Living in Limbo

control

Control is such a powerful concept. In behavioral work, one of the tools in a therapist’s pocket is a technique called forced choice. When a client is resisting a specific instruction such as “hold someone’s hand while we cross the busy street”, one can instead present the individual with two unique options, such as “would you like to hold my hand or would you like to hold mom’s hand?” The child is far more likely to comply because he or she feels as though autonomy is being presented, and the ultimate goal is still accomplished. They perceive a sense of self-government over the situation, and it can make all the difference between an easy session and a difficult one.

I think one of the biggest issues I am struggling with right now is the feeling of everything being out of my hands. J and I had an excellent conversation last night that reminded me just how control driven I am. It is a natural trait of a codependent – the need to have a hand in all spheres of life because their success depends solely on us. It goes back to the “magical thinking” I discussed in this post. However, in the case of a loved one’s recovery, the responsibility relies solely on the addict. I must resist the desire to find J meetings, help him formulate his daily schedule, or become too involved in suggesting activities to keep him busy. Otherwise, he will never gain the self-sufficiency he needs to be successful in rehabilitation. He has to be able to stand on his own two feet.

choice

If that wasn’t hard enough, what is really eating away at me is to put aside all talks about our relationship. Personally, I came to the decision to put us on hold, and allow J to focus on his recovery and me to focus on my own mental health. I know in my head that this is the best decision for me, as well as for him, but my heart is far less convinced. By essentially pressing “pause” on our relationship, I am situating myself in a place that I vehemently dislike: LIMBO. I am a resolution seeker – striving to come to clear cut conclusion to every argument even if it means staying up until the wee hours of the morning. I am a patron of the black and white scenario –  we either break up or stay together, and it is imperative we decide right now. I am antipathetic of taking time and space to think things through, either we fix things this instant or we walk away. The more I allow situations of discomfort to sit, the less control I have, and the more likely everything is going to disintegrate into my worst nightmares. Thus, for me to individually come to the decision to put our relationship issues on hold is a gigantic leap of faith on my end, and my heart is extremely afflicted. However, my head is at peace, so I know that this is the right path. 

Another technique I use with my clients who are feeling distressed is something I call “problem squeezing”. When a child is showing signs of anger, anxiety, or frustration, I will have him or her sit in a calming place and visualize what is causing their discomfort as sitting in their flat, open palms. Next, I instruct them to squeeze their hands into a fist as tightly as possible and count to ten on an inhale; then release on an exhale. The beauty of behavioral therapy is that it doesn’t just apply to special needs or just to children. I used this very technique right before I went to visit J at the detox facility today. I sat in the parking l0t, closed my eyes, and pictured a mini version of J in my right hand and a mini me in my left. I clutched them shut as tightly as possible and repeated to myself that sometimes allowing things to happen the way they were meant to is far more beautiful than fabricating everything into being. I inhaled, feeling the tension build to its maximum, filling my lungs to the point of discomfort, and noticed that if I kept trying to hold it all in for too much longer I would burst.

Then I let go.

I let it all go.

And for that moment, I was free.

lettingo

 

Magical Thinking

Now that I’m back in the “program”, or at least the self-made version of it that I can handle right now, I’ve decided to continue reading Love is a Choice by Drs. Robert Hemfelt, Frank Minirth, and Paul Meier. I’ve reread Chapters 1-4 and will pick up my analysis with Chapter 5, which begins to examine the childhood mind of a codependent, rewinding the clock to see just where the twisting of our thoughts originated –

Magic words are not the sole property of fairy godmothers. The child thinks: If I do such-and-so, this-and-that will happen. If I am perfect, Mommy will love me. If I do everything exactly right, Daddy will notice me…

In the child’s eyes anything Mommy and Daddy feel is necessarily generated by the child. “If Mommy is unhappy it must be because of me.” “If I weren’t a pain in the neck, Daddy wouldn’t drink so much.”

“If I do X then Y will happen” Magical thinking. Codependent thinking…

That feeling of responsibility for what happens has a very ugly flip side: “If it doesn’t turn out all right, it’s my fault for not trying harder.”

Cue the floodgates that are my tear ducts now. This is me. If I really choose to introspectively dissect my childhood emotions, I know that I  have always striven to be the “golden child” angel– to never be a problem for my mother so that she wouldn’t leave me like my father did. Because that has to be why he abandoned me, right? I wasn’t good enough to keep his love. So I poured myself into getting the straight A’s, mentally destroying my psyche whenever I achieved anything below a 100%. I never smoked, snuck out, did drugs; I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday, volunteered, and won awards just about each month for both academic and moral character. I secretly promised my mother that I would never, EVER give her cause to leave me. Though not once did she ask for any of these things (verbally or nonverbally), it became my own personal mantra, which has now morphed from the conscious repetitions of a child for the case of remembering to the constant, reiterative of a deeply codependent mind that cannot be turned off.

