“Surviving the Holidays with a Dysfunctional Family” Workshop

note: Members may discuss this workshop in the Message Boards HERE

Welcome to our Special Workshop tonight
“Surviving the Holidays with a Dysfunctional Family” Workshop

For many, the Christmas season is not a time of warm cozy feelings and precious memories. For some, it is a time of reliving the nightmares of childhood abuse and not wanting to return home for Christmas. It is a reminder of broken relationships and children in the custody of “the other parent.” It is a season of struggles to stay clean and sober and out of trouble when attending Christmas gatherings. How can we not only survive, but also thrive during the Christmas season?

We are please to have Yvonne Ortega as our guest speaker.
Yvonne is a cancer survivor, speaker, and author
Licensed Professional Counselor
Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner
Clinically Certified Domestic Violence Counselor


yvonne143: For many, the Christmas season is not a time of warm fuzzy feelings and precious memories. Instead it is a time of reliving the nightmare of childhood abuse and not wanting to return home for Christmas. Some adult children cannot return to their home of origin for years because of physical and verbal abuse or sexual abuse as a child. For these traumatized persons, home is not a safe place. It is a trigger for relapse.

The Christmas season is also a reminder of broken relationships and children in the custody of “the other parent.” It is a season of struggles to stay clean and sober and out of trouble. How can we not only survive, but also thrive during the Christmas season?

Adult children who have survived abuse are filled with shame, guilt and anger because of the abuse. They have some inner healing to do before they feel safe enough to return to that home of origin. They would do well to deal with these feelings through journaling, 12-step meetings and counseling, rebuilt their shattered self-esteem and by the grace of God forgive the abuser.

For those of us who are divorced, the Christmas season can challenge our peace and joy, especially if this is not the year, we get the children for Christmas.

Forgiveness is not easy, but it is not for the abuser. It is for the adult child’s own good and is between the adult child and God. It keeps the adult child from being poisoned by forgiveness and therefore, still controlled by the abuser. Forgiveness is not reconciliation, although that may be possible in some cases. Forgiveness is not excusing the abuse. Forgiveness is like the onion—only one layer at a time comes off.

One man told me on his paternal side, alcoholism had been passed down since his great-grandfather. If we do not forgive, we risk becoming like the very people we resent and doing to our children what was done to us. Forgiveness will get us ready to break that generational curse.

For those of us who are divorced, for our own health and spiritual growth, we need to forgive our ex-spouse. If we don’t, we will carry that emotional baggage into other relationships, and it will affect our children.

Unless the adult child can set boundaries and maintain them, home is not the place to spend the Christmas season. The adult child needs to be able to stand up and say to the parent(s), “I will not allow you to scream at me, call me names, belittle me, curse at me or constantly throw up the past in my face. I will not allow you to scream at my children, call them names, belittle them, curse at them or physically or sexually abuse them.”

Unless the adult child can say this and mean it, there is no point in setting oneself up for rejection and relapse. It will be better to stay away, until the adult child can do this.

One young woman at age 25 decided she was old enough to be around her parents again even though her father had repeatedly sexually abused her as a child. She had surgery prior to their visit, but she still invited her parents to celebrate Christmas with her and her family.

At one point during the day, her husband was at work. The kids were outside playing, and her mother went to the grocery store. She was home alone with her father, and he raped her again. She realized she could never ever be safe around her father, and neither could her children. She felt enraged and powerless.

The one thing that would have helped her regain her peace and power would have been to call the police and charge her father with rape. Eventually she did that, and it was the beginning of her hope and healing.

One young man thought things would be different because he was 30 years old. His parents never received counseling or attended a 12-step meeting. They had not changed. They were merely older versions of the dysfunctional parents he grew up with. Things were not different.

He had never attended AA or NA, nor had he gone through rehab. He went home and soon he and his father got into an argument. The adult son left the house, went to “Happy Hour” and got drunk to self-medicate.

