Updated: Oct 2
I describe myself as a person in recovery, a recovering codependent. It all began at the beginning. As a child, I was told I was special and would be somebody because I was always so helpful. This is where the greed for validation began. Socially, being an active codependent made it easier to feel included. Helping at various events, assisting my peers with their lives, and keeping everyone happy was my self-inflicted task. It made me popular to say the least.
And then my spiritual journey began. I got saved and joined church. There were lots of ways to be a great codependent in the church and get celebrated for it. I was told that I was gifted with “the gift of helps,” that accolade along made me strive to do more. We’ll call this the good CoDe or “good” codependent period. This is that person that’s always giving their time, money, and resources. They are always there to help anyone in need with a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and anything and everything else. I used to pride myself with the facts that I’d go out of my way to do nice things for people who publicly despised me and like every good Christian, I’d justify this dysfunction with Biblical scripture.
But eventually, I began to feel used, overlooked, and discarded. There was no one around when I was in need. There was no shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. And to add to this dilemma, the need to have that special someone(s) left me vulnerable to the most dysfunctional relationships, friends, and lovers. Again, the feeling of being fulfilled was short lived and getting shorter each time.
We didn’t have a name back then for this experience but today we understand it to be the phenomenon of Co-Dependency. The enabling, sometimes prosecutors, sometimes victim, but all the time rescuing or looking to be rescued person. It’s a mad cycle we’ve created for ourselves.
Vulnerable and desiring love, affection, and attention as a child spilled over into the adolescent and young adult years and those desires continued to grow. Gradually, loving, do-gooders can turn into ranting, raving, shallow people that bark at everyone and about everything. It’s easy at this point to become super critical, hyper-judgmental, and fall into substance misuse in an attempt to numb those original longings to be loved, appreciated, included, and validated.
During those early years, I went from passive to aggressive in my attitude toward others and life, believing I was protecting myself from ever being used or feeling dismissed. A wall being erected around my heart and my life ended up being the result.
Today I realize I was operating in fear; fear of being left alone. My mother left us in Memphis to be raised by our grandmother, an event I now know caused abandonment concerns. I worked hard to be accepted as a child and it followed me throughout the rest of my life as I continued the search for external validation. Finally, I realized, through consistent prayer, reflection, school, and therapy, I can have balance. I still exercise that “gift of helps” today. I continue to help in times of need but today, I do those things only if they don’t cause me to go against my own moral judgement, desires, and comfort. Today, I no longer enable others but empower them to do for themselves. I’ve torn down all the walls, built myself (internally) and now I practice establishing and maintain healthy boundaries.
No more playing the good CoDe, bad CoDe. Now it’s healthy me in recovery.