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Guilt about my past immature/irresponsible behavior


PatPaul
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Hi Everyone,

I have posted on this site several times in the past. I am an alcoholic with about 3-4 weeks of sobriety. Grew up in an alcoholic home. When I was in grade 10, about 15 years old, my father got me a job at a local grocery store as a stock boy. It was a great job since the pay was good. My dad stuck his neck out for me by asking the manager for the job. I worked at it for a while but then began to call in sick and come up with other false excuses for being unable to show up for my shift. The truth was I wanted to be with my friends out drinking on a Friday or Saturday night instead of out in a parking lot putting groceries into customers' cars. I admit that I dropped the ball. I was so immature and irresponsible. Two guys I know from my high school worked at the same job for years and did well since there were often pay increases. I have written extensively on this site about the anger and resentment I hold towards my parents for not helping me with my university education. I will never know if I would have been able to save enough money for tuition, housing etc. if I had continued with the job until I graduted from high school. I feel guilty since I know of so many other people who DID suck it up and do the job, whatever it might have been to earn money for their future university studies. My two older brothers never worked during high school and had no problems paying for their university education since they were both able to live at home during the school year and in the summer while doing summer work....I feel so terrible about my lack of maturity. I had the same trouble in university; unable to hold down a part-time job to try and help pay for my tuition, rent... since I was in a difficult program (difficult for me), Commerce, and just could not balance my life-work and school, like so many other students did. I ended up dropping out of university because of financial difficulties on three different occassions, and remember a friend telling me that "working part-time and going to school full-time is not that difficult..." I felt resentful because he was so gifted ( he later won a Rhodes Scholarship), and I did not have the confidence or belief in myself that I could pass my courses while working....

PatPaul

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Hi JulianP,

Thank you for the prompt reply to my post.

Thanks for showing your concern. To ansswer your questions, well I am marriedd, 2 kids. I am underemployed, work about 7 hours a week. Been like this for about 7 months. Was fired from my last full-time job in March 2008. I get along well with my Japanese in-laws (my wife is Japanese and we live in Japan). We also live next door to my wife's family. I am pretty much estranged from my biological family. My dad knows about my wife and 2 kids, as well as 1 brother. Tne other 2 brothers and sister I don't think would care to know one way or another...

My drinking problem developed when I was in my early 30's. I did drink during university, but it was always for fun-I enjoyed it. Unlike when I began to drink in Japan to medicate myself, bad idea since it only made my depression and anxiety worse.

The part-time job I wrote about was when I was in high school, about 15 years of age.

I grew up in an alcoholic family. Dad was an alcoholic but it did not seem to affect him adversely as a high school teacher. Mom drank and was a secretary in the government. Her life kind of came unravelled after she left my dad. A few years later she was fired, which sent her further into a deep depression. She died at 56, heart attack, but it was really from too much drinking

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Good morning PatPaul,

I seems to be one of he more common threads among "alcoholics"-- shame and guilt. Shame/guilt for not having raised their children the way they had hoped, shame/guilt for how much of their life was lost to alcohol, shame and guilt for not having been the person they could have been, etc., and it takes one to very negative self worth. To get back to zero self worth would be a plus for most alcoholics and many of those who have recovered, it would signify growth!!

Pat, I was wondering if you could separate the 2 for us, shame vs. guilt. I hear both although you're using one term. Do you feel both, or just one? If you feel both, which one is the stronger for you? If you feel one, which one is it? If you could think back, what events are connected to these feelings-- what failings on your part do you think or feel are the "cause" of what you're feeling today?

If shame and guilt are experienced at the same time, I think we should first look at shame since it is the most damaging to sobriety. It is shame far more than guilt that alcoholism has brought on.

Secondly, if the shame is so great that it is at times immobilizing, I often suggest that the person develop a "functional coma" approach-- an approach where one is simply driven to make certain changes (just muscling thru) that result in a series of successes. Success in work, for you I would imagine, would reduce some of these negative feelings. Incidentally, a well done "functional coma" addresses the guilt you're talking about, head on: the healing from shame will take much longer and a bit of transformation from within.

Finally, can you talk a little about your relationship with your wife? Is she supportive, understanding, critical, indifferent, wanes back and forth between feelings, or distanced?

Please write back.

Edited by David O
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Hi David,

Thanks for replying to my posts.

You asked a couple of difficult question, but I will do my best to answer them. I do feel both guilt and shame. I would have to say that relying on my gut instincts, I feel both guilt and shame about equally.

The feeling of not being mature enough or responsible enough to hold down the part-time job at the grocery store makes me feel guilty. I am angry at my parents for not helping me out or caring about my university studies, but just recently I have developed a sense of guilt that "maybe it was my fault, I could have kept the job, worked throughout high school, saved a lot of money, and completed my post-secondary studies without any problems." The problems being taking so long to complete my first degree and incurring so many student loans.

