Three years ago, today, I started my journey to recovery from codependency. It began with me finally going to the sheriff’s station and filing a restraining order against my psycho stalker/abusive ex. It was the first step I had taken in years, if ever, to truly take care of myself, to value myself above judgments, shame, or someone else’s happiness. It was one of the most humiliating, humbling, and rewarding experiences I have ever had. I stood in front of the officers and finally said, “This is not right, I deserve more than this.”
Like a true addict, I threw myself into recovery, completely and wholly, striving every day to regain a sense of self I never really had. I read countless books, journaled and continued counseling as if my life depended on it, because it did. I learned more about myself in the six months following my recovery date than I had in my entire lifetime. I found my voice, and began to accept that it was worthy of being heard. I began to understand the trends in my life, and to find ways to stop them. No longer did I have to value people more than myself. I could learn to stand up for myself, and know in my soul, I had a right to do so.
Recovery has not been easy, but it has been worth it. I have staggered; I have fallen back into the trap of codependency a few times, but never as far as when I began. I have learned coping skills that are healthy and in tune to the life I want to create, and the legacy I want to leave. Here are some major points of my recovery that I am proudest of:
Drama SUCKS and I do not need it. My life, before recovery, was complete chaos… my entire life was complete pandemonium and I rocked that chaos like a true martyr. I was good at it. I knew how to handle horrific situations with grace and ease. I was good at living in high alert mode. I was good at fixing people and situations, until I was not, or at least until I realized that I never really was. The hardest part of recovery was learning how to be happy and whole without drama and chaos around me at all times. When you grow up in that lifestyle, it feels awkward to not have it. You feel as if something is missing and you crave that excitement, that high from the drama of others or yourself… and sometimes you even create it yourself to feel normal. Learning that you can function in quite is one of the most valuable lessons life can offer.
Detachment is healthy and often necessary. Sometimes in order to get healthy and become saner you have to step away from the people that are encouraging, or enabling your unhealthy behavior. This is not always easy, and many times, they will not understand what is happening, but it is necessary with certain people or situations. I have learned that I can love, greatly, from a distance.
Recovery is a constant. Sometimes I slip back into my old ways and have to start over, or at least give myself a refresher on recovery. In recovery, addicts will tell you, every day you have to make the choice to be sober. It is the same with codependency, every day you have to wake up and make the decision to be healthier and happier, to be well, and to not fall into your old coping skills. There are times when you have to physically set yourself down and ask what you are doing and take an honest look at your own answer… even if it is ugly.
It is not always about me. There was a time when I took everything personally, and to be honest that is something I still fight daily. When someone is upset and I am not sure why I assume it is because I have done something wrong. In recovery, I have learned to say, “If they are not adult enough to come to me and talk to me about what is bothering them, then it is not my problem.” Best thing I have ever told myself, besides that I am worthy of love and respect that is.
It took me awhile to come to terms with the fact, as simple as it really is, that I do not have control over anything or anyone other than myself. In those first six months of recovery, I remember repeatedly asking God to forgive me for thinking that I could do His job better than He could. I had it in my mind, too many times, that I had these magical powers of persuasion and could stop psychos from being crazy, drug addicts from addiction, and abusers from being mean. Of course, the “help” I tried to offer was not actually limited to the big issues, but to every aspect of my life, my friendships, and every relationship I ran across. If I could “just get through” to so and so, they would change for the better and all would be magical and peaceful… but that only happens on the big screen, and this life is not a movie.
Through my recovery, I have learned, very slowly at times, how to take better care of myself. There was a time when I would not even sit and watch a movie by myself, in my own home, because there was always this feeling of guilt associated with taking care of myself. I remember the first time I was sitting alone, in the dark, in my home thinking “Why am I punishing myself, what did I do in this life that would make me think I could not enjoy my own company, or doing things that I want to do.” I learned to let that guilt go because quite honestly even though my happiness has not been easy to come by, or accept rather, it is worth it. I am now able to watch movies, cook for myself, and take a nap when I want. These things sound trivial to some, but when you grow up thinking your life is not your own these small choices to find yourself are huge.
And that has been the biggest lesson I have learned, and continue to learn. To own my own things, my feelings, my being. I have learned that I do not need permission to feel, or to act on those feelings. I am free to feel sadness, happiness and whatever emotions come fluttering through my being. I do not have to let those feelings control me, but I can acknowledge them, I can learn from them, and then I can chose to let them go. I do not have to carry guilt and shame around for anyone else. I can look at my abuser (from a very, very far distant) and say that I do not have any right to feel shame for him. He can feel his own shame for the actions he took upon me. He did wrong and that is on him. I have my own feeling and demons to contend with, taking on someone else’s is a waste of time and love.
The last three years have been some of the hardest in my life, but what I have gotten out of them is simply and purely: ME.