Here we are at Step 3 of Conquering Codependency. I can still remember each and every class I took every single week. At the beginning it was truly baby steps and learning to come to terms with my drive to control, fix and be a people pleaser. All the pieces started clicking together each and every step of the process.
Step 3 is all about learning to “Let Go and Let God”. You’ve read that several times in my other Twelve Step posts and that’s because it rang so true to me with each and step. It was only up to Him to help me work through my condependency driven traits. But to “let go” is not as easy as it sounds. It still takes work.
Step 3 – We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God through Jesus Christ.
It’s been said that the first three steps are pretty much this way:
Turning something over or forfeiting our need to control is very hard for most of us. As a codependent, there are trust issues. Why is trusting so difficult? We have difficulty turning our lives over to God because we lack the skills to trust in His grace. Once the first two steps are worked we have to make a conscious decision to now give it to God.
Codependents will see the gospel of Jesus as oppressive, condemning or guilt inducing rather than freeing, forgiving, joyous and strengthening. Why is it so difficult for codependents to accept God’s grace? Here’s why:
Because a codependent has an addiction to control, this is sometimes the hardest step to face in turning our lives over to God. Loss of control is a terrifying thought to us!
Sooner or later our despair catches up to us and our thoughts may resemble these:
The only way out of these thoughts is to SURRENDER – STEP 3!
Deeply ingrained habits can stand in our way of taking Step 3 but God has given us His Word, His Family and His Spirit to help us make that step of faith.
Codependency distorts critical parts of the faith, including fellowship with God, unconditional love and complete forgiveness.
Learning about the distortion that comes along with codependency made me almost feel worse when I was going through this step. I truly took a step back and asked myself if I felt that way about God. I guess in a way, I lived life like he needed an assistant and I was going to be the one. I was going to help him sort out my issues. I didn’t know how to turn everything over to Him. I wasn’t used to that. It was very uncomfortable. So, yes, I was guilty of not being able to relinquish everything to Him. I can even say there were times I’d say “ok, God here you go….you take this and fix it”. A couple of days later I’d take some of it back. I never truly turned it all over to Him.
That made me sad.
He is my Father. He is here for me. He wanted to give me a new life. Lighten the load I was carrying.
I think because of my childhood and younger years, I hadn’t mastered the skills of trusting anyone. I had to take control and I only trusted me. It’s something that becomes who we are as adults when we live for ourselves and try to do it on our own. However, we fail miserably at it. It’s a vicious cycle.
Understanding God’s unconditional love through His Word and experiencing His forgiveness on a daily basis is what helped me turn over my life completely to Him. It was a struggle, don’t get me wrong. Being a complete control freak it wasn’t in my nature to just give that control up.
I remember even before I took these classes I got baptized. I became a member of my church. I have a wonderful church family. I was committed to my faith.
Ultimately, it was the one on one sincere, heart felt prayer that I had with the Lord. For the first time, I remembered asking Him to take over the issues I wrestled with. There was an inner peace after that.
Step 3 is an ongoing continual process as it becomes natural to pray and turn over issues to God. Each and every time this happens, you grow a little bit more in your recovery.
This is truly the beginning of a new way of life…
Here we are at week two of my weekly installment of the 12 Steps to Conquering Codependency. I received a lot of positive feedback from my introduction last week of this idea of mine and so I’m hopeful going forward it will touch more readers.
This week we will jump right into step two of the twelve steps:
Step 2 – We increasingly believe that God can restore us to health and sanity through His Son Jesus Christ.
Before we dive in let’s revisit a couple more traits of the codependent personality.
Codependents have three main symptoms that cause us three emotional results:
The result of those symptoms listed above are guilt, loneliness and hurt/anger. This then causes the Codependent Lifestyle. We are afflicting ourselves. The solution is to have God actually operating in our lives and trusting in Him to make the necessary changes in us. Once again…the concept of “Letting Go and Letting God”.
As a codependent, we tend to also make excuses for others. Our defense mechanisms go into full effect and we don’t see the truth. Without seeing the truth, you can’t start the recovery process.
What is your concept of God?
Did you know that your parents actually shape your view of who God is? It will alter our perceptions. If our parents were loving and supportive we will probably feel that God is loving is supportive. If your parents were harsh and demanding, we will also view Him in that same distorted manner. This really hit home for me personally! I always felt like God was ready to “catch me” and “punish” me for something I’d done wrong. I’ve had to work hard in reshaping my mind into who He really is.
Here is a really good exercise for you to do if you are unsure. There are a list of words below.
Get out a piece of paper. Find one word on each line that describes your concept of your Father. Write it out in a list from top to bottom. You should only have five words to describe your Father. Now do the same with your Mother. Finally, write down the five words that are your concept of GOD. It’s very important to be honest.
