Recovering From Codependency

This post has been one of the hardest to type because this topic is still fresh for me. By the title of this post you already know I'm going to discuss codependency. If you would've asked me if I was codependent six months ago, I would've firmly said "no.” In all honesty, I didn't know what codependent meant, so who was I to say either way.

Two years ago, I noticed a pattern with my relationships. I constantly went out of my way to help others and ended up feeling drained. When they didn't reciprocate all the effort I put into solving their problems, I was upset. I did things I didn't want to do to make sure they were ok. I thought that's what friends did. I didn't understand why whenever I tried to confront this, little progress was made or I felt guilty for saying no and establishing boundaries.

The more I thought about this, the more defeated I felt. How did I let this go on for so long and why? I knew it couldn't possibly be all their fault. I had a role to play in this. Then I was faced with this daunting question. What would my life look like, if I just did what I wanted to do instead of taking care of everyone else? All the people pleasing and "going along to getting along" created a reality that wasn't even truly mine.

A few months ago I was confronted with an all too familiar dilemma and reached out for advice. Long story short, I was recommended a book called, Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie. Reading this book was a prayer answered. This was the answer to why I was repeating certain patterns and relationships.

If you look up the definition for "codependent," you'll find a ton of different answers. Melody Beattie shares, "A codependent person is one who lets another person's behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."

There are many different definitions and interpretations of codependency, but we all share similar characteristics. The book mentions that we began doing things out of necessity to protect ourselves and cope in abnormal circumstances. An example of someone with codependency is a spouse married to someone with alcoholism that assumes a care-taking role to cope, and feels responsible for their behavior.

In my case, I learned codependency as a child. I grew up in a single parent household with two older brothers. One of them had difficulties in school that required a bit more attention from a parent that was already doing the job of two. We also struggled a lot financially. Since so much of her attention went to more pressing matters, I did what I thought was best. I stayed out of the way. If I had an issue, I didn't say anything and kept going. I wanted nothing more than peace, and this is how I tried to get it.

This went on for the rest of my life and in my relationships. From the outside, this was great. I kept my mouth shut, and did what I was asked to do. I always did the "right" thing and everyone liked me for it. I want to mention that I was NOT a perfect child. This is simply how I became codependent.

All of this created a false belief that people would only want me around if I helped them whenever asked, and I wanted nothing more than to be enough. I wanted to be enough for my dad to be there, and I wanted to be enough so life was easier for my mom. I made all of this and more my responsibility so people wouldn't leave.

Since reading this book, here's the reality I learned. I cannot control how other people feel no matter how hard I try. I cannot spend my life trying to predetermine what will make them happy or mad, and It's none of my business. I also learned that codependency hides the real you. My likes, dislikes, and preferences make me who I am, and I want people to like me for me, not what I do for them.

Unlearning codependency has been far from easy (and nowhere near over), but I feel a sense of peace I've never felt before. Inner peace. My yeses have gone from meaning, "I don't really want to, but if it makes you happy, sure" to actual yeses. My noes are solid noes. Polite and tactful, but still a no.

I'm starting to make intentional decisions with my life and it feels good! There are still moments when I feel the angst of codependency. When people are upset I'm not my usual "go along to get along" self, I want to resort back to old behavioral patterns, but that's the cost of this new lease on life. Everyone has a right to feel whatever it is they want to feel, and I don't need to control them to be ok.

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