Meeting in Print
September 2018 (Ed. 9)
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.
“Recovery Beyond Codependency to Inner Joy,
Peace and Self-Love”
My journey into codependency began in the womb.
My mother was married to my alcoholic father and was the daughter of an alcoholic. The chemicals of her emotional condition surely permeated my DNA as well as crossed the blood/brain barrier. It does affect the developing brain.
She passed away when I was five and a half. My father left after she died. His father sexually molested me. Not long after, I was “chosen” by an aunt and uncle for adoption. Not being able to continue living at my grandparent’s home, as I told my grandmother what transpired, my choice was adoption or an orphanage. No child should have to make that decision at age seven.
I chose the “familiar” of my aunt and uncle in spite of feeling intense fear in my uncle’s presence. He exhibited sadistic bullying behavior. My aunt was emotionally unhealthy from her childhood experiences. Neither were prepared to take a child who was traumatized from multiple losses and abuse (I had lost my siblings, father, pets, and home after my mother’s death). The day of adoption the judge asked me if I had any concerns. I wanted to tell him I was afraid of my uncle. However, survival depended on my decision. The unfamiliar of an orphanage was out of the question.
The remaining years of my childhood in their care was the nurture that combined with my nature of being the passive middle child in a dysfunctional family prior to my mother’s death. The nurture? Although my physical needs were met, none of my emotional or spiritual needs were addressed. In order to be in that system, I needed to essentially erase my own identity to assume one that was acceptable to them.
I learned to monitor the adults in order to provide what they needed from me that would create safety. It wasn’t acceptable for me to own my identity prior to my mother’s death. Any mention of my previous life and family was met with disdain. There was no help with grief. Emotions or their expression created unbearable anxiety in my aunt. She frequently withdrew with silent treatments at a whim.
I learned that emotions were abnormal. I learned I was unacceptable unless I met their needs.
At the age of eighteen I became a nursing assistant. When I was nineteen years old I graduated as a Licensed Practical Nurse.
The few relationships I had with men were that of being a child looking for a father’s approval and love. My partners were men in position of power and authority and unavailable emotionally. They were narcissists. After the initial charm faded, their emotional withdrawal set off an internal compulsion to somehow win back their approval and affection.
My marriage ended a year before I graduated 4.0 of the Registered Nurse Program as a single mother. One year later, I was diagnosed with double ovarian and Fallopian tube cancers.
After my divorce was final, and shortly after I graduated from the nursing program, I met a man going through a divorce. I violated my boundary of not dating men in that position. However, he seemed “sad” and in need of care. The hook? He had three young children and was fighting for custody. My father abandoned his three children after our mother’s death. In my eyes, this man could do no wrong! I saw a need for three children to have a mother and a man who needed love. However, within four months he was gone without a goodbye. This set off powerful despair and abandonment issues in me. I never recovered.
Over the years since my cancer diagnosis in 1995 and successful treatment, there have been multiple losses. My career sharpened my codependent skills of trying to heal my pain by fixing it in others. I searched for love and acceptance beyond myself.
Two and a half years ago, after my codependency contributed to abuse from clergy at my church, which was my only safe haven and glue, a personal crisis ensued. I decided to walk away from my job earlier than I planned in order to save my own life. My life utterly became unmanageable. That was the gift. I listened to the call to walk away to save my life and was
blessed to be in a position in which to do that.
Where am I today? I worked hard in therapy for about nine years and put into practice everything suggested through my reading on recovery, spiritual practices as well as enlisted support of twelve step meetings. I needed to address the alcohol abuse as well as attend codependent meetings. I am applying to my life what I am learning.
Due to complex PTSD and an inability to trust to get my needs met, I tend to be self-sufficient unless I need something I can’t provide on my own effort in conjunction with my incredible connection to God, my higher power. I know my resources and can easily fall on them as appropriate.
Through knowledge of dysfunctional relationships especially the connection between codependents and narcissists, I have gained understanding. By applying twelve step principles, I am learning to connect with myself. A powerful prayer practice that includes both prayer and meditation is providing self-soothing and connection to myself. I am learning every day and know deep inside that I am loved by my higher power; that love is unconditional and covers my mistakes. The mistakes are invaluable tools showing me what still needs love and adjustment instead of self-recrimination.
I continued to try to work through my father issues by trying to help the man I met in 1994 who had the three children. Over the years, he went on to have two more failed marriages. Fortunately, I wasn’t one of them! However, I finally realize God’s love in keeping me from another failed marriage. Through everything I am learning, I am gradually beginning to let him go.
Yesterday I realized for the first time that I finally place God and love for myself above what I felt for the man. Through a mistake this week, I gently asked God to please show me the unresolved pain of my childhood regarding the abandonment of my father. I know subconsciously that by trying to help the man to heal, that I was trying to fix through him what I could not fix as a child in my father. I thought if this man could only love me and come for me that I would be ok.
The answer is that I had to love myself and rescue myself. My higher power used my efforts in order to rescue me. I became “the white knight in shining armor” along with my deeply personal relationship with my creator.
I know that more will be revealed on this journey of recovery. I am beginning to experience greater moments of inner joy and peace.
Thank you for listening to my story.
“Learning to Walk Again”
I walked into the rooms of CoDA over 30 years ago after a failed marriage and many failed relationships. After a lot of pain and anguish I decided that maybe the problem was me. That is the wonderful beginning.
I began to work on myself with weekly therapy sessions to understand my family dynamics and attended a CoDA meeting once a week. I took a break from men and decided to go back to school to get my Marketing Degree. I dated a couple of students but nothing serious. I started to slowly take better care of myself. I made one big mistake; I did not get a sponsor or work the steps. After I graduated and with almost 5 years of challenging family of origin work in therapy and different self-help groups, I met a nice man. My therapist helped me because I was not attracted to this new guy. He was nice, stable, respectful and a little boring because I loved chaos and excitement! After four years of dating, we decided to get married. We have been married 23 years last March.
I stopped going to therapy and CoDA when I got married because I thought I was cured. I was wrong. I am a very big people pleaser and became his and everyone else’s doormat. They never even asked me to do this. It was again me. I have the problem because I am Codependent. I had two beautiful girls, a gorgeous big house, my husband was very successful, and I did not have to work, but I was miserable. Nothing could fill the great big hole in my gut.
I had my very first panic attack. I had moved to a new city, left my job of 24 years, and my dad died all in 2007. I got really really busy, which is my go to so that I don’t feel any feelings. Until the slow crash. I was prescribed Xanax to calm my frazzled nerves. The hole in my gut continued to grow, my panic and anxiety grew, and I got physically sick with colon problems that required surgery. My codependency was affecting everything! My spirit, my emotions, my life, and my health. I was so angry!!!
I finally crashed and burned addicted to Xanax and white wine, spending lots of money, and I was so empty inside. The psychiatrist that I was paying over $350 an hour said I had multiple personalities and sent me to a trauma unit at a mental hospital in Dallas. That was traumatic!
I got slowly worse and went back to Dallas for round two. This time I had gone to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous suggested by a social worker in the expensive psychiatrist’s office. She saved my life. I told the trauma unit to take me off all the Xanax and other meds. I flew home, fired the psychiatrist and got a new therapist that was a Psychologist and addictions specialist herself. She told me to immediately go to CoDA, get a sponsor, and work the steps! I did exactly what she told me and my life began to miraculously change for the better!!! That was over 5 years ago. I am clean, sober and the hole in my gut is being filled by my God through the 12 steps.
CoDA saved my life. I am still very close to my sponsor and have wonderful new girl-friends. I belong to an incredible fellowship of loving strong compassionate women. I am experiencing a new freedom and peace that is truly miraculous! I went off all my medications and have never felt better! I am very rarely anxious.
My relationships are getting better, deeper and richer. I feel at peace most days. My life has challenges today: my mom just died last week, I broke my ankle during a hike in Italy, and my 19 year old daughter is in jail for not showing up to her court hearing. She is a drug and alcohol addict, and hopefully the judge will send her to treatment.
I could not have gone through all of this without my 12 step programs and my strong relationship with my Good God. I am so grateful for Recovery. My world view is changing. I begin my day by being kind to myself first. Praying and asking for help and thanking God for another day. Pleasing myself first and then I have more to give. But it has to start with me. Let it begin with me.
Today I have sponsored many women because that is what keeps me centered and focused. Helping others like others helped me. I am active in my home groups, do a lot of service work and love conventions. This year I am the Serenity Chairperson. I love Recovery. I love the life it has given me. Beyond my wildest dreams.
There’s hope for me when I look up
Only doubt when I look down with expectation
Everything is okay when I focus on what is real
Love for myself and others
When I feel lost, there is the anchor to
Ground my soul
Connected to my Higher Power
My true self
The essence of Me
Yes, it is okay to know who I Am
"Looking at You Looking at Me"
Most of my life I spent my time worrying about what other people were thinking about me. At a very young age I became a chameleon; it was second nature for me to analyze someone in order to change my personality in order to fit that person’s needs. It wasn’t until later in life that I realized this altering of my own personality was a survival tactic. Unfortunately, as I grew older it no longer aided me, but I seemed helpless to change.
I remember clearly where I was the day I discovered that I didn’t know who I was. I was in my car sitting at a stoplight waiting for the green light in order to cross the bridge into my neighborhood. This was almost a year after my dad had died. After a grueling year of pain, I had begun to heal from the chaos and abuse surrounding me. Shortly after my dad had died, my husband’s youngest son, one of three sons who played a part in emotional abuse toward me, moved out of our house. It was then that I began to feel a sense of self. I finally felt a sense of safety in my own home—finally after 10 years of what I refer to as the “Dark Years” of emotional abuse.
It was at this time of healing from my dad’s death and from the emotional abuse I endured that I began to question what I liked. I felt that was an odd thing to feel especially as it always seemed quite apparent that I was fairly forthcoming in what I liked and disliked. But, it was because my home life had suddenly become so much better that I realized that I was no longer spending every waking moment trying to appease others—those stepchildren that I had raised. Changing my personality based on what I felt the children wanted of me was sadly a part of who I was. I constantly evaluated the moods of the others living in my house, so I could perform or not perform a particular task. Most importantly, and sadly, I altered my own mood to fit the needs of others—always on guard.
Living in my own house I felt as if I were under a microscope at all times. All three children were looking at me waiting for me to make one faulty move. So, I developed a sense of hypervigilance: if I do this, they will say that about me, if I don’t do this for them, they will call me the B---- word to their friends (which I’m not!), if I don’t do this for them, they will be mad, and on and on it went. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding my becoming a doormat in my own home wasn’t the first time this had happened.
As a child I had an abusive friend—emotionally and physically abusive. Her name was Kris. Evening knowing how horrible this little girl was, my parents continued to allow her in my life. I didn’t choose her, but I was helpless to get away from her. As a 7 year old girl, in the midst of summer, I woke up dreading that I had to see Kris again—my only friend, as she wouldn’t allow me to have others. Each day I would have to calculate her mood in order to change mine. If I was too happy, which was a natural state for me, she would become more abusive, so I stayed subdued until I could categorize her mood. What happened to Kris? She moved away when I was 8, and I was the happiest child on the planet. Unfortunately, she came back into my life several years later and the abuse started all over again.
By the time I was in my 20’s I had spent most of my time watching others watch me in order to calculate how I should act. When going to parties I would scan the room looking for those females who would ultimately hate me for how I looked or for what I was wearing. Easy enough—jealous eyes are easy to spot. But, what did I do? I didn’t stay away from the green-eyed monsters—no I did my best to win them over. It became easy for me to change my personality to funny, subdued, intellectual, silly, methodical, loud, energetic, quiet etc. in order to keep myself safe.
In the beginnings of a new job, I was always the quiet one. I had to figure out the personalities of the others in the office before I could show my “real” personality. If women in the office gossiped, I did my best to not get involved, as I hold this as a high belief, but my convictions of not gossiping crumbled if I was directly dragged into it. Going against my own personal values was far better than being the one shut out from the group.
In large corporate offices, this survival trait was more challenging. I recall a company I worked at for ten years. On one side of me sat a very sweet and demure woman. On the other side sat two negative always angry women. Behind me was a talker who never stopped. My constant vacillating between changing my personality put me in a complete tail spin. Every morning I watched all these people come into the office while trying to evaluate the mood of each.
By the time I went to college in my 30’s, I was in an almost constant state of watching others watching me. What did they think of me? That was the most important question I asked myself. My courage, my learning ability, my ability to raise my hand, what I wore, what I said all depended on what I thought others thought of me. It was exhausting!
But, as I breathe the air, each breath a natural state, so did I watch others watching me become a natural state.
As I sat at that red stoplight waiting for the green that day, I asked myself “Who am I? What do I truly like? What do I truly want to do in life?”
My stepchildren were grown and moved out, my dad was dead, the relatives that abused me were no longer in my life, so whom did I need to appease? “Me!”, my own voice said in my head just as plain as day—Me! I needed to appease me. Before I was over the bridge, I asked myself why don’t I look at myself, dig way, way back and reveal that person you once were and wanted to be. Focus on yourself! Find out what you like, don’t like, want to do, and who you want to be.
Twelve step recovery work came very quickly after that talk I had with myself that day I sat at the light waiting for the green. As the light turned green I suddenly had permission. I had the “go ahead” to start focusing on myself and not others. I had permission to figure out what I liked not based on what others liked. I had the sense that I could help myself first and not feel that it was selfish.
With twelve step recovery work, I learned to stop basing my value on how others see me. The extreme fear of abandonment and rejection by others has lessened considerably. While focusing on myself, and seeing me through the eyes of my Higher Power, and not people, I am free to be me.
I still travel over that same bridge and sit at that same light every single day. I’m so grateful for my Higher Power, whom I believe planted that question in my head that day of “Who am I?” After all, I wouldn’t have found recovery if I had still been focusing on others and not myself.
"I am free to be me."
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: “I make decisions confidently for me.”