Welcome to our Pursuing Uncomfortable Family!
Aug. 31, 2022

Episode 42: Pursuing Wholeness Beyond an Alcoholic/Rageaholic Father with Connard Hogan

Episode 42: Pursuing Wholeness Beyond an Alcoholic/Rageaholic Father with Connard Hogan

A child of the ‘50s and ‘60s, Connard dropped out of engineering school in 1968, and as a result of the draft, served in the US Army, including a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam. Following an honorable military discharge, he received a BS in Sociology at Western Kentucky University and then an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling from the University of San Francisco. As a licensed therapist, Connard worked twenty-five years in various settings treating alcoholics & addicts and those suffering major psychiatric disorders before he retired. He authored Once Upon a Kentucky Farm: Hope and Healing from Family Abuse, Alcoholism and Family Dysfunction, which was published March 2022.

Follow Connard:
Facebook
LinkedIn
YouTube
Website

Buy his book, Once Upon A Kentucky Farm: Hope and Healing From Family Abuse

Watch the interview on YouTube

Support the show
Transcript

It's a pleasure today to welcome Conard Hogan to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. I am your host, Melissa. Adkin. Today, we hear a story about what it was like growing up in a home with a raging alcoholic or rageaholic, as Conard says, father. What it was like as a child, the isolation he felt and what we can do to be people who provide safe spaces for others growing up in this situation. And if you are growing up in this situation, How you can reach out and find some resources to support you as you move forward. As always, if you'd like to leave a question, a comment or keep the conversation going head over to Melissa Elkins. ken.com/blog. Let's welcome conard Hogan.

Melissa:

Connor welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast. I'm so excited. You're here today. How are you doing? Thank you. I'm doing good, Melissa. It's nice to be with you and it's morning my time, but probably afternoon yours. So good day. It's noon actually. Okay. All right. Yeah, we're recording this at the end of July and it's nice and balmy outside today, but it's perfectly comfortable here in our studio and I'm using air quotes as I identify my space as a studio, but someday I'll show a behind the scenes picture on the blog, but Connor, I know you're not here to hear about my filming setup. Let's talk about what you are doing and what you're up. You're an author. You got a lot going on. What are you working on right now? Yeah, that, are we just gonna start with that comment? I've got a lot going on at times. I feel overwhelmed even though I've been retired for 15 years. Let's see. Wait, maybe, uh, yeah, about 17 years now.

Connard:

