Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Strengths in Co-dependency

Today while driving, I found my thoughts turned to those times  I've done things out of my comfort zone on behalf of someone else. One such memory dates back to 1985. I had just gotten my very first apartment.  Until that time I had lived with my parents, in dormitories, and most recently with another couple. One of my childhood friends had just accepted a job in El Paso, and I was asked by our mothers to help her get settled. This friend is three years older than me, but evidently I represented some aspect of experience. The irony here is that I knew nothing of traveling, of El Paso, of setting up an apartment. It was the blind leading the blind and somehow I was in front!

She flew to Arizona and I was to take her to El Paso.  It had been overlooked that El Paso is over five hours away.  The financial and time burdens on me were far less of an issue than taking care of her needs. However, I didn't know any other way but to respond positively to the expectation that I would do this. I gladly accepted this request, however today I recognize that it was a lot to ask of me at that time. I had just turned 21 and it surprises me now what a willing and easy-going participant I was in this agreement. Of course, it is only now using the recovery lens that I see how co-dependent I was even then. My needs or welfare just weren't part of the equation. I was viewed as more than capable and she was viewed as needing help. How interesting to look back to see myself in this light.

The gift of this recollection is that I see strengths in co-dependency. My willingness to take risks, be adventurous, seek knowledge, provide leadership, and be encouraging are traits that I admire! When these things are needed on behalf of another, they wonderfully appear! I draw upon those strengths to be the supportive person I choose to be. These things are commendable and respectable and I see why others saw me as a resource! I am not faulting myself for this.

I also have seen that often when I need these very traits for myself, I have failed to utilize them. I have so often not been willing to take risks or encourage myself. I have been far less motivated. In recovery, fortunately this is changing. I am learning to show up for myself, and now I see I can draw on those same strengths I used to help others. They are available to me for my needs and desires; they always have been. Writing this actually surprises me how simple it seems. If I can do something for someone else, why has it been so difficult to do the same thing for myself? THAT is the work of these past months. That is the mystery of this thing called co-dependency. Why is it that I put my needs aside, neglecting my self-care, willing to deplete myself of the resources to tend to myself?

I am still seeking the fullness of the answers to those questions. I am grateful to have some insight though. It hasn't come without some work, some pain, and some courage to face truths about my behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. In a nutshell, I didn't see my own worth or my own abilities. I also wanted someone to do for me what I was willing to do for others but not for myself. These are not pleasant truths to confess. Today, they are not my beliefs, though. I am worth it, I am capable, and I can tend to my needs and know how to ask for help rather than manipulating others to meet them. I’m still working toward transformation. It’s become less burdensome, and I notice that more often I find myself behaving as a healthy adult, taking ownership and responsibility for my choices. I celebrate these victories.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a dear friend earlier this year over my struggles in accepting that I was an addict. She said that she had learned to love the addict part of herself, and that she needed some of the qualities of her addict. I've slowly come to see the truth in that. For instance, the addict in me has some determination and resolution that are useful traits. Today, I see that this also applies to the co-dependent in me. She is resourceful, courageous, adventurous, caring, and compassionate.  I can love all of me . I am reminded of those precious words from my Higher Power, "You are lovable, beautiful, and a catch!" Now I realize that that includes the co-dependent in me, too!

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