the four horsemen of control

Man have I been backsliding into my old friend Control. It’s okay though as most of the world seems to be joining me. I’m watching people doing all kinds of things to try to “stay safe”, protect others…and even police the behavior of people around them.

Control patterns are often the first place someone notices their codependent behaviors.  The first four are grouped neatly together and pose a challenge for me in relationships across the board.  I often think they should be bracketed together on the list as I rarely do one without the others.

They are: Codependents often

  • Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
  • Attempt to convince others what to think, do or feel.
  • Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
  • Become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.

When I’m controlling, I’m NOT trusting.

I’m not trusting…that the other person can take care of themselves.

I just hate it when people offer ME unsolicited advice.  Why then do I think others should appreciate it from me?  It makes me feel undermined…like they don’t think I can figure it out or the way I’m doing it is wrong. Yet, I think my advice is so helpful that they’d be crazy not to do things my way.

I’m not trusting…that learning comes through experience.

When I prevent someone from experiencing consequences, I’m robbing them of the chance to learn for themselves.  They can’t get the practice it takes to handle disappointments or failures and know how to move on.  I cheat them out of that terrific feeling you get from knowing you can figure things out on your own. As someone in the program told me once, they won’t ever hit bottom as long as I keep throwing a mattress under them.

I’m not trusting…that they have a Higher Power who loves them…and it’s not me.

Their Higher Power’s will is for them alone and because I’m not God, I can’t know what that is for another person. If I act as their Higher Power by attempting to get them to think, do or feel…I can get in the way of that greater will for their life.  Turns out, I don’t always know what’s best.  Even if I think I do. 

In CoDA, I am practicing using tools to counter these destructive patterns. In meetings, I can share about how my control behaviors come out when I’m afraid. I listen to others share about their struggles with control and what works for them. I get support as I practice being uncomfortable with the choices others make for themselves. In service, I get to practice letting go of my need to control and force my will. I get to build my capacity to trust others and see how people can take care of their own problems. I can practice communicating and allowing people to work through their disagreements. I don’t have to be a “right fighter” anymore.

In recovery, I can learn to trust…
That other adults are capable of managing their own lives.

In recovery, I can learn to accept…
the thoughts, choices and feelings of others, even though I may not be comfortable with them.

In recovery, I can learn to give….
my advice only when asked.

In recovery, I can learn to be…
content to see others take care of themselves.

phone a friend

Remember that game show? Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? They’d give the contestant 3 “life lines” one of which was to “phone a friend”.

In recovery, it can sometimes seem like the hardest thing to do to pick up a phone and call someone to talk. Why is it so hard to ask for help?

For me, it’s part of my “dis-ease” to wrestle with the thoughts that I might be bothering someone. So I don’t reach out for help. Or maybe it was that family “rule”…the don’t talk one. So I don’t reach out for help. It could be the belief that no one understands that leaves me feeling terminally unique and alone in my misery. So I don’t reach out for help. For some of us, when we’ve reached out for help in the past, we’ve been shamed, disappointed or abandoned. So we stopped reaching out for help.

In CoDA, when I go to a meeting, I find an important “life line” there. A phone list of people in the program who are willing to share their experience, strength and hope with others. I don’t need to worry about “bothering” them because they get to decide when and how they respond. It’s actually good practice for them in setting boundaries. If the first person doesn’t answer, I can go on to the next. I don’t take it personally, I take action to get the help I need.

It’s helpful to know the phone list has people who will relate to my struggle with codependency and I can identify with their stories. I find I’m not alone. Part of the program involves practicing things like asking for help when I need it and developing trust in those who are trustworthy.

Sometimes, chatting with someone else who understands or who takes time to listen is all I need to change my perspective. Often I already know what it is I need or want to do. Talking it out with someone else, who isn’t as invested in the outcome, can be all I need.

It can help to have another voice in my head besides my own. That old tape keeps playing in the background until I do something to quiet it. Sometimes calling a recovery friend is the something I need.

Codependents often don’t consider the consequences of our actions or decisions. Talking with a recovery friend can sometimes allow me to consider the consequences before I make decisions.

It’s getting harder for me to find excuses not to use this tool of recovery…thanks to technology. Nowadays people often text before calling and this makes picking up the phone even easier. When you feel alone, triggered, confused, hurt, even happy and just want to connect with someone, whatever…shoot out a text first to see if the person is open to a call… go ahead, use the life line…phone a recovery friend.


I’d love to hear how this tool has helped you. Or if you have a hard time with it, what stops you from reaching out?