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Providing non-judgmental and non-criticizing support for family and friends of end-stage alcoholics through one-on-one coaching, support groups, blog posts, workshops and public speaking.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back in my day...

At the insistence of my nieces I recently wrote down 86 Things About Me for a Facebook page. Since I’m 62 and have had a very interesting life – I think I need at least 20 more things. But, I wrote them down and, to my surprise, I learned a lot about myself.

I think the main thing that came to light was that I was born and raised to be a caretaker. I did not grow up in an alcoholic household and had very little experience with alcohol until I was in my late 20s. But, it was made very clear to me that my place in the family dynamic was to make sure that my male counterparts always had a soft place to fall after a hard day at work.

I always thought it was because my mother and I were the only females in a household containing seven very hard working males. The boys went to work with my father and I worked with my mother. It seemed logical and equal to me at the time. But, it was made clear to me that the males were the money makers and I was to make their lives more pleasant.

When I think back about my dating life AFTER high school, I never gave a thought about what a man could do for me.  It was always about what I could bring to the table.  If a man was great without me – he usually didn’t fit into my husband material category. The thought never entered my head that a man could want me just because he enjoyed my company. It's funny that it's so clear to me now and I didn't realize it then.

When I was separated from Riley, I never thought much about being anyone’s permanent anything. The men I’ve been the most connected to were more of a friendship nature rather than a committed relationship. That was probably because they were self-sufficient and didn’t really need a “wifey” type. By the time a man got to his 40th birthday, they usually knew how to cook a meal and clean the house. I didn’t know how to develop long-term commitments without them needing me.

I don’t blame my parents for instilling this into my head. After all, they gave me lots of good strong values and an incredible work ethic. They made me believe I could take care of myself – even if they’d rather I find a man to provide for me financially. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and my parents simply followed what they had learned from their parents.

It is commonly known that people who grow up in alcoholic or abusive homes are likely to continue the lifestyle into their own adult life. But, I’m wondering about the people who didn’t grow up in this environment. Are there more people my age who grew up in an “old-fashioned” home that went on to become the caretakers? I wonder if the percentages of non-alcoholic background caretakers increase with the age of the caretaker.

So I guess, what I’m asking is… if you had a group of say… 1000 non-alcoholics who did not grow up in an alcoholic household… would there be more oldsters rather than youngsters?


Alcoholic Daze (ADDY) said...

Good post. Like you, I grew up in the 50s and 60s. My mother always stayed at home, once she had me. Although I was an only child and didn't have to help with a large family of siblings, I wanted to be like her, even though I grew up in the age of Women's Lib, the pill and the Beatles! I was a career woman till 40 then managed to have a much longed-for baby. I was happy to be a stay-at-home mum after that, caring for child and husband.

Ann said...

Oh yes, I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and yes, the men were the head of the household, and women were judged by how white the sheets hanging on the cloths line were. Yet I was raised to be independent, strong but not 'pushy' or noisy about it. There was no alcohol abuse or physical abuse in my home while growing up, but both of my grandfathers were alcoholic abusers. This subject is a constant topic in my Al Anon group!

Syd said...

The nature vs. nurture question has been around a long time. I think that it is both. I think that genetics has a big role, and I think that how we are raised can contribute to our behavior. My mother gave up working after I was born and mostly did community work. She was brilliant. My wife has a Ph.D. and has worked all her life. She simply wanted to make a contribution and be her own woman. Alcoholism though was in her family and she is alcoholic. Great post about family influences.