Meeting in Print
September 2020 (Ed. 17)
“Step into a New You”
In This Issue:
Welcome to the quarterly issue of Meeting in Print a CoDA recovery and support publication. Recovery is for everyone, and we hope you enjoy reading these shares. 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 families and other 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.
What it was like:
When I was a child, I remember my grandmother emphasizing vanity is a sin. I came to believe “good-looking” people, or “Narcissists”, do not experience suffering because society panders to them, and they had turned their backs on God. My grandmother was vigilant on keeping score of everyone’s sins. She was an expert at judging and comparing others. The first 5 years of my life was spent mostly with my grandmother while my mother fought and eventually beat cancer.
By the time I was 7 years old my mom was now back at home, and I was very overweight. I was constantly reminded by all family members to expect to be treated poorly and live a life of shame because of my body. My mom, aunties and cousins were all pretty, and yet they never acknowledged their beauty. I felt ugly. I remember feeling ashamed because my mom was embarrassed by how overweight I had become while she was sick. Perhaps she felt guilty that she couldn’t be there for me to teach me how to have a healthy relationship with food – it wasn’t her fault. It was how I coped.
My mom would often ridicule me about choices I made from the clothes I wore to the toys I played with, and the teasing behaviour confused me. I know at the time she thought she was being funny and light-hearted, but I interpreted it as shame for my decisions. I had been very serious since the day I was born because I had to in order to survive growing up with all of my grandmother’s religious rules. Unlike most children, I didn’t even have a favourite colour – I was too scared if someone found out they would criticize my decision.
When things didn’t “look” nice at home, my mom would have outbursts of rage that included throwing and destroying objects and swearing at my dad, brother, and me. I once told a school counselor I was certain that my parents were going to get divorced. The counselor expressed concern to my mom about how upset I was and my mom explained she and Dad simply had a small disagreement, which I had blown out of proportion. Later, my mom became enraged with me and told me I had embarrassed our family by talking to a counselor and to never to speak to anyone about what happens in our home ever again. I learned what happens in the home is private and keeping up certain impressions with others was extremely important.
I never trusted anyone with the exception of authority figures such as my parents, teachers and sports coaches. My mom warned me not to trust my pretty friends. They are the ones who are likely to try and take advantage of me. I know she was just trying to protect me, but I interpreted her message in an extreme way.
I struggled with being honest and vulnerable with friends, and as time went on, I never learned boundaries with myself because I didn’t feel safe to express who I truly was.
When I was 15, I read my first self-help book and briefly became focused on myself and on what I was doing, not what others were doing. The vain people my grandmother and Mom warned me about began to take interest in befriending me. I just knew they were trying to use me just like my family had warned. However, little by little, these so-called vain people ended up being my true friends. I convinced myself I could keep the enemy closer, and they couldn’t hurt me and perhaps one day I could achieve the perfection they seemed to have. Looking back at it now, I realize because I was focusing on myself I was projecting confidence, and that’s what made me attractive to others. Yet, I began to compare myself to others again, and use them as my measuring stick for my righteousness. Over time, I began to believe that I loved, took care, and obsessed about my friends. I kept score of their sins and held high standards for them. I wanted the best for them as long as it wasn’t better than what I had. That is not love. I became unreasonably protective of them. My obsessive controlling behaviour of what other people do or think continued well into and throughout my entire 20’s and spread into my career.
In my early 30’s I worked with a woman named Tricia*. She was the total package. Sexy, smart, funny, spiritual, and driven, and in my mind she was very vain. I was so jealous of her external beauty and intelligence. Despite my discreet envy, she put in a lot of effort to grow a friendship with me, and I struggled to trust her because she was so positive and open. I couldn’t understand why she would want to be friends with me other than to use me. She just looked like she had it all together, and I resented her for that. She opened up to me about her struggles with anxiety, and I dismissed her pain she shared with me. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend that she too was a human being with a soul and feelings that also had bad days. I simply continued to believe good-looking people feel no pain. One time, I had been complaining about something for hours, and she looked me in the eye and told me God was coming for me. I thought she was being a pious b*tch. After all, I was the righteous one – she was the vain monster and cannot possibly know God! If I only knew what more was to be revealed.
