I’ve been in college or stoned my entire adult life… that isn’t true. Most of the time I was both…. The stuff I remember is only useful on Jeopardy. Remember that Mormon guy a few years ago that kept winning week after week? I’m him but in a caffeinated Jewish way…
I remember hearing a factoid a while back that said that your income is destined to become the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
At the time, that bothered me. Outside of my family, I was hanging out with some folks who weren’t exactly rolling in dough. So to me, this factoid said:
Dude, you’re going to be poor
Dude, if you want out, you’re going to have to ditch your friends and phony up to some rich people, which is lame
Dude, if you do that, your new social circle probably won’t say “dude” at all
But it got worse.
Your weight is destined to become the average of the five people you’re around most. Your habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) will correlate with those folks. Your level of marital satisfaction, of outside friendship, of ability to sing every song ever written by Joni Mitchell? All are tied to some degree to those of your peers.
I knew I was in trouble
The thing is, I’m a chameleon. I have a strong internal compass, but I also pick up external, cosmetic things from people very quickly, which is probably why I’m pretty good at building rapport.
I’ll eat dinner with Canadians and pick up their vocal inflections. I’ll have an Italian roommate for a weekend retreat and develop a pasta habit.
So given that I had a lot of broke friends, what did that say about the forecast for my income?
The bad news about the factoid is that, from what I can tell, it seems to be totally true. If you only associate with, talk with, and think about interactions with losers, guess what you’re likely to become?
The familiar way of saying it is that If you lie down with dogs, you’re gonna get fleas.
3 Signs You’re Hanging With the Wrong Crowd
You start doing things you wouldn’t normally do: All of sudden you find yourself partaking in activities and associating with people, that just a few months earlier, would not be acceptable. Maybe you’re drinking too much, lying more, or stretching your integrity. Perhaps your job or grades are in jeopardy or you start to doubt your marriage in a way that you didn’t before. There are many ways that a friend can be a bad influence, long past the days of smoking cigarettes after homeroom.
You put your goals on hold: The goals that were once front and center, have now fallen to the backdrop of your life. You now find yourself spending a majority of your time on trivial, unproductive things… going to the bar, putting off important projects to go to a club, or constantly pushing back your priorities to grab dinner.
Your more stressed after hanging out: Friendship should be joyful and life-giving. People who use others to unload the crappy details of their lives, do not bring happiness and peace, they steal it. While sharing is an important part of friendship, you should never be made into a full-time counselor.
The good news
But the good news is that you don’t have to ditch your old buddies and suck up to Mr. and Mrs. Howell from Gilligan’s Island.
And the ultra good news is that you can aspire to associate with “successful” people instead of narrowing the focus to “rich” people. And a lot of successful people say “Dude,” like, ALL THE TIME.
I know how this looks
I know it looks like I’m saying you have to throw away people who have been in your life forever to ignore Cousin Duh, who you love even though has no current job, car, or front teeth.
I know it feels phony. I know many of you reading this are resisting the notion, thinking that you’ll be a stand-up person by staying in your current peer group and simply rising above their expectations.
In an ideal world, those of us who dig Albert Einstein would have a cup of coffee with him regularly and chat about our goals and desires. But Albert’s dead, so a real-life interaction would actually be somewhat uninspiring.
But this is the age of the internet, and there are plenty of accessible live peer candidates out there, just a few clicks away…. there really is more than Facebook and porn!
If you do this for awhile, a funny thing will happen. You’ll find that the five people you actually do interact with most often will be your five best peers, give or take.
And while you’ll still think Cousin Duh is awesome, you’ll likely find you’re less interested in hanging out with him 24/7, regardless of whether you can resist his hot chick stories and 500 TV channels.
“The alcoholic parent is not satisfied with his own childhood,” …. “He wants yours too!… When the father vanishes into alcohol, the son searches for a lost part of himself.”
My mother is not a drinker… and has hated it everyday of her life. She explained to me as a young child the horrors of living with an alcoholic parent. She made a statement to me that I never forgot … she said… “What we experienced as children made my sister weak … but it made me tough!” Wow … what a sad outcome for children. What roles did they play to be awarded the honor of being “weak” or “tough”?
Sadly, my children were assigned roles as well… being raised by this alcoholic father was simply history repeating itself from one generation to the next. The damage done to my mother and my children as a result of addiction is painful and long lasting. When a parent misuses or abuses alcohol, it can have a profound effect on the whole family. Being a child in an alcoholic family means learning to relate to the world and the people in it in ways that are not necessarily healthy.
The alcoholic family model goes something like this ….
The little caretaker role is often a carbon copy of the partner of the alcoholic. They take care of the alcoholic; getting drinks, cleaning up after the alcoholic and soothing over stressful situations and events. They are validated by approval for taking responsibility for the alcoholic and their Behavior. This little person often goes on to become a partner of an alcoholic or other dysfunctional person if they do not get treatment.
The family hero role brings pride to the family by being successful at school or work. At home, the hero assumes the responsibilities that the enabling parent abdicates. By being overly involved in work or school, they can avoid dealing with the real problem at home and patterns of “workaholism” can develop. Although portraying the image of self-confidence and success, the hero may feel inadequate and experience the same stress-related symptoms as the enabler.
The scapegoat role diverts attention away from the chemically dependent person’s behavior by acting out their anger. Because other family members sublimate their anger, the scapegoat has no role model for healthy expression of this normal feeling. They become at high risk for self-destructive behaviors and may be hospitalized with a variety of traumatic injuries. Although all the children are genetically vulnerable to alcoholism, this child is often considered the highest risk because of their association with risk-taking activities and peers. Although tough and defiant, the scapegoat is also in pain.
The lost child role withdraws from family and social activities to escape the problem. Family members feel that they do not need to worry about them because they are quiet and appear content. They leave the family without departing physically by being involved with television, video games, or reading. These children do not bring attention to themselves, but also do not learn to interact with peers. Many clinicians have noted that bulimia is common in chemically dependent families and feel this child is prone to satisfy their pain through eating.
The family clown role brings comic relief to the family. Often the youngest child, they try to get attention by being cute or funny. With family reinforcement, their behavior continues to be immature and they may have difficulty learning in school. The family clown often hides the pain with laughter and suffers with an inability to have long term relationships as an adult.
Some of these roles may look more effective than others, but each has its own drawbacks and its own pain. From the perspective of your role, it may be hard for you to understand the pain of a brother or sister in another role. Even though their pain may not be obvious, all of these roles have potentially serious consequences.
“The past is the past … shouldn’t I just try to forget it and move on?”
Trying to forget the past without understanding how if affected you will usually not work and may lead to more problems. The best way to “move on” is to squarely face the past, its importance, and its meaning for you. Often this means understanding and forgiving your parents so that the healing process can begin. You can learn more about making peace with the past in several ways. Adult children of alcoholics have websites and organizations to help deal with life on life’s term. No one has to do this alone. Learn from your past… don’t spend another day living it!
This is my journey… this is my life.