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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shout out to a friend

You know who you are:

Sheryl Crow: Can't Cry Anymore

I agree, wouldn't it be good to take a flight to anywhere and say so long to this life. :)

Addiction/Codependence: Alone and reaching for that bad or missing connection.

In conversations with friends in recovery--where addiction/codependence is present--I've noticed a common theme.  It seems like almost without fail, they have had a poor or non-existent family of origin connection.  

Anyway, to me, it's almost inevitable that addiction/codependence would be more likely to play a huge role in these people's lifes.   I've heard and I believe that people are social creatures.   In our childhood, we need reassurance/nurturing/validation.   I believe that if we miss this early on, people are prone to find this connection in other ways or at least a way to medicate the lack of connection away.

This can lead to a few problems:

  • Lack of healthy relationships.  We may not know how to handle a healthy relationships as we have no model to base what one looks like on.  Furthermore, if we are used to unhealthy relationships, we may be prone to think when we see a healthy one, there must be a catch.  This can lead to sabotaging it, as it is better to have the certainty of a bad relationship rather than the 'uncertainty' of a good one.
  •  Lack of trust of our Higher Power.  If our earthly father whom we can see let's us down, how could we trust our Higher Power whom we can't see.
  • Finding an unhealthy significant other or predatory 'friends' 
    •  As a friend said to me, "Healthy people, generally don't marry addicts".
    • A predator can see or sense an opening where a person is vulnerable and has the ability to adapt their "story" to take advantage of the addict/codependent.
  •  Finding something to 'medicate' away the problem.  Drugs, alcohol or illicit 'relationships', e.g.


Addictive/codependent behavior or relationships remind me of an artificial sweeter.

  • They seem to meet our needs, but like an artificial sweetener they leave a bad aftertaste.
  • As we live them long enough, we find that we adapt to the bad or unnatural/uncomfortable taste  to a point that healthy behaviors and relationships (sugar) becomes too rich or sweet.
  • The may seem like a decent substitute, but living with them--like baking--tends to produce an inferior final product.

Healthy behaviors or relationships remind me of sugar.
  • If indulged properly in our lives, these like sugar will bring us a more rich taste without the biting aftertaste.
  • If we indulged properly in our lives, we will be able to tell a difference between the healthy ones and the unhealthy ones.  Just as if we indulge sugar properly, we will be able to tell what is and is not a natural sweetener.
  • Properly indulging in a natural sweetener of sugar--just like healthy relations--will yield better results in baking--just like living.

Ultimately, I believe the best connections we have are with the guidance of our Higher Power.  We all may not have the advantage of starting off with the best connections as we all don't get to pick our family of origin.  However. even if we started off in an unhealthy environment which encourages with bad connections , as we grown and mature, we have a choice to hold onto the bad connections or not.  Like clinging to a cocoon, we can cling to our bad connections (and the coping skills)  Else, like a butterfly we can break free of the bad connections or sour to better heights and better connections.

In short, we can either seek the authentic sweetener OR we can settle for the artificial sweeteners.

* This blog was cleaned up and updated for republishing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

If I am only nice enough/helpful enough...

When people think addiction, they think addiction to alcohol, drugs, gambling, eating, sex or something similar.  These are all legitimate answers on what are some types of addictions.  One type that I think is missed is codependence.  I have come to realize that codependence is a form of addiction.  It is an addiction to the approval of others.

In listening to codependent personalities, including myself at times I get the sense of if I am only helpful, understanding, kind, generous, loving, caring enough, then I will be loved.   From what I see, often times that produces an exact opposite type response.

* Those on the other side of the equation will take your good nature for granted and will take advantage of you.  In short, they will not respect you and will have a hard time 'loving' you.

* Those on the other side of the equation will see that the codependent has no respect for themselves, but instead is trying to get respect for themselves through approval of another.  This can put off another person.

In a large sense, a more honest assessment of the situation is that a codependent "giver", often gives to get something in return: approval.  They may believe that they are giving because they are good people and to some degree they may be good natured givers.  However, if they really examined their motives, they will find that they much of their impulse to 'give' to those they hope to get approval from.  Now, we are social creatures and it is normal to hope to be approved, but it shouldn't be our primary motivator.  From what I see, if tailor our behavior toward doing the right thing, because it is the right thing--often seen as the golden rule--then I believe we will be approved and appreciated by those who are most important to us.  Ultimately, that is the reflection of  a spiritual self-approval.  

