- Gender and Relationships
The Crazy Cycle
You are not crazy. You may have developed some lifestyle choices that are not getting you where you want to go, and you don't know what to do about it. It's time to make some healthy choices, don't you think?
Here are bits of my story. Scroll down for the newest entry. This lens starts with the oldest entry so you can see where I've come from.
The crazy cyle
From My Point of View - 12/26/07
I've decided to turn this lens into a blog so I've written this intro after the later posts but hopefully it will all run somewhat together.
This is a brief introduction. Hopefully, it will help you understand what I'm doing here.
I was born on Christmas Day in 1959 to an Army mess cook and a german country girl. My parents met while my dad was stationed in Germany. I think my mom saw my dad as a way to get to America, where there was lots more excitement than what was in store for her as the youngest daughter of poor country folk who had suffered through the Nazi takeover of West Germany. My dad, young and insecure, was enthralled by this foreign beauty with spunk to spare. They married quickly and my dad was transferred back to the states with 2 babies in tow.
Once in America, my mother found freedom and lots of male attention. My dad's inferiority complex and jealousy made him abusive and controlling. Both my parents abused alcohol. My mom used it to allow her to act out a sexual addiction that covered a fear of abandonment. My dad needed to dull an ever-present ache in his heart from an unment need to feel loved and capable. Neither of them knew how to give love, hence the nurture that I needed as a child was never given. I can't remember my mother ever saying to me that she loved me.
I remember one day when she was roughly brushing tangles out of my hair, I asked her if she loved me. I must have been about 7 or 8 years old. She just kept brushing and said, "Of course I do. Why would you ask such a thing?" Another day, after the divorce, she came home from a long day at work. I had done all my chores and made sure my siblings had theirs done, and when she walked in the door, she said, "What would I do without you kids?" Those two comments are locked into my memory as being as close as she came to telling us that she loved us.
But even in those two comments, I can now see how she made me into the mother, the caretaker, the nurturer. When I asked her if she loved me, I was met with riducule, not reassurance. I got reassurance and value when I added value to her life, not because I was intrinsically valuable. A child has a profound need to feel secure because to be abandoned could mean death. I found comfort and security in knowing that I had something she needed, therefore she could not abandon me. Years later (decades later for goodness sake!), I can finally see that I was set up to be a caretaker. That somehow, if someone needed me they couldn't also abandon me. I felt abandoned when my dad was sent to Viet Nam. He told us that he'd be back, but while he was gone, my mother filed for divorce and when he returned, he was no longer welcome in our home. My mother refused to let him see us, infusing the three of us, me, my sister, and younger brother, with poisonous feelings and thoughts that feuled my feeling of confusion and worthlessness. After all, why did I miss such a "monster" and why would I want to be held by such a "loser"? Maybe I was a monster, too. Maybe I was spawn of a loser, making me a loser, too.
Of course, I didn't think those thought as a young child, less than six years old, but now that I'm grown, I know I must have felt them.
From My Point of View
What I've learned.
I didn't realize I was a codependent until several years ago. I'm not living with an alcoholic and that's the definition of a codependent, right? Nope. A codependent is someone who bases their thoughts, actions, and decisions on how someone else will respond. They are in the habit of controlling, often without realizing it. I first found out I was codependent when I was in a group therapy session for my depression. Someone was talking and began to cry. I grabbed a tissue off the coffee table and handed it to her. When she was done, my therapist looked me straight in the eye and asked, "Why did you do that?"
"She was crying and getting tears all over that pretty blouse," I said. My therapist nodded and said, "Did you see what happened? She stopped crying. You interrupted her process. What did you want the others to think when you did that?" I hung my head and answered rather sheepishly, "That I was a nice person. That I was caring. I'd want someone to do that for me." "You are now officially in therapy for caretaking. She could have easily reached those tissues if she wanted them. You were trying to control what others thought of you by proving you were "caring". Do you see that?" I did. I wanted the others to think what a nice, helpful person I was. I went home and saw where I do that all over the place. With my husband, my kids, my friends. So this site will address some of those practices and hopefully, share some of the light.
From my point of view...
Ramblings of a recovering co-dependent
I had to stop and think today about why I only like to do housework when no one else is home. Could it be that I think I'm making people around me feel guilty for not working, so I protect them from feeling that way? I realized the other night while my DH was doing the dishes (a very rare occurrence!) that I felt guilty that he was doing some dishes. I kept thinking that he was thinking, "Why isn't she in here doing these dishes? This is her job, not mine. She's in there plinking away on that computer and I'm in here doing her job. What a lazy blob!" Now, I can assure you with a reasonable amount of confidence that he was not thinking anything like that. But, boy, did I have a fantasy going on in my head!
From My Point of View
I been realizing lately that it's OK to have wants and needs. They are valid and don't make me a selfish person (I can't think of being called anything worse!). It's OK to ask to have my needs met. And sometimes they'll go unmet. The hard part is figuring out what to do with the pain when that happens. But I'm seeing that I am valuable enough to have them met. Having unmet needs doesn't mean I don't count or that I'm somehow deficient and therefore not worthy of having them met. So then where do I go? To the One who always wants to meet my needs: God.
From My Point of View
The pain of codependency
The pain of choosing new behaviors instead of my old, codependent behaviors was much stronger than I anticipated. Feelings of guilt and shame are quite strong and overpowering at times. When I choose to stand up for myself instead of "going with the flow" or "walking on eggshells", a tornado of guilt threatens to knock me over! I have to conciously tell myself that it's OK to have wants and needs and it's OK to express those wants and needs. And one of my needs is to feel OK if I choose not to caretake. Wow, I never realized how much of myself I lose when I give out of compulsion rather than love. The process is a real eye-opener.
