Art, Life… and Mom

I firmly believe in “cleaning out one’s closets” both internally and externally. That said, I can’t seem to ever get mine clean ENOUGH. Argh. I’m constantly finding “treasures” that I simply can’t part with… that is, until I force myself to “get real” about what I really “need” (which is generally not so much crap!)

While on a storage unit purge recently, I found a letter from one of my distant relatives, a cousin of my mom’s, written to her. She told my mom what an impressive “creative” she was, detailing how she was talented in drawing, painting, writing, etc. This relative was also an artist in her own right, a collage artist, so I was struck by what a lovely, encouraging compliment this was.

I was also struck by the awareness that I, too, am a multi-tasking creative. I write books and music; write, direct and produce films; make my own collages; and of course, act. I am better at some of these arts than others. Trust me, more than once in my life have I thought, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” But I try to ignore that voice and putter about in whatever art seems to be calling to me at the time. Now I try and focus on the fact that my mom passed on this gift, and that I should treasure it and be grateful.

In the last year of my mom’s life she gave me another gift: a copy of the book “The Artist’s Way.” If you read my book, “Murdering My Youth,” you know my mom had some issues (to put it lightly), but this book made a huge difference for her. I would’ve loved to have seen how it changed her life even more, but sadly her time on earth ran out. Still, I was so grateful for the changes this book made in her that I picked it up myself. Wanting to stay connected to the best in her, I went through the lessons in “The Artist’s Way” not once, not twice, but three times. I still go back to it again and again for reminders of how to negotiate treacherous creative waters; how to re-inspire myself; and how to create a life where I felt safe to create. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

My belief after years of making art of all kinds, is that all arts come from a similar place within us, and all arts are meant to connect us, to make us think as human beings about our experience here on earth. This is why I continue to work, because I love that feeling of taking something from within my imagination or experience and feeling that connection.

My latest short film is all about connection: the loss of it, the fear of it, the desire for it. I don’t know if I have ever worked so hard as I did directing and producing this latest project. Films are not only expensive to produce, but time and labor intensive. They are also a collaboration amongst artists in all kinds of arenas: from the color correction to working with actors, it’s always an experience of talents mingling.

I suppose you could say each project I do is like me taking a bunch of stuff out of my closet, putting it together in a way that tickles me, and then sharing it. First with the other artists I work with, and then with the audience.

 

It means a lot to me that the artists who accept my invitation to work together have a good experience. I think I can say without reservation that I’ve found a truly amazing and talented crew. But it also means a lot to me that the audience keeps coming back to me to hear what I’ve discovered, to see how I’ve put together something that quite possibly is not just a private moment for me revealed, but a universal experience we all share, and perhaps feel a little embarrassed about.

So thank you for watching my work, and connecting with me. Thank you for joining me on this journey of creative discovery. It means the world and I am so grateful.

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Better Choices + Time = New Life

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 1.00.44 PMOne question I have been asked often recently is this:

“After years of childhood misery and years of unhappy, unsuccessful adult relationships, how did you manage to change it all and ALSO find a great guy?”

Basically they are asking me, “How did you get happy?”

The simple answer is: I realized I was the common factor in my unhappiness, and changed my choices.

Here I refer to three bits of wisdom a therapist once gave me.  (Did I mention he’s Italian?)

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PITHY ADVICE FROM THERAPIST #1

He said something like this:

“You walk into a bar. You see a person at the bar you’re really attracted to. S/he’s got that “spark” that all the other people you once loved (and went through hell with) also had. Walk over to where s/he is sitting, TURN AROUND, AND TALK TO THE PERSON STANDING NEXT TO THEM.”

I never forgot the simplicity of this advice. The message is: what is familiar may be a “draw” for you. “Spark” may resonate with all the hope of finally fixing your love life, or maybe even your childhood, but when you go down that path… you usually get drama. Despair. Frustration… and end up back on the usual emotional merry-go-round. What to do?

TURN AROUND AND TALK TO SOMEONE YOU WOULDN’T CHOOSE.

Yeah, yeah, I know…

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But look. If you are like I was, your “picker” is broken. You simply have to look around at all the people you are not currently picking.