I think, um, most recently I've been focusing on my writing. I started writing probably 30 years ago, but never really got anywhere with it and had hope of getting published. But when, but over the time, um, I did put effort into working on my writing skills and wrote a couple of manuscripts. And during COVID lockdown decided that it was time for me to get off, get off it and, uh, do something with that. Um, as I get older, uh, I have less time of course, and. um, I didn't, I decided I had been procrastinating because of my fear and feeling overwhelmed with all the complications of things like social media. So I, uh, hired a social media consultant and started working on that, developed a website and got it up and running about over a year and a half ago now. And then once I got that going, if, and felt more comfortable with my social media, uh, profiles and et C. Decided it was time for me to publish. So I went for, uh, self-publishing through a, um, uh, publishing authority, a, um, hybrid publisher to get something done. Um, because frankly I got tired of feeling rejected by agents and whatnot, and I felt the work was good enough to be published and that people would be interested in reading it. It's a memoir about my childhood, uh, with an a. Binging alcoholic, uh, slash rageaholic father who beat my mother. And, uh, that was a tough time. But anyway, we'll get into that more later, um, Amma. Yeah. And before we jump into the book, which I can't wait to talk about your book, let's talk about that story behind the book. What was it like growing up in that environ? Well, um, it was, uh, I was terrified a lot of time, I think for young children, well, any child or anyone who doesn't have the resources to feel like they have any, any choices to advocate for themselves or set boundaries for themselves, they're gonna feel overwhelmed. And, uh, they're gonna have a lot of fear, but it was also sad for me to see that happening. I, I didn't like it. I think. I think humans basically want a peaceful environment. Even once they're newborn, they want a peaceful environment. They know when they're uncomfortable about something that O obviously they can't put it in words, and they may not even have a conceptualization in their mind because of their lack of, uh, uh, growth at that point. But, um, I think we all Intuit what what's comfortable, so I knew something was wrong from day one. I didn't know what to do about it. I felt helpless. That was another piece of this felt helpless. I grew up in the fifties, uh, at a time and it's probably not that much different now, although there's a lot more resources at then it was about within the family, within our nuclear family and the scuttlebutt, or, or generally speaking, it was don't air your dirty laundry in public. So we didn't talk about it to other family members. We didn't talk about it in open with anybody. Didn't even talk about it with my grandparents. Once I was in school, I didn't didn't have the, I didn't conceptualize the opportunity to talk about it in school, so that wasn't even an option for me to ventilate or seek support or outreach there. Um, so there was a, quite a isolation feeling with it and. I wouldn't call it a loneliness, but when you Harbor a secret, it does put up a boundary for you that I think it does create a loneliness or the loneliness, a lack of connection with people. I was connected to my mother emotionally, and my brother who's four and a half years younger than me because we were experiencing a similar, we were sharing, uh, an experience. Uh, and my dad was too, but. It was quite different from him kind of on the other side of that coin. Uh, but other than that, I didn't know that anybody could really, that I could reach out to talk to anybody that they would really understand it, that there was anything I could do other than I spent a lot of time observing. I became an observer and this happens a lot for trauma individuals, I think, to become hypervigilant of the environment, quite sensitive to the cue. and, and, uh, began asking myself, what could I do? What part could I play in this to stop it or prevent it, change it. So for years I was looking at well, what can I do? What can I do? What can I do? And then the book, um, I have talked about several times as I'm growing maturing, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, um, my brain, uh, maturing. Um, I mean by that, um, I began to take more steps in the intervention process. It was kind of a natural progression for me to do that. Although I don't know that any one person in a similar situation would do the same things. There was some choices in it. I had, I had made, but I was growing in my, um, confidence. I was growing in my. Willingness to confront my fear of what might happen when I took certain actions of the consequences of that. Um, and over time, I think you see that in the book that I, that I did be become more confrontive and worked with my brother. And in some cases, my mother to begin to intervene in that. And it did change over time, but whether or not what I did personally, Had that much effect on it. I don't know. And yet on the other hand, that doesn't matter. I did what I could, I felt some power in that, but I still had some helpless helplessness about it. And then as, uh, uh, I didn't handle it all that well for actually there were times I had, uh, difficulty with the anger that I was incorporat. Partly from the role modeling I saw for my father, but I could, I didn't have a way to express it. So I, uh, um, did express it in some very inappropriate ways. I'm not proud of. And, and, uh, several of those, uh, instances are in the book too. Um, then, uh, once I got to the age of just beyond college, when I dropped. After a year and a half was drafted in the army. I think that's really when my physical emancipation began, although I was kinda working toward that prior. And then after I was discharged from the army, went back to college, um, finished my bachelor's degree in Kentucky, which is where this all takes place. And I grew up, I moved to California, so I think I further distanced myself physically from that, but over time, uh, and. Became a marriage and family therapist. And then over time after a lot of self, uh, searching and analysis and talking, and so on, began to understand more about this process and, um, came to accept that not only was I and my brother and my mother victims, we were perpetrators in a, in a sense, and my father was a victim as well. Cuz he was abused or not abused, but he was traumatized. Probably as a child and, and the family he grew up in, but he also ended up in world war II in the Navy, in the Pacific. And he told me a few snippets. He wasn't a very open guy. He was pretty secretive about his, his person and feelings, but he had some traumatic experiences with some. Some of the, uh, Marine landings on the islands in the Pacific. So he was traumatized and I think that his drinking and holism was his way of trying to deal with that self-medicate and deal with that. And obviously he didn't do a very good job of it, but I accept he did the best he could. And I hear people that grow up in abusive situations often echo that. They just assume everyone is that when we're children, we often assume our normal is everyone's normal.

