Thank you Mike for completing our “Black Belt Codependent Interview Series”!
Mike mentions in his interview, “My friends, son and ex-wife will call me on my bull when it happens. I am recovered enough that I want to be called out when I behave poorly.” This is so extremely important to do for those of us that are codependent! We have a tendency to get so caught up in the drama and busyness of life (and the lives of others) that we lose sight of our own thoughts, actions and well-being. When you have some recovery, you allow others to speak into your life without getting defensive. You take their insight and you process it in a healthy way. You acknowledge your part and use the feedback as a tool for further growth. I’m not saying that it doesn’t sometimes sting, because it can, but you are willing to see the truth of what they are saying and grow from it.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a recovering codependent, a dad, a grandpop.
How did you know you were codependent?
Funny story. My ex-wife, with whom I was completely enmeshed with, told me I might want to look into it. Of course, I promptly pushed that out of my mind for a year, until I was in crisis, and all I could hear in my head was her voice saying that. I gave up, at that point and grabbed my laptop.
How do you think you became a codependent?
I believe it stems from early childhood sexual abuse, followed by years for parental verbal and emotional abuse, and seeing my parents live out a codependent relationship. The toxic shame brought on by the sexual abuse combined well with the negative reinforcement that followed.
Describe codependency in one word?
Do you find being a codependent an embarrassing label? If so, why?
No. Not really. It gave me a name for my dysfunction. I was too exited to actually not be crazy, that this label didn’t bother me.
What were your biggest fears relating to your codependency?
Fear of abandonment. Fear of everyone else seeing me as poorly as I saw myself. Fear of change.
Do you feel that your codependency controlled you?
Oh, absolutely. Codependency controlled every aspect of my life. From what I enjoyed doing, to when I could go home at night. An example might be when I was enmeshed with my ex-wife. I would go over there and stay. All evening. Even if I wanted to go do something else, I was afraid to say that, because if I did, she might find out she didn’t need or want me to come over. I missed out on vacations with friends, money opportunities since I own my own business, a lot of things, really.
What was the turning point that caused you to seek help or learn more about codependency?
I was completely manipulating my ex-wife to stay a part of her life when she started dating someone else. I always used our “best friendship” as a hammer to make sure I always knew what was going on. At some point she stopped telling me things so I took out my trusty friendship hammer and asked why…… there is a point in movies where you can trace everything to one singular instant, I always thought that was a bunch of bull…..until that instant….. without going into details, her answer devastated me. I hid in bed for 2 days, and a friend convinced me to get up and shower. While I was, my mind, which usually went 100 miles an hour, in 50 directions, was silent, and all I could hear, was her voice from a year prior…… look at codependency, I think that’s the issue…… I did. I looked at the list of behaviors, and after checking off 45 of the 55, I was on my way.
Who did you hurt the most with your codependency?
First and foremost, I believe I hurt myself the most. While I hurt other people with my behavior, the only common denominator in every codependent episode was me. I lost a marriage, my personality, I had nothing… was nothing. I put myself on hold for 20+ years. Always it was grasping at keeping people from abandoning me, all the while I was setting myself up to be abandoned.
What does “detachment” mean to you?
Detachment is the ability to see, and react to things without getting tangled in codependency. Seeing things, not through the prism of codependency, but clearly, as they are. Whenever I start to feel codependent, I step back and try to determine if what I am feeling, is appropriate, or am I behaving codependendly.
What does, “Stay on your side of the street” mean to you?
Man….. That’s something that took a long time to get. I always prided myself as a good listener, but what was really happening was I was giving direction and advice without being asked. I liked to say that if I only was able to take my own advice, I would never have any trouble. So, I’d say that it means, keeping my advice to myself. Keeping my belief that I “know better” to myself, and to allow others to regulate their own lives as they see fit.
What does, “Get off the dance floor” mean to you?
Never heard this one, but when I hear it, i think of knowing when enough is enough and extracting myself from harmful or potentially harmful situations before it is too late.
How did you deal with boundaries in the past and how do you deal with them today?
I didn’t think I had any boundaries and consequently I didn’t believe anyone else did either. I expected you to violate my space. That’s what I learned was “love” as a child. This led me to the conclusion that if I expected it, so did everyone else…. ugh. Thinking about all the times I walked right over someone’s boundary without even thinking about it….. now, I am secure…for the most part….in my boundaries. I know where they are, and I can move them if needed. I also respect others boundaries too. It felt a bit cold at first, like I was showing people I didn’t care, and that caused much fear, mostly of abandonment, at first. With practice, though, it feels much better.
Have there been any dramatic changes in you, your attitude, or your life since starting your journey of recovery?
Yes. I’d say there are changes in me. I no longer feel it my responsibility to manage anyone’s life but my own. I have rediscovered who I am, what I like, what I don’t like. I see things less as emotions, and more like facts. Facts don’t care about my emotions. Before, I would drop everything for someone else, now, I look to see if I would rather do something else first, before answering.
What is the hardest part of staying focused on yourself and your recovery?
The hardest part is that I was unable to fully pull myself away from all the triggering people in my life…. I still had to deal with my ex-wife because of our son and granddaughter. I still had to deal with my parents. I believe it would be much easier if I didn’t have to do that.
What is the easiest part of staying focused on yourself and your recovery?
Knowing when I have to leave a situation, or do something for me….. I go fishing a lot, and I won’t cancel that unless it’s an emergency, now….. My time is just as, if not more, important as other people now. I love that.
Without all the drama that codependency brings, do you find life, work, and relationships boring now?
No. Not really. While most of the chaos is gone, it’s replaced by working on being healthy. I see new things, new behavior, in relationships, all the time.
What are some of the tools you use to help you stay in your recovery?
On line forums. Meetings, I have a good support system in place that I can call. My friends, son and ex-wife will call me on my bull when it happens. I am recovered enough that I want to be called out when I behave poorly. Reading…. I just finished reading The Tao of Pooh, and found it incredibly enlightening.
Do you have a favorite saying, quote or mantra that helps to keep you going?
Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to that 10%
What words of encouragement or advice do you have for others who are seeking information or beginning their journey of recovering and healing from their issues of codependency?
Work, work, work….lol. There was a ton of work I had to do. Read, educate yourself, and stay away from anything that tries to tell you someone or something else (narcissist) is responsible for your behavior. The quicker you get to self-responsibility, the easier everything will be.
Do you have anything else you would like to share about your recovery from codependency?
Early on there was some confusing terminology, and ideas. I found that the biggest truth I can give anyone is this: if you have an external focus of control that needs to change. Codependency doesn’t require anyone else to be in the room, it comes from within myself, and only by looking within myself, can I find lasting answers to it.