Healing from Codependency

“Don’t give up hope. It took many of us 20 years or more to acquire these protective behaviors we umbrella with the word codependency. It may take as much time to let go of them.”  – Melody Beattie, Codependent No More

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There’s a good chance that if you’ve walked through an abusive relationship, you need to heal from codependency. If you’ve been in a relationship where addiction was involved, codependency works along side. If you’ve been raised in a fear based culture, there’s a chance you have codependent tendencies. And if you’ve been through trauma, you may have learned to be codependent.

Why do I write this? 

Because nobody wants to be labeled as codependent. Because it’s important to talk about  hard subjects in life. Because the only way to heal, is to talk about it. Because I believe it’s important for humanity to start discussing the topics that have been taboo for generations. The topics we want to hide from. The subject matters that we don’t fully understand but are willing to learn.

Codependency hurts!

To heal from codependency, we must first realize that we are codependent. We must admit to every attribute that goes along with codependency which means we begin to touch upon traits that protected us in really hard circumstances. The truth is, our protectors helped us survive.

I don’t want to be codependent!

The first time a very close friend suggested to me that I might be codependent, I balked at the idea. However, we have close friends whom we allow to speak into our lives for a reason. Friends who love us and care about us want us to be our best self, living our best life. After speaking with my friend, I began googling “codependency” and realized that it isn’t what I thought it to be. In fact, the more I learned, the more I realized that my codependency was generational. Further, I realized I learned many of the attributes of codependency as if such traits were a normal healthy way of living. I immediately found the book “Codependent No More”, by Melody Beattie. With each page read, I began to see every protector I had ever acquired. It was as if my eyes were being opened for the first time about things deep within myself that I needed to work through. I began to see a mirror reflecting my soul.

Blame

After admitting that I am indeed, codependent (it gets easier each time I say it), I had to undo the art of blame. This is the tricky thing about codependency. So much harm was caused at the hands of another, yet, at some point we must begin to take full responsibility for ourselves. Yes, they hurt us. Yes, they left us devastated. Yes, often we left without knowing who we are or who they are. Often we are left in financial ruin. Often we are left without anything to our name. But in order to heal fully we have to step out of the sinking swamp. We can’t swim in the muck any longer. We have to stop pulling others in with us. And, something extremely important: we can’t allow other’s to rescue us.

Now, let me be clear about something. There is a point that we allow people to help us upon leaving abuse. Often asking for help is the most challenging thing we have ever done. After all, many of us have not even discussed the abuse when we finally ask for help. In fact, we are use to living our life caring only for others. But, when we begin to feel like we need to be rescued, it’s time to take a deep breath and critically think about how we can solve our problems. AND WOW is this hard for a codependent to do! Someone else destroyed our life and now, without their help, we must rebuild from nothing.

Letting Go Of Control

Next, we have to stop controlling. Yes, I said it. One of the primary characteristics of codependency is control. In order to protect our hearts, we learn to control our environment. We do what we can to not hurt. Yet, control keeps us from living our authentic self and does not allow others the freedom to do the same. When we control, we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to live freely. And in the midst, we do not allow our hearts the opportunity to give nor receive love.

Savior Syndrome

Are you ready for this next attribute that we must unlearn? In fact, this was the attribute that shook me to the core when I realized the significance in my own life. After all, it was a trait that I had learned as if it was healthy and true. As if it was love.

This trait is, in fact, the need to save another.

Take a big deep breath with me and let it out.  I lived 20 years of my life trying to “save” my abusive partner from his addictions, horrific financial decisions, devastating relationship choices and more. However, the need to save, rescue, insert love was something I learned within the culture in which I was raised. I was taught that love means going and saving people who didn’t know they needed to be saved. Thus begins a vicious unhealthy cycle of toxic behavior.

What does savior syndrome look like? You don’t know you need saving. You didn’t ask me to come save you. Yet, I know what’s best for you. I’m going to make decisions for you. I’m going to insert myself into your life in order to love you. Friends, do you see where I am going with this? How toxic and manipulative is this way of living? Did you learn it within your own culture? Perhaps, within your church?

