What I’ve learned at Codependents Anonymous in a year

I celebrated my first year in Codependents Anonymous

My first year in Codependents Anonymous 1At Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) meetings, “CoDA birthdays” are celebrated and marked with chips. I really like the message on each one: To Thine Own Self Be True.

I celebrated my one year with CoDA in early December 🙂

A little back story: Owning my recovery

I didn’t know when I started going for meetings. Every time at a meeting, during the call for CoDA birthdays, I would wonder when mine was.

Initially I thought, “Who cares; I’m not someone who remembers milestone years anyway”, I don’t keep track of which year I graduated, which year this or that. I”m not the person who thinks: 2016 has been a good/bad year for me, etc. So what makes this so different?

But then one day, I decided, “NO, I need to take charge of my recovery. I NEED to know when I started, so that I can chart my progress. I need to OWN my recovery.” So I went to check my emails — because I know I emailed my therapist, Steve, and group therapy mates after I went for my first CoDA meeting.

After digging through my emails, I finally found it. I went for my first CoDA meeting on Thursday, 24 Nov 2015 and shared for the first time at my second on Thur, 3 Dec. It sure felt like I’ve been going to meetings longer than that!

What I’ve learned at Codependents Anonymous in a year

Click on any of the following to jump to its segment.
Boundaries • Feelings • “I” statements • Needs • RecoverySafetySelf CareShameSurrender

Boundaries

Hah! When I think back about it, the person that “taught” me about boundaries, or lack thereof, was my mom. She used to invade the privacy of her children by looking through our letters and our journals.

She also used to not knock on our door before entering our bedroom, because she said she’s our mother and has every right to do whatever she wants to her children.

In my country, this word is rarely used. So it’s not really in our social consciousness. As a Codependent, we’re really bad at deciding on a boundary and sticking to it, since we tend to be people-pleasers. Also, we can tend to overstep other people’s boundaries by giving unsolicited advice or thinking we know better.

Do you know what your boundaries are and are you firmly standing by them?

Feelings

I never knew feelings were important. I never knew the necessity of identifying them—what am I feeling: Glad, Mad, Sad or Scared?

In the past I actually had to ask my husb “what/how” I should feel toward something or someone. I never knew I had the right to feel whatever I did.

Not knowing what you are feeling is a characteristic of Codependency.

I never knew I need to honour my feelings, no matter WHAT I’m feeling. I never knew ALL my feelings are valid.

There is too much shaming of “negative” emotions in society and Social Media. “Do Not Be Angry, It Is Bad For You”, “Do Not Be Sad, Be Strong” or whatever other bullsh*t. Seriously, all that is BS!

Therefore people are afraid to show that they are sad, or angry. Because this may mean they are “wrong” for being angry or appear weak if they show sadness.

People avoid feeling their feelings because they’re afraid of being real with themselves. Feeling one’s feelings may be a painful process, and people would rather avoid pain and pretend to be fine. Or maybe, they’re not equipped to deal with their own feelings. Too many people aren’t.

What you feel IS what you feel. Hiding, pretending, simply stuffing your feelings or shutting them out doesn’t make you a better person. You become emotionally stunted. That was ME before therapy with Steve.

We need to learn to process how we are feeling. We need to learn to express our emotions/feelings in healthy ways. You know the people who hold it all in and then one day  they outburst because they can’t hold it in anymore? That’s because they don’t know that feelings need to be expressed in a healthy manner which doesn’t end up being harmful to themselves and others.

Last thing, feelings can’t be “controlled”. Steve writes in his book, Monkeytraps: Feelings cannot and should not be controlled. What you feel IS what you feel. How you respond to your feelings is what you can control.

In my recovery, I’ve learnt that feelings are important and all feelings are valid. I’ve also learnt to identify my feelings and express how I feel to people around me.

Do you know how you’re feeling right now?

What Ive learned at Codependents Anonymous in a year

“I” statements

In CoDA, I’ve learned to speak for myself.

As Codependents, we tend to want to control how other people think, feel and react. We seem to forget everyone has the permission to think, feel and react however they choose. We want to exert influence to manipulate others to do what WE want them to. “You should do this… Why are you doing it this way?… Have you done it (in the way I want) yet?” — Familiar??

We may use passive aggression or charm. We also like to give unsolicited advice.

So in recovery, we learn to use “I statements” to express for Me, Myself & I ONLY. We don’t speak for anyone else.

Examples include:

I’m confused vs You’re not making sense

I’m mad at you vs You’re a jerk

I’m uncomfortable vs You shouldn’t do that

And apparently I-statements are also a way to achieve emotional intimacy.

Because “I-statements reveal the speaker, since it brings him/her out of hiding. Each I-statement represents something of a risk, an experiment of vulnerability.

Intimacy can’t be achieved without honesty and vulnerability.

Do you observe yourself making more “I” statements or “You” statements?

Needs

Before recovery, I never knew I had needs. I mean, subconsciously I knew, of course. But because I never consciously knew, my needs were not getting met, a growing resentment brewed within me.

In my country, for some reason, the word “needs” has a sexual connotation. And this word is also not used commonly here. And the last thing people want to be is “needy”. So no one really uses the word “needs”.

