• Shy Davis

I'm A Codependent

"Hi, I’m Shy, and I’m a codependent."




I've repeated those words for one full year now. Sunday, July 18, 2021, marked my one-year anniversary in Codependent Anonymous, a 12 Step Program. When you think “12 Step Program” you may think of Alcohol Anonymous (AA) and you’ll be right. AA gave birth to numerous 12 Step Programs that exist today, such as Codependents Anonymous, or CoDA for short. I read the AA book, “Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book.” Very informative. You don't have to have an alcoholic in your life to read it, but if there is or was ever an addict (any type) in your life, then I do recommend you sit and read it.

You may have heard the word “codependent/codependency” at some time in your life. Maybe you were like me and scoffed at the word, once you heard ‘dependence’ in it.


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Or maybe you first heard it when Jada Pickett-Smith explained her extramarital affair with August Alsina (especially when she mentioned wanting to rescue him).

Will Smith cried. Many laughed.

It’s not funny.

“…codependence is a most deeply rooted compulsive behavior and that it is born out of our sometimes moderately, sometimes extremely dysfunctional families and other systems. We have each experienced in our own ways the painful trauma of the emptiness of our childhood and relationships throughout our lives.
We attempted to use others – our mates, friends, and even our children, as our sole source of identity, value and well being, and as a way of trying to restore within us the emotional losses from our childhoods. Our histories may include other powerful addictions which at times we have used to cope with our codependence.”

Still don’t get it? No problem. I’ve attached some behavioral patterns. Take a moment and read through them. Do you exhibit any of those? “But Shy, *half chuckle* isn’t this almost everyone?” THAT’S THE PROBLEM! Many of us come from dysfunctional families or had dysfunctional relationships. Often, we don’t recognize just what sort of trauma this does to our psyche and how this affects our behavior.


I began seeing changes within myself the moment I read Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. Then I found myself on the coda.org website and searched for a meeting. I desire healthy and loving relationships and so I attend a meeting every week. I’ve not been the same since. I now have an AMAZING sponsor who is helping me through the 12 steps.

Listen, codependency stunts communication!



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I’ll give you two examples of just how subtle but damaging codependency is.

When my husband says: “I was thinking of watching ____.” I learned to interpret this to mean that he would like for me to watch a movie with him. The assertive, most clear form of communicating this would be to say “Hey babe, do you want to watch _____ with me?” What’s the difference? What’s the problem with how he asked? Love, if you’re asking that, then that’s a problem. Don't worry, I didn't know either, I simply adapted to this. No bueno.

If he would like for me to watch a movie with him then he should simply ask. Why doesn’t he? Fear of rejection. Because if I were to say no, then I would be rejecting him. But am I? No, I’m not. I’m rejecting watching that movie. Or maybe I'm not up for a movie. If I say no, I'm not rejecting him, nor am I rejecting time with him. Follow me?

I'll use rescuing as my next example.

I've felt this urgent need to rescue and save my husband, even his children, and all my friends. HA! Remember when Jada said this? She wanted to rescue August. She just knew she could make everything right. She could help! Oh Jada, oh how I empathize with you. Did things end well for all parties involved? No! Similarly, it has not ended well in my world nor will it end well for you, so "take my foolish advice," as my mom would say.

But where did this need within me to rescue come from? Well, it took some time to figure it out but when I did… boy! #FacePalm


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I learned that it came from baby Shy. I was 5 or 6 years old when I learned that the world isn’t safe when a 16-year-old boy manipulated and took advantage of me and tongue kissed me. So many things came from that event and it only got worse throughout my childhood into adulthood. Five or 6-year-old baby me needed rescuing and so adult me sought to rescue others.



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I know better now. For me, and I know I'm not the only one, the need to rescue is strongest with a partner. I've had to learn that my husband and his children are his and his ex-wife's business. And if that statement causes some resistance within you, I understand. My friends tried telling me this and I would mentally scream: “HE’S MY HUSBAND!! HIS business IS MY BUSINESS. His pain is MY PAIN! I MUST HELP HIM!” If this is sounding familiar then read over the patterns again and I strongly recommend reading Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie, browse the CoDA website, AND finding a meeting.


I remember once rescuing a friend. I thought her a friend but she proved otherwise. Anyway, I was living in a studio apartment in Manhattan. There was an unfortunate incident that occurred with her, her mom, and her sister. She needed a place to stay right away. She never asked me, but guess who came flying in on her white horse to the rescue? Yep, me! I moved her and her son into my Manhattan studio apartment. And if you know Manhattan apartments well, then you know it was a shoebox! Two adults and a child in a shoebox! I would sleep at a friend's home just to give her space in my apartment. The insanity of it all! Needless to say, this did not end well, nor has any of my rescuing attempts faired well. But somehow I kept on repeating the pattern unknowingly. That's how deeply rooted codependency is. I simply thought I was helping.


