Codependency: Learning to Let Go

Codependency: Learning to Let Go

My apologies, as this is a long post, but if you can relate to codependency, being a victim, having expectations for others, receiving messages from The Universe (Higher Power), then this is worth the read.

Sometimes The Universe speaks so clearly that it’s hard to justify it as being anything other than what it is. I had one of those moments upon arriving at work last night. It seems when my mind is unwilling to be honest with itself, The Universe comes in and says, “hey, the truth your mind is trying to tell you, it’s real and I am supporting your truth so pay attention; there is a lesson to be learned here.”

I think in my previous writings I’ve made it obvious that I am continually working on my ability, or inability, to set healthy boundaries for myself and others. I’m currently in the middle of learning a very emotionally hard lesson in respecting a boundary set by someone else, so I guess I need a little work on respecting boundaries set by others as well. Especially when those boundaries have a direct affect on me. I’ve also touched on expectations in my previous writings, and I think I’ve mentioned being a victim/playing the role of a victim, too. In this post I will cover all three of these topics (boundaries, expectations, being a victim) in one way or another. 

As I was setting up my laptop at work I noticed a book lying on the credenza that peaked my interest. It’s called “The Language of Letting Go Daily Meditations on Codependency” by Melody Beattie. This book has a daily reading “meditation” for every day of the year. I opened the book to find last nights day, December 13. I started flipping through the pages from the back of the book; while in search for the date I was seeking the first thing that caught my eye was “boundaries” in the Index. Coincidence, probably not.

I went on to find the current date. The title of the reading for December 13 is “Giving”. It’s about giving the right amount of yourself to others and receiving the right amount from others, and knowing the difference between healthy giving and caretaking; finding the right balance of give and take for both parties involved in the exchange; whatever the exchange may be: time, support, attention, favors, and so on. If healthy giving (giving in a way that feels good rather than giving out of guilt, shame, and/or obligation) crosses over to caretaking it may cause feelings of victimization and resentment within the relationship. 

I went on to read December 14 because I was only a few minutes away from it being the 14th, and I was curious. The title for the 14th is “Clear Thinking”. At this point I had to chuckle a bit because of the 2 days, out of 365, that I’ve read they both directly relate to my current emotional state. A quote from the book:

Clear thinking means we don’t allow ourselves to become immersed in negativity or unrealistic expectations. 

-Melody Beattie

I’ve been found guilty of this more than once. It is part of the hard lesson I am currently in the middle of learning. Unrealistic expectations can be so incredibly hurtful and damaging to any type of relationship. I’m learning the importance of becoming aware of the kind of expectations I place on people and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. I think for many of us we tend to expect more from the people closest to us. This, in time, will change the dynamic of the give and take exchange within the relationship and will lead to victimization and resentment. The more we come to expect from someone, the higher the expectations, and the more unrealistic they become. 

Now that I was caught up on the current dates, it was time to check out the dates around boundaries. The first date is March 17th (happens to be my youngest nephew’s birthday), it is titled “Empowerment”. There are a few quotes from this reading that I would like to share with you:

You can think. You can feel. You can solve your problems. You can take care of yourself. 

That one seems so obvious, but for many of us, it is a very hard realization to come to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that this book is for Codependency. If you don’t struggle with codependency, I can’t begin to explain how debilitating it can be.

Each of us is responsible for ourselves. That does not mean we don’t care. It does not mean a cold, calculated withdrawal of our support from others. It means we learn to love and support people in ways that work. It means that we learn to love and support ourselves in ways that work. It means that we connect with friends who love and support us in ways that work. 

I don’t know about other codependents but that one is a bitch for me. I’ve spent so much of my life (all of it) depending on others to make me feel better, to lift me and my spirits up. I humbly admit that I have taken far more than I’ve given, in some cases, in many of my closest relationships. When someone sets a boundary for themselves and for me in these kinds of situations, I feel such despair. Terrible feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, insignificance all rush through, over, under, and around me. I am very much in need of learning to love and support myself in a way that work (also part of the lesson I am in the middle of learning). 

There are so many readings I would love to share with you, but I’m going to try to limit it. I have two more that I feel are very important. 