The way I've come to understand it is this.  When I strip away everything and everyone else, what I have left is God and myself.  While I know I'm not perfect, I know He doesn't expect me to be perfect.  What I have to seek out what is in His eyes, the right choices.  If my Higher Power approves of my life choices and my heart, then I have a solid foundation.  Anyone and anything else who 'approves' of me is secondary.  I expect everyone's understand of where their core approval is based is not quite the same, but I believe the point is clear. Base your need for approval in yourself (and your faith) first, and you will be less reliant on codependently seeking the approval of others.

I think one verse in the Bible puts it properly on I believe where to behave your approval:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Walking through molasses: Codependence can make life more difficult...

I don't exactly know when, but I have at times in relationships--especially when they weren't healthy--felt as if I were not only carrying the weight of my own fears/worries/insecurities, but that I was carrying weight of those of my significant other.  Not only that, but the weight of their opinions too.

For example, in a relationship I had when I was in my 20s, my significant other at the time had a relative who was very smart and successful.  I know it now moreso, but at the time I knew I was smart as well.  A the time, I was reasonably successful, though I hadn't fully "arrived".

Her grandpa was a very status-oriented and judgmental person.   He bragged about her successful relative.  It was obvious, that the relative was a measuring stick upon which others would be measured against.  At the time, I felt her desire to want to brag on her significant other--being me--but I wasn't as successful as the relative.   I already had in my mind my own insecurity about where I was in my career.  So, her 'concern' about her grandpa's opinion was more weight on my shoulders.  

Anyway, at some point in the relationship, I was fired from a job.  So I was unemployed and of course I feeling less worthy.  At the time I was very private--even more so than now--so I wasn't dying to 'brag' about my job status.  But, I got the sense from her that I should just keep my mouth shut about my job situation in front of her family and her grandpa in particular.  Rather than have my back, it felt like she was pushing me protecting her image.  She should have been able to express concern about her significant other without worry about pushback from her family. Secondarily, I should have expected that she'd have the respect for me to stand up for me rather than to 'hide my shame'.  To me that should have been a sign to just walked away from the relationship.

So, I am stressing about being unemployed.  But, I am also stressing about retaining a 'good image' in the family for the sake of the relationship.  Obviously part of that 'good image' is being gainfully employed.   So not only am I feeling the pressure to find decent work, but I am feeling double pressure to do so for the sake of the relationship.  

I describe dealing with the relationship like walking through molasses because I can picture how difficult each step would be if one was doing that.  To me, having my own pressures and the pressures from a significant other in such a codependent relationship was made my steps forward in life more challenging as if I was walking through the "muck or stickiness" of codependence (aka molasses).

* Update 12/29/16.  I've been going back through my old posts to repost where the initial posts had less exposure and to tidy up old posts where it makes sense.  I revised this a bit now, but the essence of this one, I wrote this over 4 1/2 years ago, when I was permanently separated and in the process of a unkind divorce.  So, as you can imagine, I was reflecting upon relationships in my life and things that I'd learned and what not.  I'm in a better place now and I'm not sure I'd write this today.  However, unfortunately some of the clearest thinking occurs when we are pressured by painful circumstances in life.  So, while I rarely if ever consider the situation behind this post now, I see benefit in reposting it where my share could help someone.  Thanks for reading, Rich

Codependence and "Little Precious"

I have been busy the past few days, but I wanted to at least put a short entry for today.   I was talking to a friend in CODA and it occurred to me what extreme codependence looks like.

As many of us know, this is Gollum from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.   Anyone who knows anything about this series of books/movies, knows that his character has an extreme codependence on the "Ring of Power".   He is so stuck on the ring that he will go to any lengths to hold onto it or get it back if he loses it.   In fact his body and mind have been corrupted by the longing for and the influence of the ring.   He calls the ring "little precious" and speaks of it in a very deranged manner.

The insanity he displays when longing for and/or holding onto the ring bring to mind what extreme codependence look like:

* A single-minded pursuit.  (Living for the relationship)
* A smothering grip. (Controlling/Fear-based).
* The unwillingness or inability to see how such codependence can be destructive. (Delusional)
* Losing oneself when trying to reach for hold onto one's own "little precious". (Destructive)

In considering whether a relationship is healthy or not, if you are honest, would you see the relationship as "my little precious"?  In other words, would you see it as something you can't cope without or do you see it something that enhances your life but that takes work to keep healthy.

