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

 

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

[Reality vs. Codependency] An Intro

With the necessary precursor discussion of Love Languages out of the way (you’ll understand why it’s important in just a minute), I can move on to the next mini-series I have had planned for awhile now. On this recovery adventure that I have been on for the past 2 years, I have discovered something fundamental to my understanding of how I see the world: I have a “Codependency Filter”! It is this distorting mechanism through which I process and analyze situations, and it skews my reality into an irrational, convoluted, and emotional mess.

glasses

So I wanted to start a little sequence of posts that discuss just what this looks like, not only for the purpose of sharing, but also to stimulate deeper conversations and illicit meaningful advice.

The topic up for contemplation today is “the need for Quality Time and Physical Touch”. Ah, here is where my previous post plays in.

Now, this is what reality tells me about my current Love Language situation is like: “J absolutely cares for you. He shows it whenever he buys dinner, cleans up after the dog, checks the liquid levels in the car, opens your door…the list goes on! Surely, you can be more lenient and understanding when it comes to not receiving the exact displays of devotion you were expecting, right? It doesn’t mean he isn’t thoughtful. He just expresses it differently than you are used to. Different doesn’t mean absent. So when he has takes a travel job he cannot refuse, trust that he loves you deeply, and he isn’t doing it to deliberately hurt you. It’s just part of the gig.”

My Codependency Filter takes the information and boop bop beep bop…this is what I hear: “J definitely loves you. You can’t deny that. He just doesn’t care enough about your emotions and feelings to make an effort towards meeting your needs. That’s why it’s so easy for him to take jobs that just whisk him away to the other side of the country for months on end; it isn’t that important to him. YOU aren’t that important to him. Even though he knows that by leaving he is forsaking your needs for Quality Time and Physical Touch completely; he just doesn’t care.”

For a long time, I was oblivious to the fact that I had these distorting blinders on that funneled my vision and focused it onto details that just weren’t true, and I lived a very miserable life. My self-esteem and self-worth were at rock bottom. To this day, I have yet to find a way to get that darn filter off for good (I’m not even sure you really can), but I am now at least able to recognize its effects. Whenever I feel as though my Codependency Filter may be firing, I take a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or whatever time frame I need to stop and process what is really going on. I try my best to separate myself from the situation at hand and see the bigger picture for what it really is, not just what I may be perceiving it to be. It has made a difference thus far and has allowed me to better handle my Codependent thoughts.

I am definitely a work i progress, but you gotta start somewhere right?

This was just an introductory look into this series. Stay tuned for more in-depth “decostructive” examinations! I hope you are as excited for this ride as I am.

Time for Some Truth and Grace

family_holding_hands

Chapter 4 of Love is a Choice is all about Abuse. Now, if you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to instantly shut down because of course this doesn’t apply. I was never physically or emotionally harmed in any way, so maybe I can just sit this one out, right? Wrong! After delving into the different kinds descriptions that the authors discuss in detail, I realized that I may not be quite as unscathed after all.

There are 4 types of Abuse that are mentioned in detail:

1. Active Abuse:

” These are physical out-in-front abuses, easy to see. Beating. Battering. Sexual molestation of any degree to and including intercourse. They are no only morally wrong but illegal in nearly all venues…

Active and destructive, but not necessarily illegal, are such manifestations as extreme anger or rage – verbal violence. Shrieks and the irate laying of blame leave scars and bruises that will e felt not seen.”

2. Passive Abuse:

“One or both parents are so preoccupied they are not available to the child emotionally, physically, or both… The ones universally recognized, the ones with the really bad press, are alcoholism and substance abuse. Others may be praised and idealized in certain quarters – workaholism, for example…”

– “Abandonment is abusive, and make no mistake, divorce however amicable, is abandonment…”

– “The parent who constantly brushes the child aside commits passive abuse…”

– “A parent who is noemotional – a Star Trek Mr. Spock type of cerebral person – is not going to fill the child’s love tanks simply because children react at a spontaneous visceral level; the child and the adult aren’t speaking the same language…”

– “A lack of love between the parents is another form of passive abuse…”

– “The parent with compulsions or perfectionism may not force it on the child, but the child is watching as Mom weekly cleans the bathroom tiles with a toothbrush and Dad mows the lawn every three days. The message is there, expressed nonverbally.”

