finding personal healing in recovery

By Terrie C.

Step 4 Prayer
In this moment, I am willing to see myself as I truly am: a growing, unfolding spiritual being resting in the hands of a loving God. I can separate who I am from what I’ve done knowing that the real me is emerging—loving, joyful, and whole.
 
In the Welcome we read that “We have each experienced in our own ways the painful trauma and emptiness of our childhood and relationships throughout our lives.”  Starting with coming from a place of trauma, that is affirmed throughout the welcome reading, we can look at how our responses to this trauma became deeply rooted.  Small children, being abused conclude that it is somehow their own fault.  We often draw the conclusion that there is something wrong with us, and therefore we are to blame.  There is a connection between shame and blame. We become shame based in a deeply rooted way. In 1990 I gathered a group of 5 other women who were incest survivors.  We wrote a new program for ourselves and called it the THIRTEEN HEALING CIRCLES.  

Today, starting with Circles one and two:
1. We admit that we were abused, were powerless over the abuse at the time, and that its consequences deeply affect our lives.
 
2. We come to believe that the Goddess will awaken a healing power within us. We become ready to open ourselves to this power and realize that we no longer need to be victims.

In recovery I AM working on changing the belief about myself THAT there was always something wrong with me.  In recovery groups, we are working on becoming honest with ourselves.  For me, this has been a long, hard process of recognition.  In the 3rd step prayer, it says:
 
I can set aside all the old beliefs about who I am not and be who I am—a child of God.
 
For me this means an action of allowing my higher power to show me new ways of believing that are not shame based.

In Step 4, the language is problematic for me.  I have never felt that I was fearless.  In fact, part of the difficulty of my life and relationships is being in fear most of the time.  In my trauma as a child, I thought that I was immoral because of sexual abuse.  So, to try to heal by saying that I was fearless and to take a moral inventory, actually increased fear.  

The 4th Circle reads:
We search deep within ourselves to appraise the abuse done to us, and how it still affects us.  We celebrate our strengths and gently acknowledge the ways we would like to change.
WE COULD SUBSITUTE THE WORD TRAUMA AND TRAUMATIZED FOR THE WORD ABUSE.  THIS RECOGNIZES THAT THERE IS INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA PASSED DOWN IN FAMILIES AND OUR FAMILIES ACTED OUT OF THEIR OWN TRAUMA.  Blame and shame are left out.  

Important questions to ask ourselves: WHO WOULD I BE IF I HAD NOT BELIEVED ALL OF MY LIFE THERE WAS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME?  Who would I be if I had not had to develop ways to survive in my family?  How would I be different?

I have PTSD which is a body response to trauma.  People with PTSD live with the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, freeze) turned on all the time, never getting to full parasympathetic nervous system mode where we are in rest and relaxation. In other words, never feeling fully safe! Some of the symptoms are exaggerated startle response and hypervigilance.  Also, dysregulation of our brain function. This can be seen on QEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalograms) and functional MRI’s.  

The very first 4th step inventory that I prepared was the story of my trauma.  I wrote down things that had happened to me when I was powerless.  It was my honest truth.

When I began telling my truth in my family, they disowned me.  That was another trauma.  I was told they just wanted their “Happy” Terrie back.  But I was never really that.  It was a mask I wore to survive in the family.  One of the recovery sayings is ACT AS IF. I feel like I have been recovering from acting as if.  I said this in a meeting after another person had been speaker and disclosed her incestuous family history.  She came up to me after and said that was true for her too.  That felt like a true connection to another honest human being.  A wonderful thing about 12 step meetings is that we really can tell our truths and have a deep connection with another trauma survivor.  

Of all the weekly readings in CoDA my favorite is the welcome because it acknowledges our trauma throughout.  
One of the things that I get scared about in the meetings is being judged because since the beginning of my recovery I have had difficulty with the words, and yet, have felt the principles are right.  I believe the 4th step is about telling the truth about our lives.  That is the principle.  Words are powerful.  

In the last year, because of connections with people in CoDA it has been affirmed that adding kindness and compassion is a powerful healing way and there are many who are teaching this way.  I have been listening to Tara Brach, Pema Chodron and am reading the Dali Lama’s book on Happiness.  I have begun an 8 week course on Mindful Self-Compassion at Common Ground.  

A good 4th step guide is to recognize what we believe about ourselves that is judgmental. This leads me right back to the Thirteen Healing Circles of 30 years ago. I KNEW THEN THAT I NEEDED KINDNESS AND COMPASSION IN THE WORDS OF RECOVERY.

