You Are Powerless to Change Anyone but Yourself

Shortly after learning of my husband’s addiction I decided it was time for the therapist to head to therapy! I was beyond overwhelmed with work, a toddler, a newborn, and now this. I literally felt like my entire world was crashing down around me and I had no one to turn to. Not only was I expected to keep my husband’s dirty little secret, but I also felt too ashamed and embarrassed to share it with anyone in my intimate circle. However, I knew enough to acknowledge this was not something I could manage on my own and for the sake of my children and maintaining some kind of sanity, it was imperative that I seek help.

I was very apprehensive about my first session. It was actually meant to be a couples session, but after yet another fight with my husband that morning I decided to go alone. The session began similarly to how I would have started with a new client, asking open-ended questions to get as much background information as possible. She asked about my parents, our relationship, my siblings, my children, and of course my relationship with my husband. After about the first half hour, she boldly asked me, “Why is it so easy for people to lie to you?” That one question has completely changed the way I see myself. That one question forced me to rethink everything I though I knew. I had always prided myself on being a no bs girl who didn’t take crap from anyone! I’m strong, fearless, and independent. At times, I have been called a bitch because I’m honest to a fault. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. No sugar coating here. So, why is it that my husband was able to hide this part of him from me for almost 2 years?

 

Well, this is when I learned about Co-dependency. In her book, Codependent No More, Melody Beattie describes co-dependency as “the concept of losing oneself in the name of helping another.” In other words, I was always so busy being everything to everyone else that I neglected myself. I had a history of dating men who needed to be “saved.” Figuratively and Biblically. Through no conscious effort of my own I always ended up in relationships that were SO incredibly emotionally draining. There are several traits of a co-dependent and I identify with the majority of them:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

My issues with co-dependency existed long before my husband, so how did I become co-dependent? Well, my husband wasn’t the first important man in my life to struggle with addiction. Growing up with an alcoholic father, who was also the son of an alcoholic set the stage for type of wife, daughter, sister, cousin, and friend I became. My entire life has been about keeping it together and never letting anyone know what’s really happening behind closed doors. Keep your chin up and always smile- it doesn’t matter that your parents are fighting and breaking things and you’re a child trying to clean it up. So, was I just stupid for not knowing what was happening right under my nose? My husband would spend his entire paycheck and not be able to tell me where it was going. Or he’d stay out all night long not answering his phone until the next morning. Items started missing from our home because he was pawning them for money to get dope. After giving birth to our son he would disappear from the hospital for hours and when he’d return he slept. Several times I have found syringes lying around (and no one in my house is diabetic). All of these things were happening and it still took him coming to me on his own and saying, “I need help.”

We both do.