Now What?

I’ve touched on 3 traits that exist within codependency because it is important that we have hard discussions. In order to get rid of the fear behind hard topics, we have to be willing to do hard things and become uncomfortable. If our first instinct is to be uncomfortable, I suggest that this is good. Uncomfortable is good. Admitting we are scared is good. Having the discussion is good. In fact, this is where scales begin to be lifted from our eyes and we start to realize that we don’t have to live like this. We can heal and live from our core. It is not easy. We have to make a decision to look deep within our heart, soul, mind. We need to admit to things that we may not want to admit to.

Good News!

The good news is, we aren’t alone in this. We aren’t the only codependent in the world. There’s many of us. We can heal! We can participate in the journey. We can reconnect to our soul. We can sit in our feelings and allow them to teach us what we need to learn. We can begin to take responsibility for our own lives. We can stop blaming and start taking action.

We do not need to be a passive participant in our own life.

I think this is good news! Don’t you?

The truth is, the only way to be free is to let go. The truth is, freedom comes at a cost. Often, the cost is that which we are clinging to and once we let go, we finally get to live!

Life.

Freely.

I’m still on the journey. I’m still healing. I’m still learning, unlearning, growing, looking deep within, surrounding myself with truth speakers and cheerleaders. I don’t ever want to pretend that I’ve completed the process and that the journey isn’t challenging. But, we can do hard things. I can do hard things. You can do hard things. Together. We can begin today. We can continue tomorrow. We keep going, knowing, we are not alone. We are humanity. Community.

We are learning to love. To be love. To walk in love always. After all, this, I believe, is our ultimate goal.

Are you on the journey with me? Let me know in the comments.

Resources:

Codependent No More by Melody Beattie

The New Codependency by Melody Beattie

* I am available to speak about domestic abuse, mental health, codependency, hope, and topics of interest to women. I host and cohost 2 live shows and run a clothing line that gives back to organizations that work with survivors.

Blog Tour: The Recovery Toolkit by Sue Penna

“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”
Laini Taylor
Blog Tour Stops
I am thrilled to be part of The Recovery Toolkit blog tour featuring incredible women with a passion for recovery and making a difference globally. Why did I choose to be part of this movement?
My Story
In July of 2017, I took my boys and fled a 20 year abusive marriage. It has been exactly 3 years to the month since I left! Stepping from hopelessness into hope, I’ve found inspirational people to aid in the recovery process. Healing from abuse requires help from professionals, those who have walked a similar journey and are skilled in trauma recovery.
One of the most powerful resources available for women who have left an abusive situation is The Recovery Toolkit, by Sue Pena. This book is an empowering resource available for women like me, who escaped abuse.
In time, hope becomes real again. Three years later, I have finally begun to dream, do, and continuously heal!
RTK Book Cover

 

Have you left an abusive relationship?

 

Are you still carrying guilt?

 

Would you like to understand, challenge and remove the voice of the perpetrator?

 

Do you still think what happened is your fault?

 

Do you find dealing with new people in your life something to be scared about?

 

If you’ve answered yes to the above questions you are not alone.

 

Many people who leave an abusive relationship behind are affected by that former relationship in many different ways. Perhaps you feel guilty when making decisions on your own? You may worry about what motivates others to befriend you? Maybe your children are having to re-learn who it is that’s the adult in the room now that your ex-partner is gone from their lives.
If this all sounds familiar then The Recovery Toolkit is the book for you. Written in an easy and accessible style, the book will take you on a journey that is part discovery, part guide.
The book is based on the successful 12 week group program of the same name created by author, Sue Penna. It is also based on Sue’s professional and lived experience having worked for more than 20 years for the NHS’s Mental Health Services. For the last 15 years, Sue has specialized in working with individuals who have experienced domestic abuse.
The Recovery Toolkit is crammed with superb observations and suggestions that will help you recognize that you weren’t to blame for the abuse you suffered in the first place and that the real you is there, ready to emerge.
About the Author
Who Inspires You?
“People who are true to their principles and are brave enough to champion what they believe in.”
Sue Pena, Author, The Recovery Toolkit

