"As long as we look outside of Self - with
a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us self-worth,
we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
We were taught to look outside of ourselves
- to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for fulfillment
and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot fill the
hole within with anything outside of Self.
You can get all the money, property, and
prestige in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are
not at peace within, if you don't Love and accept yourself, none of it will
work to make you Truly happy."
The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
My friend Robert died the other day. He died alone in a hotel room and his
body wasn't found for two days. He weighed 125 pounds when he died.
Robert was an alcoholic who couldn't stay sober. He had been through
full thirty day (and longer) treatment programs at least 15 times. He had
been in detox fifty times easily. Drinking had destroyed his body. Robert
should have been dead years ago. In the past 3 or 4 years almost every time
he drank he ended up in intensive care. I did much of my grieving for my friend
three years ago, the last time I rescued him from his cabin on Taos Mountain
and took him to the emergency room.
Robert went to lots of meetings and tried real hard to work the
program but on one critical point he didn't have enough humility. He did not
have enough humility to accept that he was lovable.
My friend had made and lost fortunes in his life. He had been with
lots of women and had lots of possessions. He still had lots of possessions
when he died. He still had the cabin in Taos Ski Valley but he didn't have
the strength to walk up the fifty steps to the front door.
Robert used money to try to buy friendship and love. And then he
felt betrayed because he believed that people only wanted to be around him
for his money. If you were friendly to him for no apparent reason then he
would talk about giving you money because that gave you an excuse to care
about him. He just could not believe that he was worthy of love just for who
Robert was full of shame. He was full of shame because he was raised
in a dysfunctional family in a shame-based society. His Father was a verbally/emotionally
abusive perfectionist for whom nothing was ever good enough. His mother was
too terrified and shame-based to protect her son. As a young child Robert
got the message that he wasn't lovable but that if he was successful enough
and made enough money he might earn the right to be loved. He was successful
and made lots of money but it did not work to convince him that he was good
My friend had no permission from himself to receive love. When
I published my book I listed him among people who had touched my life on the
Acknowledgements Page. When he saw his name listed there he cursed me (his
generation, and mine, were taught to relate to other men that way, to say
'I love you' by calling each other names) and cried briefly (which he felt
was very shameful) and then he drank. In his relationship with himself Robert
was too shame-based to believe that he was lovable.
I believe that the great majority of Alcoholics are born with a
genetic, hereditary predisposition that is physiological. Environment does
not cause Alcoholism. Robert was not an Alcoholic because he was shame-based
- it was because of his shame that he could not stay sober. He had a blustery,
'hail-fellow-well-met', in your face kind of ego-strength that was very
fragile. As soon as he got sober his ego defenses would fracture and the
shame underneath would cause him to sabotage his sobriety.
That doesn't mean that people who can stay sober don't have shame.
Some of us just have more ego defenses that buries the shame deeper. That
is good news in early sobriety because it helps one to stay sober. It can
be bad news later on because it can cause us to resist growth and to not
have the humility to be teachable The reason that I am alive today is because
I was able to go to treatment for Codependence in my fifth year of recovery
while working as a therapist in a treatment center. I had sworn that I would
kill myself before I drank again and the feelings which were surfacing had
me close to it when I went to Sierra Tucson. That was where I met Robert.
What killed my friend were the grave emotional and mental disorders
caused by growing up with parents who did not love themselves in a dysfunctional
family in an emotionally-dishonest, Spiritually-hostile, shame-based society.
What killed Robert was his Codependence. His relationship with himself was
full of self-hatred and shame and he couldn't stay sober long enough to get
to the point where he could deal with his childhood issues.
Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal disease,
Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him. My friend
Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of codependency.