A few years later, I changed careers. I began to work with my new boss Graham*. Graham is only a few years older than me and very handsome and confident. I assumed because he’s handsome that he must use his looks to over compensate for intelligence. I labelled him “narcissist,” “manipulative,” “jerk,” and “stupid” right away all because of how he carried himself.
When I got to know Graham, I realized he was extremely intelligent, confident and effective at his job. I became obsessive for his approval, my emotions became volatile, and I would often have panic attacks when engaging with him. I would try so hard to make him happy, and if he had a bad day I would resent him for it because I had worked so hard to make him happy.
This was a pattern I had carried out with ALL of my bosses, male or female, not just Graham. I put all of them up on a pedestal. I believed I was responsible for making them happy in order to survive. I felt safe in this dynamic – it was familiar for me.
I continued to work 60 hour work weeks for 2 years with Graham, and eventually I burned out. The stress in my body intervened. A cold virus infected and cracked my inner ear and I became debilitated with vertigo for 3 months. My eyes were moving uncontrollably in my skull and I could barely see. I was 32 years old, and I thought I was having a stroke. I could hardly walk, read, or drive, and I couldn’t work. I became severely depressed and suicidal because I could no longer work during that period. Who I was, as I knew myself at that time, I had deemed absolutely worthless and unlovable.
How I got into CoDA:
After the 3rd month from healing from vertigo, I was still desperate for answers to my condition, and I opened the book “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise L Hay. The theory is our body speaks to us through dis-ease. Louise indicated vertigo is the body saying: “A refusal to look at the self”. An hour later after reading this, my very “good-looking” friend called me and asked if I would come to a CoDA meeting with her for moral support. I didn’t bother telling her I had been suicidal or what I had just read, AND I STILL couldn’t understand how she could have problems. She was pretty; certainly she has no problems. I had vertigo. I am fat. I have problems. I felt like I had nothing else to lose, except my life, so I went to the meeting with her.
When the Patterns and Characteristics were read out loud my stomach folded over into a million tight knots. I broke out into an anxious sweat and my heart raced in my chest. I felt like I had been found out; that this was some mean trap my mom had set up. I was scared she was going to come around the corner and ridicule me for trying to get help. I then heard someone share their story in the meeting, and I realized I was in a safe place. I committed to at least 6 meetings as suggested, I went searching for a sponsor, and I worked my steps.
What it’s Like Now:
Recovery taught me everyone is born from the same innocence hierarchy, and rumination are illusions and detrimental. I am humbled by my Higher Power and all humans. I now see I am here to be of service, not a judge. That service is to carry the message of love and hope of recovery by setting an example through how I live my day to day life.
The harsh judgement, criticism, shallowness and comparison of myself and others makes my life unmanageable – it is by far one of my most toxic bottom line behaviours. I am vigilant every day to connect with my Higher Power and work my steps. I go to CoDA meetings once a week and try to have at least one sponsee so that I am actively working the program and don’t forget why I am here. From time to time, I also abstain from social media in order to avoid falling into the trap of comparing my life to everyone else’s highlight reel.
These days, all of my relationships feel respectful and equal. I genuinely love them and am so grateful for them to have been part of my journey. They helped me learn to love myself and have compassion for humanity in a healthy way. I have come to realize all people are beautiful and have struggles and doing the best they can with the cards they have been given, BUT they’re responsible to work out those struggles with their Higher Power. As much as I care, I must detach. It’s not my business or responsibility to fix their problems.
In discovering my authentic self by working the steps with my sponsor, I was able to become aware of and deconstruct ideas I was told to believe by family and society. I now know what is true for me, what I like and enjoy, and I’m able to let go of what people think of my choices. By the way, my favourite colour is teal.
I’ve traveled back in time,
facing demons, abusers,
losses, mistakes from my past.
I’ve felt the resurgence of pain.
Still waiting there.
Just as if It never left.
Fresh, as the day inflicted,
feeling my organs writhe in pain.
Why am I doing this again?
What is there to gain?
Insight and clarity perhaps.
Yet what can be gained by revisiting trauma from the past,
when the future is ripe and inviting?