So be brave! Say hi to someone you might not have.  You never know where it could take you. Honestly, it’s how I met the love of my life.

Speaking of which…

PITHY AND REMARKABLY USEFUL TID-BIT FROM THERAPIST #2

…went something like this:

“Take a pencil and a piece of paper. Draw a simple circle. Make a point in the middle of the circle. Now draw a line from the point in the center of the circle to any point on the outside of the circle. (This is a lot easier than I am making it sound.) Now draw a second line from the center point maybe 3 degrees from the first line.

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If you kept on drawing those lines further and further out, they’d end up really far apart from each other.

Line ONE is the path you are on.

Line TWO is where the new choice takes you. Just 3 degrees of change can make you end up far away then where you were headed.”

BETTER CHOICES + TIME = NEW LIFE.

BTW SARK has many suggestions as to how to make what she called MICRO MOVEMENTS fun. (I love SARK.)

PITHY AND SURPRISINGLY USEFUL ADVICE FROM SHRINK #3

“Here’s your homework. Go home and WATCH JUDGE JUDY.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 12.41.57 PMSeriously… my therapist told me to watch Judge Judy. When I did, I realized that I was being really “wishy-washy” in my life, giving some people FAR too much credit, and definitely not standing up for myself. I needed a New York Overhaul and JJ was just the lady to help me out. I can’t say it worked overnight, so if you are shy, like I used to be, repeated viewing is highly suggested.

Finally, in order to accomplish any goal, all you really need is one attribute. I think this ONE THING is what separates those who change their lives from those who never do.

WILLINGNESS. If you are willing to change, or can cultivate the willingness to change, then you can change your life. I admit, sometimes I know what I have to do in order to change, I’m just not willing to do it. But at least I am 100% clear that I am choosing to NOT be willing. The willingness to change sometimes comes slowly and is usually accompanied by great pain, and pain… well, pain sucks. But enough of it sure can make you willing to change.

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To Blog or Not to Blog, That is The Question

manoverlake

I am overwhelmed.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, e-mail, messages, and texts are an endless part of my everyday life now. Then there are the “apps” that are supposed to help me maximize every moment in my life: I get news blasts from Stitcher, alerts from Huffington Post, reminders from The New York Times, and updates from Tumblr. And let us not forget online shopping. I can spend hours drooling over sales on handbags, jewelry, makeup, and images of the latest and least affordable “haute couture.”

I feel bombarded by all this information, useful or no, a slave to the communication culture that consists of everyone shouting at the top of their lungs “LISTEN TO ME” and mostly saying nothing at all. Sometimes I don’t want to add one more note to this cacophony of noise-less verbiage, not unless I have something I really, NEED to say.

So here goes:

Make your life worth living starting NOW. Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Stop worrying about money. Get out in nature. Take a walk. Plant a flower or a tree. Help an old person cross the street. Don’t forget to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry,” because being polite is never out of fashion. Learn to cook: it is an art form for a reason and will satisfy you more than you can imagine right now. Read ONE really good book at a time, on paper. We need less screens in our life. Make a list of five goals and hold yourself to them. Self-discipline breeds self-esteem. Write “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” on a sticky note and tape it to your mirror. Stop worrying about what other people think and find out what YOU think. Then do something about it. Take yourself to a museum, alone. If you don’t like your own company how can you expect anyone else to?  Drink more water and less soda. I promise you it will make you feel much better. Be kind to animals even if you are allergic. Go shopping in your closet. There’s great stuff hiding in there. Don’t cut your hair when you are feeling depressed or anxious. Same goes for calling your mother. Let go of “high maintenance people,” they are sucking up all your creative energy. Call one old friend just to see how they are doing. It will be the best conversation you will have all day. Make a list of ten things you love and put in on the fridge. It’s the best diet in the world. Remember that everyone suffers, everyone cries, everyone has a bad day sometimes, and everyone needs love. You are not alone. The choices you make about how to live your life make an impact on every person you meet. Think about who you want to be and then be that person. Fear is your only enemy.  Think of what you would say to a child and then say that to yourself. When in doubt, be kind. Forgive as many people as you can but don’t forget. There’s no purpose in being a doormat but no grace in being righteous. Let go or be dragged. Sing loudly, even if you can’t hold a tune and laugh at yourself as often as possible, it’s a great feeling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDmt_t6umoY

 

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How to Be a Spiritual Warrior

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.29.08 PMA lady friend of mine asked me recently how I felt about personal responses to my book.

