Freedom from MY Self-Defeating Lifestyle

Throughout my teen and adult life, and until about 9 months ago, I was extremely angry, all the time. I hated everything and everyone but I wore a straight face and acted like I was fine and that everything around me was too. I felt like I didn’t deserve what I had and I wanted what everyone else had. I rebelled most rules-I arrived late to work, I got speeding tickets and still drove too fast-not paying attention to my own or other peoples lives, I didn’t take care of myself in aspects of my weight and physical illnesses, I didn’t take care of my car and I didn’t pay my bills on time-if at all! Then, I went from emptiness to a relationship in hopes that this would be the cure to my problems.

I tried to make myself feel better often by either helping someone else or by going shopping and spending money on material items-little did I know that I needed to fix the INSIDE OF ME, NOT THE OUTSIDE!

I wish I knew about CoDA sooner because I think I was trying to cure myself all along, I just didn’t know that buying shoes wasn’t the way! My finances were all out of whack, and I often coasted home after coming to this meeting with hardly any gas in my tank at all, and that I believe, is a miracle-let me tell you!

Before I stepped into this room, I was going to therapy once a week for what I thought was SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER, because I thought I KNEW SO MUCH THAT I DIAGNOSED MYSELF BEFORE the Dr. even GOT a chance to. After going to regular appointments for about 5 months, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was told that I ‘should’ take 2 psychiatric medications that I can’t pronounce-because taking these would eventually make me be a better person, help me with my relationships and ultimately, I would become more functional.

After hearing this, I immediately started passing judgment on this person and then I told her where to go. I thought, how could I have something like this and not KNOW about it-it was a mistake and I would get to the bottom of what was wrong with me by myself. After all, I was a psych major and she was wrong. And of course, shortly after my diagnosis, I stopped seeing her. I figured, I had been functioning all this time and that there had to be another way, and that medication was not the way for me! So there I was, on my own again, ready to diagnose myself and to fix myself, by myself.

When I heard someone talking about CoDA at my college, I was in awe. This person was talking about their newfound independence and their happiness. I said to myself, “I want that”! Soon the word co-dependency came up again, while at one of my other jobs, I saw some CoDA literature and started reading it. Then I saw the web address. After doing some research on the web, I decided to go to a meeting- thinking that I can always leave if I don’t like what I am hearing.

When I first came to this meeting, I thought everyone in this room was nuts! I thought that I was too strong and that I was in the wrong place. I didn’t dare to speak, nor did I need to come here for any support because I could support myself. After all, I had been supporting myself since I was 15, living on my own and taking wonderful care of myself-even though I was depressed, overweight, sick all the time and mad at everybody all the time. Also, I didn’t know how to tell people what I wanted or didn’t want and this task always ended with me screaming and yelling at them to get my point across.

Then, all of the sudden, someone said something that made sense to me, and then someone else said something that made more sense and then after the next few meetings I attended (because they said that I should attend 6 meetings before deciding if CoDA is right for me), someone else said something that hit home for me and I was hooked from that point on. Also the slogan, “it works if you work it”, stuck. So I kept coming back and slowly, like it says in the 12 promises, a miraculous change started to take place in my life.

I struggled a lot when I first started coming here because I didn’t understand things, I didn’t trust anyone or God for that matter, and for the most part, I didn’t believe in myself that I could change. Even from attending meetings every week, what I did not understand was the word ‘CO-DEPENDANCY’ in general. I would ask myself, “What is Codependency”? Even by attending meeting after meeting and reading all the Coda approved literature I could get my hands on, I still did not fully understand what it meant to be “CO-DEPENDENT”.

So I kept coming back and slowly I began to understand by listening to other people talk and by reading and working the steps with a sponsor, that CO-DEPENDENCY is a dysfunctional relationship with myself.

After learning this, I was really confused (but more so in denial), because I thought-how could I have a dysfunctional relationship with myself when it was EVERYONE ELSE AROUND ME THAT WAS DYSFUNCTIONAL?! But the more I came to meetings, the more I started losing my old beliefs and taking responsibility for my own actions. The 12 steps helped me in this journey. I apply them to my every day life and it really works. I was able to see the things that I was doing wrong and became humble enough to accept change in my life.

One of the most important things I realized from working the steps was that I was working a lot. I was working up to 80 hours a week, and when I sat down to think about why, I came up with the reason that there was no reason, other than to stay busy so that I wouldn’t think about my own issues! It was a self-defeating lifestyle! I was also taking care of other people; my father, my friends, my boyfriend at the time, and doing all this left me feeling empty and incomplete, but I kept doing it to keep the peace with them.

Finally, after being in Coda for 8 months I quit one of my jobs (I had 3!), and I told my friend Fran and another friend of mine, in a nice way, that taking care of others involved taking a lot of my energy and that giving my energy to them was hurting me. I was not able to take care of myself-and they understood-and despite this; I still have a relationship with them today. In the past, I would have held in my anger and fears and then exploded-which would have inevitably, destroyed the relationship! I have wonderful friends in my life today. And even if I don’t see them that often, I know that they are still a part of my life.