It’s a necessary discomfort.
This pang is like nothing else.
Stored deeply within the blood and bones of my ancestors.
As planets align with support from a power much greater than myself.
Each time I embrace and release the wrath of my odious past,
I am making peace inside my being.
A long lapse of time,
and I am beginning to see,
a brighter life, asking me to dance.
Feeling as if I’ve traveled back enough now
To face all that I buried deep.
With time, my faith restored,
salvation, at its peak.
Here, Now, and the Future
All enveloping my cells.
Containing everything I seek.
Another day upon me,
As she comes alive with Grace
Lining my pockets full of her love.
Feeling her warmth upon my face.
I Am RESTORED!
“The Currency Of Vulnerability”
Finding serenity in grit and grace
My husband wrote me an email from his cubicle viciously detailing years of resentments and his desire for a divorce.
I read the words as if they were a fictional story. Denial was my immediate defense.
I thought I could fix it and move on with our seemingly successful charade. And yet, he wouldn’t let me. He refused to speak to me or see me. He was done.
As denial faded, delusion arose. My mind resisted reason and churned incessantly with plots and schemes.
I wasn’t eating, sleeping, or breathing very much.
I was rail-thin and had no appetite. It hurt to chew.
Sleep would cradle me in its peaceful arms for a few hours and then unsympathetically kick me out like an unwanted guest. I wasn’t welcome in my own dreams.
I could hear myself breathing and thought who’s making so much noise? I wish you’d stop that ruckus so I can figure out how to fix my life.
I was more afraid of admitting mistakes than I was of taking my life. When suicidal thoughts began to shift from terrifying to comforting, that was my cue to ask for help.
My sisters and close friends stayed with me in rotations. I started therapy, and 12 step recovery was presented as an option to consider.
There were dozens of recovery meetings near my house. I chose one that had the word serenity in the title.
Like a dream, I walked into the meeting room and immediately felt like I forgot my pants.
I glanced across the room and saw smiles and realized I heard laughter. This is odd. I want to die, and these people have the audacity to express joy.
I sat down, and the room gradually hushed as the meeting began.
I closed my eyes and listened intently like it was the first time I had used my hearing and comprehension simultaneously.
I committed to show up and participate not knowing what that really meant.
Adam was the secretary and welcomed me with smiling eyes and a tender hug. He presented me with a few pamphlets and a shiny silver coin and encouraged me to keep coming back.
I sat in amazement at the depth of willful honesty that was being shared. Status and social nuances were irrelevant. Vulnerability was the only currency that mattered.
I heard other people telling my story and wondered if my house was wiretapped. One after the other, chronicles of courage and determination to heal filled the room.
Whispers of hope began to arise. Maybe there was another way. Not necessarily out, but through.
The time came for newcomers to share. Anxiety flooded my body, and I froze in fear. As tears and snotty glops streamed down my face, I wondered if people could actually die from judgment.
In the silence, every second seemed to last a millennium. My chest tightened. My throat constricted.
My ego may kill me if I tear down the facade.
Faith over fear
Until that day, I didn’t have words for the raw discontent that was ever present. I had carried it around sheepishly for years like thrift store luggage.
The philosophy of recovery felt genuine and doable. Simple, but not easy. Follow these 12 steps and your life will change.
I grounded myself in the room by closing my eyes and feeling the sensations of being in my body—feet on the floor, hands in my lap.
Breathe. Just breathe, I kept silently repeating as my short, choppy breaths eventually began to even out.
I decided to choose faith over fear—life over death.
Start with a few words. How about your name?
Hope steps in
I was crying so hard I could barely speak. My voice was strained and resistant.
Fear dissipated ever so slightly, and traces of humility appeared. The challenge was that I had never admitted I was anything less than perfect.
I believed that I had to do, perform, and achieve flawlessly to be loved. My worth was tied to tangible facets of usefulness.
Talking about fears, insecurities, and mistakes wasn’t part of my vocabulary. Internalizing judgment and shame was all I knew.
Until that morning, I’d lived most of my life impersonating a strong, successful woman. It was the embodiment of my entire identity.