From my point of view
I'll tell ya, codependency is a sneaky animal. I didn't realize how much of my self worth is tied up in what other people think! I've realized that I've spent a lot of my life rescuing and caretaking other people so I'll feel valuable. Once I stopped doing that, I feel very strange. Like I have to earn my worth somehow. I keep thinking I need to get another job (I already have 3!) or clean more or bake or something, otherwise people will think I'm a slob or lazy or something, and I am sooooo not that. But the feeling percolates up from somewhere deep within. I'm sure it is an ancient feeling, one I developed at a very young age. If I do enough chores or get better grades than everyone else, Mom will love me and not hate me. My step dad, Ron, won't beat me if I clean everything up real good. What a load of crock I swallowed. But it's hooked me good.
There's a scared little girl in there.
From My Point of View
So what do I do when the guilt and shame feelings come for standing up for myself? The first thing I've learned is that these feelings are normal and not an indication of my self-worth. Just because I feel guilty doesn't mean I am guilty or have done anything wrong that should bring "righteous guilt". Asking my husband to do the dishes once a week does not mean I am a slobby pig lady. I am not laying on the sofa, slathering velveeta on my tongue, and barking orders at him while he is trying to pay bills. No. I have been working all day at my other 3 jobs, cooking meals, relating with our son (the last one left at home), keeping up with the house, and he has been reading or locked away in the basement for the last 8 hours. He can help out a little! So why do I feel guilty?
Something deep within me says I have to stay busy, be productive, and overwork myself or someone will think I am lazy! Now, who could that be? My husband has never called me lazy. My kids have never even intimated that they think I'm lazy. Could it be an old tape that gets replayed in my head, long after I moved away from home, long after I stopped listening to mom and Ron? Who is it in there? It's me. I am self-condemning, self-incriminating. There's even a law against making someone do that on the stand in court, for crying out loud. It's called the fifth amendment. Maybe I'll start pleading the fifth amendment with myself. No more self-incrimination. Only self-mercy and self-acceptance. That sounds so much better.
From My Point of View - 2/25/08
Wanting to vs. Having to
My mom has always been verbally abusive with me, even now that I'm in my late 40's, she still tells me what a big mouth I have and tries to shame me into accepting her. It's pretty pitiful. She recently hung up on me on Thanksgiving when I tried to wish her a happy holiday. All I said was, "Hello, Mother," and click. The phone went dead. I called back and another click. I called a third time (did I mention I was codependent?), and she said, "Why are you doing this? What do you want?" I simply said I wanted to wish her a happy Thanksgiving and she replied with, "Thank you very much!" and click. You'd have to hear it to know that the tone was not, "Oh, what a nice daughter. You are so thoughtful!" But rather, "I couldn't be further from having a happy thanksgiving if it was being served with my last rites!" So I haven't talked to her since.
Now my codependent self would have called again a few days later, send a card or note, or at least called on Christmas (May I have another serving of shame and condemnation, please?). But I resisted. So here it is, February. Her birthday was February 21. Do I send a gift or card or what? I decided to go ahead and send a gift. She is, after all, my mother. Once she's gone, I won't send anything else. But this time, I did not send her a gift so she would stop being mad at me. I send a gift because I wanted to. I love her and wanted her to know that I was thinking of her on her birthday. Quite different from my manipulative past. This time I did something because I wanted to, not because I'm supposed to. What do you think? Codependent or healthy?
From My Point of View - 3/9/08
Asking for what I want/need
Wow. I never realized how hard it was for me to ask for what I want/need. I recently had to ask for what I wanted and the incredible anxiety that welled up in me was a dead giveaway that something was not right. My biggest fear has always been that someone might think I was selfish. Why? Why do I have a fear of that? Could it be that when I was growing up, asking for what I wanted was usually met with disappointment, shame, or worse, actual physical abuse, like being hit or slapped. Asking for what I want rarely got me what I wanted. But now, I do it for a different reason. I can't rely on getting what I want from another person. But I do know that just asking for it allows me to be known, and by being known, I honor the real me. Hiding reinforces that the real me is not worth being known. That I somehow must protect others from the real me because she is, after all, selfish and greedy - NOT! So I asked for what I wanted. It's different than ordering something in a restaurant or asking someone to pass the salt. It is revealing something that someone else might need to give of themselves in order for me to receive. Does that make sense? It was hard, but I trusted that the Lord was placing before me a test that I had previously failed. A test that I would have to take again and again in order to find healing from the pain and cure the disease of codependence.
From My Point of View - 3/30/08
Rescuing as a way of relating
It's strange to find out that the way I've related all my life is dysfunctional. I've always thought that if I was valuable, you know, helpful and caring, that I would be worth being in relationship with. And while being helpful and caring is wonderful, if it is the way I get value, it is unhealthy. I have learned that my value comes from God alone, not how much I have to offer someone else. Advice, doing something for someone that they can do themselves, and "rescuing" them from their own poor choices have always been second nature to me. Now I'm learning that these behaviors are keeping me trapped in a false prison of my own making. They don't allow me to be the real person God created me to be because they keep me locked in a pattern of elevating myself above another, thus ensuring that my superiority would shine through and "prove" my worth. What a crock! It's time I allowed the people around me to rise to the full stature of who God created them to be, to stand on their own two feet without me holding them up (as if they really need me to!), and realize their potential and ability to save themselves. They don't need me; I actually get in the way of what God wants to do in their life by my seemingly altruistic rescuing. I'm not doing them any favors. I'm not doing me any favors. And I'm certainly not doing God any favors. But the next question is: Who am I if I'm not their rescuer?