Sue Penna HeadshotSue has worked with individuals who have psychological trauma as a result of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) for over 30 years in her professional life as a clinician, trainer, and supervisor both within the NHS and independently. She has specialized in writing psycho-educational programs that promote trauma-informed practice and a recovery model. Sue is passionate about the need for multi-agency working and committed to supporting front line workers to have the skills to support families with a trauma-informed approach.

She has an extensive background in the domestic abuse sector and has written trauma-informed domestic abuse programs including the Inspiring Families Program, Adult and Children and Young People Domestic Abuse Recovery Toolkit, and the Sexual Violence Recovery Toolkit. Sue has also devised the ACE Recovery Toolkit written for parents and the ACE Recovery Toolkit for children and young people.

Book Review

First and foremost, this book is not for people still in an abusive relationship as it includes a 12 week process towards recovery for those who have fled and in a safe space. We are encouraged in a new way of living, changed behaviors and patterns, raised self confidence, a renewed self identity and remembering purpose and dreams. If you are still in an abusive relationship, engaging in changed behavior can put you in further danger. I will include resources at the end.

Let’s Dive In!

For 12 weeks, we are taken through readings, education, self awareness principles, challenges, and exercises to guide us toward recovery. Each week, we are given a new lesson, key to our recovery process. Remember, upon leaving abuse, we have lost our self esteem, we have no idea who we are nor how to feel, we need to learn boundaries, and we must go through the important process of loss and grief. Thankfully, we are no longer alone! The Recovery Toolkit serves as a guide through the process and includes the most important lessons in our journey.

Lessons 

Week One: How We Think

Week Two: Dynamics of Domestic Abuse

Week Three: Self Esteem

Week Four: How We cope Emotionally

Week 5: Our Children

Week 6: Self-Care

Week 7: A New Assertive You

Week 8: Being Angry

Week 9: Boundaries

Week 10: Grief and Loss

Week 11: Healthy Relationships

Week 12: The End of the Journey

Perhaps, my favorite chapter was that of Week 6, Self-Care. While in a toxic and abusive relationship, we did not have time nor the energy to engage in caring for ourself. In fact, most often, we do not realize the importance of valuing ourself and thus neglect the process of self care. Our brain has become accustomed to the ridicule and harmful words from our abuser and we learn to abuse ourselves. Furthermore, we second guess the words and actions of others. Chapter 6 guides us through the use of simple affirmations to change our negative thought patterns.

Affirmation Examples

I am learning how I want to be treated

I have learned a lot about myself

Sue Pena, The Recovery Toolkit, p 90

The exercise in chapter 6 gives us an opportunity to write down and practice new affirmations for ourselves. It sets aside a page within the chapter for us to do so!

Each chapter also includes a thought diary, a guide for us to write down our emotions, thoughts, and challenges during situations throughout the day. I found this to be especially helpful as I face new challenges as I step into year 4 of my healing journey. Writing my thoughts down allowed me to be more mindful in caring for myself, allow myself more grace, give myself permission to rest, and learn to be present and still.

I highly recommend The Recovery Toolkit for all survivors and overcomers who have escaped abusive and toxic relationships.

You can learn more about Sue Penna by following her on Twitter.

Special THANK YOU to Jennifer Gilmour, founder Abuse Talk, who is making a difference in the lives of survivors and overcomers worldwide. You can find Jennifer HERE.
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What Can I do to Impact My Community?

“what seems unreasonable, unrealistic and impossible today can turn out to be inevitable tomorrow. It’s time for a new realism. It’s time for a new view of humankind.”

