Alcoholism & Codependency: My Roots of Recovery
I did not get sober when I originally went to A.A. in college. Mom had a hard time believing I was an alcoholic, even after rehab at 15. But I think she couldn’t think she had raised a defective daughter. So when I proclaimed my A.A. member status that Christmas, she pushed wine on me and I drank it. I was in pain over some plans that fell through and she thought the wine would help. It helped. I stayed drunk again for 3 years, again asked god for relief, and again god provided relief. I “ran away” from home after college and stayed away from The Mother. I stayed sober that year until we reunited whereupon I got and stayed drunk for another couple of years, all the while hitting new lows and bottoms.
The last time I quit drinking after yet again asking god for relief, I ended up through a series of crazy [some may say coincidental] events, at the same A.A. group I originally went to in college. Mom encouraged me to drink again after discovering I was in A.A. and sober for 30 days still wanting me to not be an alcoholic (I think) so I stayed drunk for as long as I’d been not drinking that time. Long story short I got sober January 04, 2003 and haven’t had a drink since. I attribute staying happily sober to Al-Anon.
The best thing A.A. ever did for me was lead me to Al-Anon
Trying to Fix Other People
At the heart of my alcoholism, besides learning that I am chemically different than non-alcoholics, lies the problem of me. If I know I am chemically different, which I knew and know, after a short time in “the program,” why would my first instinct or need be to drink when I feel pain? To numb it or kill it because who wants to feel it. But why would I feel pain so often? I have a few theories but one reason that I could easily identify after sobriety is because I was codependent.
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous says that alcohol is only a symptom and I agree. This translates into alcohol, in and of itself, is not the problem.
You know when you get a fever? You won’t die of a fever of 100* but it does indicate something else is going on. Why would I repeatedly hurt myself with hangovers and hiding my alcohol at the end and no interest in relationships if I knew it hurt me? If I knew that the first drink I had would lead me into this, why did I pick up the first drink? Because I did not having coping skills and I lacked resources to not pick up the first drink. A.A. helped with that. It led me to the resources that enabled me to stay away from the first drink, so when my sponsor told me she would like to see me in Al-Anon after my first year of sobriety, that thought alone would keep me sober sometimes. At that time I was involved in relationships with people who blamed me, yelled at me and they worsened when I quit being numb [drunk]. I grew cognition and it seems these dis-eased relationships grew worse. At least, that’s how I saw it.
I spent too much time in trying to help other people ‘get better’ [from his/her own issues] while, though sober, incapable of dealing with mine. I got to Al-Anon and worked THOSE steps. But because most of the people who tried controlling me or who were hurting me weren’t alcoholic I found it lacking in a lot of areas until I heard the word “Codependency.”
Let me describe ways in which my codependency manifested from a young age into adult onset, understanding that until recovery I thought how I operated was normal. I thought all people just *did it better than I did* and is why everyone else (my peers) seemed happy and put together.
Primarily I suffered from intensely low self-esteem. I thought I was only as valuable as the value others placed upon me. Getting mad at me was an indication I was not worthy. My own ideas, if disputed, meant I was stupid. If you were in a bad mood it was my fault. If I got straight A’s I was allowed to breathe oxygen and speaking of breathing oxygen, I had no personal space. I said “Sorry” if I breathed wrong, made a mistake in judgment, was unskillful in something, or whatever. And when I said “Sorry” that really meant, “I am so sorry I am alive. Please forgive me for taking up the air you need.”
I waffled and waned, trying to make something work. When I could not alleviate my suffering through being truthfully codependent ~ and that means “standing in my truth and behaving as the codependent I really was” I would adopt a facade. I used alcohol ~ when drinking ~ for courage and to *pretend* as if I knew what was going on. My biggest secret I even have today is that I never knew what was going on.
Equally I would also cling to fighting. My facade and ego had, at one point, gotten so built up that if I could just let everyone know I was not to be messed with, the threat of my wrath would be enough for people to leave me alone. Innocently I had gotten into fighting with the girls at my new school because of my intensely shy nature and being different or exotic; coming from a new place, the boys were interested and the girls were irritated. Having no skills to know I was worthy of protecting myself I would say nothing during the taunting. (Remember, I’m codependent and feel worthless to begin with and now then - this.) After my second fight and not losing, neither in either case did I want it or start it, I began to understand that these ”sorts of people” could understand nothing else. [Later in discovering I was HSP, I would discover “these sorts of people” to be the almost polar opposite of who I was.] So, it started. Ego, facade, and defenses up.
Codependency is a pattern of behavior in which people place the needs of others before their own. As a result, codependent people may have difficulty forming healthy and balanced relationships. Instead, they tend to get close to other people who have addictions or mental health problems that the codependent person tries to ignore or avoid.
Codependency was first described as a pattern among partners or family members of people with alcohol and drug problems. Since then, the term ‘codependent’ has been adapted to many situations.
In most cases, people engage in codependent behavior as the result of a lack of self-esteem. Codependent people often look for something outside themselves that makes them feel better. Dysfunctional families, in which misbehavior or abuse is accepted as normal, are a major source of codependent behavior.
Codependent people fall easily into a caretaker role. They often view themselves as ‘martyrs’ and thrive on the sense of being needed. In addition, they may not acknowledge that a problem (such as a partner’s alcoholism) exists. Over time, the sense of caring can become compulsive and emotionally draining, leaving the codependent person feeling angry and unappreciated.
