And finally, here’s the next installment on Recovery…
… codependency (the Merriam-Webster definition) – an excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction. I would suggest that this definition is no longer as accurate as when coined in the AA realm decades ago. I discovered Melody Beattie’s book ‘Codependent No More’ in the late 80s, before my children were born. My partner and I saw ourselves illustrated in those pages, but due to our failure to hook up with a CODA (Codependents Anonymous) group, we never found a way out of the insanity nor did we understand from where it originated. We also did not see how we were in a codependent relationship when no illness or addictions were present. After two daughters and many personal trials, our 24 year marriage was shattered by the weight of decades of denial and lies.
At the time, I was baffled by my reaction to the breakup. I had decided to end my marriage and yet my emotional reaction to this action was the complete opposite of what one would expect. I was insanely upset that he did not want to save the relationship despite my desire to end it. My emotions were as out of control as my life’s circumstances had become (unemployment plus a bad economy.) After several months of tears and trying to figure out the ‘why,’ a friend suggested that I attend Celebrate Recovery. I did not understand why I would find any answers at CR (which I thought was simply a Christian 12 step program) but I attended until the process began to make some sense.
What I learned in those first few months, working the 12 steps & 8 principles of CR –
1) codependent relationships don’t always present just between partners who are involved in the ‘traditional’ addictions (drugs, sex, alcohol.)
2) that codependency is, in my opinion, a result of the interaction between people who have unhealthy coping mechanism for dealing with pain (present & past)
3) some addictions are not as obvious as others, nor thought of as destructive (ie. food, shopping, people pleasing, perfectionism.)
At CR, I heard people from different circumstances and situations talk about their feelings and experiences and I could empathize with those feelings though our experiences were different. It sounds ridiculous on the surface. How could I genuinely relate to a young woman who has been raising several kids for a decade with an alcoholic husband? I realized it wasn’t about where we were now, but about where we had come from and how we were taught to cope. It was not about the content of our stories at all.
Now I was faced with the reality that I did not have to act or react the way I had in the past (similarly, an addict realizes they don’t have to have the drink, but it is a habitual practice of coping with pain.) The disease itself has a root – a beginning – that is about more than becoming addicted. I became addicted to numbing the pain (past) and it was the only way I knew how to cope in my adult relationships (present.) I could simply try to retrain myself to respond differently (to have sobriety,) but there would always be a struggle between me and the addiction. I began to believe that ripping out that root and facing it, developing a new way to cope with pain, would be a more effective path to recovery. And onto the next leg of the journey…