If someone had told you in January that you would spend your entire spring and summer breaks at home, you probably would have laughed. After all, warm weather was supposed to wash away the woes of winter and give us a chance to see friends and family near and far. And then, out of nowhere, COVID-19. While Safer At Home recommendations have given us lots of time to connect with the members of our own households, it’s also given rise to an abundance of domestic tension. If you’re feeling the strain, keep reading for advice on how to loosen the proverbial belt so that you can breathe and enjoy your family once again.
Go outside and play
It’s the same advice you’ve been giving to your children all summer: go outside. As parents, we know that getting outdoors means expending pent up energy. Our hope is that this tires the little ones out so that they can take a nap and wake up refreshed and, ideally, not cranky. Take your own advice. Spend some time outside doing things like riding bicycles. Even if your local park is still closed, you may be able to sneak in a few miles in other areas, like on some back-country roads or college campuses.
This will also put you in the mindset to pay closer attention to your general wellness. When you spend more time active, you’ll want to eat better, and that will lead to changes that affect you in a positive way.
Update the inside.
While going outside is one of the best things you can do for yourself, mother nature sometimes has different plans. Days when it’s just too hot or stormy can make you feel a little cooped up. This might lead to arguments, constant complaining, or an overall bad mood. Together, these things can leave your home full of negative energy. Redfin notes that you can cleanse negative energy from your home using natural methods, much like the Native American art of smudging.
Once your home feels refreshed, spend some time making sure it stays that way. A fresh coat of paint on the wall, rearranged furniture, and even fewer electronics will go a long way toward increasing positivity throughout.
Learn to communicate
Sometimes, stress and tension come simply from a lack of communication. Even when you are stuck in the house with your entire family all day long, communication – real communication – may go to the wayside. Instead of doing things like leaving the laundry out and hoping your teenager gets the picture, talk to them. Remind them that they have chores to do, and that everyone is expected to do their part. Similarly, if your spouse is being short-tempered, let them know you recognize that they are stressed but remind them that their words and actions are causing even more pressure on the entire household. When you learn to state what you need and say what you mean, you can avoid a great deal of stress caused by miscommunication.
Codependency and self-isolation
Even if you spend more time outside, communicate like a champion, and make your home a cozy zone, if you are codependent or live with someone who is, your stress levels may be through the roof. Medium’s Madison Epting asserts that steps such as setting boundaries, doing things on your own, and engaging in self-care are great ways to keep you from falling back into codependent patterns. If you find that your codependency doesn’t get any better via self-help, MinnCoDA can help you find a program of recovery to support you through this difficult time.
While no one knows for certain when the pandemic will actually end, we can put a stop to its negative effects inside of our homes. So when stress has you down, look for ways to lift yourself up. Communication, physical fitness, and purging all of the negative energy is a great place to start.
Once again, we can look to our Traditions to guide us as we navigate through difficult and uncharted ground. When faced with difficult life circumstances and relationship issues, the 12 Traditions can be the principles of our meetings as well as our interactions with others. Who hasn’t benefitted from Tradition 12’s reminder to place “principles before personalities”?
What more controversial topic is there right now than how and when to reopen our world after the last months of lockdown? There are so many stories and opinions as well as triggers for codependent behaviors. CoDA wisely lays out the guidance in Tradition 10 offering us no opinion on outside issues, which helps us keep the focus where it needs to be, our personal program of recovery.
As we keep the focus on our primary purpose, to carry our message of recovery to those who still suffer, we are opening up our local recovery community to even more options where people can discover the gifts of the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. Fortunately for us, we live in a time of advancement which allows us to have choices. As face to face meetings resume, some local zoom meetings will also continue to be available on an ongoing basis. This allows each individual to make the choices that are right for themselves. MinnCoDA’s “Staying Connected” page will become our “Local Online Meetings” page and links to join zoom meetings will be able to be accessed there.
Of course, each group is autonomous and can discuss and work out the details of how that particular meeting will move forward using the group conscience process. When we gather in our meetings either face to face or online, it is wonderful to know we have a safe place to express our feelings about what is happening in our lives. I invite you to find your voice in light of the 12 Traditions of Co-Dependents Anonymous, CoDA’s Guide to Sharing and the Recovery Patterns of Codependence. In order to ensure the emotional safety of those present, we refrain from advice giving, controlling or debating, etc. We recognize that other people are capable of managing their own lives and that we can accept the thoughts, choices and feelings of others even if we are not comfortable with them.
Ultimately, the tools of the program which include the Serenity Prayer, 12 Steps and Traditions and many more are here to help each of us find our recovery from our codependence. They remind us where we are powerless and where we have choices. We grow in our trust of a Higher Power of our own understanding. They guide us to learn to take care of ourselves and allow others to do the same.
When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.
Let us practice together in these difficult days so we can be that person.
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?
True Happiness: Realizing Well-Being – Well being is the deep contentment that arises from a relaxed, wakeful presence.
This talk explores the beliefs and habits that contract us away from presence, and several key ways we can nourish our natural capacity for happiness.
Lots of messages in this podcast that resonate with what I am learning in CoDA. The tool of meditation can be challenging for me and I have found listening to these types of talks to be helpful in exploring and building on what I am learning.
I am not trying to endorse this specific teacher however this talk on happiness resonated with my life circumstances right now and also with my tendency to frame things as “this is not supposed to be happening” and “something is missing”.
If this is not your cup of tea, feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.
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 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.