Serenity Now!

It’s CoDA tool Tuesday and I find myself in a place that requires one of my favorite tools…acceptance. I’m at the DMV.

As I walked in with hopefully all the papers needed to do my renewals, I was greeted by a smiling woman who informed me that the wait time would be an hour and a half or more.

I know in some places, this would actually be a pleasant surprise… not where I live. This is a rather long wait time for me. I wanted to wipe that smile off her face. Luckily, I came prepared to write…about acceptance!

It amazes me how far I’ve come with accepting what is. When I started in CoDA, I was in a constant state of struggle. I wanted my ex-husband to stop being a jerk, my kid to help out without me telling her to, my mom not to be sick, boss to appreciate my work, coworkers to do more…and on and on… The more I resisted what was happening, the worse I felt and crazier my life became. I used my codependent behaviors to try to manipulate people and circumstances because I could not accept the way things were.

I tend to get attached to the idea of how I think things should be. For example, I think they should have more people working at the DMV today. I also think people should move more quickly to the window when their number is called and…have …their …stuff …ready.

Now, some situations are not acceptable. Abuse in any form for instance. I’m not saying if you are being abused or mistreated that you just sit in it and accept what is…rather, acceptance that it’s ok to leave situations that are unsafe, accept you can’t change the other guy, accept you can ask for help and deserve respect…

A lot of life is out of my control. There are facts that wishing simply won’t change. Other people get to make their own choices. The DMV is well…the DMV. They’re gonna get my time but I don’t have to also give away my serenity.

That priceless gift of serenity. I sometimes sell it cheap. When I get shortchanged at the store, lose out on a parking spot, get a traffic ticket… how much is my serenity really worth?

So what choice do we…the poor souls trapped in this beige purgatory have? Wage war on the clerk at the counter? Kick ourselves because we didn’t make an appointment? Cry?

Before recovery, I thought surrender was a failure. Now I know that most of the time, surrender is really the only way to win.

For me, I’m gonna order a pizza and scroll through funny DMV memes on my phone. 

Coda Tool Tuesday…CoDA Meetings

This is not a self help program. It’s mutual support. I can read and learn on my own and that’s all fine and dandy but for me, it can’t replace the experience I get in attending regular CoDA meetings.

I, like so many, had read Melody Beattie’s book, Co-dependent No More. If that’s all it takes to heal then we’d all be living happily ever after. If only it were so easy. No offense to Oprah but just because I “know better” doesn’t mean I can “do better”.

I discovered in therapy that codependency may be at the heart of my struggles. If that’s all it took then my therapist wouldn’t have needed to suggest I get my butt to a CoDA meeting.

When I entered the program of codependents anonymous, I was blown away by how much I didn’t know about my part in my dysfunctional relationships. I was both excited and horrified. Excited to learn others like me existed and horrified to know the path to recovery would be lifelong.

It was in meetings that my progress really accelerated. Listening to the experience, strength and hope of others took me out of my own narrow perspective and gave me so many new insights. Without meetings, I don’t think I could have made the life changes I needed to make.

Meetings allow me to connect with others in recovery. I get to practice speaking and feeling my feelings in a safe place where others won’t try to fix me…they just listen with understanding.

People often ask me how to find a sponsor in CoDA. My response is always… go to meetings. Listen to what others share. For me, meetings were the place where I identified people who would become my sponsors or co-sponsors.

In meetings I can practice with the other tools I’m gaining like service, boundaries, asking for help and caring without caretaking. Hearing the crosstalk guidelines helps me remember to keep the focus on myself. And the “Welcome” reminds me that codependence is a most deeply rooted, compulsive behavior…which helps me be patient with myself and reminds me to dig down to the underlying beliefs and pain that often drive my behaviors.

Meetings are a great place to find supportive friendships and feel that sense of belonging that we all so desperately need. I love the acceptance I feel when I’m in a meeting with other codependents and I share my pain or my joy. Meetings show me that I’m not a freak. I’m ok right where I am. I’m not alone.

CoDA Tool Tuesday…Forgiveness

When I choose not to forgive its like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Forgiveness is a tool that helps me move forward. I know I don’t do it for the other guy, I do it for me. So I don’t have to carry the baggage anymore. It doesn’t mean I approve of what they did but the person who hurt me doesn’t occupy space in my head anymore and that gives me my serenity back.

So with the holidays upon us I’m faced with the question of old…how do I put up with that annoying relative that crashed my wedding, always seems to find a way to insult someone at every family event and basically creates a black hole which sucks the joy from the room?