You see, helping your spouse or anyone in your life is not the issue. Caretaking, enabling, and rescuing, is. Learning to step in only when asked is also another thing we ought to learn. She never asked for my help, I just thought it was my duty as a friend to do this. Also, saving an adult from natural consequences is a HUGE problem. You inhibit them from growing. We grow through pain.

Think about a child. You tell them over and over not to do something, but they continuously do it. At some point as PAINFUL as it will be for you, you stop. They do that thing again, you say nothing, or you're not looking, and what happens? They get hurt. Now, under normal circumstances, they learn their lesson. The same concept applies to us as adults. If I keep rescuing the people in my life, then I’m doing them a disservice by inhibiting them from learning valuable lessons, no matter how big or small.

Now, these are just two very small examples but they carry large consequential outcomes. Here are some codependent behaviors vs healthy behaviors… behaviors we should be thriving for…



So, I’ve been learning how to detach with love. For this I recommend Let Go Now by Karen Casey. The idea of detachment doesn’t mean we do not care about what’s going on with others or are oblivious to their thoughts, or actions. Nor does it mean what’s happening with others has zero effect on us. What it does mean is that we aren’t being tossed all over the place like palm trees during a Florida hurricane (Y’ALL! I’ve got stories!) because of someone else’s behavior.


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Detachment means we don’t have to react to every situation. We can instead choose to observe it, take some time, and consider how to respond. And yes, there’s a difference between reacting and responding. Or you may realize you don’t have to respond at all. Not responding is also a response.

Recovery is not easy. You're faced with things you've buried, things you didn't know were there, things that you lied and possibly still lying to yourself about. Scary things, hurtful things, painful things. You may hide from it all because you feel you're protecting yourself. And maybe that was once true but it won't be true forever. You will repeat many unhealthy behaviors and relationships. Why? Because we are attracted to things that are familiar, even if they're unhealthy, whether we are conscious of it or not.


I have a lot of work to do. I recently learned that I need to do "trauma work" for the sexual traumas that occurred in my childhood (and adulthood) by various people. I thought all these years of therapy counted towards that, but I was never dealing with that specifically. I'm not looking forward to it but I will not delay. I've already reached out to trauma therapists and my current therapist recommends Eye Desenthisization Movement and Reprocessing or EDMR. Sheesh, I don't even fully understand what that is and I'm already mentally running for the hills.



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But if I keep running away, if I continue on in denial, where will that leave me? In a loop, like Loki. Where are my Marvel fans? Yes? No? No? Okay, moving on. Simply: I will continue making many mistakes. Not dealing with my past has caused me to make some very unwise decisions. How I see it, I have two options. Keep ignoring and be in pain and pretend I'm not in pain. Or face it, it be temporarily painful, and then receive freedom? I'll take the latter Alex, thank you!



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Anyway folks, I have a pot on the stove so I'll wrap this up.


I can say that since being in CoDA: I know a new sense of belonging. I am less (keyword) controlled by my fears. I’m aware of freedom and I want it! I’m learning to release myself from worry, guilt, and regret about my past and present. I’m learning that I’m “genuinely lovable, loving and loved.” I’m learning to see myself as equal to others. The need to control others is disappearing as I learn to trust those who are trustworthy. I’m learning how to better communicate with others in a way that is safe for me and respectful of them. I am steadfast in my belief that I am a unique and precious creation. “I no longer need to rely solely on others to provide my sense of worth.” I trust my higher power, whom I call God, more. Lastly, even on my lowest of days, “I gradually experience serenity, strength, and spiritual growth in my daily life.” [Personalized from the CoDA Promises]

“No matter how traumatic your past or despairing your present may seem, there is hope for a new day in the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. No longer do you need to rely on others as a power greater than yourself. May you instead find here a new strength within to be that which God intended – Precious and Free.”

*All quotations are taken from CoDA.org.

By the way, all 12 Step Programs are FREE! No excuses!


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I love you all.

Yours in recovery,


~Shy

PS

I'm in another 12 Step Program and I'm sure I'll share more about that. And just this morning my CoDA sponsor recommended ACA, Adult Child of Alcoholics. I was resistant at first because my life was never affected by an alcoholic, but because I trust her I went to their website. And just from the homepage, I learned that it's also for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. After reading the "Laundry List" and nodding my head one (or five, but who's counting) too many times, I recognize that this will be helpful as well.

I've always strived to become a better person and that will always remain. For when I change, I'm a better person, not just for myself, but for those around me.




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