“Do you get triggered?” She asked politely. We were at a dinner party and I could tell she was trying to be sensitive to certain topics I write about. Abuse, alcoholism, and dysfunction aren’t exactly super fun dinner conversation.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I wasn’t sure what she was trying to figure out.

“When people tell you about their pain… does it bother you? You know, bring it all back?” I was beginning to wonder if she might have something she wanted to share.

“Occasionally I despair for our species,” I laughed, “But when people feel compelled to share their stories with me (whether in person on online), I am really very honored. I think of their impulse to share with me as a sacred trust. But it doesn’t upset me. Not at all.  And since I finished the book, my past is just a story for me. It’s a true story, and my story, but it’s just a story. (Thank God). EVERYONE has a story.”Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 2.25.32 PM

But this conversation got me thinking. Since everyone has a story, that means everyone suffers. It is simply a fact of human life. How we choose to deal with our suffering is what creates our character.

Some people like to hold their suffering close to their heart. They nurture it as if it were a precious plant they were keeping alive. I have heard many, many people say something like this: “I will never forget what so-and-so did. It will always echo in my mind.” I’ve said it myself! I take this to be a sign of two things:

1) That the event that occurred was traumatic

2) That the person holding onto the trauma might (unknowingly) be defining themselves by that event.

So it doesn’t sound like I’m being judgmental here, let me tell you how I know this is true. If you read my book, you will know I had a crap load of craziness to deal with. Even though I later figured out I had all the symptoms of PTSD, I couldn’t think of myself as a survivor because I hated the word. It still seemed so limiting to define my whole self in relation to a past I could do nothing about. But I couldn’t think of myself as someone who HADN’T gone through these humiliations. That would be a lie.

I was in a pickle. How could I define myself WITHOUT my past informing everything?

Then I had an idea, inspired by a saying from 12-step meetings: “We will know a NEW freedom and a NEW happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it…”

I loved the word “freedom.” It rang in me like a bell for years. Could I find freedom from the pain I was feeling AND freedom from the past? Could that be possible? I didn’t know, but it was an idea that compelled me to go forward and at least try.

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 3.15.56 PMDeep down, I knew I was a fighter. I was tough, without a doubt, but I didn’t want to approach life as a battle, always having to fight off this or that asshole. I decided that the best way to describe myself was as a spiritual warrior fighting an internal war. This worked for me. Every day I would go to war against my internal pain and memory of my past.

Having grown up on the TV series “Kung-Fu,” I remembered there were students, deciples, and masters. I decided that I would stay a student, endlessly willing to be taught, until I really had something to pass on. I decided that going forward, no matter what, everything that happened in my life, and everyone I met would be a teacher.

My pain? A teacher. My past? A teacher. My body, my anger, my fear?  A teacher. Even my resistance to being taught would be a teacher.

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When I looked at my life from this perspective, I found myself in a position of choice as to how to think about myself. I could choose to feel at the effect of another’s behavior, or make another choice.

When I chose to fight for my peace of mind, to find the wisdom in the pain, I was actually fighting for my FREEDOM from that pain.

Now I do this as often as possible. Sometimes I forget (hey, I’m only human) but as soon as I can remember to it gets me out of pain and into FREEDOM from pain, which I like to describe as peace of mind.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say I get an uncomfortable feeling: a blast from the past, a moment of shame, loss, grief, or fear I will be attacked unjustly. Or say I suddenly feel deeply judgmental of myself, and I’m no longer “enough” in any category. (You know how the mind turns on itself. It can be such an a-hole!)

Instead of fighting the thought, I say, “Hello teacher. What do you have for me to learn right now?”

Usually, the upsetting thought says something like this, “Oh, I just wanted you to know that I was here.”

Then I say, “Okay. I recognize you. Perhaps you need something. Do you?”

And sometimes it needs a hug, or for me to cuddle in a blanket and watch TV. Then I do that.