I feel shame and embarassment about the home I was brought up in. It was a pig stye. I never felt comfortable inviting guys to my house, and NEVER invited a girl home. I was too ashamed to tell a girl I liked in high school that I had a sister, and she only discovered I had one when she called my house and a female voice answered the phone. I feel ashamed that I never dated had a girlfriend in high school. It was only until I was 20 years old, a freshman in university, that I actually kissed a girl.

I am guilty about the jobs I have been fired from. 3- of them have been teaching jobs. I feel both guilt and anger. The last job which I got fired from has caused me a lot of guilt since I feel I let my wife and family down, and the anger, which I could not direct towards my former employer/supervisors, is directed inward, which leads to depression. I feel shame and guilt here in Japan as a male who is unable to get full-time work and support his family.

I feel both guilt and shame about my crazy work and academic history.

My wife is Japanese. I love her. I don't think we really talk that much about personal things that bother me, though I do often vent my frustrations at her about my lack of success in finding a job and learning the language.

The shame is certainly related to parents' alcoholism (the aforementioned stuff), but I feel this emotion about my own problems with the addiction.

Yes, David I agree with you that securing full-time work would go a long way to helping me feel better about myselg. Unfortunately, I seem to dwell on the past jobs I was fired from, blaming myself, looking back at the long stretches of unemployment I have had, and resenting others who have had successful teaching careers...The shame rears its ugly head in job interviews, where it has on two occassions, been pointed out by the interviwer how messy my resume is with all the employment gaps, poor academic record etc. I find it difficult to look coworkers, supervisors in the eye when I discuss my work history , qualifications and so on.

P

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Hi David,

Good morning Pat,

Before I start Pat, I want to sincerely apologize up front, what I say may sound harsh and even sarcastic-- sometimes an open and almost tongue in cheek challenge rattles the self imposed bird cage (your cage is too small), and shakes that scaffolding required to service and support a defense that's no longer working but may actually be hindering your growth.

Thanks for replying to my posts. Always my pleasure-- we're family here, so I hope we can hold up our end.

You asked a couple of difficult question, but I will do my best to answer them. I do feel both guilt and shame. I would have to say that relying on my gut instincts, I feel both guilt and shame about equally.

The feeling of not being mature enough or responsible enough to hold down the part-time job at the grocery store makes me feel guilty. I am angry at my parents for not helping me out or caring about my university studies, but just recently I have developed a sense of guilt that "maybe it was my fault, I could have kept the job, worked throughout high school, saved a lot of money, and completed my post-secondary studies without any problems." The problems being taking so long to complete my first degree and incurring so many student loans. I feel shame and embarassment about the home I was brought up in. It was a pig stye. I never felt comfortable inviting guys to my house, and NEVER invited a girl home. I was too ashamed to tell a girl I liked in high school that I had a sister, and she only discovered I had one when she called my house and a female voice answered the phone. I feel ashamed that I never dated had a girlfriend in high school. It was only until I was 20 years old, a freshman in university, that I actually kissed a girl. It seems it's much easier to live in the past--- to drive that old 1945, rusted out Chevy with the bald tires, bad tranny, busted brakes, frozen axle, and broken windshield, than to buy a car that works. It's always easier to live in the what-if's (it keeps us paralyzed) and the embarrassments of the past to the point that we don't assume responsibility for our present. Doing the Devil's work (ruminating, revisiting, holding on to past pains and disappointments), Pat, leaves you no emotional energy, time or resources for addressing living in the present. And my watch says we're in 2009! Pat, what in your past is more important, more meaningful and more relevant than what is occurring today?

I am guilty about the jobs I have been fired from. 3- of them have been teaching jobs. I feel both guilt and anger. The last job which I got fired from has caused me a lot of guilt since I feel I let my wife and family down, and the anger, which I could not direct towards my former employer/supervisors, is directed inward, which leads to depression. I feel shame and guilt here in Japan as a male who is unable to get full-time work and support his family. Knowing what you know now, and a full time job was offered to you today, what would you differently this time around. Can you be real specific?

Also, what would stop you from doing these things? Would it be your past, your decision to live in that 1945 Chevy or would it be something real happening today?

I feel both guilt and shame about my crazy work and academic history. Since there is nothing you can do about that 1945 Chevy-- there's not enough metal on it to have it run-- you now need to rebuild it to get it running. It is what it is. As someone who used to run huge multi-million dollar programs and systems, I saw thousands of resumes, they were little more than a ticket to see the show-- the show was the excellent interview. Even a spotty resume (i.e., moving from chronological to functional resume) can be cleaned up. See here for details: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/resumes/p/resumetypes.htm

Are you getting interviews? Are you hustling 20-25 hours per week looking for work?

My wife is Japanese. I love her. I don't think we really talk that much about personal things that bother me, though I do often vent my frustrations at her about my lack of success in finding a job and learning the language.

The shame is certainly related to parents' alcoholism (the aforementioned stuff), but I feel this emotion about my own problems with the addiction.