From my point of view - 5/17/08
Signs of health?
Yesterday someone called me irresponsible. Now, I've been called many things, but irresponsible is not usually one of them. If anything, a codependent is hyper-responsible, right? Always running in and rescuing or covering for someone else's irresponsibility. So this guy calls me irresponsible because I said I might do a certain thing, then when I decided not to, he gets bent out of shape and says a few choice things about my reputation being tarnished in his eyes. It bugged me for about... 5 seconds. Then I just thought, Oh, you poor baby. You didn't get your way so you're dishing out a bowlful of shame to cover for your anxiety over not being in control. Waaa! Should I call the Waa-mbulance? Then I thought, wow, am I glad I didn't do the thing I was thinking of doing with this guy because he's reacting quite strongly to another person's choice. THANK YOU, GOD, for protecting me from getting involved in this guy's project.
So, the way I see it, my being "irresponsible" was actually me standing up for myself and not doing something just because I said I might, even if someone gets bent out of shape over it. And I'm not beating myself up just because everyone in the world doesn't think I'm hot stuff. That feels pretty good.
From my point of view - 8/16/08
Fire the judge.
I've been reading "How to Stop The Pain" by Richards (see the Amazon reading list below). I'm realizing that the way I judge people is exactly how I judge myself. My mean, critical judge sits on her bench in my head and is continually pronouncing me "Guilty!" I'm going to fire her and get a judge who knows how to gently nudge when I need it. I need a Nudge Judge. The Holy Spirit is a much better judge, in my opinion. Once I stop judging others, I can stop judging myself. Whew!
From my point of view - 8/20/08
Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back.
Ugh. What a lousy couple of days. I had a friend point out something I did wrong in front of some other friends and it sent me into a tailspin. I felt mortified. I could barely make it out of there before I started crying. It reminded me of the time my mom started chewing me out for making change in her cash drawer when I was helping her tend bar. She started acting like I didn't know what I was doing and that I somehow messed up the entire day's cash. Several people were sitting at the bar as she chewed my butt out. The tears just started welling up in my eyes even as I tried to smile and act like it didn't hurt. That's what it felt like earlier this week. It shouldn't have hurt; it was just a simple criticism of something I was doing, but yikes, it hit a nerve. I wanted to never come back. Where the heck did that come from? I spent the next day two hours crying, then the next day in bed, completely certain that I was worthless. The words, "What am I doing here? No one loves me, no one in the whole world really loves me" kept repeating through my brain like one of those lame recordings at the airport: "Please do not leave your luggage unattended.." I couldn't stop it. The feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness followed for more than 24-hours. Then a friend sent an email that said he was praying for me. He prayed that God would show His love for me by sending a message through a book, or His Word, or a friend. The incident happened on 8/18/08. My friend sent his email prayer on the morning of 8/20/08. Now scroll down and look at the comments section of this lens. Note the dates on two out of the three comments that have ever been left on this lens. Two people, whom I've never met or spoken with, left encouraging comments for me. Two! on the same day - 8/20/08. The same day my friend asked God to send encouragement to me. Wow. Who's your Daddy?? Who loves ya, baby?
* Update: When I wrote this entry, I only had three comments; obviously, now there are more, so you'll have to scroll back to the beginning of the Guest Comments section to see what I'm talking about.
From My Point of View - 10/8/08
Is it really a disease?
It was Sunday morning and I was sitting in the car, waiting for the rest of my family to get in so we could go to church. As my husband gets in the car, I notice he is wearing the exact same shorts he has worn to church the last three Sundays in a row, only now, there is a big stain on one pocket, a black slash of something across the front of one leg, and some sort of crusty-looking food on the front of the other leg. It was obvious to me: these shorts have not been washed in at least a month. YUCK!
Now, my husband is like many, not big on grooming. For many years, I told him things like: "You need to get a haircut." "Oh, your toenails are so gross!" "When was the last time you cut your fingernails? They are longer than mine." "That shirt is wrinkled. Are you sure you want to wear it?" "There is a ketchup stain on that tie." But recently, I have come to understand that my husband is NOT ME! He is his own person, capable of making an appointment for a haircut, ironing a shirt (or at least asking me to iron it), clipping his own nails, and noticing his image in a mirror. I have also tried to internalize that how he looks does not affect my self-worth. OMG! No way! That one does not sink in. Yes, of course, I think, the way he looks tells the world whether or not he has a wife who cares about him. Right? Many wives of less-than-GQ men would agree. Yes, we wives are responsible for the presentability and socially-acceptable appearance of our husbands. But what if it hurts me to do that? I mean, when I point out that there is a nasty grease stain on his shorts, I feel very parental. I feel like I have to dress him, like he was 4 years old and would wear his socks and underwear into the shower if I let him. I'm embarrassed to be seen with him in his wrinkled, dirty clothes, with his snaggle toenails curling out from his ragged flip-flops. But why? Why does what he look like affect how I feel? Is that the disease? Is it just wanting the man I love to look presentable in public, or is it codependence?
I had to bring it up. Something about not saying anything at all bugged me. I felt like I was stifling myself. So I said, "When you wear clothes that are dirty, I feel icky (I couldn't name the feeling because I didn't know what it was at the time). I think it's because I want to feel attracted to you, but when your grooming is lacking, I feel repulsed." Then I felt like crap. I felt like I was shaming him for his sub-standard standards. I felt parental. Like I was the Mom and he was the immature child with dirt on his face. Ugh. I couldn't win. The voices in my head started in on their debate. One said, "You have a right to say what you like and don't like." The other said, "But he is a separate person. He can dress that way if he wants to. You don't have the right to tell him what is right and what is wrong!" Then the first voice chimed, "But if you don't tell him that it bugs you, how will he ever know?" Other voice, "But if you keep pointing out his childish lack of self-care, you're just enabling!" On and on it went! I mentioned some of these thoughts out loud, then I said, "I hate this disease. I hate it!"