Fast forward about 20 something years and here I stand now. A few days ago, I went to visit J in the detox facility and as part of his recovery, he opened up to me about just how bad his substance addiction had become. It turns out he wasn’t taking the Sangel-06ubutex as prescribed but was instead abusing it in the worst manner, right under my nose, for more than a year. Hearing this news and subsequent details literally broke me.  How could this happen? I had been careful. had known him, loved him, adored him. I had made sure to be the perfect girlfriend – supported his career even when it meant months apart, put my own needs on pause because “there will be time for that later”, and constantly tried to keep his interest by suggesting activities that catered to his likes . What could I have possibly done wrong? How could he do this to me?

See what I did there? I turned a “J” situation into an “I” situation. It was my initial instinct. The first thing I did when I left the detox was to call his parents and apologize for not catching the warning signs sooner, for being completely unknowledgeable in this area, and for letting this happen to their son. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), they have been here with J multiple times before, so they were quick to reassure me that I played no part in pushing him to where he is. It was completely his own selfish choice, driven by the disease that is addiction. I heard everything they said but it passed through me like an ineffective breeze. It was only after reading Chapter 5 that my self-flagellation began to ease. Even if I was a “better” girlfriend, maybe J would still be checked into a detox, trying to heal. Maybe…just maybe…this really isn’t my fault. Even as I type that, I feel a little piece of weight and responsibility fall of my shoulders, and for an instant it is euphoric. Then rushing forward came the guilt, and it replaced the burden that had just slipped free.

That is what I am wrestling with. I am trying to take the magical thinking of my childhood, which has been tattooed onto the very essence of my being, and morph it using logic, reasoning, and knowledge to fight back against my codependent brain.

tattoo

I am in the midst of war between my head and my heart, my past and my present, and we have yet to see who will win in the end. It is my goal to one day have those competing influences align, but I’m so screwed up that they must stand on opposite sides of the ring for now. So I sit in the struggle, choosing at least to make an effort to dissect, examine, and learn, and that will just have to do.

Baby steps.

Relapse

drowning

Is it possible to have a codependency relapse? I believe so. And I believe I’m in the dark, convoluted, serpentine midst of it all.

Tomorrow, I will accompany my mother to an appointment that may very well reveal that her cancer is back. I will have to sit and sift through the medical jargon that became a part of my every day life almost exactly 4 years ago, taking in all of the information that slides over her as she retreats quietly into her protective shell. I cannot blame her for shrinking away from the data. Data makes it everything real, and that’s the last thing she wants. Hell, it’s the last thing I want, but I don’t have the privilege of handing over the reigns to anyone else. There is no one else. There is only me, and I must once again rip off my civilian clothing to dawn the suit of “Mother” and protect her.

From there, I will drive directly to visit J in a medical detox facility. God, I don’t even know where to start to begin unpacking that statement. To summarize, he decided to finally get off of Subutex, a transitory prescription drug used to help heroin addicts get sober. He was only supposed to be on it for 2 weeks but instead, wound up in the center of a more socially acceptable dependency that has lasted 3 years. A week ago, he decided enough was enough and took active steps towards becoming completely substance independent. I am so extremely proud of his bravery and support his recovery 100%. I know that this is the best thing for him; however, I cannot deny that  it comes at a really difficult time in my life. But it’s not about me, right? (When is it ever about me?) Thus, I pull on the mask of strength, collectiveness, impermeability, and secure it steadfastly to cover my anxiety, exhaustion, and weakness.

I love these two people with all of my heart, and I would sacrifice every last piece of me to ensure their wellbeing, their happiness, their success…I do. And I do it all with a smile on my face and a comforting word on my tongue. But can I be honest? I’m drowning. Cancer, detox, school, work…my list of responsibilities to fulfill the expectations of the spheres around me is starting to close in, and I can feel my grip on my own sanity slipping. I need to go back to therapy, to group, to yoga and church and meditation…but I don’t have the time (or really the energy). What I can do – and what I’ve decided to do – is start writing again…to take advantage of this little space on the internet that is solely mine, where I can lay down the armor I adorn and just breathe. I know I need to get healthy, to make a change for myself, and be intentional about my own recovery, but now is not that hour. For now, this is enough. This is my first step…the next 12 will come with time.

Unraveling (The GOOD Way)

Back when I was in one-on-one therapy, I was given extremely useful insight that has stuck with me to this day…

I had entered my session feeling overly anxious for unknown reasons,scribblehead and I iterated this to my therapist. She said, “Freedom, anxiety in of itself is not a single emotion. It is a mixture and jumble of other emotions that are snowballing into this pit in your stomach.” From there we began to unravel the convoluted hairball that was consuming both my mental and physical wellbeing. Turns out I was worried about my mother’s health, overwhelmed with my caseload at school, and angry at my boyfriend for something or rather. Being able to label exactly why I was feeling the way I was feeling was an emotional breakthrough for me already. Plus, it gave my therapist a starting point for our session that day.

