As I’ve been reading Codependent No More in preparation for the reading group, it’s reminding me of my own story and struggles with codependency. I’ve realized both how far I’ve come and how much growth there still is to do.
The book begins with a few stories of codependents and it’s inspired me to share my own. As I’ve been reading, it reminded me how important it is to know that you’re not alone on this journey. Everyone’s story is different and yet we can all relate to each other.
As I look back now, it’s clear that my story of codependency began in childhood. At the time, that wasn’t something that was at all in my awareness. It wasn’t until the end of my first marriage that I became aware that I struggle with codependency.
That was a little over six years ago. I remember sitting down with my ex-mother-in-law and her telling me that it was my responsibility to fix things with my ex-husband. My inner self was reeling. How long had I tried to make things better? Had she met her son? Did she know what he did to me? Did she know about his addictions? How long had I been taking responsibility for all of his problems and failing to change him?
It was at that moment that I finally decided that I was done. The fact that there was nothing I could do for him hit me on the head. That wake-up call showed me not only had I spent the last two years of my life trying to change things. I had completely lost myself in the process. I no longer knew who I was or what brought me joy.
That was when I started to learn about codependency. As a codependent person, I thought that I was responsible for my partners’ thoughts, feelings, and actions. I didn’t know what I wanted or needed and I neglected my wants and needs when I did know. I felt angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used. All the signs pointed to codependency.
So, how did I get to that moment? For me, it began in my childhood. I was raised in a household that modeled codependency and preached independence. I survived through emotional and other abuse and witnessed abuse happening to family members. The tendency in my family was always to people please, to put family peace before inner peace.
By the time I entered my first serious relationship I had learned to operate codependently, putting everyone else’s needs before my own. After all, how we are raised has so much to do with how we show up in our relationships. Any relationship we have is always holding up a mirror for us and showing us who we are on the inside. For me, my insides were empty or at least buried deep within me. So instead of being myself, my strategy was to absorb myself into my partners.
That pattern continued on for years, I spent ten years in three different relationships, never taking the time to figure out me. Ten years, I absorbed myself into other people and did what I thought would make them happy. Sure, six years ago I realized I was codependent and started taking the steps to gaining my independence. But it was too easy to quickly fall back into the same pattern of trying to rescue someone.
Almost immediately after I finally ended my first marriage for good I started a new relationship. (By the way, that was two years after all the clear red flags showed up in my marriage.) That new relationship was better than the first and I began taking small steps to improving. I began to find parts of myself again through how I expressed myself and really embracing some of the things that brought me joy. At the same time, in this new relationship, I was still trying to rescue them. I was still absorbing myself into his interests without asking him to show any interest in mine.
It wasn’t until that relationship ended just four years ago now that I really started to embrace who I truly am. It took that extra two years of treating myself only slightly better to realize what it would really take to overcome codependency. Since then, I’ve been learning to be more independent and coming more into who I am every day. I’m married to a good person, who’s also independent. During our ceremony, one of the things we promised each other was to always be ourselves and support each other’s independence.
It feels good to look back at how far I’ve come. I’ve grown so much and I still struggle with codependency. It’s still hard for me to stand up for myself if it’s going to upset someone. I still find myself looking for validation and love. But I know that in every moment, I can make a decision that leads to finding more wholeness within myself.
With love and light,