As far as my relationships, every one of them was in turmoil, even my finances and the way I treated myself. I used to use the saying: “People aint shit”, because people just pissed me off, every day someone would get on my nerves, from some innocent dude at the newspaper stand who didn’t serve me fast enough to the chick on the other end of the phone at Con Edison who sounded snobby. My employer made me mad and so did my co-workers. I was even mad at myself, for not being perfect. Looking back into ALL my relationships, whether lengthy or not, I remember that I was either very demanding or hostile, or very obedient. And boy did my attitude stink!

I thought-no, I knew that I had empathy and compassion for other human beings. I thought I was humble because of what I went through as a child/young adult, and I thought that I could never be lacking in this area of emotional development. My pride was stronger than anything. I thought that since I had been through every single human catastrophe known to man-from physical and sexual abuse to homelessness and losing everything in a fire-twice-that this was what made me automatically humble, and also be strong and understanding to every one else’s pain. I learned in CoDA that this type of thinking was wrong!

I thought that I knew about every thing so I gave advice freely not realizing that I did not know how every person felt individually because everyone goes through their issues differently, at their own pace, and at their own will.

Thinking back on my childhood, I remember I took care of my mother and my father. Being an only child, I tried to protect my mother because I didn’t want my father to leave.

Sometimes he stopped by to say ‘hi’ in between his workday and I was put outside DELIBERATELY BY MY MOTHER for this reason! I can still feel the intense anxiety that I felt whenever he asked where my mother was-and I would just tell him that she was upstairs, cooking a surprise dinner for us and hope that he wouldn’t go inside the house-because where she really was, was either in the street getting drunk or high, or in the bedroom with another man. I felt extremely guilty lying to my father but I felt like I had to in order to keep the family together. When my parents divorced when I was 11, I took all the blame and felt that I deserved all the things that were happening to me so I never talked about the sexual abuse that I suffered from my uncle and stepfather or the physical abuse I endured from my mother.
I always thought my mother loved me, despite the way she treated me or allowed me to be treated. But I didn’t feel loved; today I know the difference between being loved and feeling loved.
By telling me that she loved me, that may have been my mother’s way of making herself feel better, and since I was not allowed to or supposed to talk-as part of the ‘speak only when spoken to’ rule, I did a good job at leading people on-and putting my own self in a pattern of denial which would take me well into my adult life.

There was a lot of anger inside me when I started coming to CoDA because I felt like I got gypped. I protected someone all my life, but I didn’t protect myself. For almost my entire childhood I devoted myself to my mothers’ well being and in return I was ignored, physically abused, neglected and emotionally dismembered.

Because I was in this situation for almost my entire childhood, I lost my faith in God, acquired an eating disorder, cut classes and got involved w/ the wrong crowd. When I told my mother about the abuse that her new husband was doing to me, she sent me away to a home for ‘bad kids’. This made me believe that I wasn’t respected and that no body loved me. After pleading with my father to let me live with him and being turned down, I eventually felt that if no one loves me, how could I love myself? So I took on the burden of being an unwanted child and the self-hate and self-defeating lifestyle I was leading continued to follow me, even in the home I was in.

There were all kinds of kids there, kids who killed other kids, who did hard drugs, and there were those like me, who were abused and spoke up. At first I did not accept the fact that I was unwanted, but soon I started to live as if. I was bullied so I became a fighter. I ran away often, just to be involved in a group. I accepted sex when I wanted love, I didn’t care about myself so I risked my life by hitchhiking alone, doing drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes. I didn’t care for the drugs or alcohol but did them anyway just be included.
My mother came to visit me once or twice every six months. My father came once in the whole 18 months I was there. When I was released, I was ‘seasoned’, and ‘very rough around the edges’. I thought I knew everything about the world. I had a boyfriend that was older than me, who I met while AWOL from school. He helped me break free of my mother and helped me get out on my own, but he physically and emotionally abused me. I picked up even worse self-defeating habits by being in this relationship, as I continued to take care of someone who was not emotionally available. I eventually dropped out of high school because no one believed in me so why should I believe in myself? It took several years for me to break free of that relationship.

I was a great liar when I was a child; I covered up for my uncle, my stepfather and for my mother’s addictions and mistakes so my father wouldn’t be mad at me. Since I started protecting people at such a young age, by the time I reached adulthood, I found that I had protected everyone else around me but ME!

I learned from coming to CoDA, that my shame and guilt had spiraled out of control and that this has helped me destroy good relationships I had and adhere me closer to bad relationships.