The first one is on March 22, and is titled “Letting Go of Being a Victim”. I have two quotes to share from this reading:

Many of us have learned, as part of our survival behaviors, that the way to get the attention and approval we want is to be victims. If life is awful, too difficult, unmanageable, too hard, unfair, then others will accept, like, and approve of us, we think.

and

we can deal with our bad days and darker feelings in ways that reflect self-responsibility rather than victimization.

Again, as a codependent, I struggle greatly with this. I’ve thought in the past about how I can be in a pretty good place, having a pretty good day, and then someone who I depend on for attention and/or approval will ask how I’m doing; suddenly my day is no longer good and I find myself feeling unhappy. It is mind blowing to me how programmed our minds and behaviors become through childhood and into adulthood. We create defense mechanisms. We create ways to gain support, attention, love, and affection; as unhealthy as those methods may be, we’ve learned how to fill the void to the best of our comprehension. 

This next one, March 23, titled “Flack from Setting Boundaries”, has humbled me in a way I’ve never experienced before. This whole reading is very eye opening for me. I’m tempted to share the whole thing; hell it isn’t that long:

When we own our power to take care of ourselves-set a boundary, say no, change an old pattern-we may get flack from some people. That’s okay. We don’t have to let their reactions control us, stop us, or influence our decision to take care of ourselves. 

We don’t have to control their actions to our process of self-care. That is not our responsibility. We don’t have to expect them not to react either. 

People will react when we do things differently or take assertive action to nurture ourselves, particularly if our decision in some way affects them. Let them have their feelings. Let them have their reactions. But continue on your course anyway. 

If people are used to us behaving in a certain way, they’ll attempt to convince us to stay that way to avoid changing the system. If people are used to us saying yes all the time, they may start mumbling and murmuring when we say no. If people are used to us taking care of their responsibilities, feelings, and problems, they may give us some flack when we stop. That’s normal. We can learn to live with a little flack in the name of self-care. Not abuse, mind you. Flack. 

If people are used to controlling us through guilt, bullying, and badgering, they may intensify their efforts when we change and refuse to be controlled. That’s okay. That’s flack too. 

We don’t have to let flack pull us back into old ways if we’ve decided we want and need to change. We don’t have to react to flack or give it much attention. It doesn’t deserve it. It will die down. 

Today, I will disregard any flack I receive for changing my behaviors or making other efforts to be myself. 

Hear me when I say, this is the hardest pill I’ve ever had to swallow. I’ve been on the flack receiving end before, I know it isn’t fun or easy, and I found it to be very frustrating. But it wasn’t until I read this that I realized that I am currently on the flack giving side. 

See, a couple/few weeks ago a boundary was set by my therapist. One that I was not in any way happy with. I understood it, but I didn’t like it. A couple years ago she went on vacation for a month and I went into panic mode, she said I could stay in touch with her via text and/or email while she was gone and so I did. However, it had become a habit for me to just reach out to her whenever I wanted, and so the behavior continued. I admittedly overused this privilege she had given me. I would text/email her several times throughout the week between session. And like the good person she is, she would respond when she had the chance. To my own fault I can be a rather impatient person. When I have to wait for a response or the like from someone for an extended period of time (if I’m in an “off” mood), I can get so far inside my head and convince myself of unrealistic beliefs: She’s upset with me, she doesn’t care about me, she forgot about me because I just don’t matter to her, and so on. It was becoming almost counterproductive as far as therapy went. So she set a boundary that there would no longer be communication between sessions. The client/therapist friend line had become blurred and there needed to be clear distinction, we aren’t friends we are client/therapist and that’s how it needs to be for both of us.

But even so, I threw up my wall and shut down so fast in the session she set that boundary. I became so shut off to her that the session became almost pointless, in my opinion. We’ve had two sessions since she set this boundary and in both I’ve debated the boundary, I’ve tried to plead my case in an attempt to change her mind. To give just a little. I proposed just one email a week between sessions. She said she would give it thought. Yesterday she told me that after giving it some thought that she is going to stay the course with no communication between sessions. Once again I shut down and put up my wall. Normally if my wall goes up in session I bring it down by the time I leave. That wasn’t the case yesterday. I was shut off, completely disconnected, and nearly non-responsive to her even as I was walking out the door.

