Monday, November 5, 2012

Thirty Days of Thankful - Day 5 - Codependency

Note: Today is day 5 in my series "30 Days of Thankful."

I think whenever you go through a big life change, it's a good time to take a look in the mirror and say, "where am I? what am I doing? where do I want to get to next?" As my ex boyfriend was breaking up with me in my therapist's office, on my mother's birthday, in between my sobs, the therapist suggested that I consider reading up on codependency.  I'd honestly never even understood what "codependent" meant before that very moment, but after I went home and googled it, I realized that yes, I have a tendency to be a little codependent. Why? Because I was conditioned to think about relationships in an unhealthy way due to the way I was brought up. If you grow up in an environment of fear and chaos, as an adult, all you want to do is to be able to control every aspect of every situation to prevent that hurt you once experienced – even if your controlling actions make things a whole heck of a lot worse. It’s not even done consciously – it’s a coping mechanism that takes over your life. And eventually, it pushes those closest to you far, far away.

They compare codependency to alcoholism. It’s one of those things where until you’re aware of the problem, you can’t even begin to deal with the problem if that makes any sense. Through therapy, Al Anon meetings (for adult children of alcoholics), and a little bit of Sunday church service, I’ve been able to learn so much about myself and what I need to do to be a healthier me. It’s obviously a work in progress, but I feel like I’ve gotten a good start.

People close to me have often asked, “why do you attract so many crazy people in your life?” Codependency! It’s not right and it’s not normal. (and I need to do some housecleaning of friends – I’m working on that) As a codependent person, because of the hurt you’ve experienced, you seek out these broken people because you want to fix them – when the reality of it is, you need to be fixed yourself. You over think things and worry about things and let the smallest responsibilities hold you back– even if that means not getting to experience things you enjoy. For instance, in the past, fear of having dirty laundry prevented me from going out and having a good time. (and how ridiculous is that? People should always be more important than things – especially not fun things) You become annoyingly indecisive because you want to please someone so badly that you can’t even decide something as simple as where to go to dinner because you’re afraid of making the wrong choice. You don’t express yourself because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings – but you then hurt yourself by clamming up. (who cares if someone doesn’t like your opinion? rejection isn’t so bad! And just because someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s not a personal attack!) You withdraw from doing things with the people you care about because you fear that they’ll judge you or reject you – when your avoidance makes them not want to be with you. I could go on and on about this forever.

Realizing my pattern of unhealthy behaviors has been a very freeing experience. I’ve been able to recognize what it is that I do “wrong” and work on changing the way I react to things. The worry that has plagued my heart since I was a kid is playing a much smaller part in my life. It’s like sad, scared little Roxanne has been replaced with strong, confident, adult Roxanne who realizes that she’s a pretty awesomesauce person who deserves nothing but the best in life. I'm confident that the days of letting past suffering control my world are over. Just because I grew up in a crappy family doesn’t mean I need to suffer for the rest of my life. I can make good choices and experience joy in all aspects of my life. I really never thought that I could experience such a metamorphosis. Obviously, learned behaviors like these aren’t unlearned overnight, but I really feel like I’m on the right path. I just wish I had been able to realize these things so much sooner. But I look forward to living a simpler life going forward – free from overwhelming worry, over complication, and ridiculous self-imposed barriers to fun.

One of my favorite songs of all time has always been a song called “Shackles” by a gospel group called Mary Mary. (I got to see them and Destiny’s Child in concert before either group got “big”) “Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance” is what the chorus says. For the first time ever I feel like I’m free from all of those bad things in my past. Those shackles of sadness from my awful childhood are gone. And I really do just want to get up and dance and express my happiness and joy and hope for the future! (and I’m not even a good dancer!)

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