Co-NNections Recovery Stories

Gayle G. – 7-23-19

Howdy, my name is Gayle and I am a grateful recovering codependent. I am sixty years old.

My mom got pregnant with me when she was sixteen. My dad was 21 and they were mostly complete strangers when they were forced to get married. Two more children came quickly. I grew up as a caregiver for my siblings. I believe that this responsibility was the beginning of my co-dependency.

I was raised in a family where my dad was a dry drunk, workaholic and a sex addict. My maternal grandfather was a pedophile whom I call the rapist. The rapist passed away when I was 11 years old. From family research, family secrets being spoken within earshot and flashback memories I was able to piece together information on where, how and who my rapist was. I have had numerous body memories also.

I grew up with intense fear and I had intense awareness that adults could not be trusted.

I had a huge lack of identity, suppressed emotions and a huge sex drive. I started drinking alcohol at eight years old and blacked out using alcohol but had great capacity to black out emotionally as well. From eight years to 21 was a blur with few moments of clarity.

I did listen to advice given to me by my parents. My dad had advised me to grow up and get a good job, and therefore I was expected to get a college education. My mom advised that I grow up, get married and have children. My parents lived vicariously through me. I did graduate college, but I was too afraid to take x-rays with my degree. Before I got done with college I met a man in a bar and married him because he was so cute. I was being watched by his sister who lived with us and so I began to control my drinking.

I was pregnant nine months later. We appeared to be a happy and healthy family. My co-dependency was awesome because I was an Al-Anon wife in huge Al-Anon slip mode and I had not even heard of the group. I never looked at my husband’s drinking as a problem because I was an alcoholic. I was deeply depressed six years into the marriage and pregnant with our third child. I was gaining weight and could not keep up with housework, let alone take care of me. I loved my babies and that part came naturally as I grew up raising babies. So I kept them well fed, bathed, safe and clothed.

My husband stayed drunk the entire sixteen years we were married. I had given my husband an ultimatum around year six. I said, “I am going somewhere and I need you to come with me.” He looked at me and checked for my suitcase. I said, “No, I am going somewhere.” I didn’t know how to verbalize it. He didn’t understand that I meant it spiritually. I wound up giving him ten more years to come with me as a husband, as a father, as a friend.
After fifteen years of marriage where I was a stay at home mom, I returned to work. I saw married couples. I yearned for something more. I tried twice to have an affair and couldn’t break my vows. My husband started drinking to black-out stage. I got a restraining order and started divorce proceedings. During the 90 day waiting period a marriage counselor said: “You need to go to AA and you need to go to Al-Anon.” Nine years later I went to my first CoDA meeting.
I have been a member of CoDA for 12 years. I came in so sick, with no self-esteem, zero boundaries and a lack of standards and values because of my mental illness. I got a sponsor and I threw up during my fifth step. I began to feel emotions and anger was coming out as rage. I kept coming back. I got outside help and stayed in paid counseling for two years with a group of women who also had survived rape. I continue in counseling and now it is paid for with my insurance. I have worked the steps in Al-Anon, AA and CoDA.

I use the phone and call for support every time I set a boundary. Just saying no feels like the end of the world. That is why more than anything in my recovery it has been essential to keep in touch with CoDA members. When I make up my mind to set a boundary out loud, and then experience hurt feelings from the recipient, I must phone a trusted friend to give me back up and support, to get my emotional upheaval in check. I know when I set a boundary, my family especially will respond with anger, which escalates to the point of me being crazy insane. Numerous people have told me that, my mom especially. I am still very sensitive about being labeled as unstable. I love the affirmations and see them as helpful when backtalk to my thinking is necessary. The word, we, is my favorite part of recovery and I take that very seriously.

I now lead a stable life with my insanity manageable. No one would guess that I went to war and came back so beautiful. I work with others and I love that the steps are my life. I love that when my town doesn’t have a CoDA meeting I can start one. I love that service work is a fast way to achieve self-esteem, self-worth and to occupy my time in constructive ways. Service also gives me great satisfaction, a stroke to my Ego that is healing. The end.
Gayle G – 7/16/19

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