My precious 15-year old son, after hearing some of my verbal volleyball, said, "Is it really a disease?" I said, "yes, it really is. There is a set of symptoms that take on a mind of their own in my head. It stems from my abusive, shaming childhood, and now it's nearly impossible to not hear them when they flare up." And I realize that the disease is the part of me that feels parental. Yes, I would like to have a sharp-dressed man, like ZZ Top sings about. But I don't. I have a man who is less than natty. But I am the one who makes him into the child. I go back to the days when I was 6, 7, or 8 years old and I had to parent my brother and sister. My husband's behavior triggers my premature parent! I'm still not sure what is healthy at this point. I don't want him to continue to wear icky dirty wrinkled clothes or let his hair or nails grow disgustingly long, but if I do, wouldn't he then have to deal with the social ramifications? Wouldn't he have to suffer with the lack of party invitations? The pass-over when it comes time for a promotion to a more visible position? But who tells him that no one is inviting us over because he looks like a slob? Who tells him that the boss wants someone more presentable for the customer relations position? Me? If not me, who?
From My Point of View - 1/8/09
If I could just get out of my own head!
Here we go again. What should be a simple question gets turned into a whole barrage of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, sinner vs. saint condemnations.
A friend of mine borrowed something without asking. I went to look for it and it was gone. I knew my friend was the only one who used this item, but how difficult do you think it was to just ask if they had it? I jumped through mental hoops for hours! What if they thought I was accusing them of taking it? What's the big deal if they did? Would they think I was actually looking for things that I thought they took? Would I look like a selfish, suspicious shrew? Shouldn't I just let it go? Shouldn't I just be like the homeowner in Les Miserables who handed Jean ValJean the silver candlesticks when the police dragged him back to the home with the family's silver in his pockets? Wouldn't it be more noble to not care if someone took my stuff? Don't I sound crazy????
I finally came to my senses and realized that if someone borrowed my stuff, I would have liked them to have asked or at least told me they were borrowing it. Not asking me to borrow something that is mine, and just assuming they can take it feels disrespectful. I am not the one who should feel shame. And yet I do. I felt disrespected. And part of me started wondering if asking to be respected was too much to ask, like maybe I didn't deserve it. Maybe I was thinking too highly of myself and "my" stuff. After all, isn't it all the Lord's? Ah, yes. But I am the steward and it isn't OK to just make off with the Master's stuff either. It is perfectly reasonable to ask, "Do you have my thing? It's not where I left it." That seems to be the healthy thing to do. Let the person deal with their shame at not having asked. I could see that I was protecting my friend from having to defend their actions. Rescuing, caretaking, codependent, self-abandoning. By asking, I stood up for myself and refused to be taken advantage of. That's better.
Now, if they don't return it, I'll have to figure out what to do all over again.
So much going on in there
The Good/Hardest First Step
One of the hardest thing in recovery is asking for what I want and then letting go of the outcome. When I ask, I almost always feel guilty. I hate that feeling, but this important step keeps me from getting worse. If I don't ask, I have expectations that others with caretake/rescue me/read my mind. When I take care of me, I empower myself and I feel more honest. I hope you'll give it a try. If you feel guilty, call me or a trusted friend and talk it out. Good luck! You're worth it!
From My Point of View - 3/24/09
Stop the anger before it starts!
I heard someone say that sometimes people get angry because they didn't say "no" soon enough. I had an experience recently where I had to say no, and I didn't like it.
I've come to the realization that I find a great deal of security in money. I hate that about me because I want my security to come from the Solid Rock, Jesus and the God who created the cattle on a thousand hills. A friend of mine and I recently dubbed him, the True Burger King (get it, cattle? Burgers? Bad, I know.) Anyway, in dealing with my money idolatry, I spoke to a professional who told me the first thing I needed to do was stop doing the money dance that I've done with my husband my whole married life. Many times, it looks like this: There's not enough money, he comes to me and tells me about it, I try to fix it. Now, you have to realize, while I consider myself a pretty smart person, I stayed home to care for our three children while my husband continued in the professional realm. He was the one sent to the seminars to keep his skills sharp, he was the one climbing the corporate ladder and bringing home the bacon. I started several small businesses on the side to keep my finger in the business world pie, but my main job was rearing those three boys. And I don't think anyone would argue that I did a heck of a job! I don't think they would have become what they are if I was working outside the home, stressing about not doing either job very well. My oldest, Steven, is heading toward his Ph.D in physics at UT Austin, Andrew is halfway through his Biblical Studies major at Toccoa Falls College and William is some kind of amazing musical savant! And none of them are on drugs or in therapy. You gotta admit, I did somethings right.
But still, when there's more month at the end of the money, I feel like I'm not doing my job. So I try to figure out how to get more money. One thing we've done in the past is rent out parts of our house. We've loaned out parts of our house before, too, to people who just needed a place to stay, but with almost 4000 square feet and only 3 people here, it seemed like a good idea to rent out a room.
The only thing is, the last time we did that, I felt used. This person would wander up from the basement while I was typing on the computer in my pajamas and simply stand there until I noticed him (yes, it was a man). He would want to talk or simply be around the family, which wasn't bad, it just impinged on my privacy. I didn't like it. And the agreed-upon rent was rarely forthcoming, so I felt used.