One man told me he had to be with his family at Christmas time even though he knew they did nothing but drink alcohol and snort or smoke cocaine. I questioned his safety, but he insisted they were his family and he had to be with them.

I recommended that he take his sponsor with him, arrive as soon as the Christmas dinner started and leave early. He had already served time in prison, and he didn’t need to jeopardize his freedom and his life.

He insisted he would be all right, and that he had learned his lesson. So he set no boundaries and went to the Christmas dinner without his sponsor. The inevitable happened—he drank alcohol. He forgot that 80% of the people who relapse on cocaine do so after one drink of alcohol. Shortly afterward, he was doing cocaine. He was soon in legal trouble again.

We’ve talked about forgiveness and boundaries. As much as we might want our parents to change, they may not be interested in change. Change is hard work.

Look in the mirror. The one you see in the mirror is the only one you can change. When we change, others may change because they have no choice. We stand up for ourselves. We set boundaries, and they change because we have.

Setting boundaries can challenge us. We know God wants us to honor our parents. We can honor them even as we keep our distance. We can pray and fast for them and remember that God is in the miracle business.

God knew what our parents would be like, and yet He placed us in their home. We can ask God to use what Satan meant for evil for good in our lives and the lives of others.

If we allow God, He can use those experiences to refine us as gold and give us a powerful testimony that even our own parents cannot ignore.

We also need to set boundaries with an ex-spouse. That person cannot show up at our door whenever he/she desires or call at any hour of the day or night

Neither former spouse should ever confide in the children or tear down the other parent. We will be the losers if we do. Our children need the love of both parents.

In the case of physical and/or sexual abuse by the former spouse, our children will also need to forgive and set up boundaries. We must help them, especially in their younger years, in order to break the vicious cycle

One lady was sexually abused by her father. She never dealt with her emotions or forgave her father. She only self-medicated. When she married, her husband sexually abused their daughter. As parents we have the responsibility of creating a safe environment for our children.

Sometimes when we become parents and realize how hard it is, we may show mercy to our parents and more readily forgive them.

We need to keep in mind that we are not citizens of this world, but of heaven. When we leave this world, we want to be able to say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

When we stand face-to-face with God Almighty, we want to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

Meanwhile, we can create our own safe family. That new family may be a spouse and children. It may be neighbors and friends from church or work. We can set up our own traditions and invite our sponsor, accountability partner and prayer partner to our Christmas gathering.

I could talk on and on, but I would like to open the meeting to questions now.

Member #1: I don’t have those things going on that you talked about, except the sexual abuse. My Dad passed away back in June. I have a older brother. We hardly talk. He does not know what to say to me. He wants me come to Texas for Christmas with him, my sister in law and nieces but I don’t feel comfortable with them all they all treat me like I am invisible

yvonne143: I am sorry you feel invisible around them.
Perhaps you could explain how you feel to your brother
This might give you two a chance to speak.

Member #1: I have always felt intimidated around him, he does not understand about my depression. They all look at me like I am weird. It is so hard. I am trying to take care of myself
yvonne143: Depression is a serious matter.
Because you are depressed, that does not make you weird.

Member #1: I apologize for taking up so much time,

yvonne143: You don’t have to apologize. You worth every minute you’ve taken.

Member #2: I am amazed
especially with my family, and the holiday season brings it out more
how I can feel I can only see them one way
and myself
like I don’t have the power to make choices
that may be healthy for me so easily
You do have the power to make choices.
like there are expectations on me
that I don’t know of
make sense?

yvonne143: Yes, you do make sense.
If you revert back to the mind of a child, you will feel as powerless as you did then
You need to see yourself as an adult with the free will, a hope and a future that God gave you
I am the one who has caused the problems in my family
Can you ask God for forgiveness?
Have you forgiven yourself?

Member #3: it is hard to do. No.

