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:
- Do I often feel isolated and afraid of people especially authority figures?
- Am I an approval seeker?
- Do I feel frightened of angry people?
- Do I feel I’m a victim in personal or professional relationships?
- Do I feel an overdeveloped sense of responsibility with regard to others?
- Is it hard for me to look at my own faults and responsibility to myself?
- Do I feel guilty when I stand up for myself?
- Do I feel addicted to excitement?
- Do I confuse love with pity?
- Is it difficult for me to feel or express feelings?
- Do I judge myself harshly?
- Do I have low self esteem?
- Do I often feel abandoned in the course of my relationships?
- Do I tend to be reactive?
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?
- The Perfectionist – you’ll be accepted if you perform perfectly
- The Martyr – the more pain you carry the more praise you earn
- The People Pleaser – to gain others acceptance you never make anyone angry.
- The Caretaker – you take care of others responsibilities
- The Stuffer – expressing emotions are inappropriate
- The Fixer – you take care of others emotions instead of your own
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!