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Freedom from Codependency Is Won Like Freedom from Abuse

You can win freedom from codependency. You can learn to recognize it in yourself and use a different coping mechanism. Do you know what codependency looks like?

I am suffering through a bout of codependency. I came to recognize codependency during my abusive marriage but largely forgot about it during the past months because my abuser isn’t around to abuse me (as much) since our separation. However, I am discovering that my new abuser is me. I don’t have a completely healthy relationship with myself yet – but I will change that.

Geesh. Just when I thought I was done with “the hard stuff” codependency returns to bite me in the ankle.

This past week, despite my gall bladder surgery, truly wonderful and loving experiences filled me with joy. And then suddenly, I was filled with self-pity, a sense of worthlessness, helplessness, and guilt because I didn’t truly deserve any of the blessings bestowed on me. I wondered how in the world to overcome the debt I owe the people who love me.

Symptoms of Codependency

How is it that when I am faced with true love and caring, I freak out; but when I am taken advantage of, I smile, act, and tell myself there is nothing wrong?

The answer lies in codependency, a negative state of thinking that sneakily destroys true and good feelings by turning them into self-hating ones. Codependency is the reason why I:

  • have difficulty having fun
  • judge myself without mercy
  • find it hard to complete projects
  • have a hard time expressing my feelings (in face-to-face situations anyway – I’m better at writing them from the safety barrier formed by my computer monitor)
  • alternate between hyper-excitement and hyper-despair (not bipolar disorder, but emotional highs and lows like a roller coaster from one hour to the next)
  • refuse to accept love because I don’t understand love without me controlling it very well

There are multiple signs of codependency. Some of them I’ve worked through, like these:

  • I am able to allow others to own their own problems. I listen but do not take responsibility for the solution.
  • I no longer turn others’ anger in on myself or make it my problem. (I find that other people’s anger still scares me to some extent!)
  • I am able to gently say no to sex and do not withhold affection to punish my significant other or myself.
  • I am more in touch with my own feelings and (eventually) recognize the codependent patterns within myself.

Freeing Myself From Codependency Is Like Freeing Myself From Abuse

Just like I learned to recognize my ex’s abusive behaviors, I am learning to recognize my codependent (self-abusive) behaviors. I know from my experience with abuse that recognizing the abuse is the first step to healing from it. Like abuse, codependency is an insidious, elusive snake. Its squirming produces feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and all the illusory emotions that separate me from my dreams and goals.

My codependency whispers in my ear that I am no better off than I was in the marriage. That I gave up financial security and a “real family” for nothing because I still feel the same way as I did when I was married. On my worst days, I allow those whispers to drag me into the snake’s lair where I wallow in self-pity and the illusion that a snake would actually tell me the truth.

Freedom from Codependency Is Possible

Codependency is a separate entity that can be defeated.

The key to the above paragraph is that “MY CODEPENDENCY” is separate from myself. My codependency, just like my ex-husband’s abusive behaviors, has a life and fire of its own. When I learned that I must protect myself against the abuse, I neglected to use the same strategies to protect myself from codependency. My codependency slithers along, unnoticed, in my shadow as I extricate myself from the side-effects and symptoms of the abuse. My codependency celebrates my extrication from abuse, encourages me to consider outward abuse my only enemy because doing so allows inner abuse to continue.

I feel that leaving my abusive marriage was integral to the realizations I am having today. If I hadn’t left the abuse, then I doubt I could focus the light of truth on this multi-faced snake of codependency.

I have more work to do, and now that I’ve identified the shadowy snake beside me, I realize that codependency is beside of me, not something inherently bad within myself that I cannot control. Once again, I am reminded that the only person I can control is myself and the thoughts I allow into the sacred space of my mind.

2 thoughts on “Freedom from Codependency Is Won Like Freedom from Abuse”

  1. Very interesting, had my first date with my counsellor just this Monday and guess what we talked about, yep…co-dependency. Now, in my first marriage I was emotionally/verbally/mentally abused. I grew up in a home where it was very traditional, you know the man is the head of the household. I was raised by my grandparents and my grandfather had apparently had a nervous breakdown when I was around 4 years old. So, not only was there the “old school” marriage, but we always had to be careful not to upset “him”. So, I learned to keep things in. Don’t upset the apple cart. This started me to thinking, did I allow this to happen, subconsciously? Learned behaviour that kept me from saying what I really felt. I do need to say though that my grandfather was not verbally abusive, and they rarely fought. However, “don’t upset your grandfather” was like telling me “don’t express yourself”.

    When I met my second husband, I was so confident, spoke my mind, etc and he loved that about me…however as time went by, I somehow became the “scared little rabbit”…”don’t upset him”, so I started shutting down. If we disagreed on something and maybe he got louder, I got quieter. Why? I had a voice, but…he might leave or what get louder? Did he start getting louder because he wasn’t getting any reaction…where did that confident woman go? Did he then go to name calling trying so desperately to get me back? I know I’m making this sound like its my fault. I know that he has a mind of his own and is in control of what he does or says, so what triggered him to react this way? Is it both of us? Are we both co-dependent?

    Anyways, I’m trying to take control back of me, to stand up for myself, to say no “thats not what I said” or “thats not what happened”. I’m sure its not going to be easy because it took us 4 years to get to this ugly place. However, I’m beginning to see that if I change and he does, well thats great, but if he doesn’t, well then I have to make some major decisions. I need to be happy and healthy with or without him. The important thing I think is that I’m trying to change me…not him. I truly hope that he sees this as a positive thing after the shock wears off and that we can look back and say…”whew, we made it and boy was it worth it”.

  2. Dear Kellie,

    I too suffer from bouts of what you describe as co-dependency. I was also in an emotionally abusive marriage, and even though my present wife thinks the world of me, I still do many things to sabotage myself and inject self-doubt in many aspects of what I am doing.

    I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey.

    With Hope,
    Omar

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