The most recent bout of money woes has brought us to bankruptcy court. Talk about hitting bottom! I felt like the bottom was ripped out and I was free-falling! I started getting desperate about how I could bring some extra money in, even though my husband was the one who took a lower paying job, saying he thought he could make it work. Well, he didn't make it work. The creditors started filing lawsuits and there was nothing to pay them off with. Bankruptcy, here we come.
Naturally, my thought went to that room in the basement. I mentioned it to my husband and he said he had a friend who might want to move it. I said I would agree to it if it was made clear that he was not to come upstairs, into my living area, for any reason. Not to put something in my freezer, not to use the dryer, not to borrow a tablespoon of ketchup, nothing. My husband said, "Aren't you being unreasonable? He's not just going to wander upstairs for just anything. He might come up once in a while, but he's not like that." I could see he wasn't getting it. Just the thought that he might wander upstairs once every six months made me feel unsafe. My husband said if I felt that strongly, I would have to tell him myself. Fine, I said. I will. Then he said, "My plan is to ask for the rent on the first of the month, and if I don't have it by the 5th, I'll assess a late fee. Unless he tells me in advance that there's a problem." Well, you have to know my husband. He's a really nice guy and has been taken advantage of as a landlord in the past because there always seemed to be a "problem" with getting the rent in on time from one renter or another. These "problems" have added up to more than $10,000 in rents not being paid. I had to push back.
"No," I said. "If the rent is not paid on the first, we will give a notice of eviction. If the rent is not paid on the 3rd, he's out. I know he's your friend, and a really nice guy, but I can't handle the stress. The first time it's not paid on the first, he's out. Agreed?"
He looked at me incredulously. "Listen to yourself. Aren't you being a little hard?"
I stopped and listened to myself and what I heard was me being hard on myself. I was not getting the support I needed to feel safe, and yet I was still bending over backwards to bring some money into the house. At that point, I realized I had to say no.
I told my husband that I didn't think it would work, and that, for my own self care, I would have to say no right now to the whole deal. He simply said, OK, and went upstairs and closed the door. I was alone with my thoughts and feelings. And God.
I felt both proud and ashamed of myself. Proud for saying no when I really wanted to. And ashamed for not being the hero/rescuer that I always was. And I felt alone. I called a friend who gave me the support I needed but i had to wrestle with those feelings for about two days before I realized something very important: I had just become my own hero/rescuer. And that felt good.
From My Point of View - 5/25/10
Wow - it's been a while since I logged in here. I am still working out my codependency with fear and trembling! Last night, someone was repeatedly knocking what I had to say in front of others. The first time, it stung and I let it go. The second time, I had to ask the person to join me outside the room where I told him that I was feeling attacked and that I didn't want him to continue to talk to me like he had been. It was a difficult decision and he ended up being extremely quiet the rest of the evening. Even this morning, I am fearing repercussions from my asking him to allow me to have my own opinions without being told I have a "pissy attitude."
Now I have to let him have his feelings without trying to caretake them by: 1) calling him to apologize; 2) emailing him to see if he's OK; 3) baby step around him to make sure we're OK. Yuck! I don't like this feeling of guilt and shame for standing up for myself. I think part of it is that I wonder if I shoot down other people's feeling and opinions like I asked him to not do. Am I a hypocrite? I guess if I do the same thing, it's up to others to ask me not to. Yup. More caretaking going on here. Yuck.
From My Point of View - 9/8/2010
Hurting Someone Else
When does asking for what I want hurt someone else? That's my question of the day. Here's how it happened: I got in the car with my family (husband; oldest son - 23; and youngest son - 17). I asked my oldest if he wanted to do a crossword while we drove. He said yes and I proceeded to tell him how many letters and the clue. Well, my husband has a good mind and lots of great ideas, but crosswords are not his forte. So he pipes up a couple of times with oddball suggestions until finally, when I said, "3-letter word that ends in an "i" - the clue is 'Star Wars letters'" and he comes back with "SSI - Starship Enterprise!" My son groans, "Dad, that is wrong in so many ways." So I say, "I'd really like you to not answer." To which he says, "Ouch. That hurts." I said I didn't intend it to hurt, just that it is hard when he spouts off with nonsensical answers. I also said, "According to Eleanor Roosevelt, 'No one can make you feel small without your permission.'" (Preachy, huh? - Yup, my bad.) He then said, "I am so done with this conversation." To which I simply said, "Wow."
I was surprised how asking for what I wanted (him to stop answering and let me do the puzzle with my son), he got so offended. I had to let him have his hurt feelings and evaluate if I did anything to purposely try to offend him. He knows that I get annoyed when I'm trying to do something and he jumps in with what sounded like stupid answers (answers that fly off the top of your head and you speak them without thinking). I hate thinking he is stupid. I had to resolve that just because he's not a "wordy", he's not stupid. But he must have picked up on my judgement. I judged him stupid based on his inability to come up with an appropriate answer. Again, my bad. But it was the combination that was toxic. My asking him to stop because he sounded stupid to me, and his offense at my request, mainly because it verified his fear that he was stupid (an ongoing battle since childhood when foster parents call him that instead of his name.)
So now my question is: how can I get him to stop doing something that sounds stupid to me without triggering that little boy who feels stupid most of the time? Time to chew...
From My Point of View - 1/20/11
I just started taking an 8-week codependency workshop in my city. The teacher, a psychologist with a Ph.D, has been teaching it for 20 years. We took a short test and I came up a flaming caretaker/rescuer/martyr (big surprise!). Actually, I was surprised that I still had so many tendencies after five years in recovery! It's also possible that I scored myself according to how I see myself even though some of my behaviors have begun to change.