3. Emotional Incest

“Incest in one way brings up the wrong connotations. But in another way, the word’s connotations are exactly right. Emotional incest has of itself nothing to do with sexual matters…Rather, it is an extreme role reversal.

Here is where a loving relationship between parent and child has somehow been turned upside down. The  parent’s mind (and rarely consciously considered) is the thought, I don’t care much for my spouse, but I have this child who I love more than life itself. What that statement so often mean is, “My spouse isn’t giving me the love I crave (because both our love tanks are near empty) but I can get it from my child.” The half-person is going to that little person for completion.”

4. Unfinished Business

“Unfinished business is Mom’s or Dad’s business that was never completed. One or both may have some area of their lives in which they’ve always felt discontent. Perhaps Dad feels frustrated and sexually unfulfilled in his marriage. As he views marriage and his life he gets this this tremendous sense of uselessness, of lack….Unless he makes peace with that…without intending to do so he may well hand that frustration down to his sons and daughters”.

I never knew that abuse actually had a place in my life, but after reading these descriptions, I definitely experienced some emotional damage upon reflection. Having an absent father was a form of passive abuse, and my single mother definitely attempted to make me the center of her world (emotional incest). It actually explains a lot about my current mindsets and personality traits. Abuse may sound “harsh” but unless it is addressed in such a way, one may never realize just how deeply our wounds travel, and how crucial it is to get help or begin recovery.

Truth is hard sometimes, and placing any kind of criticism on the people who cared for and raised us can be a difficult thing. But everyone is human, prone to messing up here and there, including your Mom and Dad! Mistakes are to be expected. It is okay to admit that fact as long as it is accompanied with heaping piles of grace. Even with these realizations, it does not demean the love that was given; it simply brings to light the need for further introspection that could ultimately bring much peace for yourself and for the future generations of your family.

So, dear friends, is it possible that there may be some wounds that you need to open in order to bring fuller healing to your life? If so, know that you are not alone by any means, and that accepting these (oftentimes harsh) realities is the first step to a better life. Persevere through that dark tunnel, and freedom will be waiting on the other side.

Motivational-inspirational-meme

Communication and Confrontation PSA

couple

I was sitting in the office, minding my business, when I overheard my male coworkers discussing the difficulties of being in a relationship. Well… that’s the nice way to put it. In all honesty, they were simply griping about their wives. One guy in particular was saying that he specifically hates how he has to do both the cooking and washing up afterwards while another was venting about having to constantly pick up after the family dog.

Really, I wasn’t planning on interjecting or commenting on the situation, but somehow, I always get roped in. The guys know that about 6 months ago, I moved in with my long-term boyfriend, and they proceeded to basically ask me if things had fallen apart yet. When I told them, no, they hadn’t, they all responded with, “Just you wait” type interjections. That was extremely irritating to me because they made it seem like a miserable relationship was inevitable! There was just no avoiding it; just buckle up and get ready for the ride.

That would have been just fine with me prior to recovery. But now? There is no way that statement wouldn’t push my buttons because I know better.

So I asked to coworker who was tired of cooking and cleaning, “Have you mentioned this to your wife? Maybe you guys could come up with a system that dictates if someone cooks, the other does dishes?” He looked at me like I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the tool shed and said, “I’ve tried that. It always turns into an argument”.

When I got home that night, and J and I finally settled in, I brought up this discussion. I explained how much it bothered me, and how I really didn’t want us to end up miserable and angry. So I made him promise to never let fear stop him from confronting me about an issue, and in return, I promised to handle it as maturely and calmly as possible. This also works the other way. I need to remember to put aside my worries about pleasing my partner and speak up if I have a genuine issue. As a Codependent, this is high up on the list of struggles for me. I am always hesitant to ask for things, especially when I feel I can accomplish them on my own. However, if I do this time and time again, I will find myself over-burdened and exhausted – 2 things that I am striving hard not to be. I know we won’t be perfect at it, and we will probably fight many times, but I don’t want that to be the end of the story. By setting this expectation of communication now, I think we stand a better chance of paving the way for a healthier partnership.