Sometimes, however, it just wants me to know it’s there.

That’s when I say, “Okay. I hear you. Don’t stress. I got this. I can handle almost anything, remember? I’m a warrior.”

And that seems to do the trick.

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A Fun Night at the 2014 Daytime Emmys

I was thrilled to be asked to attend the 2014 Daytime Emmys with my new colleagues of “The Young and the Restless.” Oh what a time it was! It has been so long since I felt that sense of genuine camaraderie and friendship among a group. Everyone was so excited for whomever won from the cast and crew, and then to have the chance to stand up on stage as we won for BEST DRAMA, even as the “new girl,” was truly a thrill.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 12.19.06 PMWhat made it even more special was attending with my now husband, Jon Lindstrom.  As you might now know, Jon and I got married in a very small ceremony at the Beverly Hills Courthouse in Los Angeles on Valentine’s Day of this year. Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 12.21.26 PM

Jon and I have both worked on different soaps over the years so it’s especially fun to run into people we haven’t seen in ages. I got to say hi to Windsor Harmon, who played “Dixie’s” brother “Del” on “All My Children” and Jon caught up with “Y&R” producer Tony Morina, who directed Jon in the first scenes he directed on soaps!

I decided (since I am new on the show and not nominated) to dress in a more restrained style as to not take the attention away from those whose “Big Night” it truly was! I wore a black Tom Ford dress I bought a few years ago but splurged big time on a Prada bag and shoes! I felt pretty and my feet didn’t hurt all night!

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Thanks to GirlyGoGarter.com for the gift of a fun garter to put a flask in! I brought “St. Germaine,” an elderflower liquor that you can add to Champagne (my favorite) or even Vodka (my second favorite!)

I also wore some cool 3D lashes by Younique, also a gift from the Emmy suite!

Finally, I couldn’t have put it all together without the fabulous Genevieve Garner, who also did my makeup for my wedding and the Emmy’s last year! She’s the best!

You can follow her on Instagram at this tag: eveivenegg or check her out on FB here.

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Paste Magazine Interview

Television Academy Hosts Daytime Emmy Nominee ReceptionCady McClain’s memoir arrives at a hugely significant time for women. Just a few weeks ago the social media movement #YesAllWomen launched as a response to the massacre in Isla Vista, California. While it’s difficult to say for sure what drives a person commit mass murder, it was clear to many people that Elliot Rodger was partly motivated by a set of misogynistic principles. Murdering My Youth is, on the one hand, about McClain’s complicated and often traumatic life as a child actress and soap star. But what makes it a more powerful text, is that—whether intentionally or not—it also reads as a critique of a dangerous society where men (including male relatives) feel entitled to a young woman’s body. Hollywood functions as an escape for McClain, but also as a predatory environment for the young actress. In sharing her story the author, no doubt, speaks for many others, but it has to be said that her journey is simultaneously, entirely unique. Pastecaught up with the Emmy Award winner to talk about this amazing story of survival and—in spite of it all—unconditional love.

Paste Magazine: I love that part of what you’re doing in your memoir is advocating for therapy. In your writing you mention that two of your therapists—Ron and Colette—talked you into writing more in general, and also writing about the trauma.
Cady McClain: I think it was really more Colette who encouraged me to write, but not as a form of therapy. She really believed that therapy is about the connection between two people, about talking and working through your relationship issues by being in a relationship with a therapist. She felt like the writing was very helpful for me just as a project. I’ve since done some research, and my new therapist has done a lot of work with veterans at UCLA. She actually pointed out to me as I was finishing the book that one of the techniques used with trauma victims is getting them to tell their story. The idea is to get them so comfortable with telling it—whether it’s recording it and listening to it over and over and over again, or if it’s writing it down and reading it—basically the idea is to help them own it. Owning your story is a way to release the trauma. I think it’s called immersion therapy.

Even more so. She told me a story about a woman who’d been raped in the military in a very violent fashion and she was asked to come and speak to other survivors. And the way she would calm herself down to prepare to go and speak would be to listen to herself tellthe story on tape in her car. In a funny way, it’s like when she’s reminding herself of what she was able to survive and to go through it reminded her of how strong she was. So she could move forward and help other people. Instead of feeling victimizedshe owns it in a creative fashion, and it ends up empowering you….

