This is a post that I actually wrote as a guest post for another blog in July 2014. The blog has since been taken down so I decided to post on the Diary of a Recovering Codependent. Enjoy!
Have you ever felt you were doing everything right but in the process, you were going absolutely and utterly insane? I hated myself. I was ashamed of myself. I was unforgiving of myself. This was me before I learned about codependency and the affects it has on my life and those around me. In my personal and unprofessional opinion, we are born with some codependent traits but the life events we suffer as children can play a significant role in our codependency as adults.
Deep in the throes of my codependency, before I understood what it even was or why I did the things I did or felt the way I felt, I had reached a point in my life where I thought I was literally going to go insane. I was married to an addict and my life became an absolute nightmare, not only by his actions, but by mine as well. My understanding is that some people are only codependent in certain area of their life or certain relationships. That wasn’t me. I was codependent in every aspect of my life.
Codependency is defined as a psychological condition and at that time, I certainly didn’t want to hear that. The last thing I wanted to hear was that I had a problem. I thought I was the right one, the good one, the caring one, but today, I understand that I was just as sick as my addict.
In my mind, I did everything possible to make the other person (and I mean any person in my life) happy and show them how much I loved them. Unfortunately, that included lying for them, covering for them, supplying for them and even breaking the law for them. If they were having a bad day, I did whatever I could to make it better. If they were mad, I apologized for anything I might have done to upset them. I worried myself sick on how to fix whatever was going on in their life at the sacrifice of my own. I was a door mat and allowed them to walk on me at every turn, forgiving any indiscretion and abuse (in all forms) against me. I KNEW in my mind that if I could just let them see how much I loved them, they would love me back.
Regardless of who it was, I wanted them to be happy and make life easier for them. If anyone was disappointed in me, my life became obsessed in trying to make them see the good in me. If anyone was angry with me, I did whatever it took to make them pleased with me again. If anyone was sad, I tried tirelessly to make them happy. If someone was in need, I gave whatever I had.
You see, the reality was, there was no me. I lived for everyone else. If I could manage to make their life easier and happier then I knew I would be happy. I never, ever gave a thought as to what would make me happy, or what I liked, or what I needed. To me, that didn’t matter, only they mattered.
Codependency is such a hard thing to understand but let me explain to you what I have learned. I think the first and most important thing that helped me to understand was: I have no control over anyone else. I understand now that people have emotions and feelings that have nothing to do with me and it is not up to me to try to make anything better for them. They must process these emotions and feelings and work things out for themselves, just as I have to do with mine. It was a real eye-opener when I told my sponsor years ago that my husband was angry and I thought he was angry with me. She responded, “Terri, not everything is about you.” Wow, those simple words and the reality of that statement was freeing.
The other thing I learned was that I needed to take care of myself. I needed to figure out what I liked and what made me happy and gave me peace. If there was no “me”, how could I possibly give anything to anyone else? It took some time, actually, a lot of time, to figure out who I was and what I truly liked. I learned how to say “no” and stand my ground when I didn’t want to do something. Yes, it took practice but I can do it today. I make sure to check my motive before saying yes or no. If I say either for the wrong motive then it is not healthy for me. When I say motive, I mean to say, am I doing it because I truly “want” to do it from a place of helpfulness or because I want them to like me or be happy with me or am I trying to rescue them?
I know I can slide back so easily into codependent behaviors but I have the tools to bring me back quickly if I do and I can even derail the train before it takes off. I love and respect myself today. I no longer allow people to use me as a doormat nor do I keep people in my life that have no respect for me. There is no need to. I know my life will go on with or without them and I will be happier and more peaceful because I know how to take care of me today.