From “Be the Renegade”:
No matter what led you to recovery, we are all looking to bring out the best versions of ourselves and improve on the maladaptive behaviour we’ve accumulated. I applaud you knowing that not only are you going against years of your own habits, thinking, training, and (sometimes) trauma; but I suspect, like me, you will have points that are totally lonely and discouraging.
At the beginning, I was so desperate and motivated that I honestly think I was trying to be a totally different person. Not surprisingly, this made people uncomfortable and uneasy. I didn’t understand that the goal of recovery isn’t to erase my traits and experiences, it is to own my past and build on it. I was so embarrassed about what had happened and how I’d acted that I thought I had to be someone else in order to be accepted and healed. I was robotic and obsessed with my every action. I stopped bending over backwards, I stopped dropping whatever I was doing for others, I did more of what I thought I needed to do for myself and offered less explanations, justifications, or apologies for those choices. I didn’t think I could help anyone or give them anything without being “codependent”. I found it impossible to continue the same kind of conversations I was used to and I had to take large steps away from some people because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to continue to be with them and change.
I remember clearly and will never forget the golden moment when I revealed my truth. Out through the locked up, suppressed little voice hidden deep down within, I allowed myself to say, “I always feel as if I need to give people what they want.”
It was almost as if lighting struck and the clouds parted at the same time. I sat there comfortably in the chair of my therapist’s office, and with a deep breath I knew that “it” was over. I did not know what “it” was, or the amount of work and change that would follow, but I knew that I was ready and willing.
I grew up codependent. From the influence of an alcoholic, narcissistic father to the string of narcissistic relationships formed afterward, my identity evolved through who I was to others and what I had given to them.
A relationship with a narcissist defines your existence as not your own, but as a part of theirs. Others saw me as shy and nice, but I didn’t realize that I was lost and without balance.
I wanted others to be their authentic selves, truthful and free, but I could not do that for myself, so I continued giving up and giving in. Not all was bad—life is beautiful in each form—but I knew I would need to learn something different, as I always struggled with fear and anxiety.
So I have learned something different. It’s taken a long time, but things have been getting better. If you’ve also realized that you are codependent, these ideas may help you dig down and reveal your true, authentic, beautiful self.
When a few of my friends moved away last summer, I was feeling sad and lonely. One of those friends didn’t say goodbye. I was hurt. For about two weeks I felt sorry for myself and wondered how soon I could make new friends. Then I remembered the quote “Just because you think you’re stuck, doesn’t mean you are.” (Coincidentally this was from a codependency group.) I meditated and set boundaries. I removed the phone number of the friend who didn’t feel the need to say goodbye and stopped following her on Instagram. The first two weeks were rough. I wanted to reach out, but I knew that I had reached out enough. I knew deep in my bones that it was time to let them go on with their journey. This happened quickly, but in reality it was years of therapy that brought me to this point.
Six months later, I haven’t feel codependent towards them or any of my friends. When I occasionally start feeling the need to reach out I first search for other options, like going for a hike by myself, or stopping at a cafe for a drink and a book or language study session. It’s amazing because I never realized that I could feel this way. I didn’t know that I was codependent or that I needed to work on this issue, but I am feeling like a real winner about it.