Was raised to be pleasing to other people. On both sides of my family, my job was simple. Make us look good. Obey. And keep your mouth shut.
I became so adept at these things that I completely lost any sense of my true identity. At the age of 19, I was suspended from college in an alcohol-related incident that had codependence and sex addiction at its roots. Exiled to a farm in California (a nice farm, but still), I was blessed to receive a book from my mother in the mail about codependency. I read that book cover to cover in one afternoon. Of course, being raised to believe I could handle my business on my own, it wasn’t until many years later that life beat me down and I decided to come into the rooms of Coda.
Broken, battered, and profoundly despairing, I remember crying in the arms of the person who became, and remains these many years later, my sponsor. She suggested I begin working on the steps and focus on the portion in the green workbook that states, “Loyalty to self needs always come first.” That sounded good on paper, but my journey to living this phrase would be a rocky one, especially when it came to romantic relationships. Nonetheless, I persisted.
Whatever happened, I always came to meetings. When my sponsor suggested that I write three letters when resentment built up, I agreed. The first letter was a “from the gut letter”, the second was written to my Higher Power, and the third was written to my inner child. It never ceases to amaze me how resilient my inner child truly is.
My first letter almost always focused on my deep regret to my inner child for not protecting him once again. The adult version of me, who was writing the letter, would apologize and promise to do a better job of protecting him the next time. My sponsor would reinforce this positive spin. “Next time”, she would always say, “next time”.
My inner child, meanwhile, would immediately forgive me and give me another chance. Such is the magical qualities and optimism inherent in children. As time progressed, and I used the tools of recovery, my spiritual muscles grew. I became more able to protect and even nourish my inner child.
Today, when I deviate from this, I always feel it in my body. My consciousness has risen indeed. In the process, I am of greater service to my fellows. They interest me more and more each day. Service in all areas of my life has become the priority, and I have fun doing it! I have fallen in love for the first time, both with myself and yes with a wonderful woman who is also in recovery.
God had a plan for my life all along, and I became willing to align with it. And that has made all the difference.
Tom P. Staten Island, NY