This was such a pivotal point to me because I could draw parallel lines through the similarities between my mother and my father. The end result was how I viewed God. The results could be wonderful or tragic.
If you have a warped concept of God, then the second exercise is to meditate on Psalm 139. This Psalm brings together our “head knowledge” of God and our emotional concept of Him.
1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting
Renewing our perception of God will take time. The Bible is our resource for understanding God. It is His love letter to us. Understanding its truth is key for restoration because codependency is a disease of habit. OUR ACTIONS ARE BASED ON OUR BELIEFS!
I’ve been a little disconnected from writing lately and to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure why. Writers block, busy after work, or just plain laziness….there’s no shame there, I’ll tell you guys the truth LOL!
It’s time I get my keyboard fired up again and crank out some recent ideas that I’ve had for my readers.
I’ve had it on my mind lately to share the 12 steps of conquering codependency. I completed the faith-based 12 step program a few months ago at my church and it has truly changed how I relate to people and situations. It also required me to take a long hard look at myself. I think everyone could benefit from a 12 step program, in my opinion.
I watched my mother go through the 12 steps as a recovering alcoholic. I never thought as a codependent I’d need one. Boy, was I wrong. Each week, I worked a new step. It was a grueling process at times but it helped shape who I am today. Those closest to me have seen tremendous progress because they’ve told me so.
So here’s my idea….each week for the next 12 weeks I will touch on each step and summarize/highlight the purpose behind each one. So let’s jump in tonight, shall we?
Step 1 – We admit to ourselves we were powerless over other people; our needs to be needed and our compulsions to rescue others have made our lives unmanageable.
My first week in this program and this hit me smack in the face. I realized I needed to be needed and I was clearly a rescuer. My life had been unmanageable because of it. My accountability in my divorce hinged on me being a “fixer”….a mother instead of a wife….the compulsion to rescue because then I would be needed.
One of the most tragic traits of codependency is the loss of identity. I can honestly say that when I was married, I put everything into my husband. I didn’t spend time with my friends. I did whatever he wanted in order to keep him happy. If he was happy, I was happy. If he was upset, I was upset. I wanted the control but I allowed his mood to change mine yet I would do whatever I could to make his life more manageable. Keep him in a good frame of mind, so to speak. We learn in our own dysfunction growing up that we must please others in order to gain approval.
Everyone must have a basis for self worth. As a codependent, we base our self worth in other people. Fixing their problems…taking on their responsibilities. God intends for that self worth to originate from grace – a free gift offered to you by HIM. We are valuable to our Heavenly Father and we do not need to seek value from others.
There are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if you fall into a pattern of codependency:
One thing that shocked me is that our codependent traits are the marks of a wonderful, caring and strong person. The problem is as you journey through life you may have created painful habits out of these traits that may steal your joy.
There are also common defense mechanisms that codependents take on based on the “feelings” listed above. Do any of these defense mechanisms sound familiar?
I may spend more time later on each of these defense mechanisms because it’s well worth it to expand upon. In the meantime, you may recognize yourself in one or more of them.
This step is frightening to us because our defense mechanisms are all that stand between us and our freedom without looking to others for acceptance. Once this step is taken a whole new world awaits you based on your identity in Christ….not anyone else.
The compulsion to control is a huge factor as a codependent. I know first hand what that was like for me. I felt like I was in control of my marriage as well as my broken relationship with my mother. I would fix it no matter what I needed to do. I was the CEO, COO, CFO and any other “chief” that I could fit into my world. As long as I controlled it, I was good. I think this comes from growing up in a situation that was chaotic. Codependency is cultivated in families that have great needs. A family with an alcoholic, drug dependent, physically, mentally or emotionally ill or needy in some other way. We, then, do not learn healthy management skills relationally. Instead, we are focused on the immediate crisis and rescuing a family member.
Our hope in recovery hinges entirely on admitting that we are powerless. It does not mean you are weak or incompetent. It means we recognize the limits to our power and we need to “let go and let God”. Recognizing that we are powerless actually makes us emotionally healthy.
Step 1 is the first step into reality. It’s the beginning. Learning to see the entire staircase is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Each step has to be completed in order to see a transformation within yourself….just like the caterpillar to the butterfly. You don’t get your wings in this first step but hang with me and you’ll be in your cocoon soon. Growth will happen!
As my blog title states….I am a recovering codependent. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that this is not something that is cured or just “goes away”. It’s what really becomes engrained in us in our early years.
I struggle DAILY to keep my codependent nature in check. My personality traits can be viewed as attractive to most people. Along with being kind-hearted, generous, helpful, and loyal comes along with it my automatic drive to be a fixer and people pleaser. That’s all well and good until it turns into obsessive and controlling.
