Codependency: Is your relationship toxic? Driving you crazy?

STEP ONE: “We admitted we were powerless over others-  that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Codependency is a term that indicates an unhealthy relationship with another person. That person could be your partner, friend, or family member. Many people here in the forum write in feeling very stuck in a toxic, unhealthy relationship with their partner. There may be alcohol or drugs involved in the relationship or perhaps not. Either way, it’s good to get familiar with codependency and then take steps toward overcoming it.  I know for me it took a great deal of educating myself on the issue and working the 12 Steps associated with Codependent Anonymous with a sponsor. Good news is that there is hope in working through this.  You can journey toward self-love and toward healthy relationships.  

I’d like to discuss Step One today, as it is the most important step in CODA.

Step One was difficult for me at first because I did not want to think that my attitudes and actions caused my life to become unmanageable.  But I’d hit my emotional rock bottom. I had no idea how to deal with my crazy emotions. I admitted that I was really powerless over everything and my emotional life was out of control.

I stuffed my emotions beginning in childhood and let them stay buried because I did not want to feel the pain associated with them.  It wasn’t until a traumatic event in my mid 30’s triggered those memories and old wounds that I realized I had actually suppressed them.  A divorce and the realization that my kids were hurt as a result of my decision spiraled me into an emotional state which was all new to me.

Step One made me realize that I’d spent a good part of my life trying to control others so that I would feel safe and secure.  The problem with this is that deep inside I never really did feel safe and secure no matter what I did or didn’t do.  When I was young I tried to be the “good” girl so that my mom would feel better (she suffered from major depression). When I was raising my children, I tried to make sure my kids were super happy because when they were happy, I was happy. Then after the divorce, I tried to please my partner because it was her approval that made me feel temporary happiness.

All of those behaviors set you up for pain.  Seeking the approval and love from others sets you up for disappointment.  It sets you up for an unmanageable life if you struggle with codependency.

Step One is the foundation for the other steps. This is the step where I get to own my reality. I take responsibility for my life and my emotions.  I take responsibility for my own happiness instead of relying on someone else.  

I surrender. 

When I surrendered to the reality that most of my emotions were negative, I gave room for my Higher Power to help me learn how to process those emotions so I could feel so authentic happy emotions like peace, joy, contentment, etc.

I’ve learned that when I am trying to control my emotional life based upon other people, I’ll suffer from anxiety and depression. Codependence can really be termed “external dependence”, as we reach outward to try to gain self-worth. It doesn’t work that way. 

Journey inward

Step One reminds me to look within for healing, serenity, and joy. It reminds me that I really am powerless over everyone else- their feelings, their moods, and what they think of me. And I don’t have to do one single thing to try to sway them one way or the other just so I can try to feel good.  

I can look to myself and my Higher Power for that unconditional love and security.  When I begin to feel anxious or sad, I have to remind myself that I am responsible for my emotions and life.  So I’m learning that when such feelings come to sit with them for a minute, listen to them, acknowledge them, and then let them go. Sometimes I will go and do something that I enjoy or listen to something motivational. Sometimes I will put on a funny show or meditate.  

Step One requires honesty. Is your relationship toxic? What's your part in it? Are you ready for change? Serious change?

Think about Step One. Begin working the steps. Work on your recovery consistently because chances are if you don’t, you’ll go right back to your old patterns of thoughts and behaviors.  And who wants that really?

I have to monitor myself because I can get triggered and off....I invite you to do the same.

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