Today,  I am no longer attending therapy (though  I tell myself everyday that I need to go back), but I still use that technique of “peeling the anxiety onion” whenever I feel turned upside down with worry.

What brought this up? Well, I woke today up with an all too familiar feeling in my tummy – churning, gurgling, nausea- and I employed my unraveling tool.

Here is today’s list of anxiety provokers:

  1. Again, I am worried about my mother’s health. She has had 4 episodes in the past few weeks in which she experienced extreme disorientation – forgetting where she was, why she was there, and who the people around her were. Hearing this, my warning bellswarningsign went off, and I immediately encouraged her to make an appointment with her doctor. However, my sweet but sometimes stubborn mother has given me the excuse that she is waiting for insurance yaddah yaddah to come into effect. I am struggling with my Codependency in regards to this…guess its ugly head is just inescapable in my life. I’m not sure if I am supposed to just go on and make the appointment for her like everything in me is screaming to do, or if I simply need to let her go through the process on her own. I go back on forth on this every hour minute second.
  2. As I mentioned yesterday, I have this new job that has an extremely steep learning curve, and I am feeling discouraged after my first week. Though my supervisors and the schIcantool staff I work with have all expressed their deep gratitude for my work, I cannot help but feel that I am in over my head. Trust me, I know that these thoughts are typical for someone starting out in an entirely new field, but the fact is, I still have ’em, and they are NOT nice. I have my first solo session tomorrow with sweet Jack (name has been changed for confidentiality purposes), and I could not be more nervous. Add that the the core of my anxiety mush.
  3. I have to register for school on Monday the 30th, and the main class that I need has only 6 spots left. DARN ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO HAVE JUMPED ONTO THE SPEECH PATHOLOGY TRAIN. PLEASE SWITCH YOUR MAJORS NOW BECAUSE THERE IS NO MORE ROOM FOR YOU AT CSUN. PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
    Golemn
  4. Finally, it is the week of Thanksgiving, and I will be thrown into the mix of potentially socially challenging situations. I have discovered lately that I have some form of social anxiety (yes, yes, I know I need to go back to therapy…), and it has caused me some pain in particular settings.While I absolutely ADORE J’s immediate family and feel very comfortable in their presence, I will be meeting an entirely new set of faces that will be in town for the holidays. Pl
    ease be still, my dying heart. I know I’ll get through it, I just pray they like me. Oh, hello again, Codependency…

As you can see, I have quite a bit on my plate, but let me tell you, even just writing it all out has made me feel slightly better. Thank you WordPress for being the silent ear that I need.

What are your anxiety makers today? Go ahead, give the unraveling a shot! Just be warned, once you start pulling, it’s hard to stop. But that’s what blogging is for. So let it go, see what happens. Oh, and if you feel up for it, share your results; it’s freeing! I would know 🙂

unraveling.jpg

 

 

Realignment

HOME

Hello again, my dear WordPress community. It has been quite awhile since I have broken bread with you all in fellowship, but I really needed the space to reevaluate my recovery. While blogging had proven itself to be an amazing outlet for me to discuss both my victories and my failures, it also slowly began to transform itself into a dangerous situation. You see, I began to get sidetracked by this notion that my stories were sparking change in other people. While that, in of itself, is a positive repercussion of this whole experience, it was always supposed to remain just that – a cherry on top of this amazing journey towards a better, more peaceful me. That wasn’t the case, however. This idea of “writing to fix people” started to consume my sense of purpose, and my own ppuzzlerogress was no longer my main priority. So it was time for a break. I simply wanted to recenter myself and redirect this blog towards a more introspective dialogue.

Now, that isn’t to say that I don’t want to continue to encourage sharing and    community…quite the opposite! Those spheres have been nothing but positive influences for me, and I intend to foster the relationships I have built through this medium. I just want to refocus on falling in love with me because let’s be honest, that alone if a full time job. Please continue to comment and interject your thoughts and opinions; they will always, ALWAYS be welcomed and appreciated here.

