My first few CoDA meeting shares started with “Hi, I’m [anonymous] and I think I might be codependent…” After a few weeks, I confidently said “Hi, I’m [anonymous] and I’m codependent.” On page 3, the Codependents Anonymous book states, “We offer no definition or diagnostic criteria for codependence…. We believe that recovery begins with an honest self-diagnosis. We come to accept our inability to maintain healthy and nurturing relationships with ourselves and others. We begin to recognize that the cause lies in long-standing destructive patterns of living.” Once I knew that I was codependent, I also knew that doing my steps would help me gain peace. If I didn’t work my steps, I would repeat the dysfunctional patterns that I had always trustingly followed. The wording of Step 1 was more than appropriate: my life had become unmanageable.
So, why did I have trouble starting my steps? For me, the answers were in the codependency patterns outlined on pages 4 – 8 of the Codependents Anonymous book. Below are some that I thought were relevant to this topic:
Denial Patterns: Codependents often…
· Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling.
· Think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
Low Self-esteem Patterns: Codependents often…
· Have difficulty making decisions.
· Judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
· Do not perceive themselves as loveable or worthwhile persons.
· Have difficulty admitting a mistake.
· Need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and may even lie to look good.
· Are unable to identify or ask for what they need and want.
· Have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
· Have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries.
Compliance Patterns: Codependents often…
· Are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
· Compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
· Are afraid to express their beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
· Give up their truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.
Control Patterns: Codependents often…
· Demand that their needs be met by others.
· Adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
Avoidance Patterns: Codependents often…
· Diminish their capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use the tools of recovery.
· Suppress their feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
· Refuse to give up their self-will to avoid surrendering to a power greater than themselves.
Sadly, it was my own codependent patterns that held me back from starting my steps. There was no single event or “breaking point” where I decided that I must start my steps. For me, it was a calculated process that involved getting books and then reading them while attending the meetings. Like many codependents, I believed that I had to do my recovery perfectly. I wanted to read every relevant book before I started. I now know that recovery is messy. While progressing through my steps, I had days where I was triumphant, and I had others where I was shocked and numbed by a realization. As I progressed through the steps, I learned to give myself grace and to honor those feelings—every single messy one.
As I close this blog post, I wonder: Why did you start your steps? Was there a single event or realization that pushed you over the edge to get started?