Since she set the boundary a few weeks ago, I have yet to completely respect the boundary. In this past week I had good reason to reach out to her and she was very open and supportive of my reaching out in that particular situation. I haven’t reached out to her often, but I have made contact at least once between each session since the boundary was put in place. 

She has a slew of good reasons for setting this boundary: I need to learn to self-regulate my thoughts and emotions. I need to find other forms of support and connection such as meetings, meditation groups, writing groups, and so on. She is my therapist and can only play the role of my therapist in order to help me heal and live a happy healthy life. Since I’ve been able to solely depend on her on so many levels, I haven’t bothered to extend myself to others. These are just the reasons she has for setting boundaries for my benefit. I haven’t even touched on the reasons she has set them for herself (mostly because I can’t speak for her or why she set them for herself, but I have no doubts that she has good reasons for it). 

She has been so kind, patient, supportive, wonderful, caring, and generous to me since I started seeing her a couple/few years ago. She absolutely has not and does not deserve the way I’ve been behaving towards her since she set this boundary. I’ve put unrealistic expectations on her, I’ve victimized myself where she is concerned, I’ve even victimized her in my codependency and in her boundary setting. Even with how terrible I have been to her in the last few weeks, and with all of the unnecessary time I’ve taken from her between sessions for the last couple years, she is still here for me. I have no doubts that if I absolutely needed to reach out to her that she would be there for me. Because that is the kind of person she is. She nearly stretched herself too far for me and when she realized it I became upset and hurt and shut down. 

I have done an awful lot of taking and very little giving in my relationship with her. I need to be better. I need to be more aware of my behaviors and reactions towards her. I need to stop losing sight of how giving she is and has been to me. I need to bring my expectations to a realistic level with her. I NEED to start being more respectful of her and our client/therapist relationship. Starting right now, I am making a change in how I’ve been behaving towards her. I am going to give her the same respect she’s given me. I’m going to show her the same level of patience that she has shown me. I’m going to start working more deliberately towards self-regulating and finding support and connections in other ways rather than trying to convince her to continue filling that void for me; also so she can see and know that my time with her isn’t for nothing. That I am equally committed to myself and my healing as she is. She has been kind and generous enough to commit herself to my healing, it’s high time I commit myself to my healing and that we start working as a team rather than me expecting her to fix me all on her own. 

As I mentioned in the beginning, sometimes The Universe speaks so clearly. I have no idea where this book came from or why it was on the credenza or why I happened to pick it up and start reading it or why I happened to read such specific readings that directly relate to what I’m currently experiencing. What I do know is that the message that was being sent to me has been received. I see my shortcomings in this situation. I see how unreasonable my behavior has been towards such a kind and caring person who was/is so undeserving of my behaviors towards her. I’ve gained an awareness of how much taking I’ve done and how little giving I’ve given. I’m limited in ways I can give back to her, but I can do so with my actions and behaviors. Showing her respect and helping myself equally, if not more, than she helps me and by working with her rather than against her. I can give back to her in those ways. I need to balance the give and take in this relationship so that it is on an equal level rather than her doing all of the giving and me doing all of the taking. 

I am a work in progress, as are we all. This book that The Universe sent me last night has helped me to see more clearly how selfish and entitled I have been lately. For that I am truly sorry and ask for forgiveness from my therapist, The Universe, and myself. 

To my readers, if you have hung on to the end of this post, I encourage you to look inside yourself. To be brutally honest with yourself. To have the courage to acknowledge and become aware of your shortcomings, your unrealistic expectations, your unreasonable behaviors and thoughts. In doing so you will learn a lot about yourself, you’ll be able to begin working on those areas of yourself, and also feel pride in putting the effort into bettering yourself. 

For the readers who can relate to what I’ve said, we NEED to take responsibility for OURSELVES, but please know that our reactions, behaviors, way of thinking, and way of feeling have been embedded into our minds, bodies, and souls. These are the ways we’ve learned to protect ourselves and to gain love, attention, and affection as children and have continued to use these methods to self-protect and gain love, attention, and affection as adults because it’s all we’ve ever known and because at one point we were victims. But with a desire, hard work, and commitment to ourselves and therapists/support groups there is hope. We can change our reactions, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings so that they are more realistic, reasonable, and healthy. Just because we were victims at one point does not mean we have to stay victims today nor do we have to continue to allow ourselves to be victimized. We all have the strength within us to make these changes. I know we do because we survived. We did what we needed to do to survive and get to where we are now. And now we are safe. Now we have the opportunity to change the damage that was done. We are safe to heal, to set boundaries for ourselves and others so that we never have to be victimized again. Now we have the chance to be happier and healthier. We just have to be courageous enough to look deep inside ourselves, face the uglies we don’t like about ourselves, and make the changes that are right for us.  

