Staying calm in the midst of chaos and uncertainty has not been easy for me in my life. I feel triggered by the circumstances relating to this COVID 19 pandemic. The craziness of it. The isolation. The paranoia. The feeling of scarcity. The confusing and ever-changing information. It reminds me of my childhood. Of my mom’s mental illness. I know logically that this isn’t that. My inner parts don’t know it though.
What’s good is that I’m getting a chance to grow in my awareness that the parts are there. The defenders and the exiles. I can see myself clearer and I know when this is over I will be changed for the better because of it. This self-induced suffering is changing us all in some way. I am awakening to Self and that is where the calm is found.
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?
Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Anyone who has ever flown in a plane has heard these instructions. It’s so well known that so many of us don’t even really pay attention while they are talking.
It is good safety advice and even better life wisdom. Put your oxygen mask on yourself first.
If I don’t do self-care, I’m not much good to those around me. Those people I want so much to help and care for.
If I don’t make my self-care a priority, I will burn out, wear out or worse. I will begin to resent the ones I care for.
Sometimes my self-care looks like: napping #noguilt, eating when I feel hungry, exercising when I feel like moving my body…some yoga anyone? hanging out with my kiddo, date night with my hubby, playing wth my doggo, journaling, walking in nature, laying in my hammock, binge-watching Netflix, doing a meditation, treating myself with self-compassion and acceptance, laughing with friends at game night, getting a fresh color when my grays start to show too much, calling a friend just to chat, saying NO when I need to, reading whatever feels good in the moment…blog, fiction book, CoDA Big Book… driving in my Jeep with the doors off! going to a CoDA meeting
And of course, dancing barefoot in my kitchen when no one else is around…Alexa, play dance music!
“In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.”
We cannot control the painful experiences we endured as children or mistakes we made in the past, and because we are human beings we cannot expect to live life without encountering pain in the future. What we can learn to control, however, is the second arrow, our reaction to the pain we encounter.
Through attending CoDA meetings, I learned how to breathe through dark feelings like sadness and fear rather than avoid them, and to share my experience with others who are also on a path of emotional healing.
The first arrow of pain is part of the human emotional experience, but the second arrow of suffering is a choice.
Rather than suffer alone in silence or numb the painful emotions with excessive food, technology, work, alcohol, or drugs, we can attend a meeting and feel the common humanity and support of others who are working to live life fully. As the first CoDA promise says,
“I know a new sense of belonging. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness will disappear.”
The tool of detachment is a powerful way we can deal with situations that could harm us. It is a choice to disengage emotionally from people or situations. We strive to detach with love for ourselves and others knowing that we are not responsible for the behavior of others and they are not responsible for our happiness.
Many of us are dealing with difficult situations. Drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems, parenting issues, caring for aging parents, job stress, death or illness…
When the other person is making choices that we don’t like, what can we do? When it we are making ourselves crazy trying to control a situation that we can’t control, how do we find sanity?
A helpful way for me to remember detachment is this… D on’t E ven T hink A bout C hanging H im/Her
If I’m not the problem, there is no solution. If the other person’s behavior is the problem, I cannot solve that.
So in the CoDA big book, we can explore the question of what is the difference between detachment and avoidance? or rather, what is the difference between letting go and running away?
Simply put, detachment is a conscious act of self-care where avoidance is often an unconscious, dysfunctional coping mechanism. Detachment is driven by love and avoidance is fear based. As a codependent, I can sometimes swing between the extremes. controlling people and outcomes on one end and neglecting responsibility to others by running away or ignoring them on the other end.
Detachment can be difficult. When I began recovery, letting go was just not possible on my own. With time and my Higher Power’s help, I slowly began to understand things like the fact that other people are capable of managing their own lives and that I can accept the choices of other people even if I’m not comfortable with them.
As I gained more tools like trust in an loving Higher Power, support from recovery friends and of course…boundaries, detachment became doable. Still difficult, but doable.
Recently, my dad who is 87 had his boiler go out in his home. My first action was to go in and try to help. While he didn’t want to come stay with me while he waited for the new one to arrive 10-14 days later, he would accept some space heaters. For my own sanity, I had to use detachment because while I didn’t like his choice to remain in his Minnesota home in January, I had done all I could do to help. Old behaviors of trying to manipulate, control or shame him into changing his mind would have just harmed both of us. Detachment allowed me to love and respect both dad and myself. When I feel the worry rise up, I trust the outcome to his Higher Power and make the choice to detach again. Of course a bit of added self-compassion for how hard it is also helped me to detach with love.
I love how Melody Beattie put in in her piece on detachment from the Language of Letting Go… “Today, I will take actions that appear appropriate. I will let go of the rest. I will strive for the balance between self-responsibility, responsibility to others and letting go.”
I’d love to hear how the tool of detachment has worked for you. Leave a comment or question below.
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.
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.
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.