Name: Stacey Gilmer
From: Deland, Florida
My own struggles
I was the first-born child to my parents in 1972. I have 2 brothers and one sister, all younger. My parents were married in 1971 and they are still together but have a dysfunctional relationship. My father still self-medicates. I have 3 biological children and my husband has 2 biologicals that we blended into the 5 children all together.
The secrets that are in my family basically we are supposed to take to our grave. On the paternal side of my family, even to this day, you are not to talk about your family secrets. You are not to talk about the affairs, the addiction, the abuse, add the mental illness that my paternal father’s family has. My father had an affair for six years and was a drug addict and alcoholic. My childhood was full of stuff that they would buy me, but my father was abusive and absent. When the affair came out when I was in middle school and the abuse, I was not allowed to talk about it. In fact, I went to the guidance counselor at my school my father found out and I got beat that night. I had to lie to my maternal grandparents about a black eye I had from him. I was not allowed to go to therapy period therapy was looked upon as you are showing weakness. This is when my eating disorder (binging and purging) began. My drinking began when I was a junior in high school and during my early years of my first marriage and until I divorced, I would take pills. It was the one thing I could control, and it was not until I divorced my ex and met my second husband that I started recovery from it. I have been sober from my eating disorder since 2014 and from alcohol and pills since 2016. Although I still get resistance from my father that I am in therapy and keeping to my boundaries.
Although most family members are diagnosed, some are not, and all are in denial and will not take medication. My father self-medicates with alcohol and marijuana. My brother and sister both self-medicate as well. My father is an alcoholic and was a drug addict but does not currently drink and never went through a program. Again, my family does not want to talk about anything. When I divorced my ex-husband, I finally stood up to my father, who was and still is abusive, and put up my boundaries. I got a lot of resistance from my siblings and mother, but I stood firm. It has been so much more peaceful since. I began counseling, got into recovery for my alcoholism and eating disorder. When I told my family about my addictions and eating disorder, my father said just move on and get over it. In addition, mental illness, obesity and addiction are very prevalent on my paternal side.
In addition to the addiction in my immediate family, I had a cousin and my brother’s best friend die from heroin overdoses and my father’s best friend died from cocaine use. Addiciton has always been a aprt of my life. Now that I am sober, am working the 12 steps, and have changed; it is my goal to work with addicts. I eventually would like to open a wellness and rehab center for addicts. Addiction has such a stigma attached to it and it is a shameful disease. I feel as if with my experiences and program work, this will be a huge success.
I have been in therapy for six years. I am an individual therapy once a week and couples counseling with my husband. Guest and behavior therapy are two strategies bad I believe work for me in my situation. Being that mental illness runs in our family and I am diagnosed with anxiety depression and I have addiction issues creates a stereotype that my family does not want to accept. My family makes excuses for my father or my brother’s poor behavior. Counseling would work if they are willing to work. Having solution focused therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy completed on my family would have made a huge difference if everybody were on board with it. George and I deal with having 2 toxic, ex-spouses, and a blended family with 5 children are why we participate in couples’ therapy. In addition, because George is in recovery from alcoholism, and finally has a correct mental health diagnosis with medication controlled, couples therapy helps us tremendously. We are breaking the stereotype and stigmas in our families that therapy is OK, got it works, that we are enjoying life.
During my life, I have had many ups and downs. I have persevered and worked hard to be where I am today. Because of all the things that I have been through, I know I want to work with children and adults of trauma and addiction. My experiences will help others as I can relate to what they are going through I can show clients I have been through it and made it out of the other side. Working with the hardest cases is what I am striving for. My DNA from my father is building relationships and being a people person. He was a great salesman and I have taken that skill and mastered it the right way to help build rapport and genuine relationships filled with empathy and caring. Finally, I know my family loved the nest way they could. I just wish things could have been different. However, if they were would I be where I am today? Would I be with a great man with 2 bonus kids, pursuing my 2nd master’s degree? Probably not.