Lifted from: Chaz One Direction
‘Stronghold’ is a term I’ve often heard used to describe patterns of thought and/or behaviour that are particularly difficult to access or change.
To me, it is like having a fortress somewhere deep in our psyche that holds these patterns and protects them from normal efforts to change or influence. The walls are so high and so well defended that we are often not even aware of what is being fortressed.
In the darkest dungeons of these fortresses, we tend to keep our oldest and deepest traumas; The hurts from childhood and the patterns we were roll-modelled in our upbringing.
The fortressed patterns even go beyond the walls and create supplemental patterns of thought and behaviour in our life that support the existence and influence of our strongholds. In other words, the help us stay sick or become even sicker. They act like the moat around the fortress. Helping keep it strong and defended.
From my own life, I can easily see my alcoholism as a stronghold. One that eventually got broken… at least as far as active drinking went.
In the deep dungeons, I kept the role modeling of my alcoholic family members, among many other things I am sure.
But I had no idea that I was learning alcoholic behaviour and thinking. In fact, it was hidden from me by my professed despising of the behaviour of the alcoholics in my family. And I did truly despise it. I remember feeling a sense of security in this aversion to their behaviours, believing that my aversion would not keep me from following a similar path.
This sense of security played the role of one of the supportive patterns of thought that fortified the stronghold. It was a completely false sense of security. It was in fact, a diversionary tactic to my alcoholism.
A friend had been abused horribly as a child. She seldom talks about it, yet the evidence is plain. She continues to lock the experience in the dungeons. Her stronghold seems to be self-destructive relationships; poor choices in men, needy friendships, and door-mat family relationships.
She supplements these patterns with achievement in her career. Rationalizing that she must be ok because she is doing so well in it. And she is… but only on the surface … and only for now.
Why would anyone want to look in the dungeon, or break the walls of the fortress when they are (over) achieving?
I could go on at length, with example after example, in my life and others’. It is a pattern I observe again and again.
Why do so few people break down the strongholds in their lives? In my experience, we are often to afraid or unaware to ever go there. But for those of us whose lives have either exploded or imploded, we are often faced with nowhere else to go but to deal with the stronghold if we ever want a chance at recovering our lives.
It is often then and only then that we are prepared to unlock the dungeon and deal with that ominous trauma that has been locked away for so long. And similarly, it is only then that we begin to recognize and become willing to deal with the supportive thoughts and behaviours that keep us sick.
When life blows up, maybe it is time to ask, what stronghold(s) got me here? What am I avoiding? What, if I dealt with it, would give me the opportunity to come back better than before I crashed?
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I wanted to write a comment on this post that Chaz wrote, but my comment went on and on so I thought it better to write here on my own sheet of paper, so to speak …
Being a child of alcoholics is not unique. There are many of us in the world, but what makes me unique? Every life is unique and every story is important. When I was a boy, before I knew what the word “alcoholism” was, it was visibly a part of my life. I was born into the cycle of abuse, addiction and alcoholism.
I did not know why things happened the way they did or why I was the point of so much abuse, as a young boy. I know why today. I was the mistake, that should never have been born. And I wonder if alcoholism was something that was used to wipe away the feelings that were being felt by my father at the time.
That abuse went on for years and as I grew older the abuse got worse. Because I was becoming more defined in who I was, and the more I grew into myself the worse the abuse got because my father had to exorcise that “other” out of existence.
And I think this is the first fortress that I had built.
How do you circumnavigate alcoholism correctly? Do you run away from it? Or do you embrace it? or do you live with it because in my shoes, there was no where to go. I learned how to bury things deep in the soul by the women who long suffered from the alcoholics in their lives. They took it and buried it, never to see the light of day.
Alcoholism was something we did. It was part of family life and existence. It was a major food group. How did I or how could I avoid becoming what I abhorred myself ? Alcohol was readily available all the time. It was a go to.
I don’t remember if my alcoholism – at first – was a product of the heaps of abuse I was shoveled over my young life. If I was drinking to forget. I don’t ever focusing on forgetting so much as fitting in. Because when I was old enough to move away and get away, my shrink taught me how to fit in …
Go to a bar, sit down and have a drink, hell, have two and see what happens.
I walked away from my family after decades of abuse with a fortress already built in my head and heart. But I can’t tell you if that played in a part in my alcoholism.
I was 21 years old, with cheek of tan and an ass of death. Alcohol only made it easier to hock my wares on the groups of other boys I was running with at the time. Maybe you could say that I drank to escape, because I drank to excess. And I guess you could say that in excess was bliss of forgetting. I did not know the first thing about being a responsible adult.
It was one failed relationship after another, I don’t know if you could even call them relationships, because I always ended up loosing … apartments, cars, clothes, and dignity. I just wasn’t wired to be an adult, and that was because I took nothing of value from the abusive parents that I had.
GAY had everything to do with it.
They say you can never go home again. And I had to go home once. And it was a huge mistake ever to make. You Can Never Go Home … again.