Melissa:

Was there an age when you realized that your household was different from others? Well, I wondered about that for the longest time, because I couldn't look into other people's minds. I couldn't, I couldn't be the fly on the wall in their home. As I got a little older in school. I, you. Swap staying over with other guys in my classes.

Connard:

Uh, it became more obvious then, but I thought from pretty early on, something is off here. Something's amiss. Um, I wasn't getting the cues or clues from other people when we would go visit family members or friends, or they wouldn't, they wouldn't say to me, oh my dad's this or blah, blah, blah, going on there. Uh, a problem in our family. And so. I just had that since early on that this wasn't normal, but I couldn't prove it. And I questioned it a lot with one little scene, um, in the book where I'm talking about that when I'm looking at a, a, a Norman Rockwell drawing of a country boy on a calendar. Um, so. I didn't think it was normal, but I couldn't prove it to myself, but I, I knew it was odd or off the wall, but I just didn't know how much mm-hmm you mentioned once that you didn't have the option really, that it never manifest for you, the ability to verbalize what was happening at school. If you have been able to do that in your context and in your day, do you think there would've been resources there for you? There may have been someone personally who took an interest in it that I could talk to. But beyond that, I don't think there would be any outreach from that reaching into my home to deal with it. There was an episode as probably pretty much true today, unfortunately, that, uh, there was a, uh, domestic call a or a call about a domestic dispute, which is in the book. And the police came and talked with us for, I don't know, five minutes and left. That was the end of that. So it's like, what good is set? Gonna. Um, I, I, there, there was nothing specifically ever said advertised on TV or in the paper that I saw or mentioned in any circles that I ran in about. Yeah. If you have a problem, come and talk with us and we'll get you support and you can do counseling and we'll have something, you know, none of that, none of that, that did, if it did, if it did exist, I certainly never heard about it or found out about it. Of course. Now we're talking between the years of early fifties up to. Our, uh, mid sixties, if someone is living that reality right now, if they're a young person still in school, how would you advise them to speak out to someone? It may vary from person to person, but I think starting the process is important and it can kinda snowball, but maybe a. A trusted family member, perhaps a teacher at school or a counselor at school, or if they're involved in a church setting or religion talking with, uh, someone they can trust there in authority talking to other children, probably isn't gonna do much, even if they're in their teen years, those aren't the best resources, uh, to go to. It's probably gonna have to be an adult. So I'd say it's someone that, that they could trust that would keep their confidence and not immediately go back to the parent or parents or whoever is the perpetrator or instigating the problem that would just, that would just wreck things. You know, that that would not only ruin their trust, but that would probably escalate the problem. So I'd say someone that they can trust. Who's an adult. A grandparents are probably good unless that's coming from the grand. um, hard to say for sure, but again, to give a, um, one, an, a one answer fits all is a little riskier, so I'd have to, you know, qualify it with that. What would you want that young person to know? They can overcome it. It doesn't have to last forever. It won't last forever. There are people out there that will listen to them that will understand them, that will care about them. That will give them, um, not only acceptance, but acknowledgement or reassurance that, you know, they're entitled to what they feel, what they're, and, and they're interpretation of what they're experiencing and that over time, if they stay connected and work with other people and communicating those things, then it can get better. They can relieve their fear, their sadness, their anger, their loneliness. Um, and so, uh, they can make a difference. They can begin to change it, but they have to start within in themselves. They can't just immediately go to the source of the problem and intervene and stop it from there. You know, it's an inside job in other. Something, you said really peaked to my attention earlier, when you were telling about your story, you mentioned that there was a point where you were still in that situation, still a minor living in your parents' home, but you started to gain confidence. And often I hear the opposite that people just keep losing confidence in that situation. What do you think made the difference for you to gain confidence in yourself? Well, I think part of it was my mother. She kept fighting the, the problem now with alcoholism, you call that co-dependency and it doesn't help a lot but she kept fighting. That was the one thing she never gave up and gave