Meeting in Print
March 2018 (Ed. 7)
In This Issue:
Welcome to the quarterly issue of Meeting in Print, a CoDA recovery and support publication. Meeting in Print contains CoDA-approved literature, including shares, uplifting quotes and artistic material from CoDA members. We hope you find this issue both enjoyable and insightful. Please feel free to contact us with comments and suggestions – and, as always, your contributions!
Your Meeting in Print Subcommittee
We welcome you to Co-Dependents Anonymous, a program of recovery from codependence, where each of us may share our experience, strength and hope in our efforts to find freedom where there has been bondage and peace where there has been turmoil in our relationships with others and ourselves.
Most of us have been searching for ways to overcome the dilemmas of the conflicts in our relationships and our childhoods. Many of us were raised in families where addictions existed—some of us were not. In either case, we have found in each of our lives that codependence is a most deeply rooted compulsive behavior and that it is born out of our sometimes moderately, sometimes extremely dysfunctional family systems. We have each experienced in our own ways the painful trauma of the emptiness of our childhood and relationships throughout our lives. We attempted to use others - our mates, friends, and even our children, as our sole source of identity, value and well-being, and as a way of trying to restore within us the emotional losses from our childhoods. Our histories may include other powerful addictions which at times we have used to cope with our codependence. We have all learned to survive life, but in CoDA we are learning to live life. Through applying the Twelve Steps and principles found in CoDA to our daily life and relationships both present and past - we can experience a new freedom from our self defeating lifestyles. It is an individual growth process.
Each of us is growing at our own pace and will continue to do so as we remain open to God's will for us on a daily basis. Our sharing is our way of identification and helps us to free the emotional bonds of our past and the compulsive control of our present. No matter how traumatic your past or despairing your present may seem, there is hope for a new day in the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. No longer do you need to rely on others as a power greater than yourself. May you instead find here a new strength within to be that which God intended - Precious and Free.
Co-Dependents Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women whose common purpose is to develop healthy relationships. The only requirement for membership is a desire for healthy and loving relationships. We gather together to support and share with each other in a journey of self-discovery – learning to love the self. Living the program allows each of us to become increasingly honest with ourselves about our personal histories and our own codependent behaviors. We rely upon the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions for knowledge and wisdom.
These are the principles of our program and guides to developing honest and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others. In CoDA, we each learn to build a bridge to a Higher Power of our own understanding, and we allow others the same privilege. This renewal process is a gift of healing for us. By actively working the program of Co-Dependents, we can each realize a new joy, acceptance, and serenity in our lives.
“A New Man”
Hi, my name is Max.
I’m a lifelong artist. I’m also a writer and I’m a parent. I have lived an eventful and interesting life. And I am grateful for the life I have, all of which makes me who I am.
I grew up in an All-American household. My parents were married for 45 years, and we moved only once during my childhood. Ninety-nine percent of my meals were home cooked, with lots of homemade ice cream and fresh baked goods almost every day. My father was a Southern chef known all over town for his barbeque ribs and fried chicken, and my mother was an expert baker who, as one of her best friends used to say, made an all-butter pound cake that was absolutely “sinful.”
I was the youngest of 5 kids, and mixed-in with all the squeaky-clean goodness of my childhood, was a lot of mental, emotional and spiritual abuse. There was also sexual abuse, food addiction and co-dependency.
My childhood was filled with extreme nightmares, and I had terrible asthma. By the time I was 16, I was drinking and doing drugs all night and was well on my way to being anorexic. I weighed about 90 less than I do now, and by the time I was 21 I had hit a brick wall with the drugs and alcohol.
My dad had not seen me for a year, and when I returned home he fell down on his knees and started to cry. He thought I was dying, and I was convinced I had gone insane. Luckily a friend who I was very close with took me to my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The year was 1988, and working the program of NA saved my life, and changed my life.
I went through the steps several times in NA, and I also took others through the steps. After 13 years of being deeply involved in NA, my life shifted and I entered an 8-year commitment to therapy with a psychologist, named Bill, who helped me grow up in a lot of ways. At the time I was living in Atlanta, and Bill offered the compassion and the innovative approach to psychology I required. He also introduced me to dream therapy, which completely cured my nightmares and helped me to understand my reoccurring dreams, and new dreams. I also got involved in various forms of meditation and other forms of holistic healing.