You fight for what's important to you, but you can't live your life as if its continuation depends on THE relationship.  I'm not advocating something like simply walking away from an imperfect marriage--except where it is abusive, threatening and/or the vows are shattered.  Instead, I'm advocating not trying to hold onto the unhealthy with a deathgrip.  You fight for what's important.  However, when the fight becomes an unhealthy death-grip, you step back and let the chips fall where they may, reaching out to your Higher Power (praying/meditating) for guidance.  Once again, I'm not meaning pushing towards breakup or divorce when the relationship is not so healthy, but instead letting the relationship flow in a natural direction, not a forced or fear-based one.  A relationship that is tied up in extreme codependence is fear-based and not love-based.  As the scriptures say...

Let all that you do be done in love. (1st Corinthians 16:14)

Just some thoughts for the day...

* As of 12/29/2016, this blog was updated for editing and reposting purposes. I know LOTR is way out of date, but the concepts within the blog are not.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Regret Puzzle: Proper to mourn mistakes, but not to live in them.

I was talking to a friend one day and I finally was able to put into an easy to understand way, why it is foolish to  "what if" think.   What I came up with is effectively a cousin of the butterfly effect.   I will call it the "regret puzzle".

In the "regret puzzle", one lives their life with "what if" thinking.  What if I had not made this bad choice or that bad choice?  Presume that you know it was a bad choice and also presume that you could go back in time and change that choice to a better choice.  If it is a decision or choice of any importance, it will likely chance the trajectory of your life is some way.  In other words, it would change the possible decisions you make in the future and/or the outcome thereof.  Now imagine each decision you make/outcome 'you choose' is a puzzle piece.   If you change the shape of that puzzle piece, it will necessarily effect the puzzle pieces--decisions/choices/outcomes--surrounding it.   One has no way of knowing how a decision today will alter a decision/outcome tomorrow.  Typically, we assume those surrounding decisions/outcomes will be either unaffected or better, but there is no way of knowing for sure.  Hence, while it is proper to mourn bad choices or decisions, it is doubly pointless to live with regret and 'what if' thinking surrounding them.    Not only can we not go back and 'fix' mistakes in the past, we don't even know how it would affect surrounding choices/decisions/outcomes.

Seeing this has helped me not to live in my poor choices/mistakes.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why to write? Even thoughts need a home..

I was talking with a friend in CODA (codependents anonymous) and sharing some struggles I'd been going though. I obviously needed to vent. In the process of thanking her for listening it occurred to my about why we surrender our fears/worries/successes/failures. As we know sometimes we have thoughts that bother us until we get them off our chest-either by writing them or expressing them to a friend. It occurred to me stray thoughts that are going around and around in our mind are homeless. When a person does not feel like he has a home, his or her life and/or future can be clouded. He or she has no place to really rest or unwind. In a way he or she may not be comfortable enough to really start unpacking aka opening up. We can have thoughts running around in our head which seem to lack clarity. The thought doesn't feel like it has a place to fully express itself. This can make us irritated as we know something is bothering us, but cannot totally pin it down. Those thoughts effectively are homeless. When we journal or write for public consumption our thoughts, we are giving our thoughts a home. What happens when we truly feel at home? Of course, we begin to unwind and/or open up.  Similarly, having been freed of the confines of our mind, our thoughts often seem to expand or clarify as if they are opening up.

The benefit of surrendering our thoughts by writing is we give them a home.   Like sometimes people do when they get a new place and have had time to unpack, they start inviting company over to share their place.  Similarly,  when a thought has a comfortable home such as in a letter, on a post, in a article or in a book, we are often willing to share that thought with others.  

Birth of a Blog Concept

When I first started this blog, it started out as a recovery blog for me and others as I've come to see within family and through the experiences of others, how intimately linked addictive behavior and codependence is. However, I've decided to expand it. It will now cover my basic understanding of human nature as well. As I am a Christian, I will come at it from a Christian perspective. I hope to share my thoughts, my understandings, experiences and experiences of others I have had the pleasure of meeting. My friends may see themselves in my blog, but I will be careful to be respectful and not share names when to do so would harm others. My sincere hope is that my posts one day can help others. I would like to pass on the wisdom and experience the Holy Spirit has directed me to see. Thanks, Rich

As I write I try to just let the words come out, good or bad.