Learning What it Means to be Co-Dependent

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Co-dependent. Ick…I hate that word.

Recently, I read a book entitled, “Co-Dependent No More,” by Melody Beattie. I hate that book too. Really hate that book.

If you’ve been following me for some time then you’re aware that I’m on a journey. It’s an awakening, an awareness, a dive into my spiritual body, and a self-discovering journey at full speed – sometimes it feels like a spiritual journey on steroids. It’s forced me to heal and grow in ways I didn’t know needed to happen. I haven’t fully disclosed all the details, and I only share what works for me and my audience. This post is uncomfortable for me. A vulnerable moment that I feel is important. It’s been a massive breakthrough on my journey and an awareness that I hope can help someone else.

So what is this word I hate so much?

According to Wikipedia, co-dependency is a controversial concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

According to “Co-dependent No More,” it’s a person who developed unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with a loved one’s more serious issues.

Why do I hate this word so much?

Honestly, I’m ashamed.

I don’t drink excessively. I don’t do drugs. I choose to live a healthy lifestyle. I didn’t feel as if I was doing anything wrong, yet I suffered. It was such a subtle shift in my life, I didn’t realize I was suffering. Until one day a man I hardly knew saw it. He recognized something in me that I denied on the spot. I made up excuses for why my life was the way it was. That’s how co-dependency works, I’m not sure the co-dependent realizes it until they break.

Even then, I didn’t truly know what was wrong. I just knew something needed to change.

I had reached a point where things got turned so upside down I had to do something.

I decided to seek help from a therapist. I walked in thinking I was stressed dealing with other people’s problems. Now nine months later, I realized it’s been my issue all along. Oh, other’s have played their part, but I am no innocent. I taught people that it’s okay to use me, to abuse my responsible initiative and compassion, and then to pretend I meant nothing. But I’m not okay with this. I never have been. I’ve made so many decisions in my life based on other people’s emotions that I couldn’t discern what was mine and what was another’s. In recent history, I even played out another’s internal battle as if it was my own. I began to resent people, situations and myself. I became a ball of rage barely hanging onto my sanity.

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It turns out I didn’t value myself enough to show others that I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly. Wait, how can someone do that to themselves? For me, it has comes down to love. I felt that if I didn’t do something, the other person wouldn’t love me. And then it became such a habit that I was choosing not to love myself. I spent many years believing this is how love worked. But it does not.

First, you deserve to be treated with compassion, understanding and love. No excuses. If a person doesn’t show you these attributes, they do not deserve you. Not only that, you need to treat yourself with these attributes. If you keep showing people it’s okay to treat you with any less, they will never change. And if they never change, again, they don’t deserve you. Because you are worthy of love.

So choose you. Choose to love yourself. Solve your own problems and let others make mistakes and solve their own problems. They will be okay. And, even better, you’ll be more at peace. I promise. Mind your own business. This is still a practice for me. Daily. It’s really difficult when you’re face to face with a familiar situation, and you can feel yourself shrink. In that moment, take that awareness and make your shift. I wake up every morning declaring to love me, and I feel the progress. It’s slow some days, but it’s happening. And, yes, it has to be a conscious choice EVERY DAY.

Then through the entire process, forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for not knowing any better, for suffering for so long, for letting other’s emotions control you. Because now you are more equipped. As am I, and my life has already changed.

I will not let anyone solve my problems. There is no pride involved. I got this. I need this. Exploring my own problems toward a resolution has helped me discover what I need and what I want. Those were questions I asked and truly did not know. But I now want to know. You see, I want to understand me to the point where I can say yes and know it’s me.

Sometimes it takes many tears, conflicts, blocks, challenges, disagreements to realize it’s not everyone else…it’s you. That awareness can take you to a space no one else can. A space of self-discovery, awareness and love. A place to grow. Don’t be afraid to go there. It’s powerful. Very powerful.

Remember you are the only one who has the power to make the shift. This journey is about having the courage to do it.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codependency

 

Learning to Be in My Own Company

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I am in a beautiful guesthouse next to a mansion with a beach-style pool, goats, cows, chickens. It’s quiet and jungle-like. I’m here because I taught a workshop this morning and have another tomorrow. And I’m alone. I’m pretty sure for the first time in 34 years, I’m alone.

I’ve done a lot of firsts this year: first time flying alone; first time to Europe; first time flying with four little children alone; first time taking a lead on a project; first time leaving my children for more than a few days; first time designing; leading a workshop…you get the idea. My life is expanding in beautiful ways. But I’ve never been sitting in a space all by myself.

How can this be?

I started this life with another person – my twin sister. And, well, I wasn’t alone in the womb; I had someone to always play with; go through all those awkward firsts with (going to kindergarten; learning to drive; graduating). We even attended the same college. Then I married and surrounded myself with beautiful, yet noisy and needy children. I’m NEVER alone. Not even in the shower (2-year-olds DO NOT believe in privacy).

Then one day I realized, I wanted to be alone; to sit in a room without any demands. Because if no one demanded my attention, my service, my time then maybe I had a say in my needs.

How do I feel right now?

It’s quiet. Like after 10 minutes I craved the pounding of lyrics in my ears. Yet, I didn’t turn on the radio. Thankfully, there is not t.v. here. I held my phone and texted my best friend, but then I also put that down. I checked my email then closed my computer.

And that’s when I had my ‘Mindy Lahiri moment.’

Note: Mindy Lahiri is a fictional character on the t.v. series The Mindy Project. She’s a doctor experiencing life and relationships in NYC. Her views on life are comedic and with definitely make you laugh.

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Image Courtesy of FOX. From The Mindy Project.

I laid on the floor and stared at the ceiling. For a long time. Perhaps I thought there was some kind of answer there. Maybe I thought God was going to whisper some guidance in my ear, and I’d actually hear it because it was painfully silent in that room. Nothing extraordinary happened. I just thought, “Why is this moment so hard?”

Why can’t I just be alone?

Answer: I’m scared. I’m not sure I know how to be alone.

Now what?

Well, I can do the whole “You’re not really alone,” speech. But that doesn’t seem right in this moment. I feel alone. No one else is here. That doesn’t make me lonely. I’m not sad. I’m not worried. I just feel…you guessed it…uncomfortable. And I’m aware of it.

If I have learned anything in the last year, it’s that feeling uncomfortable usually follows a great space for growth.

Geneen Roth said it well: “…learning to keep yourself company. And then learn to be more compassionate company, as if you were somebody you are fond of and wish to encourage.”

So that is my next move; my next lesson. I’m going to be compassionate with myself in the silence. I love this step forward because it’s an extension to the self-love I talked about a few weeks ago. I’m going to spend more time alone. It may be only a few times here and there, but in this space I will no doubt discover depth about myself that are not available in the chaos of noise.

And what is there to be afraid of? It’s just me.

I challenge you to be alone. Really alone and see what happens. Is it easy for you? How do you feel? What do you observe about yourself?