choosing the recovery side of the street

by Terrie C

I affirm that the codependent behaviors that I learned helped me survive. I honor them.

It is also true that they are a dysfunction that keeps me from joy.

Now, I wish to live more on the recovery pattern side of the street.

Learning takes place from repetition. Especially when old habits that do not serve me need to be replaced by something new.

It is harder to change than it is to start from scratch.

In an Ernie Larsen workshop, he taught that we must identify what the old message is (Codependent patterns). Then, we must give ourselves an affirmation that may be hard for us to believe and feed it to ourselves repeatedly until it becomes part of us.

The Recovery Patterns of Codependence have identified the dysfunctional patterns and give a healthy choice (affirmation) instead for our recovery.

Codependence often causes survivors to be unable to see choices other than the dysfunction we have learned.

I give thanks that I survived and I give thanks for recovery.

I wish not to pass dysfunction down to others.  I CHOOSE to live on the Recovery side of the street!

I affirm that codependent behaviors are a survival response to early and long term trauma. That I am recovering the person that I was meant to be by BREAKING OLD PATTERNS & LEARNING NEW ONES!

I have the ability to say no to old beliefs and change them to healthier ones!

the Serenity Prayer

By Tom P.

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.

I have prayed this prayer literally hundreds of times in meetings over the last 2 1/2 years and many more times on my own when looking for strength courage and peace.

Like many others fortunate enough to have found CODA, I was relieved and excited to learn the patterns of co-dependence and begin applying the healthy thought patterns and behavior to my daily life. My most obvious issues were listed in the Control Patterns which I quickly dropped to the delight of my immediate family.

Here is where the recovery process got a little tricky for me. Everyone around me was feeling better and I was proud of myself for the positive changes I had made but something still wasn’t right. This brings me back to the Serenity Prayer. In my sincere effort to mend my ways, I had gone to the other extreme adopting many of the Compliance Issues including my interpretation of the Serenity Prayer. Accepting the things I could not change meant to me that I should accept everything that comes my way without regard to my likes or dislikes, personal boundaries, or moral compass. This misguided thinking was reinforced by others using recovery jargon to convince me I was on the right track for their benefit.

I have come to learn that acceptance isn’t tolerance of the intolerable or giving up my true self in an effort to accommodate a relationship. For me, acceptance is seeing things as they truly are and accepting the reality of the situation. With this understanding, I can now make choices that work for me and allow others to be who they truly are.

why can’t I end a bad relationship?

The weird thing about abandonment is that I feel it even if I’m the one ending the relationship. This part of my codependency is a big part of why I tend to stay in harmful situations too long. 

Perhaps you are reading this because you are in a relationship with someone you wish would change.  Maybe, you have tried to do the changing yourself.  Or crazier still, you’ve tried to get the other person to change. 

It took me 19 years to leave my husband. They weren’t all bad years but a lot of bad stuff happened along the way. There were times I almost ended it but then again…what if things got better? I tried everything to get him to change so I could be happy. It didn’t work. When I finally did divorce him, I found myself continuing to caretake him and try to fix and control his life. I couldn’t just walk away.

I followed that with another destructive and dysfunctional relationship.  I would break it off but within a week or two…six at the most…be right back where I started.

WTF??

I suffered from the pain of abandonment trauma. 

Huh?

That fear of being left, of losing those you love, of being rejected, of never finding love again. Many co-dependents suffer with fear of abandonment. The roots may be in childhood when a parent or caregiver left, neglected or rejected you. Most of us don’t get to adulthood without suffering some losses. A loved one’s death, a relationship or friendship ending…it’s easy to get stuck somewhere in the process of grieving our losses.

Promise #5

For me it was my mom’s mental illness.  I understand it now.  How chaotic behavior, her periods of absence during hospitalization or incapacitation and times watching her walk out after an angry tirade left me with confusion, insecurity and self-blame. 

I had many of the common signs of abandonment fear including:

  • Being quick to attach, especially to unavailable partners.
  • People pleasing.
  • Staying in situations no matter how unhealthy it got.
  • Feeling unworthy of love.
  • Intense feelings of separation anxiety.
  • Overthinking things and working hard to figure out the hidden meaning in literally everything.
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism.
  • Repressed anger.
  • Big time control issues.
  • Self-blame.
  • Feelings of “otherness”, like I didn’t belong.

When I stay in harmful relationships or situations, waiting for it to get better and allowing myself to be hurt, it is self-abandonment. I’m so focused on fixing the other guy that I leave myself in the cold.

The healing started when I got into therapy, found my tribe in CoDA, and finally realized that when I fail to love and accept myself as I am and to protect myself with healthy choices, I am actually abandoning myself. This self-abandonment perpetuates my fears, insecurities and feelings of worthlessness. Then comes the people pleasing, approval seeking and other harmful, co-dependent behaviors…and we ride the crazy train back to the station once again.