For most of my life, I’ve been a caretaker.
I can remember being a very small child….maybe 5 years old….and my mother was raising me single-handedly and struggled most days with alcohol. I learned at a young age how to get dressed on my own and find something in the kitchen to have for breakfast and sometimes dinner.
Other days, I took care of my mother…still at a young age. Making sure she had water beside her bed when she had a hangover, bringing her a basket to keep by the bed for the times when the hangovers got so bad that she was sick and in bed all day long and going to the 7Eleven when we ran out of milk for my cereal.
This was normalcy for me. From the time I could remember until….well, until today really.
My mother has been experiencing tremendous tooth pain for several weeks now. My father and I talked her into going to the dentist even though she is petrified (which is why the pain became escalated). She had a dentist appointment early this morning.
I woke up later than I usually do because this past week has been grueling and I honestly needed the rest. I called at 11:30 knowing my mother and father would be at the dentist but wanted to leave a message to call me when they got back to update me. Then I headed out to cut my grass….it took about an hour.
Came in, checked my phone…nothing. Found it slightly strange but realized if a root canal had to be done it may take a little while.
At about 1pm I decided to call their house again. Voicemail. I left another message. Slightly concerned but not panicked. Not yet.
3:15pm. I called again and left another message. Now I’m worried and my red cape with the letter “C” for codependent had now been put on and I was ready for some sort of rescue but I wasn’t sure what just yet.
4pm and still nothing. Now I’m going to drive to their house like a stalking ex-girlfriend. Why? I didn’t know why I just had to do it. They weren’t there. Then I drove to the dentist office to see if they are there. No cars in the parking lot because they closed at noon.
Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just call their cell. My Mom is 73 and my Dad is 66. Neither one are interested in being attached to an electronic leash so they don’t own one. Sure would have helped my anxiety at this point.
Now I’m really a nervous wreck and my mind is in all sorts of places. I try to breathe and go back home. I wasn’t in control of this and I had no way to get answers. I don’t like how that feels one bit let me just tell you! I tried to tell myself….well, my Mom isn’t alone. My Dad is with her.
No sooner did I get home and sit down on the couch did I decide to call the nearest hospital. I got the operator on the phone and asked her if she could check the database for my mother. SHE WAS THERE! IN THE EMERGENCY ROOM!
OH MY GOD! Anxiety is in high gear. I couldn’t get out of the driveway fast enough. Once there, no parking space was close enough. My mind was going to the worst places. How do you go from the dentist to the ER…what could have happened?!? My brisk walk turned to a jog as the automatic doors opened to the ER.
The lady behind the desk confirmed what room she was in and I raced back there. I appeared in the doorway to my dad standing with two nurses and my mother in a wheelchair getting ready to be discharged.
The dentist sent her to the hospital for an antibiotic IV. Her abscess was that bad. She was on pain meds too. She was pretty much out of it.
Let me stop here and just say that whenever my mother is on pain meds it throws me back to when I was 5 years old. It emulates the same behaviors as being intoxicated. Slurred speech, stumbling, and argumentative. At 40 years old I have to take a mental note of how I’m reacting to it all.
My father gives me the duty of taking her home while he goes to fill her prescription. She’s wheeled out to my car and I help her in the passenger seat. She’s falling asleep in the car on the way home and I remember looking over at her when I stopped at a red light. Her face was so swollen and she was in pain. Tears filled my eyes momentarily and again, compassion stirred in my heart.
We pulled up in front of her house and I helped her out. She had to take more antibiotics when we got home and hadn’t really eaten anything. My Dad fixed her a sandwich and I helped her upstairs to bed. She gave me one of the biggest hugs that I can remember. I told her I loved her and hoped she got some sleep.
I left the house and drove home thinking about how I let myself get derailed today with the whole worry and anxiety bit but obviously it was warranted. I just know this is part of who I am and it can flip on like a switch. At the end of the day, however, I know I played a healthy role in “helping” not enabling. There wasn’t anything to enable this time.
Today I was a caregiver to my mother….not a caretaker. What is the difference, you ask?
Caretaking feels stressful, exhausting and frustrating. Caregiving feels right and feels like love.
Caretaking takes from the recipient or gives with strings attached; caregiving gives freely.
Caretaking creates anxiety and/or depression in the caretaker. Caregiving decreases anxiety and/or depression in the caregiver.
Caretakers tend to be judgmental; caregivers don’t see the logic in judging others and practice a “live and let live attitude.”
Caretakers start fixing when a problem arises for someone else; caregivers empathize fully, letting the other person know they are not alone and lovingly asks, “What are you going to do about that.”