In that moment, clarity arose. It was time to stop pretending.
I heard a familiar voice telling a jarring story of pain and regret and was shocked to realize it was my own. My gripping reticence had seemingly disappeared.
Truths of low self-esteem, manipulation, and emotional unavailability began to spew from my soul. Each sentence eased the tension and provided relief from my lifelong load of lies.
The sensation of freedom enveloped me like a gift of providence.
To rise out of denial and see the unseen requires grace, acceptance, and a willingness to change. My healing journey began when I finally surrendered.
I saw glimpses of serenity, and my authentic self started to shine through.
“Marks Of Time”
Marks of time. Bad blood seeped so deep,
I can no longer tell where mine runs red.🩸
modern sorrows invade my heart.
Be it my comfort that I can answer,
the comfort with alike.
Yet what part of this pertains to me alone?
The grief that does not speak hardens my entrails,
As the powers above put on their instruments,
let my calloused heart shed and seize the day.
Put to rest the mad tyrants in a mad fury.
I shall throw down my gauntlet,
To scream no more!
No longer taint with fear stained eyes,
I charge forth with rage encrusted grace,
Living within shadows long enough.
Unable to administer to a mind diseased.
Yet, daringly, I shall administer to myself.
Putting on my armor, as I crash into fears,
which echo through my rhubarb heart.
No longer afraid of death in vain,
It lingers upon my lips.
Making certain I won’t forget,
That I must live up to the bargain
I made upon my dying light.
Eyes wide open, senses shut.
I know now what it is I fear.
Having no words to speak about,
forced to rely heavily upon my quill.
Examining marks of time,
to be silent Nevermore.
My Journey to CoDA and a New Life”
I had never opened my husband’s mail in our 17-year marriage, and why I did that morning remains a mystery. Inside the envelope, I found an invoice from a medical clinic with my husband’s name on it.
My brain shifted into denial overdrive! They made a mistake; their office made an error; they might have the right name, but it’s the wrong guy! He isn’t sick. He didn’t go to the doctor. I had lots of reasons why what was right in front of me was not true. When I compared the insurance number on the invoice to the insurance card in my wallet, I knew they had gotten it right. My husband was the guy who had been to a clinic. He was the man who had been tested for gonorrhea.
It’s hard to describe the devastation I felt when I learned the truth. For those of you who have discovered a secret, you know it feels like getting punched in the stomach. I felt sick and disoriented. Anchorless and lost to discover the view I had of my marriage was not real. Through a whole lot of conversations, arguments, and tears, I learned that just “a couple of hookers” was really a full-blown sex addiction. I had finally learned the truth: my husband had a secret life.
And so began my journey into codependent recovery.
The positive consequence of such devastating news is my motivation to learn new behaviors and live a different life was, and still is, absolute. However, like a good codependent, I showed up to my first Codependents Anonymous meeting with a total focus on my husband. He was the one who screwed up this marriage, and he better fix it! I felt righteous and justified thinking it was all his fault.
Only after a year and a half of recovery, did I have the courage to look in the mirror. I finally shifted from looking at him to looking at me: What was my part in this dysfunctional marriage? How did I get here? How did this happen? This is when my recovery really began. This is when my life began to change. My focus was finally on me.
I was born in 1961 and grew up in Southern California with three sisters and both parents. My teaching mom stopped working to raise us four girls, and my early child life was delightful and innocent. The six of us had magical Christmas mornings, dinner together each night, and summers of juicy watermelon, homemade ice cream and hours swimming in the public pool together.
When my parent’s marriage became unstable and finally crumbled under the weight of their unskillfulness, my father started drinking, and my mother moved out. Things changed. I was ten years old.
My sisters and I become teenagers with an alcoholic drinking father and an absent mother in the days of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1970’s. We were unsupervised, good looking, and smart. My dad’s and oldest sister’s attempts to keep our family routines in tact, eventually fell apart.
I coped with my family chaos by getting tough and angry. I didn’t need anybody. I was just fine, thank you very much. I cussed like a sailor to my friends, parents and anyone else who crossed my path. I partied like one too! I drank and took drugs to ease the pain and confusion. Slept around longing for love. One sister started using serious drugs and wouldn’t stop for twenty years. Another sister got lost in art, animals, and solitude.