Steve explained to me we have an animal body, and we all have basic needs. We need air, food, water sleep, sex, etc… And sometimes our mind can tend to lord over our body, and deprive it of our basic needs. That’s definitely me though.

I deprive myself of food, sleep, etc… Steve said: When you’re tired, sleep. When you’re hungry eat. It’s that simple. IT’S THAT SIMPLE. Imagine, I never knew that!! Of course there are secondary needs, like emotional needs, which I mentioned in this post.

One example, not sure if anyone can relate, is when I forgo my need to relieve myself in the loo, in a group context. I feel bad that people have to wait for me. Whatttt? Have you ever been in such situations? Now when I have to go, I just go! This is also called self-care.

Now, I am better at identifying my needs, and expressing my needs to people. I’m not great at it yet, but at least, it’s a start.

Do you know what your needs are?

Recovery

I learnt the term “recovery”. As such, I’m in recovery for my Codependency.

I joked with Mark Goodson of The Miracle of the Mundane that if I knew the term “recovery” before I decided on my handle @girlintherapy, I would’ve named myself “girlinrecovery” instead and we’d be Twitter twins, because on Twitter, he’s @ManInRecovery 😆

I used to associate the word “recovery” to physical healing. But I’ve since learnt that mental health is as important as physical health.

Safety

I never knew the concept of “safety”. When you feel safe or unsafe with a situation or a person. In CoDA, I’ve learned what means. Also, CoDA meetings are meant to be a safe place to practice corrective recovery behaviours where we will not be criticised.

When someone feels threatened, uncomfortable or unsure, that may be a sign that they feel unsafe about something or someone. You may not be able to pinpoint what exactly, but just take note of your discomfort. And there is nothing wrong with feeling unsafe; do not allow others to make you do anything against your own will.

I now have an increased awareness of when I feel safe or unsafe with people and situations.

Where is your safe place? Have you ever been made to feel bad that you felt unsafe?

Self-care

Self-care, as it is called, is taking care of the Self.

Self-care is any activity that you do voluntarily which helps you maintain your physical, mental or emotional health. It can help you feel healthy, relaxed and ready to take on your work and responsibilities.
Source: au.reachout.com

Setting boundaries is a way of self-care. Saying Yes to what what makes you feel good, but also saying No to what makes you feel bad, uncomfortable.

“Knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do.” — PsychCentral

“When I’m generous toward myself, I tend to be more giving toward others. And when I give myself a break, I find that I have more empathy for the people around me.”mindbodygreen

Self-care to me is feeding myself food that I enjoy like brunch food, good coffee, having enough sleep, watching a movie I’m interested in, going to a museum (haven’t done that in a while). Self-care is honouring all my feelings. Self-care is parenting of my inner child.

What are your ways of self-care?

Shame

Melody Beattie wrote in The Language of Letting Go“Guilt is the feeling or thought that what we did is not ok. Shame is an overwhelming negative sense that who we are isn’t ok.”

I have been publicly shamed by my mother. Even as an adult. She does not even realise she is doing it.

I also learned that I’ve lived in shame for most of my life. I feel ashamed about everything about myself. My self -hate runs so deep I blame myself for feeling pain during my period. I feel ashamed because I’m not earning enough to feed myself. I feel ashamed when I am tardy. I feel ashamed when my teeth need attention from a dentist. I feel “less than” a lot of the time.

I am slowly learning to identify WHEN I feel shame. And to stop self-shaming. And start loving myself.

Do you feel shamed by certain things or behaviours?

Surrender

In essence, “surrender” is encapsulated by the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

We say the Serenity Prayer at every CoDA meeting.

Codependents struggle with control issues. We feel better when we are “in control”; our comfort zone is being in control, and when we’re not holding the reins, we feel very anxious, helpless and lost. We also think we know better, that why we think we should be the ones in control. Perfectionism is a way of practicing control. And we want to be “perfect” because we want to be validated by others.

In his book, Monkeytraps, Steve wrote in Chapter 67, “Surrender means giving up control without losing power” and “Surrender is essential to sanity”.

My first year in Codependents Anonymous

Here’s to my second CoDA birthday

I think I’ve made great strides in my first year in Codependents Anonymous.

I look forward to attending more CoDA meetings in the new year. We are actually starting a new meeting to co-sponsor each other in what is called a Step work meeting, where will we do the 12 Steps together.

I hope my reflections will help others who are considering to attend CoDA meetings, or anyone who is unfamiliar with the concepts of what I’ve shared. As per Tradition 5: We have but one primary purpose — to carry its message to other codependents who still suffer.




Due to my mental health struggles, I have problems earning a stable income. In order to help myself financially, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that I may earn a small fee at no extra cost to you, based on your activity on this page. (See my disclaimer page for more information.) If you wish to show your support, you may take a look at my Etsy shop and see if anything tickles your fancy 🙂 Sending you warmth & gratitude in advance! Once again, thank you for reading my blog.

27 comments

  1. Sharlyne says:

    Been thinking about going to a CoDA meeting and have been so unsure about the entire thing. Main thing that’s prevented me from going is my anxiety. But reading this really gave me hope that I can push myself to take that first step. Thank you for writing this!