We all deserve so much more than to be stuck in fearful, resentful relationships that make us bitter towards the people we should be treasuring the most. I think many of us, myself included, forget this because of the way we were brought up or because of the unhealthy mindsets that were modeled to us throughout the years. But here is my PSA for today: stop settling for mediocre relationships (romantic or otherwise). Seriously. Stop it. You really are worth more than that.

So whatever is holding you back from communication or confrontation – whether it be fear of seeming imperfect or needy, the hesitancy to initiate fighting, Codependency, or anything else it might be, put it aside and allow your heart a chance at vulnerability. And no matter how the other person takes it – even if they are angry – love them enough (and love yourself enough) to push through that emotion and come to a place of agreement. Even if it takes 30, 50, 100 tries.

Your future selves will thank you.

Mandela

Bubble Girl

bubble2

Denial. I used to live wrapped up in its hypnotically charged blanket, succumbed into thinking I was safe in my little bubble of “happiness”. But recovery requires the acknowledgment and embracing of truths that can be hurtful, painful to recall, enraging, etc. The second half of Chapter 3 from Love is a Choice discusses this exact point.

“If the effects of codependency are so glaringly obvious, why bother with counseling? After all, surely the sufferer need simply identify with the problem and take steps to resolve it…

Codepdendents with significant unmet emotional needs are masters of denial. It comes built in. For their whole lives, these people have been living a lie – pretending, wishing, yearning that their lives were lovely when in reality they were unbearably painful emotionally and perhaps physically. They can’t stop lying now. If reality sinks in, the wracking past will surface with all its open sores, its pockets of pus and filth. Codependents have spent a lifetime burying that mess. Denial, therefore, becomes a major hurdle to healing. In fact, healing cannot behind until denial dealt with properly.”

This was so much easier said than done for me when I first started on my journey towards a freer place. I had come to love and adore my Denial. It provided a safe place where I could continue to float in a chasm of serenity. But that peace that I thought I was experiencing was all a facade. It was a unit built with cushioned walls of lies that I had told myself so often they became truth. I could no longer distinguish reality from insanity, and I was doing the same things over and over in my relationships expecting different results. So while Denial can definitely provide a temporary state of “happiness”, it ultimately destroyed my willpower and kept me suspended in one place for a long time.

Getting out of that deceptively beautiful bubble was honestly so difficult. When therapy was first suggested to me, I had this negative stigma about mental health that instantly aroused my defenses. However, my life was slowly spinning out of control and I was so tired of keeping up this pretense of being perfect that I was willing to try anything. So I found Nan and I found a CoDA meeting and those two outlets slowly coaxed me from my death grip on Denial. Man, that was a painful process-I had to examine wounds I didn’t even realized existed. But each community wrapped their comforting arms around me and walked with me through my stages of grief.

So, yes, I know how amazing your safe place can be; it keeps all the bad things out of your life. But what you may not realize is that Denial is a darkness within, and if we barricade ourselves from outside harm, we are trapping our hearts in with a different kind of evil. And that will ultimately consume us.

We cannot let that darkness win. It’s time to break out of your cage. Freedom is waiting.

serenityprayer

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!

Fueling Up

flow-like-water

Chapter 3 of Love is a Choice, by Drs. Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meier, is so packed with knowledge that I’ve decided the take it in chunks. The first portion of the text speaks about “Love Tanks”, and this idea lit up so many bulbs for me that I think it is worth pausing and reflecting upon in detail. It reads,

“Imagine being a newborn child possessing a heart-shaped love tank deep inside yourself. Were the tank to have a gas gauge, it would be nudging empty at the beginning.

Now picture above that tank two other tanks, your biological parents. Over the course of years they fill your tank from their own tanks. Fifteen or twenty years later, as you wean yourself from the original family and go forth to build a family of your own, your tank is pretty well filled. Now an adult, you’re primed and ready to fill the tanks of your own children, who in turn will be able to fill the tanks of their children. Thus in a normal, functional family, love is transmitted from generation to generation, poured down from parents to children.”

