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.
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.
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!
“Our emotions drive us to recreate situations in which we will feel the feelings we need to face. We do not have to do anything except allow ourselves to feel them.”
My work history is full of losses. I look back and see how I’ve repeated a pattern of hanging on, controlling and attaching to outcomes.
It began with the loss of my favorite job. I had managed a video store for several years while going to college. After I graduated, I continued to work there despite the fact that I had started a new “day job”. Of course, I butted heads with the new manager. She wanted me to change how the store was organized. I felt like she was telling me I was doing it wrong. One night, the owner came in and fired me. Six years of work… and then it was over.
I lost two more jobs after that.
I taught for Head Start. Of course I butted heads with the director. She wanted me to “do less” and be satisfied with my low wage and minimal benefits. I loved the work and gave my full effort, like always…I felt like she was saying I was doing it wrong. So I went over her head, writing the governing board. They later suspended me and although I won a court battle, I never went back to the job. I just moved on without grieving the loss.
The last job I lost was my own business. I know… who gets fired from their own business?
I ran a non profit and of course, butted heads with my business partner. She wanted me to do things her way and we jockeyed for control. Again, I felt those feelings of being wrong…right up to and including the moment my board laid me off. I loved that job and poured my heart into it for 12 years then in one moment… it was over. No time to feel…just move on.
So last week, while helping my husband move his business into a new location, I bumped into those old feelings again. I became hugely triggered when his office manager and other staff members changed how I had arranged a wall of products. While some of my hurt feelings were understandable, my reaction was out of proportion to the situation at hand. I cried for two days.
The ugly cry kind of cry.
What I came to realize was the trigger showed me an area of unresolved grief. It felt familiar… to my past losses, none of which I ever grieved.
Thank God for my program of recovery.
Recovery doesn’t mean never being triggered. It means when I bump up against a trigger, I have a chance to see something unhealed in myself… and to heal it by allowing myself to feel the feelings.
That’s it, just make space for them. Naming them helps in taming them. Feeling them helps in healing them.
Oh, that’s grief. That’s sadness. There’s anger and disappointment in there. Breathe and allow. It’s hard to feel this way. I’m sorry this happened. It’s painful to hold the belief that I’m doing everything wrong…that I’m not good enough. You are just human. You deserve love. I’m here for you.
It’s okay. I’m okay.
Now, work the program. Go to meetings. Talk about it with recovery friends. Cry when the tears come. Feel the old grief coming out. Instead of stopping it, I’m allowing it. On the other side is acceptance. That is a wonderful place to be.
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.
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.