I never talked about how I felt seeing my smart, sweet dad drunk and sloppy at dinner night after night. It was only with sarcasm that I dealt with seeing his elbow slip off the dinner table or hearing him tell the same story again and again. I never talked about feeling sad and afraid about what was happening in my family. I never talked about what was happening right in front of me. I always said I was fine, but it wasn’t true. I was afraid and lost and on my own at fourteen.
Turns out these early lessons were perfect training for falling in love with an addict, for keeping secrets. I already knew how to keep family secrets and act like everything was fine when it was really falling apart. I already knew how to live with an addict before I met my husband.
It’s been almost twelve years since I saw that medical bill, and I’m still working a strong CoDA program. I attend weekly CoDA meetings, and share the truth and nothing but the truth. I reach out for fellowship. I sign up for service and attend CoDA workshops and retreats. I work with a sponsor and sponsor others. I say the Serenity Prayer often. I pray. I’ve done the Steps many times and will do them again. I read books about self-esteem and forgiveness and boundaries.
CoDA recovery works for me because I’ve learned new ways to behave that make my life better. I ask for what I need. I say no when I don’t want to. I notice when words and deeds don’t match. I say my truth out loud. I ask for help. I keep adding to my list of ways of self-care. I practice new behaviors. I work at staying out of other people’s business and tending to my own. I can’t say it’s been easy, but it’s definitely been worth it.
CoDA keeps changing my life. This isn’t a phase or hobby. Codependent Recovery is the way I live now.
I no longer rely on other people for my happiness; this is solely my responsibility. Hallelujah.
“The Boy With The Sound In His Voice”
midst northern shores
of the Long Island
near that full Atlantic Sound,
a blue-eyed babe hospitaled out,
tympanic, sea-salted ocean tolled his ears
and roared through infant lungs.
This newborn's wail
proved too full for parent's naked ears
so they drenched his cords in brandy
till his voice caved near silent.
Despite ceaseless sad drenchings
the boy grew to worldly fullness
his near voiceless soundings
pierce-arrowed ever inward
and almost murdered him.
With razor's edge to cloaked blue veins
he desperate cried to the Sound's whirling heart
till it answered
by drying brandy soaked cords
and tear-salted ducts
in its blanket warmed calm.
From deep midst Sound's core
an old blue healer loud baritoned,
Spite deviled fears the boy in man's skin
strong held that blue hand (which proved ten thousand-fold rich)
all cross the wide Sound
ten thousand ever journeyed
till full voice of each was reclaimed.
She sat on the low slumping couch.
The very one that she drank her dirty martinis on.
Today she drinks tea, always tea, tea and more tea.
Sometimes she has water, but mostly tea now.
Her eyes fixate on the kitchen,
and she sees herself In the past.
Pixels load and fizzle out just as fast.
Much too quickly for her to grasp.
She’s drunk now.
Nipping from her endless bottle of wine.
She’s screaming whispers of pain.
Then she takes another drink again.
Pixel gone, new appears.
She sees herself cooking
Throughout all the years.
Cooking for one,
Cooking for all,
Cooking for Lamas
For dogs and for cats.
For strangers, friends,
For her one true love.
Pixel fizzle as new appears.
She’s mad now
Noooo, noooooooo, noooooooo!
I won’t go back!
Aw come on noooooo!
She runs into the kitchen,
She begins to pee.
Hauled out flailing on a stretcher.
Sitting there on her low riding sofa
Sipping her tea away
She has a revelation
Come now she says to herself,
Rattled by the visions of past selves
The tears well up in her eyes and she remembers
she made amends with you,
With him, with her, with them
Amends with total strangers
And long lost angry friends. Made amends with cats,
with dogs and all creatures of the earth.
Even made amends to the mother,
who cursed her at her birth.
I once again see my past self
In the kitchen taking a pee
I realize there is someone not yet forgiven,
that someone looks like me.
The Serenity Prayer
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.
Affirmations and Promises
“Today I have confidence. Today I will rejoice in my abilities.”
“I can trust my thoughts and emotions.”