The authors then go on to explore what happens when your heart tank is not adequately filled due to an absent parent, dysfunctional family relationships, or unhealthy mindsets. What occurs is, you begin to search for things to complete the void, to erase the feelings of emptiness or “lacking”.

Personally, this hits home hard. I grew up without a father since birth. Though my mother, being the amazing woman that she is, raised me in a life where I didn’t want for much, my heart tank was only half full from the beginning. To be honest, it was probably even less than that because my mom grew up without a male figure in her life as well. This totally explains the “emptiness” I’ve felt throughout my life that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

So I tried to substitute my missing parental love with external “love”. I started dating at a young age, thinking a boyfriend would solve all of my problems. The first real relationship I had was with the son of a very prominent figure at the church I was attending. That’s where I first felt like I found my worth. He, the boy who was coveted by all the girls at school and loved by everyone in our religious community, picked me. That had to mean I was special, right? When he finally asked me to be his girlfriend, I was complete. I could die right then and there, and I would feel as though I had accomplished everything in life. So when he broke up with me because God told him that I was a distraction, my whole world crumbled. I felt as though the very air was being sucked from my lungs and there was no point in living another day. I was a mess.

From then on, I bounced from relationship to relationship, terrified of being alone, so much so that I would take almost anyone who passed my way if it meant they would have me. Thus, I found myself in some extremely unhealthy relationships.  I dated men who cheated, lied, were addicted to hard drugs, stole, and were physically aggressive simply because I needed someone to fill my heart tank. But I couldn’t…no, REFUSED…to see that truth in the moment. Recognizing that a relationship could potentially be harmful was a ridiculous notion to me for a long time.

The problem was, all of those guys that I dated clearly had lacking heart tanks as well; theirs were just as empty, if not emptier, than mine was. So, even though they filled my tank for a little bit, they quickly ran out of fuel, and it was just never enough to fully satisfy my need. THAT’S the important thing that I learned after reading this chapter – when you have empty heart tanks, the only person who can fill it is you (with the help of your Higher Power in whatever form you believe). Being aware of the void that has resulted in your heart because of the ugly curve balls life can throw is the first step. After that, it takes intentional steps of recovery and growth to slowly refill one’s tank. Only after you have worked on yourself can you maintain healthy relationships.

This just refueled my fire to “refill my tank”. Even though I am in a commitment right now, I feel like I found a man whose heart is overflowing. Thus, if I’m not careful, I will drain him to complete emptiness with my needs. I want to be able to contribute to his tank just as much as he does mine and hopefully one day, our children’s’ too. But even more than that, I want to feel full. I want that satisfying, lean back and unbutton the top layer of your jeans type satisfaction that comes with knowing I have taken care of myself; I have refilled my tank; and I have finally gotten to a place where I can outpour into the hearts of others who may need a little extra love.

I know it will be a long, intentional journey, but it will be worth it. I am worth it….simply because I am.

How’s your heart tank today?

Ten Traits

According to Love is a Choice by Dr’s Hemfelt, Minirth, and Meieir, there are 10 distinct characteristics of Codependency:

“1. The individual is driven by one or more compulsions.

2. The codependent is bound and often tormented by the way things were in the dysfunctional family or origin.

3. The codependent’s self-esteem (and, frequently, maturity) is very low.

4. A codependent is certain his or her happiness hinges on others.

5. Conversely, a codependent feels inordinately responsible for others.

6. The codependent’s relationship with a spouse or Significant Other Person (SOP) is marred by a damaging, unstable lack of balance between dependence and independence.

7. The codependent is master of denial and repression

8. The codependent worries about things he or she can’t change and may well try to change them.

9. A codependent’s life is punctuated by extremes

10. A codependent is constantly looking for the something that is missing or lacking in life. “

VennCodependent2

Particularly, numbers 4, 5 and 8 resonate with me strongly. I have a tendency to take responsibility for other people’s feelings, actions, and circumstances even when they have absolutely nothing to do with me. Plus, I have difficulty in drawing boundary lines that keep me from becoming too involved in another person’s life. This then leads me to believe that I have more control than I really do, and my happiness becomes dependent on that idea.

After reading through this list a second time, I discovered there is even more the Codependency that I initially understood. It’s effects range farther and more intricately than I think most people realize. That is why it goes so undetected, and why I believe spreading the word is so crucial.