While much of what she said in the intro sounded way too familiar, she did say something that struck a chord. She said that people in codependency often do a dance. In other words, we are very predictable in that "when he does X, I do Y." Example: When he comes home late, I interrogate. This puts me in the parental role and him in the adolescent role. Way too familiar. With good boundaries in place, I wouldn't need to get parental. I could choose to respond differently. Instead, when he comes home late, I could say something like, "When you get home later than I expect, I get scared that you've had an accident." Or, "When you come home later than I expect, I feel disrespected." Then let go of the outcome and try not to punish (my tendency with him.)
Also, in response to the chewing from my last post, I wonder what it would have looked like if I had let go of control and just let him look silly during the crossword puzzle experience? I think I was managing his image. Again, my bad. See how this codependency thing works both ways? Thanks for reading. More on the workshop later.
From My Point of View - 4/2/2011
My son's friend died of cancer at 23 a little less than a month ago. I had been praying for his healing for 15 months. God ended up healing him in His own way. Nevertheless, I was disappointed as well as profoundly sad for my son and for the mother of my son's friend. I felt like God had let me down again. He didn't do what He said He would -- namely, "If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move this mountain," (the cancer), and, "Where two of you ask in my Name, I will do it." So I sunk into a depression that has lasted almost a month.
After much prayer, talk and sleep, I've realized that my fundamental problem is that I feel unprotected. I don't feel like anyone "has my back." My parents never did (I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused) and I don't FEEL LIKE my husband does -- although in many ways he does protect me -- and now God. But then I remember that His ways are not my ways, and He will never leave me or forsake me, and His promises are never empty.
Here's a tiny, dumb example: Friday is garbage day. My husband is supposed to take the garbage to the curb before the trash men show up. One Friday morning, I was sitting at my computer in the office, looking down the driveway when the trash men show up. But the trash can is not there. They pause in the drive for a moment and honk. I silently curse my husband and run out to take the can down. But the can (a 50-gallon toter) is nearly empty, so I let the garbage men keep going. Then I remembered my husband made a deal to get a reduced rate if we would only put the can out about 3 times a month. When the can isn't full, we don't put it out. My husband had checked the can and decided not to put it out that day. He knew something I didn't know. He made a choice that looked like a broken promise to my limited understanding.
What did I ask? For Jon's healing. What did He do? Jon is now completely free of cancer and in perfect peace and bliss. It just looks different.
From My Point of View - 05/02/2011
Taking this world as it is...
The Serenity Prayer actually has three stanzas. Most people are familiar with the first: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." But then it goes on to say, "Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You in the next."
I have suffered for many years because things don't turn out the way I want them to. People leave; dreams die; people let me down - repeatedly. It's not the way I would have it, and it often makes me mad that I don't have enough control to make things happen the way I want. But the part about taking this sinful world as it is has helped me loosen my grip on My Way. Some things just suck. Crappy things happen and people can be mean, selfish, and/or thoughtless. I don't have to blame God or think it's all my fault. Whew. I can enjoy this minute here with you in my warm house and feel happy that my children are safe (I think) and there is relative peace outside my window. I don't have to wish for the things I long for right now. That can wait until I go to bed.
From My Point of View - 7/21/11
Some of my readers my know that today is my anniversary. Twenty-six years with the same man. I've never strayed; I've been a faithful wife, despite the very difficult relationship. In this second (what is 25 years called? Not a decade. Not a decagon. A quartile?) half of marriage, I am hoping God heals me of my co-dependence and grants me contentment. I have struggled and strived (striven?) to get what I thought I needed (and indeed, deserved) from this marriage, but the word "need" has been a buzzword around our house. What do I really NEED? In order to survive here on earth, basically air, water and some sort of sustaining food. Do I need my husband's attention - or even his love? No. Ultimately, all I really need is Jesus. He is the only "thing" that can deliver me to eternal connection and intimacy with the source of Love Itself. Everything else is a want. A gift. Something to be grateful for. Today, I am grateful for beauty, peace, the blessing of children of noble character and the love of good friends, including my husband.
PS - In my recovery, I learned to take responsibility for myself and to not preach. I had to go back through this last post and take out a lot of "we" and "us" and replace them with "I" and "me." Just thought I'd let you know.
From My Point of View - 9/12/11
Is this getting easier?
I think it might be. After 6 years of recovery from co-dependence, I'm starting to feel less angry. The prozac certainly helps but I was still very angry while on Zoloft for 12 years. No, something is changing. I'm beginning to feel that I have something valuable inside me independent of what people think. For instance, I went to a friend's grandson's birthday party to show support for my friend's daughter. I love her and care about her family, so I went. Not so they would like me. Not so I could feel good about myself, but because I wanted to show support to this family. Because THAT'S WHO I AM. I care about people and want to offer my emotional and spiritual support when I can. I flew to my son's friend's funeral in Ohio to be next to my grieving son, not so people would think more of me, not to get brownie points from my son, but because I wanted him to know I cared deeply about his overwhelming pain. I wanted the parent's of my son's friend to know that people across the country were praying for them, because THAT'S WHO I AM. I care about the pain and suffering of others, I want to stand next to those who grieve and let them know they are not alone.
