Although many might suggest that codependency is a curse, I prefer to believe that it is - at least in part - a gift. There are many wonderful pay-offs for individuals who receive from the codependent - gifts of undivided attention, one's needs pre-empted and ministered to, one's thinking done for one... that kinda thing. Oh wait... erm... what was that last one? Oh yes... 'one's thinking done for one'.... hmm.
"Help..." someone once said, "..is the sunny side of control" and this would appear to lie at the very heart of the problem with codependence - and let's face it, there's a lot of heart in it. The more the codependent feels out of control, the greater she attempts to regain some control, some firm-footing... and the only sure foothold she seems to find is when her feet are planted firmly in someone else's business. "They need to be taken care of... I know what's best for them... I can fix their problems... if only they'd listen to me, their life would be so much better...". She is unable to stay in her own business or 'fix' her own problems - that's way too painful... and she's undeserving of all that attention. Any attention she might give to herself means less time given to others and well, quite frankly, she's not worth that because... she's not good enough.
All this giving and over-caring and the codependent often cannot see that they're actually taking.... Taking away an individual's right to make his/her own decisions, meet their own needs and yes... do their own thinking. When the gift of giving is given to oneself, the rewards are indeed bountiful. And what the actively addicted codependent doesn't realise is that she has more to offer those around her when she begins to meet her own needs and allow others to take responsibility for meeting their own needs too.
So if help really is the sunny side of control... Does it follow then that with self-help begins self-control...? Getting a handle on those chaotic feelings and behaviours and letting go of feeling solely responsible for others' well-being... Wow... I have a feeling this could be a greater gift indeed...
Have you reached saturation point yet? Maybe you don’t know you’re there yet because you’ve been living – or existing – this way for so long that you are uncomfortably unaware that there might be an alternative. I’m here to tell you that there is – an alternative way of being, of reacting, of behaving… of feeling.
If you keep on giving and giving and giving to your partner and feeling worse about yourself by the day (whether that’s financially, physically, sexually, whatever), to friends and/or family, this all takes its toll on your emotional strength until eventually you’re zapped… and you snap. Where there are givers, so there will be takers. Thus sayeth the law of give and take, cost and reward. But what you need to figure out is… What are the pay-offs for you in staying miserable? What are you actually getting from this? Often we think that we are giving without reward; only cost to ourselves. We are playing the martyr. The costs are, of course, more obvious – sleepless nights, appetite changes, anxiety, depression, self-medication using alcohol or food (or other drugs) to make you ‘feel better’ by blocking out the pain and anxiety.. only leading to more pain and anxiety. But how could there possibly be rewards for all of this hard emotional labour? This sounds like garbage, right? I thought so too until I examined my own pay-offs for ‘overcaring’. I got to stay in my familiar place – the place I grew up in on the inside – there is comfort in discomfort, for many of us. At least we know that place – feeling free of anxiety, free from others’ expectations of us, free from others’ opinions of us, free of obligation, free of the responsibility for others’ happiness… that’s unfamiliar and more uncomfortable; more apposite than their opposite. And somewhere along the way, the growing up on the inside kinda stopped short.
For many of us in recovery from ‘overcaring’, we come to realise that, although we appear like fully-functioning adults and able to juggle many responsibilities, the truth is that we have some kind of arrested emotional development. The music stopped inside at a certain age. So how do we move away from saturation point and begin to grow up? Without some kind of external input, this process will invariably be slower and self-awareness is absolutely paramount in this process. Recognising that you’ve had enough – that you’re all out of love (almost) – is a good start. From there, the journey begins… to retrace the steps to your authentic self. What does your authentic self really want? From my own experience both as an ‘overcarer’ and a recovery coach, when we get down to it, material things don’t matter. They will never fill the void inside which has existed for all of us who give too much. The road to recovery begins with the first step to self-love. I love and respect myself. I am good enough. Powerful words when you say them aloud. Even more powerful when you say them and begin to believe them. That takes practice.
Are you willing to begin your practice and start to find that love you’ve been searching for?
Someone once asked me if I believed there was some kinda “cure” for co-dependency. I answered that I didn’t believe so. To date, after years of extensive research and practice, I have not – as yet - come across a one-size-fits-all cure for a given addiction… but I do know of many, many methods which can offer a way back from the brink and a step towards the peace and contentment which follows many of us in recovery, once the chaos of addiction is quietened, soothed and put back in its box . A customised lid can be found to contain it. Sometimes our triggers will lift the lid. Sometimes they’ll blow the lid right off and it’s Groundhog Day all over again… feeling those Codependent Crazies… people-pleasing… going along with things but feeling that old familiar resentment… over-caring… over-committing… over-working….over-analysing… overdoing it… over and over and over again. I know I've said it all before... ;)
The difference in recovery? We know that the chaos can be held in abeyance – that it can be contained again. That we can put a lid on it… when we learn how. Today I’m the Comeback Coach… coming back healed and restored after a long break, some of which was spent, admittedly, in a codependent cycle. I fell into it. I climbed out of it. It’s been tough, as great loss and resultant grief were in the mix but I didn’t pick up… I didn’t return to my drug of choice… and that’s thanks to healthy relationships which support my recovery, combined with the tools I've come to know and love, which help me to know and love myself once again. Each time codependency strikes, the gaps between episodes become wider. Peace is louder and the volume is turned down to a whisper on crazy... And I remind myself each and every day… It’s a great life in recovery!
Hey-la! Hey-la! It’s good to be back! :)