Although my childhood wasn’t that great when my mother was around, it was practically perfect when my grandmother Tutu was with me. She loved and took care of me the way a mother takes care of her child and she taught me many life skills, morals and values that I still hold onto today. I never got a chance to really cherish her while she was alive, which is also part of the enormous amount anger that I have towards my mother for not letting me live with Tutu instead of living with her.

Dealing with my issues of guilt brings up memories of my past from not being able to protect myself as a young child who was being physically and sexually abused and from allowing myself to stay in an abusive relationship for too long. Then, in order to avoid the separation and loss of the final break-up (even though it was physically abusive), I got involved in another relationship, and when that didn’t make me “happy”, I totally controlled and avoided the entire situation by leaving NY to go live in FLA for 3+ years so I could try to forget it ever happened. Living in another state, one in which I was not familiar, helped me ‘sow my oats’. I learned about real hardship, emotional intelligence, and how to feel my feelings. Without living there, I believe I wouldn’t be where I am now, both emotionally and intellectually.

As an adult, and mostly because of my own disbelief that I am a good person despite my upbringing, I became bitter. I was in denial. I was angry. I expected more and gave too much then felt entitled to everything! Although mostly unintentionally-I hurt those around me. I was so consumed, so confused-and I didn’t want to hurt anyone, so I let people walk all over me, I stayed in harmful situations too long and I practiced avoidance when ever and where ever possible. Isolation was something that I used against people to harm them-however, I inadvertently harmed myself the most.

I blamed myself for the abuse I suffered because I felt that in some mysterious way, I could have stopped it. I blame my mother because even after I told her about it, she continued to let it happen--then she sent me away so that I could ‘deal with it’ on my own.
Unfortunately, I never dealt with it, my problems only got worse, and it is hard sometimes because I still try to make myself understand that it wasn’t my fault. I have practiced blame to my mother for every bad thing that ever came out of my life before and after I left home at age 15. I blame her for the abusive relationship in was in for 9 years, because I modeled this woman, and knew nothing other than dysfunction, so I was conditioned to think that I deserved to be hit and that I must have done something wrong to make my boyfriend hit me because all in all, he loved me so much. I blame my mother for the eating disorder I have and I blame her for the posttraumatic stress disorder, which I was recently diagnosed with. I blame my father for running away from me-even though it was my mother who told me lies to keep me away from him. I blame my uncle for beginning the abuse and I blame my ex-stepfather for continuing the sexual and physical abuse.
My tools for recovery from Co-Dependency:

MOST Importantly, trusting my higher power.

Meditating every day.

Taking responsibility for MY own actions, MY feelings, MY behavior, and MY issues.

Taking care of myself-w/o defending myself or explaining my actions.

Working on setting HEALTHY boundaries with people, especially family members.

Letting go of my need to control people BY letting them do their job, and not offering advice or trying to gain approval from people who are UNAVAILABLE.

Not trying to change the way other people think or feel.

Writing in my journal EVERY DAY.

Making a gratitude list, (this lets me remember where I came from).

I am learning about my own self-defeating patterns every day in CoDA.

Now that I have been spending time taking care of myself, nourishing my spirit and health, I am learning new things about myself. Its like I am creating a new FUNCTIONAL, NOT DYSFUNCTIONAL, relationship with myself that I never had before. I congratulate myself because as of now, I have little or no symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and I am healthier and happier than I have been in a long time!

The most recent thing that I discovered about myself was that I have several allergies to food that have been causing my overall unhealthy-ness. Before CoDA, I would have never taken the initiative, time and patience to find out what has seriously affected my overall health and well being for over a decade! This is a major accomplishment for me!

Being in Coda has allowed me to come to terms with several things about myself that I either didn’t know about before or I denied being true. I ran away from myself so often that I forgot who I was. I didn’t listen to my body when it was tired or stressed and I in turn, hurt myself. I learned at a young age that running away was what worked, but as an adult, it doesn’t work. I learned from coming to meetings that although intellectually I am an A student, I behaved younger-emotionally in most of my adult life. I learned from working the steps with and without a sponsor, why I found it so difficult to make and maintain healthy relationships. I learned how to set boundaries and to say No to people in a nice way-and I am still learning how to make important decisions. I recently ended a sponsorship because I felt that it was not an even relationship. In the past I would have stayed in the relationship, through thick and thin, which would have inevitably, caused me more pain. Now I have a new sponsor, who has 10+ years of recovery and who is caring and experienced with situations like mine. She helps me make the connection to my recovery.

Things I am currently working on are:

Forgiving those who hurt me.

Believing in myself and having self-confidence.

I would like to also say that I think that if any event that took place in my life had not taken place, I would not have learned the things that I know now. I know it is my choice to change and to let go of the past so that I can move on and enjoy my life. And that is why I keep coming back.

Three months after I put my name on the calendar to speak, I am entirely grateful to say that this is not about having to come to meetings, its about wanting to come to meetings! I thank CoDA for allowing me to live my life as a happy and healthy woman!

Thank you so much for letting me share!

Wendy V.