YOU are GOOD ENOUGH. YOU are WORTHY. YOU are LOVABLE. YOU MATTER. YOU are STRONG ENOUGH. YOU are COURAGEOUS.

Believe in yourself, love yourself, be kind to yourself…because you are important!

I strongly recommend anyone struggling with codependency read this book. I know it’s going on my wish list. 

With Loving-kindness,

My-work-in-progress-codependent-self  ♥

*All quotes in this post are from the book “The Language of Letting Go Daily Meditations on Codependency” Written by Melody Beattie and published by Hazelden®

 

My Struggles and Thoughts on Boundaries, Setting Them and Holding to Them

My Struggles and Thoughts on Boundaries, Setting Them and Holding to Them

I suppose I’ve always struggled with setting boundaries and holding to boundaries I did set. For the majority of my life I wasn’t even aware of whether I had boundaries, was setting boundaries, or how necessary boundaries were. 

I suppose I should start with a definition of the type of boundaries I am talking about:

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.

Click link to see the site I retrieved my definition from and also to learn more about personal boundaries

I would add to this that boundaries aren’t just to protect us from others, but also to protect us from ourselves. In my life I have struggled with setting and holding boundaries with others and with myself. 

Due to my previous inability to set and hold boundaries I have managed to put myself in some pretty unhealthy situations. When I was a teenager and into drinking and smoking pot, one of our hangout spots were apartments referred to as “the rat hole”, and it lived up to it’s name. There were some pretty strung out people that lived there. Did I care at the time? Many of the places I went to back then gave me an uneasy feeling, but I just ignored the uneasy feeling and went about my drinking and pot smoking. Not very good boundary setting, and I ignored my inner boundary (gut feeling) that was often saying “um Dani, I don’t think this is such a good idea, maybe we should just go home…?” Oh the trouble I could’ve saved myself had I just gone home. I got into a lot of trouble as a teenager (click to read a little about my teen years) in large part because I lacked boundaries, other than my gut instinct (which I ignored) I didn’t have an awareness of boundaries or that I needed to set them. After getting in trouble as many times as I did as a teen, I set what I will refer to as my first boundary! I was tired of the path I was on, I was going nowhere fast. I was dangerously close to being 18 yrs old and knew if I stayed the course I would end up in jail with a record that would follow me for years to come. It was time to make a change. And so I did. I’ve not been in trouble with the law since I made the decision to change the way I was living my life back then.

But as an adult I found other ways to break boundaries I should’ve set, but didn’t…so I guess I didn’t break them if I never had them (this is not a good thing either, boundaries are necessary). I had an emotionally abusive girlfriend. She was a train wreck, but I didn’t want to be alone and single so I stayed with her. After 10 months, I met the person who I would be with for the following 10 years. The train wreck became even more of a train wreck after that. She manipulated a friend of mine into calling me to tell me that she had been in a car accident (drinking and driving, she had a drinking problem) and died. No worries, the accident never happened. She just wanted to hurt me as much as I hurt her when I broke up with her. Then I got into a relationship that probably should’ve ended years before it did. I believe we just became very codependent on each other. After 10 years of being together, I ended it. My life has changed in so many ways since then (Click to read a little about my last 6 years)

You would’ve thought that 6 years ago I would’ve started being more aware of the do’s and don’t’s (boundaries) in my life, but nope, not yet. I fell madly deeply in love and formed a very unhealthy relationship with someone, it lasted roughly 3 years. It ended in massive heartbreak for both of us. Now we don’t see or talk to each other. We were becoming more and more toxic to each other everyday, we needed time apart, time to heal, and so we are. I hope one day we will be able to be friends. In the end, I managed to set a healthy boundary with this person. In part, I owe that to the support and encouragement of my therapist. 