In my mid twenties I was still abusing the alcohol. And I did not escape the ravages of AIDS. This would be the second fortress that I learned to build. It came from deep within. But this fortress was necessary. I can tell you exactly where I built it and who helped me build it. When I met Todd and Roy working at the Stud and I learned that I was going to die, the fortress was begun.
I had two lives. The one I lived outside the bar, and the life I lived inside the bar. I couldn’t bring anything from outside – into the bar. But I had to carry everything I learned inside the bar, into my life outside.
That fortress WE built did exactly what Todd intended it to do.
I was inside that fortress, safe from anything that could impact me. Every lesson was hand picked. Every tear that I shed was borne out of suffering and sweat. I did not have time to reflect on my childhood or on the abuse heaped on me because the task on hand was much greater than any suffering that I had once experienced. That fortress kept out everything that was not good for me. Part of that fortress was sobriety. It was the glue that held the walls together. Because without it I was finished.
I can tell you now, that I still use that fortress. It exists like the skin on my body. It protects me and keeps me safe. Because at any given moment now, I can retreat into the fortress and draw up the gate and the moat is quite deep.
At one point, with my defenses down and missing my greatest supporters, I stepped outside that fortress and took my life into my hands. Something that I regret to this day, but had that portion of my life not happened, I would not be here where I am today, because I feel that everything happens for a reason and that I was destined to get here.
And the circuitous root I took to get here almost cost me my life. Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful and PATIENT !!!
It waits for us in the parking lot, doing push ups while we are in the safety of a meeting. And when I least expected it – alcoholism dangled a fish in front of me and I was off and running …
I have spent the better part of my life exorcising the demons of my past and making spiritual amends with people I may never see again, and for what it is, I don’t care if I ever see them again.
Ten years sober and I can take a look into my soul and see the fortresses. For there are more than one. They are plotted about at distinct points on my life map. I guess you could say that in order to get to me you need to pass the many gates and fortresses that are protected by magic, dragons and wizardry.
Fortress One …
In order to survive my childhood I had to build a pretty imposing structure to stay safe and alive. And I guess I learned to do that from my mother, and my grandmothers. It was a mental fortress that kept my mind in tact whilst my father tried to kill me with abuse. It’s really something that I did not go out of my mind or retaliate in any way. Because that would have gotten very messy.
You always imagine giving it back in the same method and severity that was dished out to you. That would not have ended well.
Fortress Two …
I had to build a fortress that would keep me safe inside its walls in order to survive the ravages of AIDS that was taking men and boys around me with such ferocity that I don’t know how I escaped. But Todd and I build rapidly and heavily. And like I said, that fortress did exactly what Todd intended it to do.
Fortress Three …
This fortress I built myself in sobriety. It is the one that I am the most proud of. Because it not only protects me, it protects my husband. They say we do should not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. I’m sorry, but I have regrets in the past, and I wish to shut the door on areas of my life. It may not be healthy, but It is what it is. We don’t discuss my past. We don’t discuss family, and we surely don’t discuss the past – at all …
My life is safely ensconced inside a fortress of my own making. Because like any good alcoholic, I can readily access the past. Better today, than I could in years past, because there is such distance between then and now. I know where those memories are. Aided and abed-ed by a collection of family photographs I own.
A good many of those photographs draw blanks in my mind. I can’t recall certain things in my life, and I can’t explain why that happens. There must be some deep seeded emotions connected to those photographs that my mind won’t allow me to access, and probably for good reason. I guess as Chaz writes about past traumas from childhood, most of my childhood was traumatic well into my late teens. But it was terribly aggressive when I was much younger.
I can recall some things, but not all, and I guess that’s a good thing. I think it would take some serious drugs or serious therapy to get those doors to open and right now, I am not about to go looking into those rooms in my mind. They are better left alone.
What do I know at ten years of sobriety ?
I have not had a drink in more than ten years and three months. That’s the longest I have gone without a drink. But I had to get here. And at the time of my coming back the second time, I had to make a decision. I was no longer a boy. And I surely did not know what it meant to be a man. And that definition came to me well after I got sober. The fortresses that were built by me and for me served their purposes. To get me to the next way point …
My first, real time, sober relationship. I was ready and willing. It happened before I knew what was happening. And I knew in that flash that that was it and the rest they say is history.
In all my years of being in this relationship I can tell you that only once, only once, did I feel savage anger of the past grip me and almost take over. The kind of savage anger that is destructive and harmful in every sense of the word. And I never want to feel that kind of savage anger again. So that fortress is strengthened to the highest degree of readiness.
But for me today … I know for certain these things …
I will never get to say words that need to be said, to the people that those words need to be spoken to.
I will never get to become a man in the eyes of those who truly need to see me as a man.
I will never get my day on the stand, to plead my case and make others understand that I made decisions in my life that had to be made for my own survival and were not because of any one else except for myself.
You can never go home again … EVER !!!
Those fortresses play a crucial role in who I am today. They protect me, and they protect my husband. And if you are lucky enough to know us, and we know you, one day, you may be invited into that fortress. But for now, it is only hubby and myself … inside our fortress.