People involved in codependent behavior tend to avoid confronting difficult emotions. They feel disconnected from their own needs and desires, struggle with their feelings and have difficulty trusting others. The emotional toll of codependency often leads patients to try to escape through drug and alcohol abuse. Others may develop compulsive behaviors such as gambling or risky sex.
After coming to terms with my alcoholism those many years later I was able to more clearly see some characteristics in myself and how or why they were triggered. I was able to see that all these years I simply hadn’t had any non-self-harming tools to deal with life’s problems.
But today I do have resources. Today I am better equipped to deal with situations that used to baffle me. Today I will not ignore a confrontational stance. Today I will not accept abuse comfortably if at all. Today I will not allow someone to push all the buttons I have, having me believe I am worthless and not worthy of self-care. I will refuse the act of passive-aggressive. I have some other ideals I work toward on a daily basis but have yet to get fully recovered but hopefully tomorrow I’ll be closer.
Every day is a day I have to practice the opposite of what Codependent behavior would have me do. I do this by reading, studying, and implementing the twelve steps as well as reading Codependent recovery books. It would be nice for you to like me. I am sure I’d appreciate it. But, for me to like myself has to take a priority over what you think or expect from me. It’s not a luxury. When I don’t put myself first I’m creating fertile ground for destructive behaviors.
Added August 24, 2006
No. This is not the ‘Graduating into Phase II’ of Codependency but the more will be revealed section of Codependency. This is where I am going to relay my feeling that Codependency - with a capital C - is the most insidious, insane, and spreadable mind disease I believe we have. I believe that from it’s practice all sorts of diseases are born and thrive. Because of this, I see it everywhere.
From my practice, I see healthy people trying to get those doing the seeking to cast off what other people may do or say. From my A.A. meetings I see people speaking on and struggling with their relationships, often going back to get drunk over their ultimate powerlessness over their inability to claim personal autonomy. I see women, recovered from bulimia for years, eventually getting back to it when they become enmeshed back into relationships they can’t seem to manage well enough to assert boundaries. I see my friends and relatives turning to alcohol and drugs for whatever reason they may arrive at, but I notice it when their relationships fall apart or are incapable of being managed well.
So what’s the solution?
I have talked about it before and I have even offered *my solution* on this page already but in case I wasn’t clear as I was speaking on my autobiography, let me be perfectly clear on the matter. And perhaps my already offered solution wasn’t really the solution but a means in which to attain the Solution. There IS a Solution - with a capital S - and now I’m going to state it.
Self Love, Self Care, Selfishness with Self, Self
No. No. No. Not the “self love” in the New Age books and the hokey pokey images that put in my mind of Hari Krishnas and flowers at airports. Not that and definitely not Ku-mba-freaking-yah. No. The real kind. Like, if you’re a mother and you love your child? You love yourself more. “I can’t believe she just said that!” Well, yeah. It doesn’t make sense you’d sacrifice and work so hard for a child if you loved yourself first and more right? Have you asked yourself why this doesn’t make sense? It makes perfect sense to me.
The problem is we’re taught that to love ourselves first and most is a bad thing. As a result we have socially learned viruses being spread like a fire in dry brush. So. We sacrifice until it hurts, we stay in abusive relationships, we give money until we’re broke, and we’re taught a really neat word along the way in order to keep us doing these insane behaviors that keep us in pain and that word is “selfishness.”
“You are so selfish!”
Codependency is a lie because it aggravates our natural gifts and turns them into painful liabilities. And to be called “selfish” triggers a lot of thoughts and feelings in people that, for the codependent, has them bending over backwards to not be perceived as “selfish.” And as long as my ’self’ does not belong to me, I am insane. I am so insane I concentrate on externals in order to make my internals okay.
If I could look like Barbie, I would be happy. If I could be more compassionate I would have more friends. If I don’t talk a lot people will like me. If I lose 20 more pounds my life would be good. If I pretend to like coffee, he’ll love me. [On a personal note, I knew a woman who pretended to like coffee so a recovering alcoholic would go have coffee with her.] These conditions for happiness, peace, or serenity or whatever we think we’re looking for are like a hamster wheel. “Run, Forrest! Run!”
We have everything in the world in order to be happy right now - it resides inside of you and it resides in me. We’ve just been clouded; We can’t see our truth because we’ve lived in lies for so long it’s becomes the point from where we operate. How did we get to these lies and how do we stop operating from them? The first question is easy. We got them from whichever socializing units operated from them themselves. And those units learned it from their units and so forth - so it’ s not about blaming or shaming. It’ s about stopping the cycle now. And you can.
Right now. Ask yourself if you agree with this. Getting rid of the thoughts in your head, check in with your feelings and see if this feels right. If you’re feeling as if you’ve just stumbled onto something amazing and life-changing? Good. It is. You will not believe the journey - it’s a trip! There have been several paths I have used in order to discover my freedom - and it is freedom - from Codependency, the mitote, worldly lies, suffering.
Codependency, I believe, is a world problem. It’s spread so easily, it seems, from person to person. We have these expectations of people and we seem to train them to be their most unauthentic self. Then the person dutifully trained spreads her virus into her world and so it goes. It manifests so many ways and words like “blame” and “shame” and “should” are some of the hallmarks of its presence. Going deeper than just recovering from a particularly sick relationship we may happen to have in our life I believe it’s discovering our authenticity to the fullest extent possible in every day matters. It’s deciding whether I want to agree with a former agreement I may have had. It’s deciding to not necessarily believe my voice of knowledge when it’s abusing me, and by extension not believing anyone else’s.
Article: What is Codependency?
Recovering from Codependency
You can recover! It is possible! Have faith! Love yourself more!