To read the rest of the article, CLICK HERE.

or copy and paste this link: http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/06/catching-up-with-cady-mcclain-author-of-murdering.html

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“High station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace.”

~Tennessee Williams

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“Write What You Know” by Matt Rozsa

This literary aphorism may have been penned by Mark Twain, but it could have very easily been said by Cady McClain, the daytime television star (All My Children, As The World Turns, The Young and the Restless) whose memoirs, Murdering My Youth, were released on Amazon in April. Unlike many similar books published by public figures, Cady does not use this as an opportunity to indulge in celebrity gossip or promote future projects in her career. Instead she confronts a number of themes that forever simmer beneath the surface of her story – child abuse, the entertainment industry’s exploitation of young stars, female objectification – that, when they do bubble up, scald everything they touch.

While Cady isn’t the first writer to touch upon many of these subjects, her book is unique because of the degree to which it illuminates the whole by coming to an understanding of a small part. She doesn’t set out to preach or globalize her individual experiences, but simply to tell her story. It just so happens that, in the process of taking us on her own journey through memories that have “allowed me to negotiate this collective awfulness that we must sometimes call existence,” she winds up offering insights that will help her readers do the same thing.

​Take, for instance, this passage from the close of her book, where she summarizes the long-term effects of child abuse on its victims. Although lengthy, it deserves to be quoted in full:

“Adults from abusive homes do not easily trust others. We are very sensitive to criticism and have little confidence in ourselves. Our internal world generally vacillates between despair and rage. Joy peeks out sometimes with the help of alcohol or drugs, but it’s not a real joy—it’s a simulated one. It is a joy that can only exist because something is blocking the pain. Even in that state of manufactured aliveness, we are easily influenced by the ideas of others. We feel like freaks. We fear our own needs. We look to others: lovers, husbands, children, to help us change our lives or ourselves, and when they cannot we despair.”

There are many incidents of abuse to which Cady is referring here. The most heinous among them, of course, was the sexual abuse perpetrated by her father, who molested her when she was eight years old. This was naturally a formative event in Cady’s life, and she traces her evolving attempts to cope with the trauma – from confusion and defensiveness as a little girl and betrayal by her therapist to her struggles with her sexuality as a teenager and adult – with admirable candor. These sections are often uncomfortable to read (as they should be), but they are among the most courageous of her book.

​Beyond that is the abuse experienced by a little girl who was denied her own childhood. It is here that the dark side of a life spent in show business is drawn into starkest relief. We see Cady experience a grueling work schedule (and never get to keep the money earned from it), labor every day to support her emotionally unstable mother (both as a child and then, after she receives a breast cancer diagnosis, during her adulthood), and miss out on the fundamental developmental experiences that make childhood so wonderful. Even as she describes the upsides of this lifestyle – her ability to escape into the worlds of the fictional characters she got to play, to reach out to others who are as lonely as herself – one can’t shake the sense that, as such puts it so well, “Once youth is sacrificed to the movie gods, it cannot be returned.”

​Yet even many of the people most responsible for Cady’s childhood suffering aren’t robbed of all sympathy. Particularly poignant is Cady’s account of her mother’s heartbreaking ordeal after being abandoned by her father for a younger, more attractive woman. At one point, after her mother had assaulted her father’s mistress with keys in a blind rage, Cady recalls that “as my mother stood defeated and un-chosen, I had a deep pang of compassion for her. It was awful to see her so humiliated… fat and shaking and covered with blood and tears.”

​It is impossible to read this without juxtaposing it with the conditions Cady describes in show business, where women find their value inextricably tied to their beauty and are so often reduced to “shark chum.” The social standards that objectify women, which had left Cady’s mother broken and alone, had also helped Cady carve out a substantial career for herself – and yet also left her, if not broken and alone, then certainly wounded and struggling to come to grips with the meaning behind her scars.