in. She kept fighting for what she thought was right. Then I had the support of her and my mother in talking I mean, my brother and talking about it, but I think beyond that, the. Role modeling and unconditional love from both sets of my grandparents, particularly my mother's parents and the visits. We went to the farm where I could see the role modeling and the interactions that, that my youngest uncle, my mother's youngest brother and his parents, my grandparents, and their interactions with my mother and, and back and forth there. And my interactions with them and their treatment of me. Uh, there is something better. There is, um, you know, things, things get better and it's not, it's not always that one way that you're having that problem. I mean, in other circumstances, things with other people, other situations, things are different. It's not always, it's not, everyone is not like it's, it's, um, things are different and it can be. I hope I answered that question. yeah. Hope it played a big part for you. Yeah. Um, well also I would add it was, it was incremental and it wasn't always a steady progress. Sometimes I'd take a step back or two. I, I would suppose I, I can't recall anything offhand, but there was a lot of little instances that, uh, you could see in the book. That I kind of gain confidence here and a little bit more there. And so it was a gradual process. It wasn't like a sudden realization or a sudden awakening. It was like coming out of a, um, it was like Dawn, uh, and, and sunrise. It was a gradual process. And at some point you realize, oh, it's daylight or Dawn is here or the sun is. Yeah. You spoke of being on the farm with the other family members and mentors. Were there other experiences that gave you a foothold in surviving that experience? Oh, I think, I think, um, the biggest majority of it gave me hope. I mean, my interaction with my uncle, uncle James, he never treated me. He never disre in, in my interpretation. He never disrespected me. Never talked down to me. He, he treated me more as an equal. Now having said that he was not that much older than me, maybe a decade or so. He was, he was fairly young. I was, uh, when I was born, my mother was 24 and I think my uncle was maybe 10 or 15 years younger than her. So anyway, we were closer in age, but nevertheless, uh, I still thought I kinda reacted to him as a brother, but I knew he was my uncle. So it wasn't quite the same. And I wasn't around him that often, but that relationship was very important. And my grandmother typically is she called other cousins. Even her son-in-laws she called him son that, you know, that to me made her, made me feel closer to her. And all the times that she interacted with me, she always had her general voice. She never raised her voice at me. She hardly ever raised her voice with anybody, including my grandpa. Although occasionally she'd say hu up Frank. Um, but just, she was a, a calm, caring individual that, you know, kind of. As you go, uh, very devout. Um, and so, uh, I, I think just being around her and interacting with her and seeing her interact with other people, excuse me, was part of that process, um, uh, it from the farm. But then again, there was other uncles, aunts, and cousins I was interacting with too. And, and getting some things from them. I had one uncle. Showed me how to throw a knuckle ball. Now, I never learned how to do it, but my point here is that I learned other skills, other tools, other techniques from everybody. Uh, if you think of Hillary Clinton's book, it takes a village. That's kind of the experience. You gain something from this person at this point, something else from them later, some something different from another person, all of that. Allows you to build, uh, more confidence, I think. Um, so yeah, again, I, I can't, it, it, it, it it's all like a process rather than any event. Sure, sure. What are some key takeaways from your experience, uh, as a child or. As a child, as a practicing marriage camp near as a retired person looking back. Oh dear. Well, I, you know, they're more a good question. The more general life philosophy, I think, than anything, uh, humans are flexible and malleable, uh, we're capable of a wide range of things. I think all of us inculcate that range. We could be evil. We can be kind and wonderful. And grace and grace, it's a matter of choice our day to day choices. Um, I like a quote I got from Winston from, um, Winston Churchill. Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. So I think our, we can make minor or smaller in a sense, smaller decisions or more major decisions, but all of our decisions add up. Karma is not a foregone conclusion. Um, we need to, we having said all that, we, we kind of need to trust our gut, but we need to understand that our perceptions and our memories are fallible. None of us are perfect. Uh, but we have a chance to grow. And the most important thing I think for people. Particularly from a spiritual standpoint, and I don't wanna get too much into that right now, but, uh, is a connection with other people. And the, and then the bigger part of it beyond connections with people is the connection to the universe. So I think connections are connections. If we're not lonely, if we're, if we don't have the sense of loneliness or isolation, then I think that's a critical piece in our mental health. I don't know if I've covered everything. There's probably more, I could go on and on you know, I heard my colleague, uh, reminded me of it, general truth recently. She said that we all have the same toolbox, but for some of us, when we pick the hammer out of the box, we're gonna destroy something. another person will pick the hammer out of the box and build something. Yeah. Well, for those. Carry a hammer. Uh, sometimes everything looks like, looks like a nail, so we gotta be careful but it goes back to what you were saying. It's there is a lot of choice in what we do with the tools that we have that make a difference in our lives. A lot of times people aren't in a situation where they have a choice or where they realize that they have a choice yeah. To then those, but by far many of us. Yeah. And, and, and, and I'm sorry, go. Well, uh, I was done, uh, not having the choice is probably true of the younger individuals, children and young adults, perhaps mm-hmm, more it, but it's less. So for adults, nevertheless, at the point where we start to see where we have a choice in it, that's, that's critical and important. Um, whether it's at a younger age or an over age, we do what we can when we have an opportunity to begin to do it. Yeah. And if anybody is listening to this and is an adult and is an adult with some influence, if someone comes to you and is looking to be looking for you to be that trusted person in their lives, Connor, what do we need to be? How do we need to be present to that person? Hm, well, I. I think we want to, we wanna try to focus on them 100% and not be distracted. We wanna honor them by, by. Um, I think Carl Rogers, who's a therapist used his technique, which is just reflecting back what he was hearing. This is what I'm hearing you say. This is how you feel. Um, I understand that I can relate to that. What would you, and then maybe also to offer. Some options, what would you like me to do? Or how can I support you with this? Now, some of what the individual might ask them to do is not appropriate to follow up on. So there has to be some discretion in that. Um, however, uh, I think. Just being able to be there and say, I understand what you, you know, and give 'em an opportunity to emote. If they cry. That's fine. If they're angry, let, 'em talk about the anger. If they're afraid, you know, give 'em time to, to work through that as they talk with you, uh, to take their time, um, in explaining it. Um, so I think it's just acknowledging and having the empathy to, uh, be there with their experience without, with a minimum. If any, hopefully none, but I think as I said, none of us are perfect with a minimum of judgment about it. Um, I love that you said to not assume, you know, it's. Real instinct that if someone comes to us and says, they're in an abusive situation, it would be an instinctual response to run out and stop it to call the authorities, to bring in all power that we can muster and call upon to change and fix that situation. But one that may not be within our power and ability and two, it may not be what the person is asking from us. And I love that you. Asking, you know, what do you, how can I support you in this? What are you wanting from me in? Yeah, that's an assumption that I think a lot of people have, if they want to fix. Now, I still fall into that myself. particularly with my wife's like, you know, tell me what you want and get it over with and I'll do it or not do it. But you know, that does not validate the person's experience. Maybe that's the better word to use the validation you wanna validate their experience and having been heard that will begin to make a significant difference for that person. Again, it goes back to connection, communication, and that sense of isolation and aloneness or loneliness. If people are not feeling alone with, with things, with the problem, it begins to help alleviate. Their struggle internally about it. And then as that gets alleviated, perhaps they start to see, um, options of things that they may be able to do to change it. It doesn't mean they change that it may be, they pull back from it. It may be, they talk more with other people or more with that same person, but whatever. Um, it gives them more freedom to look at, uh, what they can. I had a metaphor pop into my mind. If I'm walking through a marsh, I per I'm gonna struggle getting any kind of traction whatsoever. But if I find one solid stone in there that I can step on, then that gives me some potential moving past that point. And that might be what that person is and what the other person needs. They might just need that one solid place. To help them gain traction. I'm thinking, as you said that I was thinking about the, um, the, uh, Quin Quin, quintessential, uh, scene or image of somebody stuck in quick sand and somebody else comes along and says help me. And they find a stick and, and hand them a stick and they hold onto the stick and they start pulling them out with a stick that