Do any of these traits seem to describe you? If so, know that you are not alone, and that awareness is the first step to a more peaceful, more joyous life. Keep digging!

Beaches and Bike Rides

bike-trail

In the spirit of candor, I will say that I suffer from pretty severe anxiety. So much so, that simple tasks which may seem mundane to the average individual become extremely difficult for me. Case and point:

For the July 4th holiday, I was off from work and school beginning Thursday all through the weekend. My sweet J decided that it may be a great opportunity to go out and get some well-deserved sun while still avoiding the crowds, so he planned a little day trip to Venice Beach. This was an amazing idea…in theory. Our problems began early on. It is important to note that J HATES Los Angeles traffic. Being originally from the South, he has had the luxury of open roads and continuously fluid driving, and any Angeleno knows that is impossible to find in SoCal. So when we had to sit in 2 hour traffic just to get to the beach (a drive that should have only taken us half the time), he was already less than pleased. traffic

When we finally made it to Venice, we were both starving, so we quickly found a great Greek spot and chowed down. All was well so far – I was enjoying the quality time, the interesting scenery, the scrumptious mushroom gyro I was devouring like my life depended on it, and J’s spirits greatly improved with a full stomach. Then, however, his master plan led us to the bike rental shop. This is where the anxiety started to creep into my head. I haven’t ridden a bicycle in at least 10 years! Would I still remember how? They say you never forget how to pedal and keep yourself upright, but I am not the most coordinated person. This would never work. I could already feel my palms begin to sweat.

But I bit the bullet because J looked so excited and pleased with himself for coming up with an out-of-routine date, and there was no way I was going to be the reason his smile disappeared. Thus, before I knew it, I was straddling my bike on the Venice path, hands gripping the bars for dear life, just about to hyperventilate. J took off, and I had no choice but to follow or waste the money he spent. So I went. Initially, I got the hang of the pedaling and the movement; however, any time I tried to steer in a particular direction, I felt as though I ended up going the opposite way! J tried my bike and found nothing wrong, so he then switched to coaching me through the process. But it wasn’t working. He wasn’t understanding me or why I was in distress. Every time I wanted to turn, I felt like I was going to tip over, and my anxiety was growing heavier and heavier like an unseen weight upon my chest.falling

I crashed into a wall, hurt myself, but still continued to try because I didn’t want to disappoint J. He had taken the time to plan an amazing day, sat in unbearable traffic, and paid money for this experience. I couldn’t let him down, and I couldn’t let him see that I wasn’t up to handle something as simple as biking. So I kept going. I kept pedaling. I kept attempting to control my anxiety, to tell it to shut up. But it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It finally came to a point where I was on the verge of tears. My hands and arms were shaking from the strain and my jaw hurt from grinding my teeth. It was then that I realized that I had, HAD to stand up for myself. I had to trust that J loved me enough to understand even if he was disappointed. So I pulled over, jumped off my bike, and stood on solid ground. Once he noticed I was no longer behind him, he circled back and came to rest right beside me. With my eyes cast down I explained, “Babe, I’m so sorry, but I can’t do this. My anxiety is through the roof, and I am not enjoying myself. I need to stop.” Thankfully, J completely understood and was more than kind about the whole situation.

As a Codependent, that statement right there was a result of a year or so of intentional recovery and conscious striving for growth. Prior to my CoDA days, I would have never thought to speak up for what I wanted, or needed in a situation, especially if it indicated a “weakness” in my perfect armor. As long as my partner was happy, I was too (even though what I was really feeling was hurt, fatigue, anxiety, etc.). But I know now how unhealthy that is, and especially since i started this blog, I have been motivated to take even bigger strides towards managing my Codependency.

I am extremely proud of myself for not only recognizing my feelings and needs, but also for speaking up for them.  It may seem like a small step, but I feel as though I took a great leap towards a new lifestyle, one that is not dominated by my fears of being rejected and seeming imperfect.

There may be a day when I will conquer the world of bicycle riding, but until then, I know that I am not powerless and will not be forced into it until I am ready.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is my Freedom for the week.