I am starting to see WHO I AM. Not what I look like to you, but what I look like to ME. I would like to have me as a friend. I am OK and know how to love and care for and about others. I like that. So when I found out someone very close to me was lying to me, and had been for several months, I felt very sad. FOR THAT PERSON! Yes, I felt the sting of betrayal, but it wasn't because it was my fault, or because of some flaw in me - I had actually sensed they were lying and pressed them to be honest. I became sad that they were living a lie and had to try to hide and cover up the deception. I felt sad that they were living with the guilt of lying to someone who cared about them and it was preventing us from connecting in a deep way. I felt sad that they were acting out because of something broken in them. I was sad, but I wasn't angry. That is a huge step for me. Can I get a hallelujah?
From My Point of View - 10/30/11
The ups and downs
What a ride! Sometimes I am on the mountaintop; other times, I am flat on my face in the valley. However, I can tell that the mountaintop experiences are lasting longer and feel more exhilarating while the valley experiences feel temporary and somehow, ...justified? OK? I'm not sure. I just know that I have had victory over anger from about early July until yesterday, when I lost it again. I had been experiencing some major bouts of rejection: my job abruptly ended; my acting career has ground to a near halt and someone very near to me is still caught in his addiction and lying to me (and others) about it. Trust is a shaky thing. Once you lose it, it never seems to have all four legs again. It seems like there's always only three at the most and it will topple relatively easily. A person who has broken your trust can never be fully trusted again. That is so sad to me! There's always a fear of betrayal.
So after the person lied, I said the Serenity Prayer in its entirety, which goes: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; That I may reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him in the next. (bold mine)
I thought I was OK, since this person has lied to me in the past. I can't reasonably expect this person to tell me the truth, so when the lie was uncovered, I was disappointed, but not angry. Then the job thing happened, then the acting job issue. I'm feeling pretty sad and rejected. Then a minor issue came up and I lost it. I was SO MAD at myself for losing it! Now if feel like junk and have to find my way back up the mountain. See what I mean?
From My Point of View - 11/3/11
Riding the Emotions Train
I was talking with a friend who was experiencing some very painful, overwhelming feelings and I shared this analogy with her. I think it could help to ride out the whirlwind:
Negative emotions are like an oncoming train: First, you feel the rumble, then, as it draws nearer, the sound gets louder, so loud you can't hear yourself think and as it passes by you, you feel the terrible power of it, feel yourself swallowed up by the sheer energy of it, frozen in place, until slowly, it rumbles off into the distance. You open your eyes as the sound fades and life begins to return to normal. Emotions can come on with horns blaring and steam roiling. They can overtake you like the force of a locomotive, but if you stand firm in Christ, acknowledge them and feel them, they will pass. Soon, they will visit less frequently and after a while, they may begin to sound and feel more like a passing moped than a train. When we stuff them, bury them under anger or scold ourselves for feeling them, we, in essence, tell the little girl with the tear-stained face that lives in the secret recesses of our soul, that her feelings are bad or don't matter. Feeling the feelings lets us affirm that they are true, they are real, and they matter.
From My Point of View - 3/21/12
Thanks to those of you who leave a comment after reading this lens, I'm going to continue writing about the journey. After almost 7 years of recovery from co-dependency, I am starting to breath. Not that rapid, shallow breathing, but deep, full, satisfying breathing like you do on a hike through a light-spattered forest or on a gently-bobbing pontoon boat in the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean when you've got nowhere else to be. The smile starts to spread, you close your eyes, throw back your head and realize that you are here. I've spent so much of my life waiting for "what's next" that I rarely lived in the here and now. These days, I delight in a half-hour car ride with my 23 year-old son; I luxuriate in a hot mineral salt bath (Sea Minerals by God's Country Botanicals in Joyful Blend) in the middle of the afternoon; I savor the flavor of a deep, ruby merlot (Dancing Bull makes a nice, inexpensive bottle) as it tickles my taste buds. Sure, I still have moments where thoughts like, "I wonder what God has planned for me next," and "If He does have something planned, I sure wish He'd let me in on it." I begin to grow impatient, feeling my days tick by. But then, I realize that this is the day the Lord has made FOR ME. I can enjoy what comes along, or fret about what doesn't. I have just begun to stop seeing myself as valuable based on what I do. As a matter of fact, if I fret, it may take longer for His plans to reach fruition because my emotional and spiritual growth are more important that making the Big Bucks or shaking hands with a lot of people in suits.
My youngest son started smoking when he turned 18. Now, at a few months past his 19th birthday, he wants to quit. When I asked him what his motivation for quitting was, he said he had a whole list of reasons but the biggest one was that he was having a hard time breathing. He said that when he takes a deep breath, it feels like his lungs have shrunk. Even just eating a burger makes him want to gasp for breath. That's how it is with codependency. I felt like I couldn't breath. Even simple tasks took more energy than I wanted to give them. Now, I feel like there's more air up here. Or maybe I've just grown a pair. Of lungs, I mean.
Taking care of yourself means giving yourself what you need - a bath, a rest, a vacation, a pat on the back, the courage to speak up, or even professional counseling. Only you know what you need.
Books that have helped me on the journey.
From My Point of View - 5/11/12
Who's report will you believe?
Our human hearts are so fragile. One minute, a friend is hugging me around the neck telling me how precious I am and the next minute I get an email from my part-time acting job director telling me my behavior was unacceptable and uncalled for and I'm being fired (he called it being "put on hiatus.") One minute, I'm glowing, the next, I'm doubled-over in pain.