​As the themes of child abuse and female objectification writhe and coil throughout Cady’s narrative, the importance of Twain’s earlier quote becomes clear: The story in Murdering My Youth may be specific to Cady, but its relevance is universal. Anyone who has been abused by their parents or other loved ones, regardless of the exact nature of that abuse, can understand what Cady means when she says “We feel like freaks. We fear our own needs.” No woman alive today can be insensitive to Cady’s determination, as well as that of her mother, to be viewed as a human being instead of the sum of her physical parts.

​When Twain urged authors to write what they knew, it was because he understood that the most meaningful stories are the ones that come directly from our own hearts. Murdering My Youth, ripped from the soul of its author, is exactly what he had in mind.

To learn more about Matt Rozsa and read more of his articles, click HERE Continue reading

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My Interview with Entertainment Tonight

I am so pleased to be able to share some of my story with the broader public via the generosity of the people at ET and the warmth and kindness of Cameron Matthison.  If you missed the interview on air, here it is in it’s longer version.

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Roles in an Alcoholic Family

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 4.30.44 PMI grew up in an alcoholic family system.  The illness in my family effected all who were in it, or around it.  It took me years to recover.  To this day, my recovery is a practice, a never ending series of decisions and growing awarenesses.

I have learned that alcoholism is only one face of addiction.  There are many things to have addictive relationships with: anger, sex, shopping, food, exercise, TV, sugar, drugs, pills, work, gambling, even the internet!  Here is a good definition of addiction from Psychology Today.  In effect, addiction is a compulsive reaction to stressors, a need to take action rather than deal with or “feel through” the feeling that is bothering you.

Typically, an addict will deny their behavior because they feel it is essential to their surviving whatever stress they feel. Addiction is compulsive and yet cunning. It is important to note that being an addict doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a person who has something to overcome. So many of today’s heroes are people who have overcome great obstacles!

In order to help myself overcome what I experienced growing up, I find it is very helpful to continue to look at the behavior and emotions around alcoholism/addiction, as well as its effect on those around it.

The following is attributed to a book that is, unfortunately, no longer available by M. Davis, called “Surviving An Alcoholic Family.” I find it a very clear description of the roles we are often assigned in a family struggling with alcoholism/addiction. If you recognize yourself in one of these roles, please do not feel ashamed or hurt by it. You are also not a bad person, but someone who is seeking wisdom and happiness! Those who seek are those who want to find!

Awareness is always the first step toward healing.

The Alcoholic

- other family members revolve around this person
- likely to be experiencing quite a bit of pain and shame even though they may not see it as the result of excessive alcohol or drug use
- as things get worse, the alcoholic is faced with increasing feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, fear, and loneliness
- develop a number of defenses to hide their shame and guilt – may include irrational anger, charm, rigidity, grandiosity, perfectionism, social withdrawal, hostility, and depression
- project blame or responsibility for their problems onto others including family members who take on unhealthy roles in order to survive


- children of alcoholics feel guilty for their failure to save their parents from the effects of alcohol

- “The alcoholic parent is not satisfied with his own childhood, he wants yours too… When the father vanishes into alcohol, the son/daughter lingers and lingers, searching for a lost part of him/herself.”

Codependent/Enabler/Caretaker
- steps up and takes control if the alcoholic loses power
- enabling is anything that protects the chemically dependent person from the consequences of their actions
- spouse often takes on the role, but children and siblings can also be enablers (multigenerational alcoholic families will sometimes designate a child in this role, a sign of more serious pathology)
- tends to everyone’s needs in the family
- loses sense of self in tasks of a domestic nature
- never takes the time to assess his/her own needs and feelings
- person never gains what they need most in order to get better: insight
- never are confronted with the facts that would drive home the point: drugs or alcohol are destroying their lives and their family
- as long as the enabler and the chemically dependent family members play their game of mutual self-deception, things never get better – they get worse
- others cannot bond with the caretaker due to the bustle of activity
Caretaker’s purpose: to maintain appropriate appearances to the outside world.