Speaking of my therapist, she would without a doubt attest to my inability to set and hold boundaries for others and especially for myself. She would also agree that it often times takes me much longer to see in myself what she sees in me. In some ways, probably more than I’m aware of, that connects to boundaries. She has been more than great, understanding, and patient with me (very very patient with me). I couldn’t appreciate what she has done for me more than I do. I’m slowly learning to set and hold boundaries. I have much more self-awareness. I have a calmness in me that never existed before. And as hard as it can be sometimes, I’m learning to look at myself and to identify my short comings, my faults, my weaknesses; I’m also learning to like and love myself, to see my heart and feel how much love I have inside me, I’m able to see the kind of person I want to be, and I’ve realized that in many ways I can be that person right now. These are also things I credit my therapist for. Without her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Of all of the ways I have either not set boundaries or I’ve broken them, the most eye opening one was with alcohol. I started drinking at the age of 12, and carried on with it throughout my teen years as well as my adult years. I’m not a stranger to alcohol problems and alcoholism, I’ve seen plenty of it. At no point in my life did I feel I had a drinking problem, until I realized it. I didn’t drink daily, I didn’t even drink every weekend. Sometimes I would go months between drinking. There was no way I could’ve had an alcohol problem, right? Wrong! When I drank, I had no off switch. I would blackout. I couldn’t remember most of what took place while I was drinking. And for some reason I found humor in it.

My therapist asked me if I felt I had a problem, I adamantly said “NO!” We had this conversation more than once. By this point we had already discovered that my ability to set and hold boundaries was limited at best and we were working on it. I would set a limit/boundary as to how much I would allow myself to drink when I went out. I could hold that boundary because I don’t have a drinking problem, or so I thought. At that time my coworkers and I had a habit of going out for happy hour after work almost weekly, but no less than biweekly. I first set my limit to 3 beers. If I was going to drive I could only drink 3 beers. If I didn’t have to drive then 6 beers was my limit. There was no need to drink more than that. Well, the first time I set that boundary I completely destroyed it. There was no signs that a boundary was ever even set. And I made a pretty terrible decision that night; one I would never had made sober. 

Well, it was a party, it just got away from me. In a normal setting I wouldn’t have any problems holding to this 3 limit beer boundary. After setting this boundary and obliterating it well over a dozen times, it occurred to me that my therapist might be onto something with this drinking problem stuff. The last time I got drunk, I had driven home, like I had so many times before that. I know, you don’t have to tell me how stupid and selfish that is, I’m very aware. I was lucky enough to have avoided hurting anyone. When I woke up the next day it hit me, and it hit me hard. I had to stop doing this. Sooner or later my luck was going to run out and I was going hurt someone or even worse, I was going to kill someone. That is something I couldn’t bear the thought of. I would never be able to live with myself if that happened. People would say, “you’re lucky you didn’t get a DWI!”, and I would respond with “If I did I would’ve deserved it, I made the irresponsible decision to drive in that condition. Had I killed someone, would they have deserved it because I made the irresponsible decision to drive in that condition?” So, I don’t really drink anymore. The last time I drank I didn’t get drunk, I paced myself and I am very proud of that. However, initially I wasn’t going to drink at all, then I changed it to just 1, then it became 1 or 2, I ended up having 6 over the span of 5 hours. Then I stayed at the bar for another 3 hours after I quit drinking. I set a boundary for that night and I broke it. I was still responsible and didn’t get drunk, but I broke another boundary around drinking. So, I had to admit I had a problem. I didn’t go to treatment, I’m not in any program, but I don’t drink. I say “I don’t really drink anymore” because it leaves room to have a glass of wine in the evening at home (that I can control).  

So, I will leave you with this. Boundaries are essential. We cannot and should not live without them. We need to love and respect ourselves enough to set them and hold them. They keep us and others safe. If you struggle with boundaries like I have then please reach out to someone who can help you to set and hold to the boundaries you set. We are all worthy of self-love, self-care, love and care from others, self-respect and respect from others. Setting boundaries is the key to these things, and it is the key to healthy relationships (all types of relationships: family, romantic, friendship).

Click on the link I provided above to learn more about personal boundaries. 

Be well

With Loving-kindness ♥