Why Did My Childhood Phobias Return?

In 2015, when I started having repressed, traumatic memories, many of my childhood fears returned. I found this disturbing, as I was convinced that they had been lifted due to step work in AA. I turned out, though, that these were not lifted at all. Instead, I had been suppressing/repressing them in order to “stay sober” (we’re told in AA that emotions are bad and can lead us to drink) and just to survive. Also, when I began to go to AA I pushed away my child parts because having child parts while going to AA likely would have brought on a lot of abuse from AA members. Over time I began regarding them as baby voices or behaviors from the past or alcoholic behaviors when before this I had regarded them as parts of my personality or self– in other words, likely I had DDNOS and then it seems like my experiences in AA eventually brought me to have full blown DID.

By the time these parts started to surface again they really didn’t feel like me at all because my dissociative disorder had worsened over time. It was really frightening. The other thing that happened was that I began to re-experience all of the fears that I had before AA and started acting pre-AA as well. At first, of course, I was terrified that I might be showing “alcoholic behaviors” or “on the road to relapse” and thought that my “alcoholic parts” must be resurfacing or in control. Now, though, I realize that these behaviors and fears are not associated with my alcoholism. They are just parts of me that I had a hard time accepting and coping with, and when I got to AA I found a framework in which it is not only acceptable but encouraged to suppress behavior(s) and emotions within yourself that you are afraid of or don’t like/accept. My experience though was that I could only suppress for so long.

When I think about the fact that I was unable to suppress my feelings, behaviors, and personality traits that either I wouldn’t accept or weren’t acceptable in AA or in my family I realize that I must be a pretty strong person. Also, the fact that I was able to learn to live again with all of these parts and new ones that were created and suppressed during my time in sobriety is also a testament to my strength and resilience.

But I didn’t understand this for awhile and wondered if something was wrong with me. I really thought that something was wrong when what I thought was “alcoholic behavior” began to surface. I was, though working the steps and doing everything that I should in AA, yet this happened anyways, which didn’t make sense to me or anyone else around me from the program. And it took me at least a year or longer to begin to recognize that these were not alcoholic behavior or character defects, and today I really don’t even believe that those such things exist. They are just made up in order to keep a person sober by denying parts of themselves or feelings that they don’t like. This prevents a person from having to actually deal with and find real ways to cope with his or her emotions, which keeps people sober because many people drink over unpleasant emotions. However, most counselors and professionals can tell you that suppressing these things rather than working with them and accepting them is not a healthy thing to do for anyone. But, members of AA sometimes do it for a lifetime. How they can do this without experiencing or noticing the many negative effects that come from suppressing emotions, parts of oneself, and behaviors that scare a person or that they don’t want to accept puzzles me, because I know that there is always a price to pay for stuffing or suppressing emotions, behaviors, and parts of one’s personality.

I’ve also been told by professionals that the best thing that I can do to recover from trauma and to live a better life is to accept the parts of myself that I find unacceptable or scary. In doing so, I can accept and find love for myself and work through trauma and life events that I wouldn’t have been able to if I didn’t choose to listen to myself and consider what my parts are telling me.

It has been hard for me too to accept that I never actually worked through my fears that I had since childhood, and that instead I suppressed them. I actually think, though, that this started happening well before I went to AA and that AA amplified the whole thing. Also, the trauma that I experienced there distorted and weakened all of my parts and made my fears worse, even if I couldn’t feel it for some time due to suppression.

What I’m finding in terms of these fears is that lately when I do something that I’m afraid of, it’s really not that bad. A lot of the time I’ll wonder why I made such a big deal of it in the first place. But then I remember that most of the time these fears were initially formed due to trauma, and that if it is becoming easier for me to do things that I am fearful of that is likely because I am working through trauma.

I have not found systematic desensitization or techniques to extinguish fears to really work for me in terms of fears that arise out of trauma. I’ve found that these techniques actually tend to make fears worse. I know that other traditional therapies as well don’t help to alleviate fears very well. What does alleviate or lessen them for me is to work through the underlying trauma and resulting emotions that they are associated with. It seems as though without doing this, these fears remain high and grow over time.

After writing my post about my fear of driving and leaving the house yesterday, I did actually leave my house and ran some errands. The first errand I went on was to get my blood drawn. But, I usually always have issues with blood draws and have since I was a kid and was doubtful that I’d be able to run any other errands afterwards. This particular fear is both associated with trauma and with the fact that I have small veins and tend to have issues with blood draws. For some reason, though, I found that the blood draw really wasn’t that bad, which was strange to me because blood draws always just seem horrible. But this time, it just wasn’t so.

Because the blood draw went well, I did pick up our prescriptions and went shopping. In terms of driving, though, the fears and emotions that crop up when I drive were still there. But, I drove anyways. Still, this doesn’t mean that I like driving and am going to start doing it a whole lot more.

I’m happy that it seems like some of my fears are reducing as I work through trauma and my experiences in AA. This is good and hopefully will lead me to be able to live a fuller life. I have a lot of hopes of what I’ll be able to do, too, when my fear of driving hopefully lessens.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below.

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