After my father died in 2003, I decided to commit full-time to my art. I had to overcome a lot of old programming and brainwashing that I grew up with about art being a waste of time, there’s no money in it. I’ll spend the rest of my life as a starving artist, and being told that you can’t eat a painting.
I also became committed to getting some of my writing published. And I got involved in architecture and historic preservation.
A guy named Richard was my mentor during this time, and I do believe he was put into my life by my Higher Power.
My artwork was being exhibited in Atlanta and elsewhere, and I found an agent to represent my art sales. I started writing for a print magazine based in Carmel, California, and I also started writing for a very large online publisher, and I was simultaneously writing social critiques for an independent publisher that I had long admired.
From 2008 to 2010 I led a global campaign to save the Central library from demolition, which was both successful and revolutionary, because I had no prior experience, and until that time no modern public building that was just 29 years old had ever been deemed worthy of preservation status.
Between my art, my writing and my preservation work, I was receiving local and national press. College professors and students alike started seeking my advice, and leaders at major art institutions were taking my calls.
I was 43 years old, and after what seemed like an eternity of struggle, in 2010 it saw my life really coming together exactly the way I wanted it to.
Then out of the blue, in August of that year I was hit by a car while crossing the street. The person driving the car was talking on their cell phone and went through the intersection without stopping.
Strangely, no bones were broken, but my doctor gave me a diagnosis of total body whiplash.
The pain of the accident did not hit me right away. At first I thought I was fine, but gradually over time the pain got worse and worse, and I also came to realize I had a brain injury which seriously disrupted my mental processing.
Piece by piece, I fell apart, and my life fell apart. All that I had worked so hard for in my career, morphed into disaster. My relationship with my agent fell apart. One of the publishers I was writing for, whose founder is very well known on TV, stole a bunch of my work and resold it and the work of other writers at a huge profit. They made $315 million dollars, and I got nothing.
Less than a year after this happened, a very wealthy friend who I had done a lot of work for refused to pay me the tens of thousands of dollars that was owed me, and simultaneously the attorneys representing me in the accident against the person driving the car that hit me informed me that the settlement wouldn’t even pay all my medical bills.
And through this whole ordeal, not once did the person driving the car call and apologize. In actuality, I found out later that I had essentially been accused of faking an accident.
Even though this wasn’t true, I still felt to blame. It resonated with the same blame I felt as a child—that I was somehow to blame for the bad behavior of the adults in my life.
So there I was again, completely dumped on by life. And though I did not know how or why it all happened this way, I knew deep inside that this was not all just coincidence.
I was shell-shocked, incredibly confused, outraged and ashamed. What had I done to deserve this?
I was an artist, a writer and an architectural preservationist. I saw myself as a guy who sacrificed to help his family, who had trained other people new skills, and was overall helping to make the world a better place.
Somehow, none of that mattered—it did not stop the nightmare from unfolding in my life. And in November of 2012 I went to a CoDA meeting for the first time asking “how did all this happen to me, after all the work I’ve done to be a good person?”
I did not understand what I had done wrong. What had I missed?
What I know today, though, is that for all the personal work I had done on myself in NA, in therapy and with Qigong, somehow I had definitely missed something very important.
Too much of my life was being lived based on the beliefs and expectations of others, and as a result of this I had unknowingly made a lot of other people my higher power.
I used to think that being a good person created a good life. That if I were loving, honest and hard-working, and if I lived a non-violent life, and contributed to ensure the happiness and security of others, then I would be rewarded with joy and satisfaction.
God would take care of me, and the people around me would value me.
Of course, there is some truth to this. But it’s also a naïve approach to living in a world filled with endless pitfalls.
The bottom line was that it was time to wake up to some brutal truth.
CoDA has taught me that it’s no good to invest in relationships where the other person is not engaging me in a mutual way. I don’t need to be paranoid or cynical, but I do need to be aware of where things stand in relationships.
While each person may bring different assets to the table, it’s up to me to know enough about who I am and what I want, so that I can see if the relationship makes sense, each day.