If you’ve found this article and you are reading it thinking…wow, sounds a little like my life, then I have good news for you. My life changed when I found co-dependents anonymous. I found people just like myself who were actively working to heal. I didn’t feel like such a needy freak anymore. They were experiencing the promises coming true in their lives. There is hope. I was able to break the pattern of repeated, bad relationships and nurture a new relationship with a person who will never abandon me again.

Me.

the 10th Step…

Step 10 “offers us not only consistency, but also continued progress in our continued relationships. Continuing to take our personal inventory keeps us ready to change our codependent behaviors. Some of our habits are ingrained. Our goal, however, is to make consistent progress. We look for familiar codependent behaviors and areas where our boundaries with others need strengthening.”
~CoDA Aqua Book page 68

So my daughter is now a teenager and the timing is a bit challenging as I am in menopause. It’s a perfect storm of hormones in our home at times. I’ve been carrying a lot of her feelings for her and projecting my old unhealed teenager yuck onto her as well. When I reflect on my day, often I am seeing how I overreacted out of fear, raged, tried to control, took on her responsibilities and later resented her for it, tried to shield her from consequences, gave unsolicited advice or direction, and of course, shamed and judged myself harshly for my mistakes. I get super frustrated with myself. I want to do it differently with her. Each morning I get in the car with the intention for things to be peaceful and supportive as we drive to school. By the time we get there, one or both of us are in tears.

I have recently learned that habits take much longer to break than one might think and forming new habits can be a long process as well. The info out there that it takes 21 days is actually false. Research has shown it can take between 18 and 256 days to make a habit depending on how complex the behavior and how habitual the person. Yikes. My codependent behaviors are pretty complex! This new perspective does give me more patience with myself as I try to change old behaviors into new healthy ones.
Little by little, one day at a time.

The CoDA book lists 10th step questions like:
Have we been feeling sorry for ourselves or isolated from others? …check.
Did we rage, overreact or passively abuse someone? …check.
Did we take on others’ feelings or responsibilities? …check.
Have we been controlled or manipulated by people, not said anything, and then resented them? …check, check and triple check.

These and other questions can help us take an honest look at our behaviors and feelings toward God, ourselves and others. Over time, we notice patterns and uncover the roots of our codependency. We can choose to respond differently. My habits are becoming clearer and I am working to change them. It’s progress not perfection. I can see that my lack of healthy boundaries with others is a big part of the problems in my relationships. I allow my daughter to cross my boundaries when she speaks to me harshly or I fail to enact consequences. I trample on her boundaries when I over caretake or demand that she do things my way without hearing her out. Parenting is difficult. Parenting as a codependent is crazy hard. I’m so grateful I have a relationship with a loving Higher Power so that I don’t have to go this alone.

I love the Step 10 prayer. It gives me hope. In this moment, I live my life in a new way… check.

the view is worth the work

person sitting on an overlook looking at the view of the forest below

I went hiking on our beautiful Superior Hiking Trail with my husband awhile ago. He is an experienced hiker and I am a novice. There were times I really struggled to keep up and he would have to stop and wait for me to catch up. There were times when it was a lot of uphill and rocky terrain. There were obstacles and twists in the path. As I hiked along I grew tired and had to overcome my desire to “keep up” with him. It was then I started to recognize my Higher Power was whispering recovery wisdom to me. My HP knows how much I love a good analogy! Stopping to make notes in my phone gave me both a pick me up and a needed break. There are many connections between hiking and my recovery:

  • I can only see as much of the trail as I can handle. If I saw the whole thing at once, I’d get overwhelmed or ahead of myself, or I might not even try.
  • The forest is dense and it would be easy to get lost unless I stay on the trail. My program of recovery helps me stay on course through the twists and turns in life.
  • I usually can’t see around the bends and rarely is there a bear waiting…it’s usually safe.
  • It is always worth the work to get to the vista!
  • Sometimes it is hard to see the path in front of me. Most of the trails have been walked by many others before me so I know it is doable…difficult but doable.
  • Sometimes I need or want to repeat the same path again and again and I can always choose to go back the way I came if I am not ready.
  • I can keep the focus on myself instead of worrying about what the other guy is doing.
  • Experience counts on the trail so it helps to have a guide.
  • Practice makes things easier and my skills will improve over time.
  • It’s always surprising.
  • I can use tools to help myself when the going gets tough.
  • Stopping to look around once in awhile allows me to appreciate the view from where I am. I can give myself credit for what I have accomplished so far.
  • I need to take it at my own pace and be patient with myself. When I think I am stuck, I can choose to stop and rest or to just take the next small step. Every tiny step gets me closer to that beautiful, new view!
  • It’s about the journey as much as the destination.
  • Sometimes I feel like I am alone on the trail and that’s okay. I will see others along the way in time.
  • Hiking stretches muscles I didn’t even know I had. My recovery does that too. It can be painful and I can choose to push through the pain and keep going, knowing that next time it may hurt less as I get stronger and healthier.