At times over the last nine months of attending CoDA meetings, I have wondered whether this is really the right place for me. The stories I hear often recall times of such intense sexual, physical and emotional abuse, which I did not experience. I believe that scares some newcomers like myself away. However, the women (and men) that I have met in my two different meetings have listened to my shares and offered support that has made a huge difference in my life, and I am so grateful for that.
I have become aware of my codependent patterns and characteristics and I am working hard to try to understand, if not eliminate my shortcomings. With one of my groups, I am starting to go through the steps one by one, and really my journey is just beginning.
I did grow up in a chaotic household where I never felt emotionally safe. My mother suffered from depression, psychotic breaks, and schizophrenia. She was separated from me when I was a few months old and spent the next 18 months or so at a state mental hospital where she had shock treatments—and that wasn’t her first time.
I knew none of this until I was 21 years old and newly married. Mom experienced a psychotic episode—the first since I was born. Her mental illness had been “controlled” with heavy anti-psychotic medication for all those years, and no one in my family felt the need to give me any details about her illness. I grew up thinking that Mom was strange, slow, kind of like a walking zombie. I believe now that she loved me, but I never felt loved. I don’t remember ever being hugged, kissed, or told “I love you” by anyone in my family. She was not nurturing, yet she was suffocatingly over-protective. At times, growing up, I felt that I needed to take care of her, especially because my father was a very angry, frustrated man. You could cut the tension with a knife, and I hoped that he would never come home from work. Dad berated Mom for silly things like not washing the floor properly. Dad yelled and Mom listened, saying nothing in response. This was my role model for marriage and for parenting.
I grew up like an only child, being the only girl and 10 years younger than my closest brother in age. My mother didn’t drive and we lived on a busy street with no other children around. Life was very lonely during the summers, and I never learned how to enjoy time with myself. To this day, I have trouble knowing what I want to do if I’m not working or with a friend or my husband. I feel that I lose myself in others, and just sway in the breeze to the desires of those I spend time with. When I entered school, I instantly became a bully magnet. School never felt emotionally or physically safe, as I felt like an outsider, and at times I felt threatened by the kids who for some reason chose to hate me. These feelings are just under the surface for me still, even though I am now 58 years old.
So, relationships are difficult for me to manage. I want to control, yet I allow myself to be controlled by those—like my husband—with strong personalities. I say to myself that I am more easy-going, it’s all OK with me, it matters more to him, so why not give in? My daughter is now 28 years old, and I find myself only being able to relate to her by telling her how to run her life. My confidence is quite low, and every time I try something new, even a new email system, I get extremely anxious. I am filled with self-doubt and let others’ opinions tell me how to feel about myself.
Thank you for this forum to share. I hope that others like myself who have not experienced horrific abuse will be able to see how this program can be useful to them. CoDA has already made a huge difference in my life. I expect to continue on my journey with further success.
Pam L. – 9/5/18