Good deeds that are not wanted amounts to unwanted action, and that includes love. Because, if someone is incapable of being loved and I try to love them, they are likely to resent it and resent me. They may even try to harm me.
When someone is not ready to receive love, love can be perceived as a threatening action.
That’s something that I’ve learned in CoDA, and at the same time, in healing from the accident, I learned that it was the first time in my life when my own physical well-being came first in my life.
I have a deep belief in generosity and compassion toward others, and what I’ve learned today is that that also needs to include me. So today I’m much more committed to self-care.
Ultimately I would have to say that a lack of love and self-neglect caused my world to collapse. I didn’t see me as important and worthy enough, and no amount of being kind toward others and career achievements was ever going to fix that.
External achievements are not the same as having a healthy soul, and that includes financial success.
I’d like to see some financial success for my work, which I still haven’t seen yet. And at the same time I’ve become healthy enough not to measure my intrinsic value, personal growth and contributions to society by that, especially living in a society where being manipulative and violent is often rewarded over being fair-minded and creative.
Today, I am more comfortable with uncertainty than I ever thought was possible. I can trust, even when I don’t understand how that’s possible. And I can feel good about myself and my life, independent of what’s happening around me.
I attribute this to the work done prior to CoDA, and that now continues on in CoDA
I’d like to close my story with a poem I wrote in 2002, entitled “There IS Love”:
A vision gleams with tragedy
and things of wanton lost
And my mind screams in vain
to stop the mass of shepherds stray
To be the post on which to lean
For angels journey's far
In winter's harsh a wind shall blow
and on the roof it rolls
For some there will be hate
For others still remorse
A few will follow starlight
That guides to safety's pass
But of all the many tender souls
That have come so near my way
Not one will ever, ever know
the beauty that you bring...
This hour and each and every day
There are many whom I feel for compassion
There are some whom I feel only sorrow
But..... for you,
There Is Love
By Max E.
My Thoughts on Co-dependence
Sometimes I get feelings that do not make sense logically, when I worry about others too much, out of proportion to what is good, or healthy and normal.
If I realize it at the time, that I am too caught up with others’ issues and their lives, and wanting to control others’ lives, then I go to the recovery checklist and see which co-dependent behavior is happening, and what I need to do to recover from that behavior.
I will give a real life example. Someone at my place of work has been complaining on and off that she is ill; she keeps taking her temperature in the office, with an ear thermometer, then she complains that she cannot get a doctor’s appointment. I told her of an emergency place where she can get a doctor. She doesn’t want to go.
This has been bothering me. I want to control her, I want to send her to the doctor, and I want to fix her. So then I realized that it is my responsibility to take care of myself, not other people. I look in the recovery pattern checklist and found the following:
Codependents often: In recovery:
Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
I realize that, with rare exceptions, other adults are capable of managing their own lives.
Attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
I accept the thoughts, choices, and feelings of others, even though I may not be comfortable with them.
Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
I give advice only when asked.
From the list of recovery patterns, they are all about control. I did offer this woman unwanted advice. Now I have to leave her alone. If she wants to be a martyr and act ill and be ill and get attention that way, it is her issue. I do not have to try to control her. This adult is over 50 years old. She needs to take responsibility for her own health and if she doesn’t, it is nothing to do with me.
I know now that at this stage of my life, my responsibilities are to take care of myself first, and my immediate family to some extent.
The first time I ever wrote about the mission statement for myself, I didn’t take myself as a person. I just wrote about myself as a wife, as a mother, as a member of my community. I wrote about myself as a homemaker, and an active person – who does exercise.
But now I know that I need to nurture myself and care for myself in various dimensions, the physical dimension (healthy food, exercise, sleep, and relaxation), the emotional dimension – time with friends socially, writing about my emotions, reading, and also the intellectual dimension – continuing to study and learn about different topics. In the Spiritual dimension I need to ensure I spend time connecting to my Higher Power.
By RC from UK
"I can meet new opportunities without fear."
We thank our Higher Power
for all that we have received from this meeting.
As we close, may we take with us
the wisdom, love, acceptance, and hope of recovery.
Keep coming back; it works if you work it—so work it; you’re worth it!