Though adult life my relationships have often been troubled. That difficulty has been most easily notable in romantic relationships. For years I simply thought I was unique, had special needs and was just frequently misunderstood. What I discovered in the last 5+ years is there was definitely something not right and the vast majority of it had to do with me and not other people.
Through the failure of my 2nd marriage to a woman I deeply loved I finally arrived at a point where I knew I could not go on as I had been. While there was responsibility for both of us in the breakdown of the marriage, my behavior was by far the greatest cause. I became a classic example of: “When the pain to stay the same exceeds the pain to change, we change”. I changed because I could see no other way.
My discovery has been that the root of my issues is called Codependency that stems from neglect, emotional abuse and trauma from my childhood. Codependency is a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively controlling ways that negatively impact relationships and quality of life. Co-dependence is said to be the most common of all addictions: the addiction to looking elsewhere. It is based in a belief that something outside of self can give us happiness and fulfillment. The ‘elsewhere’ may be people, places, things, behaviors or experiences and usually we neglect our own self for it.
Codependency is at its core, a dysfunctional relationship with self. With out learning different, people such as me do not know how to love the self in healthy ways because our parents did not know how to love themselves. We were raised in shame-based families that taught us that there is something wrong with being human. The messages we got often included that there is something wrong: with making mistakes; with not being perfect; with being sexual; with being emotional; with being too fat or too thin or too tall or too short or too whatever. As children we were taught to determine our worth in comparison with others. If we were smarter than, prettier than, better grades than, faster than, etc. – then we were validated and got the message that we had worth.
Through work with a caring and high capable psychologist, work at a wonderful facility called “The Meadows”, the help and love of an ex-wife, the support of “peers” and most of all dedication and determination on my part, today I understand the foundation of my relationship issues. Gladly I can say for I have learned to live life beyond them most of the time. I am happy, TRULY HAPPY, for the first time in my life. Life is far from perfect and a great distance from what I once imagined it might be. Nor does living contain now contain all that I hope it will, but today I remain open to the possibilities instead of being obsessed about what might happen. My demons have been faced and discovered they mostly have only the power over me that I give them. I am very grateful for all who helped me get to where I am now.
A notable portion of my discovery/recovery has been coming to realize that what I remember about my past is a mostly a delusion and what I feel about the future is largely a delusion. What I recall is just my version of history which is as inaccurate as it is accurate. How the future turns out will be as it unfolds and not exactly how I try to make it develop. That viewpoint has allowed me to live a much more contented life which I enjoy more so than I ever have.
Several years ago I wanted to attend a self help group called “Codependents Anonymous” or “CoDA” but there was no local chapter. There is much gratitude within for my counselor who urged me to organize a local group. For the first six months almost no one came to the Wednesday night meetings and I sat in the meeting room alone reading for an hour. But over time “peers”, people much like me, began to come. One meeting grew into two and then into three and four meetings each week. Those attending expanded from none into hundreds over time with about 60 regulars attending at any given point. My continued growth today is based almost solely within these meetings and my others self directed efforts. My counselor told me 2 years ago I don’t need to come back (although I still go check in with her every 6 months to a year).
I know today the best of my life is still ahead and the CoDA meetings are in no small part responsible. I am so very grateful to all who have attended in the past and most especially for those who continue to show up each week. THANK YOU!
Things do not change; we change. Henry David Thoreau
If you are interested in knowing more:
Self-quiz to find out if you are Codependent: http://spiritofhopecc.com/CodependentTest.en.html
Codependence Patterns & Characteristics: http://www.coda.org/tools4recovery/patterns-new.htm
Local Tulsa CoDA website: http://coda-tulsa.org/
National CoDA website: http://www.coda.org/
youtube.com Pia Mellody video “What is Codependence”