Codependency is a behavior pattern in which a person tends to form unhealthy relationships. People like me who have engaged in codependent behavior almost always appear to place the needs and desires of other people before their own. These other people often have unresolved emotional issues and sometimes addictions which the codependent person tries to repair, ignore or avoid. That is certainly true with me as I often picked people who needed “fixing”.
Ironically, the source of codependency isn’t about other people – it’s about the relationship with one’s self. Generally this manifests in things like insecurity, deficient self-confidence and even self-loathing. At the core of it all is a scarcity of self-love. Within that condition I spent many years feeling “less than” and that I didn’t measure up. I hid those feelings well and they were rarely noticed by anyone.
One of the tendencies of codependency is difficulty accepting gifts. When someone gives me something, that gift is far from unappreciated. Actually I am thankful beyond my ability to express gratitude. It’s a conflicted feeling of unworthiness in one sense, yet being hugely grateful at the same moment. Talk about bewildering!
Gifts received with difficulty are not just tangible items, but compliments and pats on the back as well. The latter two can be especially hard to accept with a tendency to deflect the good that has been expressed in my direction. At the least there is often some sort of discounting expressed. An example is someone saying to me “you did a great job on that project” with my reply being “no big deal” or “most anyone could have done it”. Receiving positive feedback is highly prized within me but even today I am uncomfortable receiving it. However I have learned to just say “thank you” even though I often blush a little when I do.
There is a tradition in most 12-Step groups to celebrate the annual anniversary of a when a person first got into recovery. Codependents Anonymous is no exception. A brass coin is given which is first “charged” with a few encouraging comments said by each group member one at a time while holding the coin.
The date marking the end of my fourth year was last October, but when it came up in the group to award my coin I always found some excuse to put off the award. I’d say I wanted to make sure “so and so” was at the meeting or something of the sort. Of course I always picked someone who rarely came to the meetings any more as my way of putting it off.
Why I kept dragging my feet on the simple little celebration of my anniversary was simple: Listening to good things said about me on other “recovery birthdays” embarrassed me. I LOVED HEARING THEM but reception of those “gifts of love in words” from the group members conflicted with the conditioning of codependence of not being “worthy”.
Last night almost six months after I should have been open to receiving my 4th year coin I opened up and allowed the group to present it to me. It helped that a relative newcomer to the group also received a coin earlier in the meeting. Somehow my not being the only one deflected enough of my dysfunction to allow me to open up and accept the “gifts” others spoke to me.
Such kindness and love expressed toward me last night brought fidgeting, teared up eyes and even a red face of positive embarrassment more than one. The latter coming from the simple fact that it is still hard to imagine that people like and respect me as much as they said. Yet, I know all spoke honest words from their heart. A day latter the joy still dances in me for the sincere people who said such loving things to me. The little boy who rarely if ever got such praise as a child is happily frolicking within today. I am grateful beyond words to my Wednesday Codependence Anonymous group!
Blessed are they who see beautiful things
in humble places where other people see nothing.