; the satisfaction of an eternal longing.
Kyczy has been teaching recovery focused yoga classes since 2008. Taking the foundation of a traditional yoga training she received from the Lotus Yoga Teacher Association (of the Himalayan Yoga Institute), she has combined the wisdom and inspiration from other teachers along the way. Her additional 300 hours were obtained at the JOY of Yoga teacher training with Jennifer Prugh at Breathe Together Los Gatos, CA.
Author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path” , “Life in Bite-Sized Morsels” and “From Burnout to Balance” she continues to submit articles to recovery and yoga oriented publications. She has recently released a book and workbook through Central Recovery Press:”A Yogic Tools for Recovery; A Guide To working The Steps”. Recorded meditations and poses are available for free to accompany the book and workbooks.