I Am a Recovered Codependent.
The definition of codependency that I most agree with is “a progressive and habitual illness of the mind, where the thoughts, feelings, actions, and inactions of others becomes an obsession, which then leads to objectionable behavior”. That is my experience….and when I speak of being “recovered”, what I really mean is that the obsessions around others have been arrested to the point that I no longer feel an irresistible need to act out. In other words, I am in a state of remission, as long as I continue to work my program.
I have known a lot of alcoholics and addicts throughout my life – those in recovery and those in active addiction. Prior to getting into a 12-step program myself, I thought it was just choices they were making, and I was sick and tired of their bad behavior. When I finally got into a program, I was educated around addiction and the insane thinking that accompanies this disease. Through that education I realized that I’m not so different than an alcoholic or addict….in the mind and spirit, we are virtually identical. The main thing that separates us is we act out around different things. We have different solutions. A program unifies us under one solution.
Powerless Over People
When it comes to people, I have an insanity that I have no power over. I cannot stop thinking about how to mold people to fit what I need them to be. Pretty much everything they do is wrong to some degree. But I need them to change in order to be more comfortable. And sometimes, they’ll try to change! To make me happy! To get me off their backs! But it was never good enough. Because at the end of the day, I believed that I could get them to act in the perfect way so that I would reach my ultimate goal: happiness. And when I didn’t end up happy…. well, that just meant that obviously they didn’t change enough or in the right way. It was a constant cycle of demanding MORE, BETTER, DIFFERENT from everyone around me and being inevitably disappointed because people continued to be people – flawed, imperfect, and different. No matter how much they would’ve wanted to, they could not maintain my idea of perfection. Toward the end, life was pretty miserable for me and everyone around me. I was losing every job I had. I had gone to jail. The people around me had run off or given up. I was suicidal…. There was a hopelessness that came out of being stuck between my insane, dishonest thinking and pure, unadulterated reality. It was BLEAK!
Experience, Strength & Hope
Today, I am grateful for my experiences prior to working a program. It is because of those experiences that I am able to be uniquely useful to others who suffer in the same way. I am grateful that every awful thing I did, every sleepless night, and every dashed dream is all put to good use now. I can lead others toward the same path to remission that has served me so well over the years.
One of the ways I use my past to help others is to educate people around the topic of codependency. I do a lot of presentations, write blogs, answer questions, help develop programming, and more. A lot of the work I do in the codependency realm relates to alcoholics and addicts in recovery. Over the years, while working in a treatment center, my coworkers and I have seen how dangerous codependency can be for those in early recovery. Sure, they’ve gotten sober, but now they’re being distracted by potential significant others, existing significant others, their kids, their parents, and so on. Rather than focusing on their recovery program, a lot of external factors start to take priority over other reasonable endeavors. In other words, they start worshipping things that probably shouldn’t be worshipped. We see people leaving treatment early because they “fell in love” and then relapsing and suffering the consequences of that relapse. We see people breaking the rules at their treatment center because they can’t stop obsessing about the people in their lives. We see people de-prioritizing their program over money and material items. The list goes on and on and on. So, we help educate around the warning signs or objectionable behaviors of codependents and how to help those who suffer from it.
Finding a Solution
A comment I get a lot is “I identify with that so much! Does that mean I need to work another 12-step program for codependency?!”. The answer is “not necessarily”. The simple fact is that in a 12-step program, the only difference between my program and an alcoholic/addict’s program is Step One. We are asked to concede to our innermost selves that we are powerless over [blank]. But after that, the steps go in the same order, require the same work, and demand the same decimation of ego. If we’re diligent in our step work and in communication with our sponsors, we should be able to apply the program of action to any problem that arises.
There are two quotes from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous that stand out to me on this.
1. On page 42: “Quite as important was the discovery that spiritual principles would solve all my problems.”
2. On page 45: “Its main object is to enable you to find a Power greater than yourself which will solve your problem.”
The Big Book does not specify which problem will be solved. It talks about all problems being solved. Codependency is just one problem. Experiencing codependency does not mean you’re of the hopeless variety like me. It might mean you have a mental blank spot (insanity/lack of clarity) around a particular person or something in general, which can absolutely be taken care of within the program you’re currently working in conjunction with the sponsor you’re currently working with. We try not to limit the power of this program by saying it only solves one problem.
Considering Dual Sponsorship
However, like with all arguments, there is an opposing side. I know scores of people who are considered “dual” in addiction and codependency. They have worked their sobriety program, yet continued to have codependency issues to the level that working a second program with a codependency sponsor became necessary. There is nothing wrong with this. A codependency sponsor can identify with their problem better than someone who has never experienced it. A codependency sponsor can give guidance that will help someone navigate each situation that involves those they obsess over. And a codependency sponsor can speak to the demands we make of others better than most. It can be highly beneficial to seek out someone who has recovered from that illness.
So, if you’re having some issues around codependency or identify with a recovered codependent, take it to your sponsor and discuss what might be a good path for you. Take it into prayer and meditation and let your Higher Power guide you. As long as we are willing to do the next indicated thing, the rest tends to fall into place!
Let Us Help
Now, if you’re not in any program, yet you identify with what you’ve read or heard and want to know more or want some help, call us. We’d be happy to chat with you and get you in front of the people that can walk with you on your journey. Let us help you find the same freedom that so many of us enjoy. We do recover. Each and every one of us who is willing to say, “Help me”. Call us today at 940.898.6202.