I grew up in a household that provided a great training ground for codependency. My mom had lived through great tragedy and, in addition to dealing with post-trauma, suffered from other forms of mental illness. At one moment, she could be funny, charming, sensitive, and generous, and the next, flying into a rage that was accompanied by shaking, screaming, breaking things, making threats, etc. My father, who was an abuse survivor, was the exact opposite: quiet, introverted, and never wanting to get involved.
Coming into adulthood, I was in a daze and didn’t really know up from down. I was very attracted to people who were in great pain. I thought I could save them the way I could not save my parents. I still felt like I had to answer to my parents and please them at all costs. I didn’t know how I felt or what I needed or what meant anything to me. I had little to no communication or interpersonal skills. I began to abuse alcohol and hung out with men who were violent. Intoxicated, I would act as my mother had in her fits of rage. My behavior swung between extremes: I was either all self-effacing or all controlling, depending on the power dynamic in the relationship. At one point, I was on welfare, eating in soup kitchens, drinking and getting into trouble. Eventually, I got sober but still had no idea how to live.
CoDA teaches me how to live: How to get in touch with myself (my feelings, my needs) and express that self to the world. It teaches me communication and interpersonal skills, for example, setting boundaries and asking for what I need. It teaches me to value other people’s needs and feelings and to see them, not as more or less important, but on equal footing with my own. It teaches me honesty, vulnerability, and humility as well as self-esteem and assertiveness. It teaches me to value reciprocity in relationships.
Today, my relationships are much improved although I still struggle in some areas. But I have tools now and a path to follow. I am no longer lost.
Sandy S. 6/14/2022