similar. Yeah. Mm-hmm So tell us about your book for those who, who are watching this on YouTube. We'd love to see a picture of the cover. Sure. Do have it handy. Well, there's one right back there. Whoops. Where am I right there. This is hard to do when you're looking at a mirror image and there's there is, but once upon a Kentucky farm hope and healing from family abuse, alcoholism and dysfunction by Connor Hogan. The link for that, by the way, is in the show notes. So make sure that you click on that, check out the book and there will be plenty of opportunities to buy that. And Connor, you've alluded to many stories in there that we haven't been able to have on the podcast, but I look forward to, to reading about those stories. You're welcome. Thank you. Also has on YouTube, uh, presentations that I've done, that people can go to. So if you go to my YouTube. Hopefully it'll be functional when you look it, it was functional when I saw it yesterday, um, go to YouTube and Google my name and, or, uh, search for my name. And you should find it. Uh, there'll be some presentations in there, some book readings or topics or discussions about the book, but I also have a business card. I wanna show too. And a call to action or a challenge to people. Here's my business card. You can reach me. You can reach me at very nice email address. Connor con hogan.com. There's a picture of my book cover and then a scan QR code. The challenge is to see if this will work, if you can pause your, um, stream of this video and, and that. What's uh, what's the word scan the QR code to see it may take you to my website. I hope it will, but anyway, that's my challenge to you. Okay. We need somebody watching this, please, please. Somebody jump over to YouTube, pull this up and see if you can scan that QR code and go to his website. And if you can please comment so hundred nos comment, the level that you've done it give a thumbs. Because tech, even though it's set up correctly, sometimes it can just be weird. So it's good to have confirmation when things work. I had my camera go off yesterday during the zoom meeting. So hopefully it won't be a problem today, but things happen. Oh, nice. As they say. And then, so my takeaway from that comment is you looked in your camera that pro probably it, it said enough of this I'm outta here. Um, so anyway, Yeah. And you can also leave me a message, um, an email message on my website or going to this, this directly, this, uh, email address directly to let me know if that works. So, yeah. And all of that is easily found in the show notes. And then if you have questions for Connie, yeah. Please reach out, let him know he's been there. He's experienced this, his experience. Isn't your experience, but I bet you, he would be a great support. And one who would find reason if I could do a marketing segue for a moment, I would add that on my website. Absolutely. I have a blog feed and in the blog feed, I've written some, um, post regarding what I ti entitled wisdom of the 12 steps. I don't have that many yet. I also post about my, uh, hiking adventure on the civic crest trail. I have a goal to complete that 2,600 miles, but I'm doing in segment. I also post, uh, kind of a thread about my, uh, travels. I did one about, uh, circum navigation of Iceland a year ago, or so, um, I just got back from a travel. I'm hoping to get that written and posted sometimes soon. So I've got other things on there. You can read. I have a, uh, one chapter from another memoir. Yes. A second. You can add more than one. Um, But there's more, there's more from, from my, my experience of being in Vietnam and the us army. So anyway, there's, there's more there. And I also have a quarterly newsletter that I do that's every three months that kind of highlights and gives some updates on various things that I'm doing in writing, including these things we're mentioning here. So, uh, please consider signing up for my newsletter, go to my website and you can sign up there. So. Lots of ways to connect lots of ways. And I feel like that for the sake of my family relationships that I have to say, you graduated from Western Kentucky university, go hill toppers. so so Connor, are there any last words or sentiments you'd like to leave us? Well, was there anything about the book that you wanted me to continue on? Um, I know we're kind of running out of time here. Well, I tell you what. Yes. I want you to send me one. I'm gonna jump on the website. As soon as we're finished here, I'm gonna click on that link. I'm gonna buy a copy and I cannot wait to read the rest of the story. You can get it on Amazon. And if which I hope you do go to Amazon. And if you purchase the book, which I hope you do, and if you read the book, which I hope you do, and which if you enjoy it, which I hope you do, I hope that you go back to Amazon. And give me a book review with a good rating. And if you get it other places like Barnes and Nobles, and there's a ton of book sellers out there that have it available, please go to the website. If they make it available and give me a book review. Yep. Every bit matters. All right. Thank you so much for joining today. Pleasure to be with you.