Rutger Bregman, Humankind: A Hopeful History

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

 

I believe in love
I believe in loving our neighbor
I believe love begins by supporting those closest to us
In the midst of shutdown, how can we be love 2 our family, friends, neighbors, our own community?
At some point, we the people, become the radical helpers
It begins with us
We become the solution
We become creative, innovative,
It begins with me
What can I do, to impact my community?
Today, tomorrow, the next day…

 

Legacy

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The story we write upon our hearts
and theirs
is the life we live
It’s our soul song
Our dance
Our smile
It’s our legacy
And I don’t believe our legacy includes
Our politics
Our religion
Our “we are right and they are wrong”
Our story
Our legacy
It can barely be put into words
because
often
it’s the feeling we give
and receive
It’s the joy we give away
A hope we sometimes lose
and watch grow again
Its the essence of who we are
and knowing who we all are
It includes two words:
Radical.
Humanity.
And includes a question
The only question
that will ever matter
And the only legacy
the world craves to the core
Did
you
learn
to
love
?
And every so often,
I am reminded
by my boys
what truly matters
I’m still learning
this little
BIG
everything
word
LoVe

Freedom

Scroll back through my pictures on Instagram.

Facebook.

Twitter.

Keep going.

Farther back.

You won’t find very many selfies.

And if you do, you might find my eyes hiding behind sunglasses.

Because if I didn’t hide my eyes, you’d see that they were dead.

Hide.

That’s what we do when we’ve forgotten who we are.

Hide.

It’s what we do when we listen to what others say about us.

Come alive.

That’s what happens when we finally take a chance at hope.

Sparkle.

It’s what happens when we begin to take risk.

Glow.

It’s what the world sees when we choose to finally walk in our purpose.

What’s our purpose?

To be fully me.

For you to be fully you.

To become free.

Free from the people pleasing, free from the ugly words we tell ourselves, free from the shackles we place upon our hearts and the bars we allow others to confine us with.

Coronavirus has us isolated.

But we are free to become.

Free to heal.

Free to awaken from the slumber we allowed ourselves to walk in.

Free to breath the air.

Free to look up.

Free to put our arms out, smile, and enthusiastically declare:

I am powerful.

I am worthy.

I walk in honor and live in truth.

I am love. I am life. I am light.

I AM FREE.

Hope Lost and Found

I remember when I nearly lost hope completely.

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I remember holding out my hand to grab hold of a tiny seed or speck and I thought to myself:

Even if hope is only this big, I can hang on.

And I remember thinking:

If the stories I’ve heard about hope are real, I can keep going.

And I remember laying in my bed, barely hanging on, knowing that the next day my life was going to change drastically for both me and my kids.

And I remember thinking:

Hope. It’s got to be real. I’ve heard the stories.

So I held on.

And the next day came.

And I survived.

And I overcame.

And I remember thinking that I needed hope to be real so my kids could see it too.

Experience it.

See something new.

Hope.

I’ve been contemplating this word these past few weeks.

I think we all need to cling to that speck of hope.

We need to share our hope at times.

Borrow hope at times.

Maybe that’s how hope works.

Shared. Borrowed. Clung to.

Just hang on.

Hope.

It’s real.

Sometimes it’s real tiny.

But it’s there.

Borrow mine if you need it.

I borrowed some that night and for a season.

Hope.

Here’s my hand. Take some. It’s free

Power of Story

I wrote this reflection exactly one year ago in reference to a caravan of refugees headed to America from Honduras. The story is relevant not only for the original intention, but also to so many circumstances today. I thought I’d share my simple reflection in case you might relate.

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I cannot tell their story because it is their story.

In the same way, no one can tell my story because it is mine.

But we will listen.

To their story.

And we will share their words.

And we will ask our children to listen.

And share.

And we will keep listening and keep sharing.

And we will continue to invite everyone to the table, to break bread.

Share stories.

To listen with our hearts.

Because, in your humanity, I find mine.

And in theirs, you will find yours.

Ubuntu. I am because we are.

No matter the story,

It’s important we listen.