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Hero
- high achiever; takes focus off the alcoholic because of his/her success; perfectionist; feels inadequate; compulsive; can become a workaholic
- alcoholic bestows this role onto the individual whose accomplishments compensate for the alcoholic’s behavior
- often the oldest child who may see more of the family’s situation and feels responsible for fixing the family pain
- child excels in academics, athletics, music or theatre
- gets self worth from being “special”
- rest of family also gets self worth (“we can’t be that bad if one of us is successful”) – his/her deeds assure the family that their definition is more than alcohol
- hero does not receive attention for anything besides an achievement; therefore, inner needs are not met
- he/she loses the ability to feel satisfied by whatever feat he/she has manifested
- as things get worse, the hero is driven to higher and higher levels of achievement. No level of super responsible, perfectionist, over achievement can remove the hero’s internalized feelings of inadequacy, pain, and confusion
- many others grow up to become workaholics and live under constant stress as they work in the service of others seeking approval for their extraordinary effort
- they often end up distancing themselves from their family of origin
- interestingly, many family heroes grow to marry alcoholics and become enablers
Hero’s purpose: to raise the esteem of the family.

Scapegoat
- goes against rules; acts out to take the focus off the alcoholic; feels hurt & guilt; because of behavior, can bring help to family
- lightening rod for family pain and stress
- direct message is that they are responsible for the family’s chaos
- family assigns all ills to the person who harbors this role, e.g. “Mom would not drink so much if (Scapegoat’s name) were not always in trouble.”
- in reality the misbehavior of the Scapegoat serves to distract and provide some relief from the stress of chemical dependency
- child has issues with authority figures as well as negative consequences with the law, school and home
- on the inside the child is a mass of frozen feelings of anger and pain
- may show self-pity, strong identification with peer values, defiance, and hostility or even suicidal gestures
- this role may seem strange in purpose. However, if there were no scapegoat, all other roles would dismantle. He/she allows others a pretense of control
- alcohol is not identified as an issue – often, the scapegoat is identified as ‘The Problem.’
Scrapegoat’s purpose: puts the focus away from alcohol thereby allowing the alcoholic to continue drinking.

Mascot/Cheerleader/Clown
- uses humor to lighten difficult family situations; feels fear; others see him/her as being immature; limited by bringing humor to all situations even if inappropriate
- this individual most popular in the family; brings fun and humour into the family
- learn to work hard at getting attention and making people laugh especially when the anger and tension of substance use are dangerously high
- often named a class clown in school; frequently demonstrates poor timing for the comic relief; most people don’t take this child seriously
- often hyperactive, charmers, or cute
- inside, they feel lonely knowing no one really knows the real person behind the clown’s mask
- may grow up unable to express deep feelings of compassion
- may put themselves down often as well as cover up their pain with humour
- accepts laughter as approval, but the humor serves to hide inner painful feelings
- the laughter prevents healing rather than produces it
Mascot’s purpose: to provide levity to the family; to relieve stress and tension by distracting everyone.
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Lost Child
- no connection to family; brings relief to family by not bringing attention to the family; feels lonely; does not learn communication and relationship skills
- has much in common with scapegoat – neither feels very important
- disappears from the activity of the family
- sees much more than is vocalized
- reinforced for causing no problems
- build quiet lives on the edges of family life and are seldom considered in family decisions
- they hide their hurt and pain by losing themselves in the solitary world of short-term pleasure including excessive TV, reading, listening to music, drugs, object love, eating and fantasy
- favorite places for the lost child are in front of the T.V. as well as in his/her room
- due to the sedentary lifestyle, a lost child tends to have issues with weight
- as adults they feel confused and inadequate in relationships
- may end up as quiet loners with a host of secondary issues such as: sexuality problems, weight problems, excessive materialism, or heavy involvement in fantasy
Lost child’s purpose: does not place added demands on the family system; he/she is low maintenance.

In my experience, it is easy to fall into more than one of these categories. Sometimes I was “the scapegoat” in my home of birth, other times “the mascot,” and other times “the hero.” As I moved into having adult relationships, I was often an “enabler,” while feeling like “the lost child” within myself.

Now I know that I do not need to be any one of these things. There is a greater role I must BE: that of my authentic self. If I sense that I am falling into a role, or having one put upon me, I can recognize that this is only an old, familiar system, and I do not have to play the part that is being thrust upon me. Nor do I have to react or respond to any accusations. I know who I am, and I know what the truth is, for me.

I hope this blog has been of some insight or help for those of you struggling with similar upbringings or issues.

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Love,

Cady

 

 

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