Member #4: same here

Member #3: I am feeling like God is punishing me

yvonne143: God can forgive you.
all you have to do is ask him

Jim47: yes, I know this

yvonne143: Then you forgive yourself because of God’s grace and forgiveness
In your head, you know it

Member #3: okay, my question is

yvonne143: but not in your heart

Member #3: no, not in my heart

yvonne143: So find the verses of who you are in Christ and repeat them daily.
Eventually you will be in awe at who you are in Christ
and the power you have as God’s child
You will be able to make amends and move forward
Jesus never withheld forgiveness
nor did he ever withhold love

Member #3: yes,, making amends and moving forward is my heart’s desire.

yvonne143: Start one step at a time
Make a list
start with the person you hurt the least
it will be easier
then gradually move to the ones you hurt most

Member #3: okay

yvonne143: It will be easier that way
Then practice keeping shorter accounts
If you catch yourself hurting someone
stop at once
and ask for forgiveness

Member #4: I was molested sexually
by m sister, from age 7-14
& she said I had 2 wear diapers during the abuse;
since I respected her,
I let her, since she’s 2yrs older then me;
but I’ve never been able 2get past what happened
I’ve 4given myself,
but I dont think I can 4give her!

yvonne143: Kevan, I am terribly sorry about what happened to you
You did nothing wrong
She exploited you
Did you ever tell your parents?

Member #4: I have yes

yvonne143: Good, that’s a start
Have you ever confronted your sister?
I’ve tried, but she’s ignored me
its like I’m made of stone

yvonne143: You have a broken heart

Member #4: yes

yvonne143: and a crushed spirit

Member #4: nods

yvonne143: Cec Murphey has a blog for men who were sexually abused as children
Your sister, naturally, doesn’t want to face the horror she inflicted on you
Can you write a letter to God?

Member #4: I can

yvonne143: Pour out your heart to him
tell him your every thought and feeling
God knows anyway
Read the letter out loud
Is there someone you trust to listen to you?

Member #4: I’ve also had nightmares about what happened; so, I admit, thats why I suck a pacifier sometimes
a lot of people

yvonne143: You may be suffering from post traumatic stress disorder
the pacifier helps you calm down

Member #4: yes

it kinda freaks my mom out though
yvonne143: Maybe so, but there are far worse things you could do in reaction to sexual abuse

Member #5: we have to share one comp
Thank you Yyvonne for being here
I am having trouble with my depression
I have made a new family new marriage
moved far away from my family and children
as my relationship with them was also making me worse
and God has blessed me so much with a new family
but after 3 years here I am still struggling
mentally and emotionally
on 200 ml of zoloft
I can’t seem to trust anyone enough except my husband
but I also know that he cannot be my only friend
that is coda which I am also ptsd
and my past still won’t stop affecting my functioning
I feel like a failure all the time

yvonne143: A geographical cure never works.
You still take you wherever you go
Now is the time to go to meetings
journal daily
pour out your heart to God
Play praise and worship music
When King Jehoshaphat faced enemies
he had the singers go ahead of the army
as they praised the Lord
the Lord set ambushes
the enemies killed each other

Member #5: why do I feel like my worship is not genuine?
it feels empty and fake
I have done this for years

yvonne143: You are sad, and the enemy, Satan himself, is feeding you lies.
The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy
The devil doesn’t want you free and at peace
Claim God’s peace anyway

gt_and_erc: nods

yvonne143: Write about everything your family did to hurt you
Name each hurt one by one and how it made you feel
Read the list to God prayerfully
Perhaps someone could listen to you
Then thank God for hope and healing
thank God you are getting better every single day

Another step to help us not only survive but thrive during the Christmas season is prayer. We can get up in the morning, kneel at the foot of the bed and ask God to help us live for him that day and help us stay clean and sober. We can say the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.
I read the Psalms and pray them for me and my family. For example, Psalm 91:2: “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’”

ClaraT-Host: BJ would you close us in prayer please?

Member #6: yes
let’s close with the whole serenity prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen.