Meeting in Print
September 2019 (Ed. 13)
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 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.
“I Know a New Freedom”
My name is Gustavo, and I was born in 1953 in Managua, Nicaragua. My memories of the country of my birth are few, more like glimpses of the past, some clear and others murky. Our home was not a happy home, as my father was an alcoholic. He was an angry, mean drunk who believed that men should be tough, even with their families. He was a womanizer, and his presence in our home was more like that of a disciplinarian than a husband or father. I have no loving memories of my father. My mother, on the other hand, was very loving; she did the best she could to take care of me. She was a very beautiful young woman who just happened to fall in love with the wrong man. The more vivid memories I have of them involve them fighting and yelling at each other. These times were traumatic for me as a young child. I mostly remember being very scared.
I don't know how long my parents were married, but I was four years old when my mother had finally had enough. She applied for a divorce and became determined to find us a better life. With help from family in the US, we immigrated to the States when I was four years old. We moved into my aunt's 3 room, in-law apartment, where the ceilings did not even reach 7 feet. It was small and very crowded, but we were safe.
My mother struggled with a few relationships in life, that always ended poorly. As a result of one of these relationships, my little sister was born when I was 6 years old. Her father was also an alcoholic, and he ran from his responsibilities and abandoned her. It was just the three of us from then on. As the years passed, my mother was able to find work as a pantry chef in a large hotel in San Francisco. Mom had to work the late shift, which meant she didn't come home until the early hours of the morning. She had to leave for work just before I would get home from school, and would come home after we were asleep. I hardly saw her during the week. Her income was not enough to cover the cost of childcare, so we were left alone. At twelve years old I became the head of the house. I learned to cook, clean, and do laundry. I took care of my little sister who was 6 years old at the time. Looking back now, it's hard to believe that at such a young age I had so much responsibility.
Without a mother or father around, I had to learn how to do things on my own. I took my job very seriously, and became obsessive about my responsibilities. It was the start of my life as a caretaker. It certainly is not that my mother didn't care for us; she was just not around. It is how I learned to take care of others before thinking about my own needs.
I tried to do my best at everything I laid my hands on, including school. These experiences affected me for the rest of my life. At twelve years old I was becoming obsessive about my responsibilities and was a very independent perfectionist at everything I did. I couldn't depend on anyone else, so I learned to do everything on my own. At the same time, there was a scared little boy hiding under all this behavior. The fear of us being left alone made me compulsive about locking doors and windows before bed. I would check on my sister constantly after she fell asleep, making sure she was still breathing. I was given an old WWII bayonet as a keepsake from a young friend, who had probably stolen it. It was a heavy, dull, but sharply pointed 12-inch knife. I kept this under my pillow and fell asleep with both hands clutching it every night. I felt it was my responsibility to protect us any way I could think of. Anxiety and fear would play major roles in my life, as well as obsessive-compulsive behaviors. I pretended to need no one, and worked hard at doing things on my own. In school I was driven to succeed, with no help from others.
My perfectionism made me very financially successful in business. As a young man, I married and had four wonderful children. Early in my marriage, my beautiful wife admitted she was an alcoholic. It led her on a path to recovery, and today she has nearly 30 years of sobriety. It was her courage and example that opened the door to finding my own path of recovery.
One day, my children came to me, saying that they really didn't know who I was. I struggled to understand them, and it sent me on a mission of self-discovery. I realized that I had been so very guarded, and reluctant to reveal my real self with anyone. I could not be vulnerable because others might see that I was a flawed human being, not so perfect after all. Needing so desperately to connect with my children, my Al Anon sponsor advised me to write my story. This amazing experience led me to sharing it with my wife and children. I shared from my heart, unafraid to be vulnerable, and it opened the door to making amends. This experience is what eventually led me to Co-Dependents Anonymous.
The 12 Steps of CoDA have given me the insight to see who I really am, and why I developed self-destructive behaviors. I had to first admit I was powerless over people, places, and things. I had to admit that the only power I had was over myself. I have surrendered to God and with that, all my character defects. I am working the Steps to find a lasting peace and recovery. I am very far from perfect and I no longer strive to be. I am making progress, thanks to my program and sponsor. I am very grateful for the greatest gift of this program, which is to know myself. My strength now comes from being vulnerable and sharing in meetings. I don't have to hide my flaws or pretend to be the hero. I find help from listening to others share their stories, and with working with my sponsor.
I now better understand myself, because I understand the effects of codependency in my life. I can look back with compassion at the scared little child who tried to control everything, in order to not be anything like his alcoholic father.
It is why I accepted my place as a caregiver, why fear drove me to perfectionism, and why I was willing to take on huge responsibility, because I could not rely on anyone else. It is why I am self-taught and driven, and why I developed obsessive-compulsive behaviors from my own anxieties and need to control. I am learning to face my character defects, and that knowledge is the very beginning of my recovery. I am learning the importance of living in the moment and letting go of my obsessions. It is a program of progress not perfection. As my sponsor says about his own shortcomings, "I still go there at times but I just don't stay as long."
I now start my day with prayer and meditation. My prayers are much simpler these days, because I have finally found the answer the question I could never answer before coming to CoDA – What is it that I really want? It is simply the freedom from my obsessions and character defects. The strength to be vulnerable, the courage to let go of control, the wisdom to set boundaries, and the love and acceptance of self. I read this prayer every day to remind myself of what is truly important:
CoDA Third Step Prayer
“God, I give to You all that I am and all that I will be, for Your healing and direction. Make new this day as I release all my worries and fears, knowing that You are by my side. Please help me to open myself to Your love, to allow Your love to heal my wounds, and to allow Your love to flow through me and from me to those around me. May Your will be done this day, and always. Amen.”
CoDA Fellowship of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
“My Three-Year Chip”
I was raised in a crazy family. My father was a mean and demented narcissist. He beat my mother and brothers, but saved his girls (me and my much older half-sister) to only molest us; in the case of my sister to the point of her needing an abortion in high school. My mother was extremely co-dependent. We moved quite a lot, and often in the middle of school years. I became more shy and withdrawn with each move.
Their divorce when I was 10 years old was such a relief; being able to get away from my father, who scared me. My two older half-siblings left to stay with my father, and the three of us became latch key kids, as mom had to work. Mom then went in search of a new man, leaving us at home on weekend nights while she bar-hopped. When she finally found a good man, our family split again, as my older brother hated him and went to live with our father. My father then kidnapped my other brother, and moved a few states away. With a new baby on the way, my Mom gave in and didn’t pursue legal action to get my brother back. It was weird being an only child. The night of my little brother’s birth, my step father decided to molest me. It may have been only one time, but that was enough for me! All fathers were unsafe in my mind. And most men who hung out with my parents, drinking and partying, often tried to get “fresh” with me.
I moved out a week after I turned 18 and was rescued soon after by the man I thought would love and care for me forever. He was the first person I ever told about the sexual abuse. Turns out I married a narcissist. Everything was great in our marriage as long as I did what he wanted. My people pleasing skills and learned unworthiness made this easy. But after 2 children and working full time I wanted more from him; to be more of an equal partner. This didn’t sit well with him, and he found someone else that was needed and rescued her, while divorcing me.
I was so afraid of being alone. By the end of that year I was laid off from a 20 year job. Counseling did help, as I was having suicidal thoughts.
Meanwhile, I met a wonderful man and married him, despite my therapist’s warning to take it slow. I became an instant step-mom to 3 more kids, and added a crazy ex-wife to my already crazy life. My husband, who I now recognize as being co-dependent too, worked hard but often drank to excess. Since my quiet, people pleasing skills didn’t work to save my first marriage, my controlling, manipulating skills and low self-worth issue came to the forefront of my life.
Only God, and our counselors, know how we even made it through raising five children without our marriage falling apart. Turns out it was held together by multiple bandages that were frayed. As empty nesters I became more co-dependent and unhappier. My husband used alcohol to ease his pain. I finally sought out a therapist as a last resort before filing divorce papers, since I thought I was just crazy for wanting more from life. After reading the first chapter of a co-dependent book my new therapist recommended, I sat in my car and cried. Finally, someone who put words to all my deep feelings of inadequacy and feelings of loneliness!
Therapy with her was such a gift and healing process for all my childhood dysfunction. After feeling much improved, I left her care. About 5 years later, my husband started drinking more, and landed in the hospital one day after a beer fest event he attended with friends. I was disgusted, and then so afraid when I found out he came in as a “Code Blue”, which means he needed help breathing. I went ballistic with my feelings and outbursts. My therapist friend said everything I wanted to do was co-dependent behavior. She suggested a CoDA meeting and another friend who wanted to go joined me for my first visit. It so happened a new meeting had just started close to my home, so I went with fear and uncertainty. It happened again; I met people in person who spoke my language, who shared some of my darkest thoughts and feelings. I felt immense hope for my life.
The first year I took it slow, attending the meetings regularly, did some service work and tried doing the workbook on my own. People around me noticed the difference in me, and I felt happier and less alone. The second year I joined the Step Study and found a sponsor. My sponsor led me through the first three Steps using the 30 Questions. I was amazed at my growth and improved relationships.
I was able to use healthy boundaries to find people who were good for me, and not determine to undermine my improvements. This last year I finished my Step Work (although it is never really done). I took on more service work, even speaking at our mini-conference.
I often wish that there was a quick fix for my 60 plus years of codependent behavior. I can now often catch myself before I dive into the old patterns. My impulse to control and manipulate others has lessened, but not disappeared yet. Recognizing my poor behavior and asking for forgiveness comes quicker, and maybe a bit easier.
I know I am a work in progress, therefore I give myself grace and love. And I keep coming back to the meetings because they work for me.
"Fly Up High Fall Down Low: Anything but the Static Quo"
A woman of heart, of emotional muscle
With her past voices
Does not let them become “static quo”
Just scratching the surface of soulful time and sacred space.
Safely typing text of “concern” is but one of the choices.
Is it her default?
A shifty agile or, perhaps, faux-fragile
Conflict neutral state of grace.
No matter how fast you run
Or fly so high on another’s ride
As that cool smoke and mirrors breeze
Turns to hot and heavy air
Til lightening splits the pre(sent) tense…
Finally, hope… that you’ve hit bottom
The survival seat of one’s sixth sense!
No more need to save face
As a too proud mask begins to crack
And tears stream into death gray ash
The rebirth soil for a future-Phoenix on the rise…
For what ascends first must crash
To break free of household-habit gravity
Nor be silence-shamed by golden rules of sanity.
Then out from the shadows; with nowhere to hide
Crawls a secret past-scarred, world inside.
Does it seem absurd
To get down, to dig down with others –
Humble sisters and brothers
For that deep buried “Pandora’s Password”:
Don’t Talk, Don’t Trust, Don’t Feel?
Asks one sadder and stronger
Who with dirty nails and black soil knees
Has finally learned to rest within his skin.
The reward – a well-worn journey guide:
One must begin to separate
One must be separate to begin
To seek the graceful threefold path:
Of love within
Of love without
A love for which there is no doubt.
From one who knows his place
Who knows his inner spirit cry…
As “A Wise Man and a Wise Guy!”
“Is It Happening Again?”
My husband is an obsessive workaholic and always has a few irons in the fire, as well as a book or two that he's writing. Even when he's home, he's not home. He's in his office across the house all day long. When he engages in a new passion he gives it 300 percent. There is never any balance. It's " all in or all out." When he's all in, I feel lonely, because it's just the two of us.
In the past I began drinking to deal with the loneliness. I didn't drive and was always home. My drinking escalated as he built more walls to seclude him from outside distractions. I felt that I was a distraction to him, an annoyance. I stopped complaining about it and started drinking more. Now there's a solution: 'NEVER'!
I was in the hospital for almost 5 months, and he noticed me then. Did I almost kill myself just to get his attention? Could I be that messed and self-destructive? When we first got together 24 years ago I was ignorant about many things. Being a high school drop-out and runaway, I only knew what I learned in my abusive, sheltered upbringing and on the streets. He taught me about history, art, music, film, and writing. He helped me work through some issues. I kept a journal, and after a few years, I could have a conversation with any college graduate and pass as if I too went to college.
It wasn't long before I got my high school diploma and a college degree. Then it happened; I was no longer a project for him, and he buried himself in his work and writing. I missed the attention and could feel myself disappearing a little each day. I remember at one point thinking, ''I wonder if I start drinking again, like when we first met, if he would suddenly take an interest in me?" So I did, and it wasn't working, and his walls went up higher, and I drank even more. The higher his walls got, the more I would drink until I ended up with cirrhosis and on death's door. Did I try to kill myself to get my husband's attention? The answer to that question terrifies me.
How codependent am I that something like this could make me do something so totally passive aggressive? Since I have been going to CoDA, I am seeing myself with no obstructions or foggy vision. I am sickened by all the codependent habits I have and how much destruction they caused for myself and for him. Destructive to the point of me unconsciously trying to kill me to regain my husband's attention? "I'll show you! I'll hurt me and then you will pay attention." Well, I did get his attention, but not in the way I hoped for. I got everyone's attention, and I am embarrassed and mortified that my codependency caused so much pain for so many people.
I am so grateful to CoDA for shining a spotlight on my core issues and for giving me the tools to overcome them one by one.
I have been out of the hospital for a year now. My husband has been struggling with writer's block and has been in torment over it. And finally, he's suddenly had a breakthrough in his writing again. And he has resumed spending most of the day in his office.
My knee-jerk reaction or trigger is, "Oh no, is it happening again?" But the answer to that is, "No, it's not happening again.” The reason it's not happening again is I have Codependents Anonymous, I have a sponsor, I work the Steps, and follow my Higher Power's lead. I have my fellow codependents, I now drive, and I’m no longer isolated or lonely. But mostly I don't need my husband's attention to validate my existence as a human being so, "No, it's not happening again." I realize my husband is on his soul's journey as I am on mine. I detach with love, and let my Higher Power lead me where it wants me to go, and use me for what it will. As long as I work my Program in an honest, open manner, the chances of it ever happening again are non-existent. I am right where I need to be, and my husband is right where he needs to be. In his office working on the best selling novel. That's between him and his Higher Power and it's his story to tell.
- Pamela W.
“My Road to Recovery”
Recovery from an abusive relationship left me feeling like everything was a threat, and everyone was a predator. When I came to CoDA I was drowning. Every day more light was being shed upon the layers of betrayal in my life, and everything in my gut screamed, "Men cannot be trusted." As I walked into the room and took a seat in a co-ed meeting, I had to make a choice of whether to share or connect with men present. The guarded structure of anonymity, coupled with the authentic and vulnerable shares of the men in the room provided me a safe environment in which to begin.
At first I would seek only a chair between women, positioning myself as far as I could from the men in the room. My eyes would remain downcast, and I would leave quickly after each meeting. At this time, our meeting was small, and our members were few and consistent. Not a lot of new faces week to week. So while the men in CoDA continued to show up and continued to share, I leaned in just a little bit.
A little more than 7 months into CoDA, intense crisis hit me. My CoDA family showed up as a whole. One of the men attended my court proceeding, standing in as a victim's advocate for me. When just a few weeks later my safety and the safety of the group was threatened, my CoDA family held a group conscience meeting and put safeguards in place to protect the group, and to protect me. Work had to be done, and members had to make choices to continue to provide me a safe place to come. It was clear that it was best for all if I got a ride to and from the meeting. The first night that procedure was put in place, I came into the room and sat next to a man in CoDA. It was half-way through the meeting that I realized I had positioned myself next to the person, that in that moment, was safest for me and that person happened to be male. That may not sound like a lot to others, but for me it still serves as a significant marker on my recovery journey.
My story includes being married to someone with Narcissist Personality Disorder (NPD). In my CoDA family one of the men has experienced this same trauma. Hearing his pain, his effort, his confusion and his recovery shook my thought processes, brought revelation to my mind, and pulled me forward on my own recovery journey. I was hearing pieces of my story come out of someone else’s mouth. The only significant difference being gender. Inside I began to cry out for more of his perspective, for his wisdom to improve upon my truth. Until with a shaky hand, I picked up the phone list, dialed the number and called him. I leaned in big that day.
I walked through a legal separation and a divorce, with all the devastating issues involved with parenting four children. This particular devastation is one many in CoDA share. As men in the room walked this same path, shared their own brokenness and heart-break I grieved with them.
At times, hearing a man's perspective and struggle through the hell of visitation, child support, and co-parenting made me feel like I would vomit right in the middle of the share. Yet the value of hearing this was much greater than my discomfort. Their shares made me search my motives and my soul, challenging me to commit to the work of the program. While I chose to make choices prioritizing the children's safety and stability, I could do so with all compassion and humility. The openness of the men in the room pushed me to reflect and make the most healthy and loving choices possible. This I never shared with them as my own journey was all I could walk.
For quite a while, and even sometimes still, each time a new man attends, I wonder if he has been sent by my ex-husband to spy on me and gather information. As paranoid as that may sound, in my world involving NPD that could very much be a reality. Our meeting has really grown, and many new people have come through the door. Now week by week, new-comer by new-comer, I do the work necessary to continue to attend a co-ed meeting. Sometimes a man will share, and I am so triggered I have a hard time staying in the space. But in that trigger, even if my body betrays my truth, my truth remains; my CoDA space is a safe space. And, well, the share will be over in less than five minutes. So even this I have found to be valuable to my journey. I now have the tools in my tool belt, mental mantras I can reach for in a moment of silence. I can choose to show up in a way that is safe for me and respectful of all who come to CoDA, guarding myself where necessary, yet continuing to carry the message of recovery to those who suffer.
I have had the joy of journeying with CoDA New Beginnings for over 2 1/2 years. There have been moments when we gather to hold hands in the middle of our room and my hand slips into the hand of one of my recovery brothers. I experience such a rush of tenderness and love that it is hard not to cry. It is a beautiful thing.
Today is Father's Day, and I am spending it typing this message. Why? Those four children of mine are four boys. While my gut screamed, "Men cannot be trusted", my soul fought that lie and pushed for recovery so I could show up as mother; not broken and bitter, but whole and loving. All of you, my CoDA family, have been a part of that process. And if I were to begin typing now about the blessing of the women in our group, I would still be typing tomorrow. Today, I want to honor the men who have been a part of my process and say thank you. Holidays come with such a range of emotions that in my pain I just want to wish them away. Let's skip them all. But in my healing, my High Power is showing me that in the midst of loss and grief, there is still much to be celebrated. Today, I celebrate the men in CoDA.
Thanks for letting me share.
“Today, I will reach out to a friend. I will let myself enjoy the comfort, joy, and enduring quality of my friendships.”
The Serenity Prayer:
“God, give me the courage and strength to see clearly.”
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.