Co-NNections Recovery Stories

Systems: A Magic Word – May 4, 2021


The Welcome has this extra word in it that doesn’t seem necessary on first reading. “…codependence…is born out of our sometimes moderately, sometimes deeply dysfunctional families and other systems.” Why not just families and other dysfunctional groups? What is meant by systems?

Coda documents, especially the Welcome, say a lot in a few words. Thinking this through has freed me from blaming and shaming by reminding me I have been formed and continue to be swayed by human systems.

As a child, I was surrounded by big people storming about frighteningly. I grabbed onto ways of acting that gave me anchoring. Buried deep as I grew, they became how I dealt with life. My actions triggered responses in others that then triggered me reciprocally. And the more it happened, the more automatic the pattern became for me and for all of us; a system of human interaction.

I learned nasty words for blacks, for Jews, for homosexuals, for uppity women, for sensitive men, for anyone who was overweight. Those all gave me a false foundation of privilege as a white male, reinforced as I grew up in the world. It was my loss, too. I couldn’t keep my weight down, so I myself was one of “them.”

Even while being busy and even successful, my inner life felt both empty and precarious. I imagined myself standing on a beach in a hurricane. I am nearly blown off my feet by the wind, blinded by pelting rain, in danger of total loss to the encroaching waves. More and more I chose to hunker down someplace safe in avoidance and depression; bare survival. I needed a way out; a way such as CoDA. What a relief when I found it!

As I grow in CoDA, I look for ways to understand. I learn that the word “system” in the CoDA Welcome illuminates the way for me and dissolves the blame and shame, so big a part of my distress. We are all caught up in the hurricane of human systems, it seems to me, each in our own particular way. Even in recovery, I can say what was said so long ago; I do not do what I wish to do, but what I do not wish, that is what I do. Thinking of “systems” tells me why I do this. It is so much bigger than me; so deeply within me.

And if me, then why not everyone else? Why not see us all as pushed about by personal and societal systems, each of us doing the best we know, until we know better? It is not shameful to be knocked about by overwhelming wind or compulsive behaviors. Who can be blamed if blinded by memories and habits? The complexities and contradictions of human systems continue to buffer and blind; so clearly, perfection is not an option. Here is a principle offering serenity. I can redirect my focus there when tempted to blame and shame personalities, including myself.

JB

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