by Beth Ayers, Family Peer Support Lead
November 15, 2022
Over the years I have thought a lot about the culture of my family and what I want it to be. Particularly, how I want it to be different from my parents’ culture that I was raised in. And the ways I would like it to be the same. One thing in my life that I have a lot of control over is the culture in my family and our home.
Growing up, I lived in a home with a culture of silence. We didn’t talk about problems because problems didn’t exist if we didn’t talk about them. They also couldn’t affect us if we stayed silent about them. The effects of problems were minimized and ignored through control, alcohol, drugs, blame, guilt, perfectionism, extreme thinking, denial, and enabling. The culture also included a shared responsibility for feelings and choices. I was responsible for making my mom feel sad or angry. My mom was responsible for my choices and consequences that came from them. It was our responsibility to fix each other. One person’s mood affected everyone else’s.
I was determined not to bring this culture into my home and family as an adult. It is important to me to create a culture of truth and accountability. To own and share my feeling and to take responsibility for getting my needs met. Some tools I have used to build this culture in my family are therapy (individual, family, and marriage), my faith, journaling, Al-Anon, self-care, medication, expressing my feelings without blaming them on anyone, admitting when I am wrong and apologizing, and continuing to learn and grow in my recovery. I want my kids to know that feelings are okay, hard conversations need to happen and we will survive them, perfection is impossible, life is messy, we can only control ourselves, and recovery is possible. This is the culture I hope I created, or at least continue to work towards creating in my family and home.
There were also behaviors and beliefs that I wanted to continue, that I valued about the family culture I grew up in. Some are eating dinner together, doing special and thoughtful things for others, taking family trips, celebrating the holidays with family, and financial responsibility, among others. These were important to me and as an adult I made sure they were included in creating my family’s culture.
Every family has their own culture. They have behaviors, beliefs, and values that influence the home and shape the family’s culture. As children, there are parts of our family’s culture that we appreciate and want to continue. And there are parts that don’t work for us. We have the ability, as adults, to change these parts and create a different culture for our home. Through intentional evaluation and work, we can create a culture in our home that support us and our recovery and those in our family.