In Part One of this series, I gave you Melody Beattie’s definition of codependency from her book, “Codependent No More.” She says, a codependent person is someone “who has let someone else’s behavior affect him or her, and is obsessed with controlling other people’s behavior.”
This was the playbook for my entire life. So, now that I understood codependency, what could I do about it? Imagine trying to change a pattern of behavior that you have been learning since birth and have been practicing faithfully for your entire life. Unlikely right? Unless…you are highly motivated to do it. By the time I got sober from alcohol, the depth of my misery was awfully motivating.
In my first 30 days of sobriety, women supported me by picking me up from rehab and taking me to meetings. At one of these meetings, I recall being rather proud of myself for sharing my thoughts with the table. During my share, I expressed how my 8 year old and I were doing pretty well. I would be done with rehab soon and the plan was for us to live in a transitional home together while I figured out our next steps. The meeting ended. The lady sitting next to me stood up and said, “Kids don’t live in halfway houses!”
Imagine someone throwing a bucket of cold water on you while you’re sleeping peacefully. I can still remember feeling the shock from her statement. The lady happened to be the sponsor of the woman that brought me to the meeting. She tried to explain that her sponsor is very outspoken but is an amazing person and sponsor. I already had a sponsor but something clicked. I called the lady and asked her to sponsor me as soon as I got back to the rehab facility, even before I took off my coat. She said “yes” and, I’m proud to say, she has been my sponsor and friend since.
I’m sitting in the pick-up line at my son’s elementary school four years ago. I arrived really early so I had some time to do some sponsor suggested reading. I had gotten through a couple chapters when a light came on in my head. The realization was as clear and as startling as if someone covered my head with a big bell and rang it, cartoon style. I immediately called my mom and brother, and proclaimed, “We’re codependent!”
Still early in my recovery from alcoholism at that point, I obviously didn’t take any time to process this insight, nor did I resist taking my family’s inventory–two no-no’s in my recovery program. My first responses to the realization were not perfect, and may be laughable now, but my acceptance of this relationship debilitating aspect of my personality was definitely progress and it began to change my life for the better. Far better.
I spent my first holiday in recovery in rehab. The structure of living in a recovery facility made it simple to stay sober. (Notice, I didn’t say “easy.”) I was surrounded by people in recovery. I went to meetings 2-3 times a day. I was fed at regular times. I had a bedtime and a time to get up for breakfast. I did things I was told to, such as call people for support and help clean up after dinner. All of it simple. I rarely had to think about what to do next. The next right thing was always just the next thing on the schedule.
What about now? There is so much to do and so much craziness to navigate in the real world. How do we know what the next right thing is?