Meeting in Print
June 2018 (Ed. 8)
"Spring Into Recovery"
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.
“The Problem with Self-deception”
The roots of my codependency run deep. The behaviors I used as a child helped me survive my childhood living with a schizophrenic mother and a codependent father. I was taught early on that what I was seeing was not what it looked like. When my mom would rage, breakdown in tears for days, threaten to walk out, try to kill herself or do other seemingly crazy things, my dad would say her “nerves were bad,” or she didn’t sleep well. So, we’d pretend it was normal. Making excuses for sick people was just what we did.
My favorite pain avoidance tool growing up was fantasizing. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and our television was an oasis for me. I projected myself right into the shows to escape from the confusing situations and often painful feelings that were my real life. At school, I felt like a misfit, so I became a creative liar. I made up all kinds of stories of my home life. I got so elaborate that other kids started to come to my house to see for themselves. Of course, this created a bigger problem for me, so I had to learn to keep my stories to myself. I wanted them to be true so much that I acquired the skill of buying my own bull. The most damaging lies are the ones we tell ourselves and the best liars are the ones who believe their own lies. Over time, I got very good at lying to myself and pretending that what I was experiencing wasn’t really happening.
Like a sick person continuing to take medicine even after the illness has gone away, I continued to use my codependent behaviors to medicate the pain of life long after I left childhood behind. The problem with this is that the side effects of medicine often become damaging if you take them too long. Sometimes they even create new illnesses of their own. Mine became the disease of self-deception. My old behaviors were now keeping me stuck in unhealthy relationships. I couldn’t function well at work. I had trouble making and keeping friendships. I would convince myself that the truth was not what it looked like, and that I could change the people around me if I kept at it. I clung to my idea of what something should be. I’d fall in love with the picture in my head of what my life would be like if only this person or circumstance would change. I wanted to believe the lies other people told me so much that again I convinced myself they were true. During my 19-year relationship with my first husband, I made excuses for his irresponsible and selfish behavior and then repeatedly believed him when he would say he would change. I spent 5 more years torturing myself in an impossible relationship with a narcissist because I wasn’t ready to let go of my dream of a life with him.
In recovery, I found the tools and strength to stop using fantasy and embrace reality. Accepting what is has been essential to maintaining my serenity. When I try to resist what is or force someone to change, my life becomes unmanageable. I am learning to feel my feelings rather than try to dodge them by fantasizing. It is also important for me to identify the roots of my codependent behaviors, so I can recognize when I am using them in my life today and get at the real issues. When I catch myself saying “I wish…” I know I need to look deeper into what feeling I am avoiding. I’ve learned that my picture or idea of what my life should be like is no match for the real life my Higher Power wants for me. I often affirm the quote by Joseph Cambell that says, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
I hit my personal bottom in early 2014. I had been in a relationship that, I recognize now, (after recovery) was way too quick after separating from my wife of 13 years (2010). However, I also know and accept that it was this second relationship that brought me to CoDA and the beginning of my personal journey to Emotional Sobriety. I also know now that my behaviours and patterns were born and developed in my family of origin, and that I was a good student of this dysfunctional family example.
I was devastated, angry, hurt, confused, in pain and very scared when I finally got the insight and courage to end this second relationship of 44 months (we were engaged at 38 months). I knew there were issues from the very beginning, but not wanting to end the incredible “love” high I was riding, I rationalized… Oh! did I rationalize! I used every twisted and subtle excuse not to look after myself, to continue my personal cycle of fear, anger, disappointment, resentment and victimization.
I used fun, food, sex, business, travel, adventure, money, excuses and excitement to ignore what my heart was telling me (something is wrong with this!). I was on a love-high like nothing I could ever imagine… (I described it later in my recovery journal “my relationship with my partner was like being addicted to a powerful drug like Heroin. I knew she/the relationship was killing me, but I could not stop wanting for another hit; it felt that good at times, euphoric!). In retrospect, it was like being on an emotional rollercoaster, a very familiar rollercoaster…my family of origin.
I accept now that I was emotionally immature about intimate relationships. Totally unrealistic, I had my partner on a pedestal, an unrealistic pedestal, trying to get from her what she was incapable of giving, something I know now, I needed to give myself, and it was going to take me to the edge of insanity. I tried therapy, the best money could buy, and read books. I tried to fix her (advice, suggestions); I tried confronting the issues directly at times, but not with the authority and conviction necessary to hold a healthy adult boundary.
The true courage I needed finally came from a book my fiancé gave me on Codependency; it was given to her by our therapist (ironically). She hadn’t read it (not ready), and she gave it to me (ready). I was shocked, relieved and in tears as I flipped through the pages, each page seeming to speak directly to me about the patterns and behaviours I had exhibited (practiced with vengeance) throughout the entire relationship, and in fact my entire life. Behaviours that were now killing me; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was at my bottom, and I would do whatever was necessary to stop the pain (insanity)…
I decided after much thought and consultation to end the relationship and the engagement 3 days after reading the book on Codependency. It was so clear to me how sick I was, and how sick my fiancé was. Ending this relationship was the second hardest thing I have ever had to do, the first being ending my marriage and watching my kids’ hearts shatter in front of me, as I told them I was separating from their mom. Our separation process was over in 4 days; she moved her things out of the home we had just built, I rented the house out, and packed my car and headed west. We were headed west already with a place rented and were planning to make a move there at the end of that same year.
I remember being given a list of phone numbers (CoDA member contact list) at the end of one of my first CoDA meetings, and all I can remember was someone from the group saying “If you’re having a difficult time, reach out to someone on the list.” My opportunity to use that list came much sooner rather than later. I was travelling across Canada with my possessions stacked to the roof in my car when the waves of tears, grief and anxiety began to overwhelm me. I was staying in a hotel in the middle of Saskatchewan... it was raining heavy all day, and I was coming unhinged fast. I was really scared, I was shaking, I had pains in my chest (anxiety), and I wanted to down an entire bottle of alcohol to shut down my racing mind.
I had kept that CoDA phone list from that early meeting close by for some reason. I was now being confronted with having to use it while having a meltdown in the middle of the prairies. I specifically remember not wanting to pick up my cell phone and call any of these people I barely knew. However, I was exhausted, scared and out of options. I started making calls from my hotel room, and after 7 attempts with no answers, a voice finally picked up and said, “Hi…” I started to sob uncontrollably, so I let it all pour out…the person on the other end just let me ramble, sputter, cry, and wail. When I finally calmed down she said, “It was going to be OK, and that she understood, and that I was not alone.” It felt good not to be alone anymore with this craziness.
The whole experience took all of 10 to 15 minutes, and just like that a wave of peace flowed over me, my mind, my body, and my spirit; it all calmed down, the storm inside me quieted, and I was in bed asleep shortly after ending the call. I have been a big advocate of the phone list ever since this early experience of reaching out. I feel like it saved my life! I have since become very good friends with the CoDA member who picked up the phone that night to listen, to bare witness to my codependence and remind me that it will all be OK…that I am not alone…and that it will all be OK…
"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.
Affirmation: “My direction and path in life become clear to me through my Higher Power.”