This year, the answer will be forgiveness. I’m gonna try to be polite and accept her as she is. I’m gonna tap into common humanity and try to see her someone who, like me, is just trying to find her way through life to the best of her ability, flaws and all.

CoDA Tool Tuesday!

There are so many tools to help us in our journey of recovery from codependency. Every Tuesday, we hope to post an article highlighting one or more of these tools. Kicking off this new feature, just in time for the holidays, we start with an excerpt written by the CoDA communications committee….


How do codependents take care of themselves during the stress of the holidays? Here are some suggestions:

1. Go to as many meetings as you need.

2. Call other members including your sponsor.

3. Set boundaries that you are willing to observe.

4. Consider reading CoDA literature and reflecting on the Steps and Traditions.

5. Take care of yourself; YOU come first!

There are also daily online and phone meetings which you can look up on coda.org. Others use the meeting phone list to reach out to newcomers with a brief message of reassurance. If needed, choosing to spend a limited time around one’s family of origin may lower holiday stress.

Making sure to take the time for sufficient sleep, and giving ourselves plenty of time to exercise, meditate and read CoDA literature are ways to remind ourselves that in CoDA we may learn to have different priorities than other folks at these sometimes difficult family holiday gatherings.

At times, the difference between having a sad holiday and having a more upbeat one is simply a matter of choosing to use program tools to help, in each challenging moment, to do things differently today, and to decide that right now serenity is your #1 priority. That includes reaching out to your CoDA family!

the falling star

by DeAnn B.

I’m very grateful for my new journey in CoDa. I’m learning acceptance and surrender, about trusting my Higher Power and the light that’s been placed within me to have my own experience, strength and hope that is a joy to share in the fellowship of others.
I wrote this in about one minute last week as I heard my Higher Power give me this visual of my journey.

recovery is a light in the darkness…

The Falling Star

The darkness fell and I was surprised because she gave little notice of dusk.
So there we were together, darkness and I.

I began to fret about how I’d find my path now that she commanded her presence?
Fear
Doubt
Anger
Then……..
She pointed me to look up and I saw them, why did I not notice before?
Individual lights, thousands, maybe millions, I didn’t know.
Formations they made I remember pointed to directions and seasons in times past and now.
I watched calmly.
Then, without warning , just as the darkness had fallen, a lone star left its place in the orchestra of light!
A magnificent sight!

But what’s this?
I can’t believe my eyes!
It’s fallen from its place and rests at my feet!

The darkness then spoke to me for the first time, and know what she said?
“ I am as sacred and beautiful as the daytime sun, and there is light in me that few notice. The arrangements of my heavenly lights in the dark offer its own beauty. Your eyes must look up to see these and upward reflection is what was needed for you. I’ve given you a special light of your own. All you must do is embrace it from whence it came, in the dark.”
I picked up the fallen star
I accepted it fully
Hope replaced fear
Faith replaced doubt
Forgiveness replaced anger.
And I was strangely grateful for her, the night, for without her, I would have never picked up a falling star!

practicing gratitude

All of us have reasons to be grateful. How can I show my gratitude today?

People who live wholeheartedly actively practice gratitude. On this day of national thanksgiving it’s nice to reflect on the positive benefits we can gain from a regular, daily gratitude practice.

Gratitude improves our emotional wellbeing and motivation, gives us better sleep and for me, can even reverse a shame spiral!

We all know about gratitude journaling but we don’t always have the time or even the desire to journal. You can find other ways to practice gratitude.

One way to increase your practice is by finding new cues for your gratitude. Cues help us make new habits.

For example, take the opportunity every time you’re standing over the sink and brushing your teeth to say three things you’re grateful for about the day.

Research shows that when you practice gratitude before you go to sleep, it can help increase optimism and overall satisfaction with your life.

Another cue could be at the grocery store…Whether you’re in line to pay for groceries or as you walk the aisles, the grocery store is a perfect time for gratitude.

Try breathing in what you’re grateful for and breathing out the things that are giving you stress and anxiety.

Drinking water throughout the day is a key to good health—which means it’s the perfect opportunity to thank your body for all the wonderful things it can do.

As you sip, scan from your head to your toes, bringing grateful awareness to all aspects of your existence to be grateful for.

These are just a couple of ways to add in a cue to bring in a grateful mind-state. The important thing is consistent effort over time… that is how we can work towards progress.

Now take a minute to focus on self-gratitude for what you are doing right now to benefit yourself!

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!

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.