I used to let others tell me who I am. I used to let people dictate my level of OK-ness with myself. After completing Step 7 in codependent recovery, I realized that God uses these types of situations to remove my shortcomings. When I did Step 5, I took a fearless moral inventory and found that too often, I let others tell me whether I was "good enough." Actually, I didn't listen to the people who told me I was good enough (or even better than good enough), but I sure took to heart the (few) people who let me know where I failed! Well, ENOUGH OF THAT! I'm going to let God remove the shortcoming of listening to the enemy's accusations (some of which may have a ring of truth to them) and believing them over the report of what God and the people who have known me for decades. I have enough evidence from the people in my life and the God who sees my heart to know who I am without letting others' negative opinions make a huge difference. Yes, I will examine myself and see if there was any truth to the director's accusations, but in the end, the wealth of friends and family who know me and LOVE the real me fills my heart so there's little room for the enemy of my soul to get in and get cozy. A heart full of love leaves no room for condemnation. That's just my point of view. (BTW: I've lost some weight and gained some serenity since my '08 picture, so I'm updating it here.)
If you think people are constantly judging and criticizing you, do yourself a favor and read this book! From a Christian perspective, but extremely helpful for anyone who has a judgemental, blaming attitude - even if you don't think you do!
From My Point of View - 1/24/13
I realize it's been a while since I've posted so, for those of you who are following my updates, I just wanted to drop a quick line to say that I feel pretty good these days. I truly believe in the 12 Promises of Codependents Anonymous.
I will post more later. I promise.
From My Point of View -- 3/26/13
The Courage to Change the Things I Can
The Serenity Prayer is extremely powerful and almost as deep as Scripture. While my addict is still an addict and not much has changed as far as getting what I want, I have found a new serenity in letting go of the "entitlement" and the erroneous thinking that I can somehow change the addict.
I hope, someday, to get what I want, but I'm not holding my breath, waiting to live until I get it, or making my addict responsible for providing it. Some days I am still sad. Some days I long and pine; other days I'm just fine. Freedom from codependency does not mean I will never be sad again; it simply means I can ask for what I want and take care of my own wants and needs without having to manipulate or hide. It also means I can be sad and I have people in my life who care. What a huge blessing!
This just came to me...
I believe codependency is needing you so much that I am too afraid of losing you to ask for what I want. And, if I do ask for what I want and you can't or won't give it to me, I'm too dependent on you to leave (or take care of myself). So, asking for what I want is the first step...yeah, one step at a time.
Smedes uncovers the core of codependency, names it and exposes it to the healing power of grace. You will find healing for yourself and others in this short but powerful book. Highly recommended for addicts of all types.
My Point is
You don't have to live with the pain! There is help from the symptoms of codependence. Please get help. You are worth it!
From My Perspective - 12/14/2013
My Goodness, It's been a while...
That should tell you something about recovery. At first, it is hard to process what is going on. Then, it gets easier and insight comes rapidly. Then, things begin to level off. However, occasionally, something comes along to upset the applecart. That happened to me last month.
Normally, I consider myself brave and noble to continue walking this path of recovery, acceptance and grace. But some days, I just feel like an idiot. And not just any idiot -- a supreme idiot. In recovery, we are taught to not go "hunting" or "looking" for evidence. So I didn't. I trusted God to reveal what I needed to know when I needed to know it. Everything was going along swimmingly when -- WHAM! -- I hit something so hard that I reeled backwards for days. I literally felt like my "strong man" was in shreds on the floor and I was left standing there, looking at him laying there so pitifully. I did not know what to do. So, I did what I thought was the next right thing: I took time off from what everyone else was expecting from me and I soaked in God's presence. I didn't feel it right away, but after a few hours, I felt my courage come back. I felt my strength and my resolve and my inner "knower" come back. I rebuked the devil and stood for what I knew I was: courageous in the face of defeat, an overcomer and a graceful princess, daughter of the Most High. I felt Compassion wash over me and I was able to carry on; no, not me, but the One who lives in me. Recovery does not mean never being knocked down; recovery means having the tools to get back up and continue the journey onwards towards the goal.
I'm Baa-aack! 12/6/2014
2014 has been a very difficult year for me. I won't bore you with all the details but there have been deaths, amputations, jail time, disownings and separations. Yes, readers, I finally separated from my addict to learn to live without codependency. It has been one of the most -- nay, THE most difficult journey of my life. I have fallen apart to the point of near mental and emotional breakdown. I have stayed in bed for days. I have thought of ending it all. I have stopped eating and I have overeaten. I have medicated my pain and I have pulled over on the side of the road to wail soul-wrenching sobs of anguish. But I survived. I lived through the Year of Loss. I can't say I am thankful for it yet, but I know the day is coming. If you are struggling, dig deeper. Don't let all your pain go to waste. There is a Supreme reason to the struggle. It is the journey of reconnecting to that which was lost. In my case, I lost myself a long time ago and I am fighting the uphill climb to save the princess I locked away in the dark tower so many years ago. I occasionally catch glimpses of the imprisoning fortress and I know she will soon be freed. It will be worth the tears.
The View From The Top -- 1/8/2016
I've left you hanging like Episode 7 of Star Wars: "We want to know what happens next!" Well, dear readers, I am happy to say I reconciled with my husband at the end of 2014 and 2015 was -- dare I say -- delightful! Not because my circumstances have changed but I have seen the fruit of my labor from the last eight years ripen and taste pretty dang delicious. I feel like I have crested the top of Pikes Peak and can finally see the long road that led me up here. It's not all roses, mind you. Sometimes the air is thin and I have to stop and catch my breath. But the skills and tools I've learned in Al-Anon have been indispensable. I have learned to stop care-taking and start taking care of me. I have learned that I don't always have to know everything or take responsibility for everyone else's crazy monkeys and get pulled into their dysfunctional circus. I don't have to spend time with people who treat me poorly or do things just because others think I should. I can see farther but there are still hills and mountains to climb. I'm just glad I got the right gear to continue.