Somewhere in Melody Beattie’s Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps she makes it clear that when we grieve as we engage this process of recovery that we are not insane. There may be moments of extreme sadness, confusion, grief, anger, hurt, and mood swings you may not be able to identify. Please do not let it absorb when anyone tells you you are insane when it happens.
I do not know about anyone else but while in my process I have uncovered and discovered that I have unhealthy relationships based upon my unhealthy condition. It has fed and helped to grow some relationships which are less than nourishing to my recovery and if I have one criticism of Ms. Beattie’s it would be the non-disclosure of this.
As a recovering person, trying to recover from addictions as well as the soul sickness that predawned my addictions [to anorexia, bulimia, sugar, and alcohol] I got sober and then became hurt. I worked the 12 steps of A.A. but as I looked around I saw that others like me [minus the alcohol] did not change. They still saw me for what I used to be and gave me no responsible credit for trying to be a human among humans. What was really then a matter of time became a matter of natural necessity. Enter Al-Anon. And when Al-Anon no longer worked due to my having no active alcoholics to contend with, I went further and understood myself to be, at the core, a well-rooted, beautifully fertilized piece of codependency in action.
I think we hear all sorts of things about codependents: They are controlling. They are wishy-washy. They have no spine. They’re rigid. They are wimpy. They are confrontational. They are too dependent. They are too independent.
It really spans the gamut, but the commonality of the codependent lies not in the employment of the methods but is the powerlessness they feel when it comes to the people in their lives and the fact that they *try* to employ such methods. The methods I have mentioned are the extremes that codependents use in trying to affect the people they want to control or manage. I want to make it clear that the codependent does not do these things for the fun of it - because there is no fun in it. The codie does these things because the codie is scared.
She will not confront you because she is scared you will belittle her and her self-worth will become further in the toilet. Another codie will confront you on every issue because she is scared you will think she is stupid if she doesn’t and her self-worth will go further into the toilet. Another codie is too clingy because if she turns her back to breathe you may prove to her that she is indeed worthless because you will leave. Another codie will be very aloof and independent because she fears that if she ever does need someone that person will let her down and she doesn’t need anyone anyway because only she can do it perfectly. The symptoms may be 180* apart but it still boils down to trying to control.
I controlled my mismanagement of people by harming myself. I would refuse food. I would cut myself. My self-esteem took the flavor of “Hell, I know I am powerless over people so please just don’t beat on me too hard.” I drank over it, starved over it, went bulimic, tried to sweeten it, and eventually cut over it…I look at it as trying to drown it away, starve it away, crap it out, sweeten it up, and then cut it out. So far, three of those methods do continue to work for me.
Melody Beattie has said in many of her books that we do the best we can. That anyone at any time, is doing the best they can. I don’t look at my solutions as problematic until I can see there is a better one. I know there is a better one but right now I am sitting on it. Right now I am still trying to control, in some fashion, my feelings.
On page 53 of Codependents’ Guide to the Twelve Steps, “I spent years resisting, denying, trying to control the behavior of those around me, and neglecting myself. […] My circumstances change only when I accept them and quietly figure out what it is I need to do to take care of me within the framework of reality.”
Once in a while I’d gain some courage and try to manipulate a forced change in someone, but it would always be based in something dishonest and the fruits would be short-won. Usually I am the sort of codie who denies anything could be wrong with the situation and would hurt myself over it. I am pride in reverse. I am unlike Melody Beattie in that I did not spend years trying to control people’s behavior, but did spend years denying that anyone’s behavior was wrong for me. I understand that today, and through the process of recovery, that I denied it out of fear of losing something, usually my security. Security is a big one for me and I’ve been emotionally abused and physically beaten in order to keep it before.
Now I would try to change their behavior once the denial quit working. The dishonesty crept in when I would hold my tongue. [”If I say nothing then s/he cannot be mad at me and s/he will not punish me.”] The plan would falter when I’d get into trouble anyway. Then I would hurt myself usually propelled by thoughts of “Oh my God. Even if I do not speak I am wrong. My existence is wrong. I am a piece of shit. I can’t control anything but oh I can control if I bleed. Let me cut myself now.” [Or eat or purge or binge.]
As insane as this seems to the average person reading this, those on this path have encouragement: This is not insanity if you understand it to be working for you. It’s insanity when the “solution” has turned bigger than the problem AND you continue to think that it will shrink back down to being the solution again if you can just manage well.
I have an understanding in clarity that right now I am on a spiral down and have been for the past year or so. I am feeling the sadness and grief that I have not felt before. I know, too, that I am trying to control it. I feel as if I am sitting on a secret that - at any minute - will explode. I further understand that when I am finished acting out it will be because I have gained resolution that God will have to handle this or I have gone to the bottom.
It may be slight insanity that I am currently taking for granted that I have time to continue sitting on the time bomb. But then I look around at the rest of the people in my life and cannot help but notice their own time bombs that they cannot see themselves. I then wonder, which is insanity?
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