Good & Evil Vs. Sick & Recovering


At nearly 41, I have been sober for all but 9 months of my legal drinking-age life and because of that, I met a LOT of people in 12-Step meetings. These people were mostly what my family would label "bad people" with histories worse than my own, regrets and scars deeper than mine, and often, criminal records - I deserved one of these but I got lucky.

Through meetings, I became comfortable with the idea that people are not inherently or permanently good or evil, in most cases. Most of us in any kind of recovery really are just sick people trying to get well. A lot of us have done bad things but it seems that the very nature of recovery insists that we try not to do these things, anymore.

I was kicked out at 12 because my mother thought I was a "bad person" just like my sister. I have noticed that the theme of good people and bad people is very much a part of the legacy of my birth family. I feel like it might be at the core of why no one in my family can possibly reach out for help regarding their trauma/addictions. Because, after all, if you admit that you failed your children, you must be wrong and wrong = evil and no one wants to cop to that. Instead, they point to all the "bad" ways that people handled their failings and pin the badness on the victim.

Case in point: At 12, my sister told my mother that she could steal my former stepfather from my mother and my mother cites this gut-wrenching event as proof of my sister being a "bad person." Of course, it wouldn't have happened had my stepfather not been sexually abusing/grooming my sister for years.

Does lack of intellect cause this sort of thinking or is it something else?

As a person who spent a long damned time in rural America, I have seen a lot of the good and evil, right and wrong stories that roll right over the possibility of causation. Does anyone know why this happens or if there is any reasoning with it? I mean, I understand that there is stigma surrounding the possibility of emotional problems but is it really strong enough to tear families apart or is there more to the story?

I have an entire family caught in a disaster of right/wrong and evil/good thinking that seems to make peace impossible because not one of us gets to be broken due to the facts surrounding our existence.

Does anyone have any wisdom on this topic? I'm baffled.


I never experienced the gods vs evil thing until I went through my trauma with my ex. He set me up and lied, now I experience it all the time.


Right vs Wrong and Good vs Evil are all symptoms of black and white thinking, a common cognitive distortion. There are a number of threads that address this thinking pattern and will give some really good light on the pitfalls and the fall out of this course of thinking. Humans and life are too complex to narrow everything down to Right/Wrong and/or Good/Evil.

disaster of right/wrong and evil/good thinking that seems to make peace impossible because not one of us gets to be broken due to the facts surrounding our existence.

In the example of your sister, this is basically a child acting out based upon the abuse she is experiencing. Yes, stealing is a bad behavior, but your sister was not a "bad" child. In my opinion, the greatest evil is the abuse perpetrated by your step father and the denial perpetrated by your mother. These are the adults that are suppose to love and protect you and both failed on levels that produce catastrophic damage.

Yes, trauma can break a person, but at some point, it is up to each individual to choose to remain at that level of brokenness or strive for something better. I believe that a person can only make peace within themselves, when they can see the entire truth, accept that it happened and then do what they need to process and move forward. It is extremely hard and some days are better than others as one navigates the mental mine field of "would have", "should have" and "what if". Unfortunately, we become very adept at "replaying" the messages of our abusers, even when they are long gone from our daily lives. I can be my own worst abuser.

So at this point, I've learned to accept myself for who I am and know that I am and strive to make each day a little better than the one before. I am not perfect, only human and will screw things up, but that is OK. I take what I can learn from the experience and move forward and don't beat myself up. When I do fall back, I am much better at recognizing it and correcting it.

However, while I take responsibility for myself, those in my life also have to take responsibility for themselves. Its OK to be broken, but not OK to break me. Tough to navigate relationships and I can only have boundaries, as I can only control my choices, actions and thoughts.