“My Thanksgivings will be different than these!”, I vowed.  “My Christmases will be different than these!” I cried out as a child.

I grew up in a dysfunctional home with my dad, mom, and two sisters.  I was the youngest of the three siblings.  Dad was a football coach and he was my hero.  When he passed away 6 years ago, he still died my hero.  My mom was an artist, an writer, and a teacher, but most of all, she had a lot of mental problems.  In writing this, I in no way mean to dishonor my mom, but to merely tell the story of what life was like so that this story makes sense and helps others find breakthrough in life.

We always lived in small towns throughout from age 0-9, and then throughout far West Texas from 9-19.  All I can remember was that mom was never happy.  Every town “hated” her, and she never had any friends.  She lived in a lot of daily insecurity, wounding, and frustration.  It wasn’t until I was 35 years old that I had any understanding of the pain that my mom had walked through in her younger years that took the smile off her face before I ever came in to this world.  Now, my mom lives in assisted living about 2 blocks from our church, and sits on the front row with a smile on her face as she watches her son preach about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.  But during my childhood years times were tough.

My mom was very unstable and very unhappy.  In turn, it caused my oldest sister to become unstable as well.  Our home was full of chaos, screaming, fighting, and frustration.  I often heard the cries of “I ought to just kill myself”, or “I hate you!”  I remember so many times of going to my bedroom and putting my pillow over my head, hoping the screaming would go away.  What made matters worse was my mom’s overprotective nature.  She really lived in fear; therefore, I could not do things most little boys, boys, or teenagers could do.  Keep in mind that we lived in towns ranging from 700-2000 people in population, yet I could hardly get off my block to go play.  My mom, daily, was constantly trying to corral me back to the front yard or back in to the house so that she could keep an eye on me.  When you live in a town with one red blinking light, and very little outside traffic comes through your town in the 1970’s and 1980’s, this just seemed like prison to me.  And it did.  I always felt like I was in a personal prison.

On top of that, holidays were always worse.  My mom hated to visit my dad’s family, so every Thanksgiving and every Christmas was an emotional battle of trying to please my mom and her wishes for the holidays.  Her mom, my grandmother, was awesome as a grandmother, but she had a very controlling spirit that did not help matters between my mom and dad sorting out holiday plans.  Our Thanksgivings never lacked for food and our Christmases never lacked for amazing gifts.  In fact, our holidays were ridiculous because my mom would blow all of my dad’s paycheck on gifts for us.  My grandmother would always make sure we had everything we wanted for Christmas, so our tree and gifts looked like we should have lived in a multi-million dollar home.  But the gifts and the food did not solve the chaos in my soul over the family dysfunction.

It was during these times that I vowed to myself that my family would be different one day.  I vowed to myself that I would be happily married, that my wife and I would not fight in front of our children, and that our children would treat each other with love and respect.  I vowed that I would host my future Thanksgivings and my future Christmas gatherings and that my sons & daughters, and their children would love coming to our house for these momentous occasions in family history.

One simple decision, and taking action on one simple decision can change the course of your destiny and the next generation that follows you.  Why do people keep repeating the cycles of dysfunction in family units generation after generation?  The answers lie far beyond just making one simple decision; however, the answer starts with one decision.  That decision is that you are going to be the difference maker.

For us, it became a process.  My wife and I were happily married.  We had happy little boys; however, we still had dysfunction swirling around our lives through family relationships around us.  My mom and dad got divorced right after I got out of college, and then all kinds of marital mishaps and messes began to occur that we had to deal with.  At one point, I had to draw the line as a husband and father and tell my mom that she could not call me anymore unless she had something positive to say.  We informed our parents that Thanksgivings and Christmases would be at our home and they were welcome to come if they wanted to enjoy the holidays in our home and be positive.  We took a stand and let our parents know that we were setting the standard for our children. Guess what happened?  They adjusted!

One of the first keys to breaking the cycle of dysfunction is simple: stop the dysfunction!  You have to speak to the dysfunction and stop it in its tracks, and then move forward with your goal to be a difference maker in your family.

Solving this over the long haul would require me writing a book; however, the Bible would be a great place to start for wisdom in this area.  In 1998 I turned my life around and began living for God, and subsequently Diane doing the same, things began to really change. We began to see rapid improvement in eliminating all signs of past dysfunction that continue to try to creep in.  No matter how hard you try, without God, one can not shut the door of dysfunction in their life.  It will always find you in some shape, form, or fashion.

Today, we do not have a perfect family.  We sure do try!  But the devil also keeps trying to steal, kill, and destroy our hopes and dreams as well…which is why we have to have God in control.  He is our Defender and He is our Deliverer.  So, even though we are not perfect, we are happy, joyful, and we love our Thanksgivings and Christmases!  Our sons have never had to walk through our family turmoil or conflict.  My wife and I have worked hard to fulfill that commitment that I made to myself back when I was a boy that our holidays would certainly be different.

My prayer is that your family life will be even more greatly fulfilling than ours. Shutting out dysfunction is not always easy but it has been worth it.

Danny McDaniel

Author Danny McDaniel

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Christi Rios says:

    Thank you Danny. I look up to you and Diane and will keep reading and learning, so that my legacy will be different for my children and theirs
    Christi Rios.

  • Shannon Dickinson says:

    We are so excited about this launch. More importantly so thankful for your openness and transparency to teach through your life. We are on fire to learn and grow and become so much more so we can pay it forward. Love you Danny and Diane. You have changed our life forever.

  • Mary B Underwood says:

    Thank you for sharing your family story. I can relate on the dysfunctional side as my mom has had a chronic mental illness for over 50 years and yet my dad and her will celebrate their 50th anniversary this upcoming Sat. June 17th. He kept his vows and kept taking care of her as best he could and pretty much raised us on his own with the help of family and babysitters. I can understand what you went through. I was the youngest of three with two older brothers and my eldest brother did end up with the same chronic mental illness as my mom. He had an anxiety disorder in his late teens and it did worsen by his late 20s. These days with us being adults and I now have an adult son in college, it has changed and we now look after our parents as much as possible. But the issues with my mom’s illness are still present but just not as pronounced as they once were. I’m sure being on the wrong medications for many years was not of help to her or to our family.

    I myself have been living with the effects of multiple brain injuries due to various accidents that were the fault or negligence of others but we move forward. I’ve had some healing but am still on the healing and recovery journey. My faith has increased substantially due to my injuries interestingly enough. My son was nine when my first injury occurred at work in an office of all places in July 2005. I remember him saying “I just want my mom back”. I’ve had six brain injuries from 2005-2016. After the fourth one I was no longer able to function enough to continue working in March 2014 and I was earning a six-figure salary at that time. We are still awaiting SSDI and work comp case help to have an income through me. I was the primary breadwinner and caregiver for three generations as a single mom looking after and supporting elderly parents. I have met some amazing prayerful, faith filled, peaceful, and encouraging people along the way. God led me to a healing modality of HBOT with one of the pioneers of the treatment type in 2015. But it’s still difficult right now and I’m not quite sure the direction that God is leading me. And I’ve been with AdvoCare for almost 14 years now amazingly, mostly a product user.

    As you stated, the dysfunction does not have to last. We can make choices to change it and strive for the better. We have to make the decision to persevere to do so. And I also think it really helps when we stop focusing on our own problems and reach out to help others that are needing our help based on our own past experiences and gained knowledge by going through a lot of what they have. Also, having children definitely gives one a big purpose to just keep going and striving to do better and to have the hope to once again flourish, or maybe even thrive for the first time.

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