Can you relate? I’d love to hear your reflections in the comments.

I am because we are.

Love is a Poem

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
― Paulo Coelho

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And then, we will learn that our most perfect moments

Those moments forever engraved within our memory and mind

Those memories that are treasures hidden deep within our soul 

They were the simplest of activities

Mini adventures

Hikes

Walks

Talks

Silence

And it didn’t cost us a thing

Except for our time

The most valuable moments, we have learned

Include our time, presence, and those we hold closest

And in the moment, stillness carries a heartbeat

It’s called love

Listen

Next time

A rhythm

Beating

Softly

Wrapping it’s arms around us

Love

Whispering to our heart, mind, soul

We are so very loved

Listen

You are so very loved

Easter Sunday: Church is Closed, Hearts are Open

Dear Church,

As Easter Sunday draws near, the day upon which the entire Christian faith transpired, I can’t help but sit and reflect.

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Easter Sunday, 1976

I ponder my childhood Easter dresses. What would everyone be wearing on Easter Sunday? Easter hats. Frills. Yet, some, had no new clothes as their Easter would be spent looking for a dry space on the streets and a blanket for warmth.

I remember glorious Easter baskets filled with chocolate, jelly beans, stuffed animals, toys. Yet, some children, were begging God to rescue them from the torment of their own homes.

As I ponder my childhood, I remember Easter brunch, Grandma’s house full of people, deviled eggs and bacon wrapped ham. Meanwhile, children around the world were taking care of themselves, foraging through trash heeps, growing up in orphanages – never touched.

I remember the Hallelujah Chorus, live donkeys making their way down the aisle, a choir member standing in the place of Jesus as the entire church looked on in awe.

I sit today, pondering. My childhood Easter.

The truth is, I haven’t attended an Easter service in years. I walked away from the 4 walls several years ago. Yet, my heart seeks and yearns for the God of my childhood. The God of love. The God who taught us to love and to look after our neighbor. The God of humanity who has shared the message of love in ways we all might understand. Yet such love might look very different from one culture to another – one faith to the next.

I do not seek the God of Christianity. Though, I know, I could find her there.

I seek the God, I most often call Love. A God that has always existed outside the 4 walls of religion. The God, who on this Easter Sunday, will meet their children via zoom as families sit around the computer to see pastors speak and lead in an entirely new way. I seek the God who will join the often forgotten group of singles, as they meditate in their homes.

I seek the God who loves both the child, who grew up wearing Easter dresses, attending Easter morning services and the child begging God to rescue her from the torment of her own home.

Perhaps, they are one in the same.

I seek the God who somehow reminds the widow of hope. The abused that they matter.

Often such love is found through the kindness of a stranger. Perhaps a friend.

I seek the God who yearns to reveal love to the prideful, knowing this includes me.

I seek The God who whispers through the hearts of leaders that Love is the way. That hope is alive. That truth is found in the hidden acts of kindness of the people they lead.

I seek the God who never gives up on us. The God who kneels. The God who whispers to each of us:

Love is real. Love is here. In the midst. Love is available for all. To all. My child, you are love. 

Love

Simply

Is

Dear Church, today, I ponder a God who has always existed beyond the 4 walls. Never constrained by religion nor rules.

I marvel at a God who will join in celebrating holidays we made up for her, yet not be confined by those same holidays.

Today, I ponder a God, who, this Easter Sunday will join us in our simple moments. In new traditions. In our smiles. Our tears. And remind us about hope. A hope not in what we believe should be, but rather in a hope that follows love. Because, dear Church, the God I know is also called Love. And as a human race, made in the image of Love. We, too, are Love.

And this Easter, Love will lead us back to everything that truly matters.

And what matters is often found in the simple things. The humble things.

What matters is the hearts of our brothers and sisters. The lives of our neighbors. The health of the world.

Happy Easter, Church. You are love.

May we both seek and find Love today and always.

Sincerely,

A Girl Who Will Never Give Up on Love

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