My name is Erik and I’m a codependent.
I grew up as the oldest of five boys in Southern California. While my parents brought us up in a faith based home, there was much dysfunction in our household. My dad was, and still is, emotionally unavailable. I believe my mother was codependent and instilled in me an unhealthy form of love: loving and staying in (unhealthy) relationships – “till death do us part” – was her motto. She also preached the characteristic of being my “brother’s keeper.” In codependent terms, I became a caretaker.
Throughout my years at home I constantly tried to seek my parents approval by doing good in school, being helpful at home and always being the responsible son. This was regularly met with disappointment as I never got the praise or accolades I desperately wanted. As this went on for years, I could never figure out why I never measured up and why I felt so empty inside. I tried harder to please them hoping that one day they would see and acknowledge my efforts. By age 17 I began drinking discreetly.
Looking for the love and acceptance I never got at home, I moved out and quickly got married. The strain of growing up in a dysfunctional home, the drinking (which had now become excessive) and never having any level of self-esteem rapidly began to erode my marriage. There were other powerful addictions that I also began using to cope with my codependence. I spent money irresponsibly. I used sex like a recreational drug; all of which became addictions that brought me tremendous amounts of guilt and shame.
At age 45 I was taken off of work for an industrial injury. During the time I was off work I was prescribed powerful and addictive pain killers. I was in considerable physical pain, but I was in even greater mental and emotional pain. I was diagnosed with depression.
My bottom came in September 2016 when my brother was self-admitted on a 72-hour psychiatric hold. I was in the emergency room when the psychiatrist interviewed my brother and asked him if he was suicidal. He stated he was losing the will to live. That was EXACTLY how I felt. As they wheeled my brother away to the psych-ward, I knew they were taking the wrong guy away. I knew something was terribly wrong with me, but I still couldn’t figure out exactly what “it” was.
Soon after my brother’s hospitalization, I found Codependence Anonymous. I attended my first meeting October 27, 2016. I remember with great detail all of the rage, the fear, the shame and the guilt I felt attending that first meeting. But I can also remember that I was drawn to the smiles, the hugs and the warm feeling of finally being home. I immediately felt like I fit in.
In the last fourteen months I’ve discovered that codependence is an insidious disease that erodes the soul. I have also found a solution that works for me. Today my solution includes having chosen and following a sponsor’s guidance, working the steps, calling other Co-DA members, reading Co-DA literature regularly and journaling daily. I have also begun to address many of my family of origin issues. I’ve quit drinking and no longer use pain killers. I am also attending therapy on a regular basis. My relationships with my wife and a loving Higher Power each have blossomed and grown. I now know a new love and acceptance of myself and others. I feel genuinely lovable, loving and loved.
I am reminded, like many of us, I came to Co-DA in crisis mode and on the verge of insanity and death. I truly believe that a spiritual awakening has taken place within me and my life is different than it was fourteen months ago. Today I make it a point to share with newcomers that there is hope, that life can get better, and amazing things happen when we work the steps.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
Erik V. – 01/30/2018