Caretakers tend to be dramatic in their caretaking and focus on the problem; caregivers can create dramatic results by focusing on the solutions.
Caretakers us the word “You” a lot and Caregivers say “I” more.
Since that whole episode, I’ve snuggled in for the night and not called the house. I’ve enjoyed a couple movies on TV and had dinner. I have not allowed myself to worry or be anxious about how my mother is doing. I trust my father will call if something is needed. That’s a huge step for me and I recognize that.
I’m going to have my moments. But for now, the red cape that brands the “C” is put away for the time being.
A huge shout out goes to one of my favorite bloggers, Terri with Diary of a Recovering Codependent! She is the creator of the Courage to Change award and she was so kind to nominate me.
I was literally speechless today when I saw the nomination and I have to honestly say that it was quite the honor to accept something like this from someone that has first hand knowledge of the struggles I’ve faced as a codependent myself. She has more years of recovery on me but knows how much of a daily battle it is to keep our codependent nature in check.
She is one of the first to respond to my very transparent posts, she was one of the first five bloggers that I followed and vice versa and I learn something new from her journey almost daily.
I am looking forward to “paying it forward” by nominating others that I feel are so deserving of this award as well.
Thank you again, Terri!
I woke up this previous Sunday morning not knowing if I had the strength to go to church. Emotional strength, that is. I knew I was saying goodbye to my favorite uncle and it was becoming increasingly hard to hold back tears.
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat on the porch reading my Bible. Thinking about what the day had in store. There was a feeling of finality in the air. I looked out at the trees and tried to focus as they became blurry through my tears. “How am I going to make it through service today?” I thought. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone much less even sit next to anyone. That sounded so un-Christian in my mind but I’m human and that’s how I felt. Either way, I made it there and survived without having a meltdown. I do have terrific friends who knew what that day was about and they were extremely supportive. That made it a little easier.
My family was to gather at the oceanfront just before sundown. There were a total of 20 family members that came to pay their respects. I rode in the car with my parents. My father, as expected, was unusually quiet.
We all walked together down to the shore. Sand between our toes and the warm sun welcoming us as we got closer to the water. I looked out at the many families still sitting in beach chairs enjoying the remaining sunlight thinking how they came to relax and enjoy spending time with their family on this warm summer day…..and I was saying goodbye to a family member. That’s how I was spending time with my family that day.
Strangely, the far left side of the beach was empty. No family. No chairs. No disturbance. It’s almost as if God had that spot picked out for us where it was quiet and we wouldn’t be disturbed.
My father, his two brothers and sister took turns speaking about my beloved uncle. I listened closely as light-hearted memories were shared. Fun times that each of his siblings had tucked away in their heart.
The entire time, I watched the waves roll in and go back out almost as if beckoning my uncle to his final resting place.
As the last prayer was said, my uncle and aunt walked out into the ocean to disperse the ashes. A seagull flew overhead at just that moment and made a high-pitched cry as the final ashes were cast into the water.
My father then handed red and yellow roses to each of the women in the family, asked us to say one final word and then throw the roses into the ocean when we were ready. That was a beautiful sentiment.
We all stood together for one last, long moment and then headed back toward our cars. We had plans afterward to meet for dinner as a family at a restaurant on the beach.
It’s not always easy to get everyone situated in their seats and ready to order in a somewhat organized fashion. But it was accomplished.
From where I sat, I faced the ocean and it was breath-taking. I knew this is where my uncle wanted to be laid to rest and I knew why. It was beautiful. Yet at the same time it felt like he should have been sitting at the table with the rest of us enjoying the view and dinner with his family. I missed him. I missed hearing him call me by my nickname “The Princess”. It was very “tongue-in-cheek” sarcastic as I was given that name as I entered the teen years. But it was endearing nonetheless….and it was his name for me. I’d never hear him call me that again. My eyes welled up with tears.
I shifted my gaze from looking straight out over the ocean to looking to my right out the window. What I saw caught my breath!
He was letting me know he was there. I smiled to myself and jumped up to take the picture of that boat. My heart swelled with joy and I knew he was at peace.
One of the last things I thought of that night was the fact that my uncle grew close to the Lord before his passing. That fact was shared at the water’s edge with the group of us and it gave my heart peace and comfort knowing that I really didn’t say goodbye that Sunday….it was more like…”till we meet again.”
I love Marilyn Monroe. Such a timeless classic beauty with a life that ended way too soon! I think this is one of my favorite quotes by her because it calls out the many facets that, we, as individuals are made of.
None of us are perfect. We all search for that perfect person in hopes that we will be perfect in their eyes. In truth, we are all flawed! We all make mistakes! It takes a special person to see us for who we are….good, bad and ugly….and accept and love us no matter what.
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