I’m an adult child of an alcoholic and a codependent. I can turn any situation into a drama, and each new drama needs a victim to play the lead role. Who better to play it than me?  Unfortunately, my addiction to drama always costs me my serenity.

Childhood Traumas = Addiction To Drama

Drama, hardships, and crises are a part of being human, but childhood traumas are stored differently in our brains. According to Dr. Tian Dayton,

Emotional responses to childhood trauma are recorded by the parts of the brain that were developed early in our evolution. When we were deeply hurt, say as children, we may have been too scared or frozen to process what was happening around us. As a result, when these fragments of unprocessed memory get triggered in the present, they have no context. They’re all out of order and can get mindlessly blasted onto the surface of our current lives.

Simply put, I actually did suffer from a number of childhood traumas. I grew up in an alcoholic home with constant anger and yelling. I basically raised my younger brother Ricky.  I survived physical and emotional abuse, and witnessed an armed robbery. As a teenager, I also witnessed a fatal car accident.

Since I didn’t have help processing these tragic events, I have the problem solving skills of a six year old. Six year old me can make anything a catastrophe, and she’s kind of type-cast as a wimpy, frightened victim. It’s her only real acting experience.

Habitual Victim-Hood Challenged

Already today, I faced an “emergency.” My son told me he was planning to cheat on his spelling test. My habitual response was, “Great. Now I’m raising a cheater. Woe is me!” Thanks to prodding from my sponsor, I am now aware of my need for drama and that I’m reacting like a 6 year old victim.

I love the 12 Steps. For years, I tried counseling and several medications to help alleviate my depression and anxiety, but nothing worked. When I finally started attending Al-anon meetings, everything clicked. They follow AA’s same 12-steps, and the logical order of this practice really works for me.

Step one – I admit I am powerless over my habitual response of drama. Step 2 – I can’t change this habit on my own. I’ve tried. It’s exhausting. My Higher Power can restore my sanity. This crisis is quickly adverted.

Don’t Mistake The Messenger For The Controller

In a few cases, I might actually be a victim. My department has a new boss, Steve, who wants to cut staff. In the next three months, I could lose my job. The fear of this change taints my opinion of Steve, and every exchange I have with him is cloaked in defensiveness. I finally realized that my Higher Power is bigger than Steve.

Digging my heals in because I fear the future is a waste of my energy. If I lose my job, it is because my Higher Power has something different planned. Although Steve may be the one to deliver this bad news, it doesn’t mean he’s calling the shots. My Higher Power is. This new boss is merely a pawn in my “Controller’s” plan.

Victim No More

Over the next few days and weeks, I’m going to revisit the tools to help me take Steps 1 and 2. They are:

  1. Become aware of when I panic and over-emphasize or even create drama.
  2. Look for times when I am playing the victim.
  3. Answer the question, “What’s my pay-off in either creating drama or playing the victim?”
  4. Look for boring times of quiet. Instead of feeding them with anxiety, I will see if this strange new mood is actually serenity.
  5. When the past comes back to haunt me, I will recognize this as a habit. I am safe today and I don’t need to relive, re-star, or reboot any old dramas.

Awareness is a big, often underestimated, tool of recovery. After I am aware of my victim mentality and need for drama, I can then accept it and take action. The progress sometimes seems slow, but serenity from taking these two steps rushes in like a flood.

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Grace Silverstone
Grace Silverstone is an adult child of an alcoholic, wife and mother. She's also recovering from co-dependency. Her path to recovery has included many 12-step meetings and mochas.

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