Here is a quick update on my life as it stands now:

J is off on another adventure. This trip is the longest one yet – 6 weeks in Savannah, GA working for another reality TV show. Let me just tell you that it has been quite the struggle and strain on our relationship, but we are working through it. I am working through it. If you have read any of my past posts regarding this matter, you and I both know that the distance is really difficult for me largely due to Codependency. But it is also growing me. I am learning so much of what it means to be comfortable in “aloneness” and how to cope with all of the doubts and insecurities that plague my mind like an unwanted tape recorder stuck on repeat. Everyday is a new opportunity for me to explore another step of recovery. Some days I win, and some days (most days) I lose, but I am discovering that it isn’t about the end goal right now; it is about the process.crossroads

My family is about to go through a rough time. I can’t delve into too much detail because ofthe sensitivity and confidentiality of the matter, but a storm is coming. I am deeply saddened. My heart weeps at its core for a particular woman in my life who means the world to me. She is faced with the most difficult of situations that is forcing her to choose between her own happiness and the happiness of others. Neither path is an easy one, but I love her enough to support whatever she decides. If anyone understands the importance and responsibility of taking care of oneself, it should be me. But still my heart weeps.

Part of my re-dedication and commitment to myself has involved getting healthy and getting active once again. I have gone back to bikram yoga (hot yoga), and it has really boosted me both physically and emotionally. Not only that, but I am simply trying to get outdoors more. I have been hiking semi-consistently, but really just allowing myself to find harmony with Mother Nature. That, too, has done wonders for my spirit.

Next week, I will be traveling to North Carolina for my best friend’s wedding. I will also be driving down to spend a few days and nights with J as Georgia is only 4 hours away. So I have much to look forward to!

Writing is truly one the best outlets for me to express my thoughts and to reflect upon my life journey. I am so happy to be back and to be at peace with this blogging experience once again.

Thank you for your patience and for continuing to be open ears and open hearts that have helped propel me towards a better place. I hope you all are well!

Namaste,
Freedom

The Case of the Finicky Friend

therapycouch

I remember my first one-on-one therapy session that I ever attended. This counselor was recommended to me through a friend of a friend from church; apparently, many people had had great results in their recovery journeys with the help of this professional. Plus, she would give a discount to anyone who was referred to her through our religious community. So, I thought, why not?

When I first walked into her office, I was a bundle of nerves. I had no idea what to expect. There were many familiar faces there from my church group, and we exchanged semi-awkward hellos as I sat down to fill out all of those necessary forms – general information, background history, current struggles, etc. Finally, after what felt like a million years, the therapist was ready for me.

Her name was Nan, and from the minute I sat down in her big, comfy couch, I knew that we were going to have a great relationship. Nan was so soft spoken, kind, and felt like a motherly figure that I could trust. On our first day, she asked me why I was there, and I explained to her my thoughts about possibly being Codependent. After listening to me babble on for quite awhile, she said, “Ok, well I have a little checklist that might help us get a better picture of where you’re at”. She then handed me this clipboard with a dozen or so questions all regarding Codependency. In all honesty, I checked off every single one.checklist

That list was extremely similar to the the 10 traits from Love is Choice that I posted about previously. However, there was an additional question on Nan’s check sheet that still sticks with me today. It asked, “Do you have a hard time keeping friends?” Yup, that’s me! I’ve always struggled keeping friends. My oldest non-romantic relationship dates back to my first year of high school, and we rarely talk these days. I met the person I consider to be my very best girlfriend in Kenya, which was only a few years ago. I just feel like overall, I really don’t maintain friendships well.

One day, I asked Nan about this trait and what it has to do with Codependency. In a nutshell she explained that there could be two main reasons:

1) Those of us that struggle with this fixation on another object or person lose interest in the substance at hand very quickly. We obsess over one person for awhile, pouring into him or her day and night, becoming ultimately consumed. Then, when this person doesn’t reciprocate to our standards or we cannot change them into who we want them to be (the control aspect), we abandon them and move on. Much like a drug addict continues to delve further into harder substances because the high just isn’t enough anymore, a Codependent is also looking to find their next good fix.

2) A Codependent has a main fixation (usually a romantic relationship) and everyone else becomes secondary due to the tunnel vision that develops. Thus, do to the lack of effort in maintaining those other friendships, they wither and eventually die.

Of course, the levels of need differ in everyone, and many Codependents may not struggle with this in particular. But I do. I friendshipknow that maintaining relationships is extremely difficult for me due to a little mixture of both explanations. I have always had the tendency to zoom in on whoever is my current boyfriend, and I have a strong need for control. Thus, I have to make conscious efforts to keep in contact with the people I want in my life because it just simply doesn’t come easy. Sometimes, I even have to write down little reminders to send a text to those that I care about just to keep the communication lines open.

But I’m trying. I have a handful of women who I believe really love me and care about being in my life, and I know I need to make a better effort at being in theirs. So these past few weeks I have just been intentional about saying hello and sending out “how are you’s”. It’s a baby step towards my overall struggle with Codependency, but it is an important one. Every little bit counts.

How are you friendships today?

P.S. I will be discussing the rest of Chapter 3 from Love is a Choice tonight!