Yes, David I agree with you that securing full-time work would go a long way to helping me feel better about myselg. Unfortunately, I seem to dwell on the past jobs I was fired from, blaming myself, looking back at the long stretches of unemployment I have had, and resenting others who have had successful teaching careers...The shame rears its ugly head in job interviews, where it has on two occassions, been pointed out by the interviwer how messy my resume is with all the employment gaps, poor academic record etc. I find it difficult to look coworkers, supervisors in the eye when I discuss my work history , qualifications and so on. It seems that you have been using that rusted out 1945 Chevy to get around in high speed traffic, on and off the freeway, parking it in front of your house so the neighborhood kids can egg it and the neighbors can laugh at you or shake their heads in disbelief!

P

So, here's assignment #1-- every time you think of past failures, pull out the imagery of the 1945 Chevy. Pull up pics on the computer of the rustiest old cars you can find, salvage cars, etc., and look at them as your suit for every encounter with others. Do this nightly, for 30 minutes-- just stare and stare and see how it works for you. See how long the weight gets to you. Your Mantra for the week: My past failures= 1945 rusted out, beat down, broken Chevy! Here's your 1st set of pics:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8322869@N04/504924106/

http://www.sonic.net/~mikebr/cars/car_images/45_chevy_pu/mvc-337s.jpg

http://www.sonic.net/~mikebr/cars/car_images/45_chevy_pu/mvc-387s.jpg

Good luck and i hope this helps!

David

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Hi David,

Thanks for all the really great advice and help. I am going to try some of the things you recommended. To answer your questions:

1) Knowing what you know now, and a full time job was offered to you today, what would you differently this time around. Can you be real specific?

Well I would try to find as much support and help like therapy, AA or any other 12-Step Program, try to focus more on the job, even if I find a lot of the stuff mundane or trivial, try not to hold grudge, but seek out those people I have an issue with to talk and clear the air, try to be more socialble since in the last few months on the job I became more withdrawn and aloof, try to ask others for support but in a very very discrete manner since I too often tell others (colleagues and supervisors) more than I should-I have often been accused of being too honest (i.e. like telling several supervisors on my last job how I could not manage the class, how I lacked assertiveness, how I felt I had lost control of the class and they no longer listened to me or respected me as a teacher...). I would try to not take my work home with me and not obsess about the things I cannot change, like the opinion others have of me, or the lies that several supervisors had accused me that I took so personally, try not to take criticism too personally, try to avoid poisonous friendships and environments at work that eat away at my morale....

OK... now, let's turn this around a bit. Tell not what you wouldn't do, but what you would do differently. But this time, write it down on a piece of paper and turn it into a self contract. In my next job, I will do the following to be a top performer:

a)

:(

c)

d) etc.

Once you've completed this, begin reading heavily in to hone your skills. Secondly... what you commit to can be applied today, in your current job. So you can start practicing your new skills immediately.

2) Are you getting interviews? Are you hustling 20-25 hours per week looking for work?

Well I live here in a very rural area of Japan. I am not sure if you're American David (yes and no... live here but while others left their heart in San Francisco, I left mine in Latin America) , but if you are, where I am is akin to where I lived an went to school in northern Maine (a town by the name of Presque Isle. Very beautiful, but not much in the way of job opportunities. I am an EFL teacher and the job market is kind of saturated with many foreigners. Can you create a niche market? Think hard! I moved to Pittsburgh PA and worked for years until I figured out that there was an unspoken mneed others weren't aware of and began opening up a small practice in this small area. Now there are many who do it; however, as the old-timer in the business, I usually get the best contracts if I hustle some. So you may have to invent the un-inventable. Who would ever have imagined the internet 20 years ago, the Ipod???I am not really eligible for any other kind of work since I am not fluent. So, no, I am not getting many interviews. I just found out from my wife yesterday that the college where I teach 4 hours a week was unsuccessful in getting a grant from the government which would have enabled them to offer me full-time work. Therefore, until next spring, which is the hiring season in Japan, I can safely assume I will be working at the current level of 8 hours per week( 3 part-time jobs).

There is not enough work here or opportunities to justify spending 20-25 hours/week in a job search. I am dilligent about keeping abreast of the job boards, internet. One big stumbling block I have faced for almost 10 years is the lack of published work, which I requisite for securing a teaching job at the post-secondary level. I have had a terrible sense of insecurity and inferiority about my writing ability, and have been stuck for so long. So the only thing the 20-25 hours/week I could devote to, which is job related, would be to try and write. Damn the 1945 rusted, broken down, beat up old Chevy... what a terrible weight that must be to lug around!!!! Make a plan, starting tomorrow you sit in front of your computer and you start writing. Writing nonsense beats writing nothing-- do this for 2 hours then move it up to 3 next week, then 4 the following. Become acclimated to the idea and muscle thru the insecurities that plague you. I'm sorry this sounds like the Arnold Shwarzeneggar approach of making money and surviving, but it's what got me thru the US as a non-English speaker!

Buene exito chico (good luck)

david

Edited by David O
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