The following are some of the characteristics, agreed upon
by one Alanon-Acoa group, that result in problems in our lives.
1. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures;
2. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process;
3. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism;
4. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs;
5. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relations;
6. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our faults, etc.
7. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others;
8. We became addicted to excitement;
9. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and "rescue";
10. We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much; (DENIAL)
11. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem;
12. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us;
13. Alcoholism is a family disease and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink;
14. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
I've had reason this week to revisit this list.
My name is A. Noël, and I am a codependent.
The ENORMOUS challenge of codependency is that we must be co-dependent to live normally. We have to be able to reach out and establish healthy relationships.
It is rather like the addiction to food.
One must eat in order to survive; how to navigate through life without abusing it? One must have relationships in order to live normally; how to navigate without falling into the same patterns?
Only by the grace of God, as we understand Him.
The first step for me was to give up the notion that I was strong. I wasn't. I was out of control, mainlining on others' approval, needing huge fixes of behavior to react to, just to get through the day. If I was with someone "normal," who just sort of muddled through the day as "normal" people do, I became horribly anxious. I could not be a friend. Everything was a performance.
Some days, it still is.
That's the thing about recovery: it goes on for life. You're never done. Ever.
I've had to revisit that this week. I have a dear friend who is in the throes of Step One. This is more than a friend to me. This is a soul-mate, someone I have known since knee socks and saddle shoes, someone with whom I was privileged to share some of the happiest moments of my life. We need each other, and yet are not always good for one another, because we are both extremely codependent. I've been in recovery for years and years; my friend is just now beginning to comprehend.
I encourage and support my friend, often pointing back to therapist, group, book, etc. I often pull away and let the consequences happen.
And I need to recognize with painful clarity exactly what I can reasonably expect from this person, and what I cannot.
I cannot trust this person with my emotional well-being.
This person is not able to take care of me.
If I stay around this person, I will get hurt.
I need to write out #4 and #9 and put them on the refrigerator and the bathroom mirror, so that I cannot escape the truth about myself, because #6 is alive and well in me, and only repeated, consistent working of the Steps will keep me on track.
I see someone regularly who is coaching me on my journey and knows my weaknesses better than I; I have a sister who is exceptionally good at being an accountability partner; and I have my friends, among whom I include those of you who have taken an interest in my meanderings.
This is the toughest test of recovery I've ever been through. I know how dangerous it is for me.
I also know this person very well. This is the kind of codependent which is gentle, meek, and terrified of hurting anyone. I have been through some nasty emotional abuse in my day, the mean, hostile, deliberate kind. It's inconceivable that my friend would act that way. However, my friend is also emotionally abusive, without meaning to be, and intent doesn't matter. I must protect myself, relating the effect on me, then withdrawing.
The realization that "this doesn't work for me any more" is a precious, wonderful gift, and the first step towards a better life; but, damn, it takes us a long time to get there!
It is dangerous. I do get hurt frequently.
And I am not leaving.
It is not perfect. It never is.
Within appropriate boundaries, I can put myself on the line for my friend. Will I look back on this time, and say I made a mistake? I cannot possibly know. I can only take it one day at a time, practice the principles which keep me on the upward path, and let my friend decide the right course to take.
If my friend cannot keep up, or goes down a different road, or turns back, I promise you this: I will not step off the path. It is for God to save the lost sheep, not me. I know my limits. I can walk ahead, mark the trail, sing the uplifting songs, and leave bottles of water and granola bars along the path. I will never turn back. Not even for my friend. I shall never go back to that awful place. It has taken me years to get to where I am. No one is worth losing an inch of that ground.
For some reason, I have found enlightening, moving and meaningful posts in the last few days; I can't help but believe that it's God's way of clearing the cobwebs away and getting me ready for the next step, whatever that may be. I write about it here for the usual reasons, including the hope that you who drop by will keep me accountable and pray for me. My friend needs me. I need my friend. Retreat is not an option. Supporting in humility and constant recourse to the twelve steps for myself is the way I want and need to go, for now.
Just for today.