I believe that I can heal, and it is my responsibility to do so.  I was not responsible for the trauma. For me, the trauma gave me a core belief that there is something wrong with me. That instills fear and means healing from being in fear all of the time.  Today, we know that neuroplasticity exists.  It is said by scientists that the neurons that fire together, wire together.  Feeding ourselves recovery in a community of others who are on this path helps us all heal together.  I believe the truth for all of us is that we are doing this work because we learned codependent behaviors to survive dysfunctional families.  

The work is to examine (INVENTORY) our beliefs and change what needs it. We seek through prayer and meditation for help in changing that deeply rooted trauma that led us away from who we were meant to be.
 
I love the CoDA Recovery Prayers and have begun to use them more than the steps. Starting with CoDA step one the principle is to work on our own life (we are powerless over others). Where I am not powerless is to make the choice to do the work of changing my belief about myself.  

I end with the 2nd Step Prayer and an affirmation.  
 
In this moment, I can believe that I am never alone; I can experience the sense of freedom that having a Higher Power offers me. I can remind myself that believing is also an action, and if I am willing to practice it, one moment at a time, I will develop faith.  
 
Affirmation:
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 the OLD PATTERNS & LEARNING NEW ONES!

A Tara Brach talk on this:
Freedom from the Prison of Limiting Beliefs
https://www.tarabrach.com/freedom-prison-limiting-beliefs/
 

step one

Step One
In CoDA that is Step One.

We admitted we were powerless over others- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step One of Co-Dependents Anonymous

My home group focuses on the step corresponding to the month. January is one, February…two, etc. So this week’s CoDA Tool Tuesday piece is on step one.

Step one is a tool I use all the time. All my problems are first step problems. I’m trying to control someone or something that I have no power over. When I do this, my life becomes crazier.

The antidote to this behavior is not to try harder or to keep fighting or even to get creative with my problem solving. No, it’s to surrender. Yes, give up. If you are like me, giving up and surrendering seems like failing. I hated the mention of it. Not an option.

After finding recovery in CoDA, I now know that surrender is really the only way to win. I just need to take the first step. That means recognizing where I have power and more importantly, where I don’t.

So here’s how it works…when I’m ready to share and release my painful feelings, losses, experiences…you know…the yuck, then I can begin to accept my past, and start to act in healthier ways. CoDA has an awesome list of questions to ask yourself in the section of the big book on step one. Things like “Where did I learn to control others for my sense of well-being?” and “Where and how did I learn that having a relationship would make me whole?”
These questions and others can help lead me to reflect on the roots of my behaviors and see how my powerlessness and unmanageability started in childhood and flourished in adulthood.

As a kid, like kids often do, I truly believed I was responsible for the behavior and feelings of others. It happened when adults used blame or shame. You know how someone would say, “you make me so mad!” or “if you… you will make her so happy.” It happened when something upsetting occurred and my mind needed to figure out what I did to cause it so I could prevent it from happening again. If I make my bed quicker, my mom won’t rage at me… It felt real. If I was a good student, I got positive responses from adults. If I fought with my brothers or disagreed with a grown-up, I would see the reaction ‘I caused”. I started to see how I could “control” the behaviors and feelings of others by changing what I did and said. And I used this superpower to survive for a very long time. Unfortunately, this false power began making my life unmanageable as I grew up. Control, manipulation, people pleasing, fixing,,, it damages relationships and steals joy. Step one has shown me that realizing where I am powerless and where I truly have power allows me to stop fighting against what is happening and hang on to my serenity.

So here’s some things I’m struggling to accept my powerless over today..
-whether my teenage daughter turns in her homework…or not.
-my aging body and all the joys that go along with that.
-when Netflix will run a fourth season of Stranger Things.
-that people I love will sometimes disagree with me.
-how my ex-husband spends his money.
-how Minnesotans can’t seem to properly zipper merge.
-that people get sick and even die.
-the fact that pain is a part of life.

Basically, it boils down to this…
where we do not have power is the thoughts, choices, feelings and actions of OTHER people. It is only in MY thoughts, MY choices, MY feelings and MY actions where my power lies. Sometimes I feel like my feelings are not in my control. That’s okay too. Then I just accept my powerlessness over my feelings and let them be felt.

Powerlessness. Once I have recognized what it is and how it started, I can take the step toward accepting it. Then and only then can I find and embrace my true power.

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.