I’m Not Codependent!…Am I?

I’m one of those strange souls who enjoys taking quizzes and tests. Nothing thrilled me more as a student, than the week of standardized assessments – no homework, extra recess time! My teachers often allowed me to read a book when I “finished early.” As an avid reader, I would race through the test questions so I could get back to Anne of Green Gables.

Decades later, I still like to fill in the blanks and pencil in the bubbles with a sharp no. 2 pencil. Always a sucker for instant gratification, computerized tests with immediate results thrill me even more!

While sitting in church a couple of weeks ago, a friend leaned over and whispered, “What are you on the Meyers-Briggs?” When I told her, she laughed and replied, “Only personalities like us actually remember!” Perhaps she’s right. Those four letters are seared on my brain like a tattoo. (If you’re unfamiliar, you can read about the assessment here: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/)

What about you? Do you like to discover yourself in personality quizzes? If, like me, you have loved someone who is addicted to something, perhaps a little codependency quiz may be a helpful reality check. I think I paid $70.00 for my first reality check – with a therapist. I was so desperate to speak with someone that I didn’t care that it took the electric bill money. I needed to know where I stood on the emotional Richter scale. The minor tremors could no longer be controlled. I was headed for a major seismic meltdown. I needed help.

When I look into eyes that reflect the familiar pain that used to haunt me in the mirror, I cannot walk away. This weekend I sat across from a pair of hopeless eyes and wept the tears she could not yet cry. I know, my friend. I get it. You are too numb to weep, too tired to leave, too angry to stay. You need respite. A place to grieve, to think, to pray…

That conversation reminded me of how it feels to be stuck – unsure whether I’m making a mountain out of the proverbial molehill; unsure whether what I’m seeing and feeling is justified by the on-again-off-again “love” of my significant other. For anyone out there who feels this way or knows someone who does, these, and similar behaviors collectively have a name. Codependency. There are support groups (Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, or Codependents Anonymous (http://coda.org/) who can help us to see ourselves when the mirror is foggy. Codependency for Dummies

Self Check:

Do I…

  • Assume responsibility for others’ feelings and behaviors?
  • Feel guilty about others’ feelings and behaviors?
  • Minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel?
  • Compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger?
  • Put other people’s needs and desires before my own (to the detriment of my own physical, spiritual, emotional or mental health?)
  • Worry about how others may respond to my feelings, opinions and behavior?
  • Value others opinions and feelings more than my own?
  • Judge everything I think, say, or do harshly, as never “good enough?”
  • Spend my energy on someone else’s problem or life?
  • Feel loyal to someone who is hurting me?
  • Fear being left or rejected?
  • Adapt to others’ tastes of point of view?
  • Rescue, enable, or support a “bad habit” in someone I love?

 Am I…

  • Afraid of being hurt and/or rejected by others?
  • Afraid of my own anger, yet sometimes erupt in rage?
  • Afraid to express differing opinions or feelings?
  • A perfectionist?
  • Extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long?
  • Controlling?
  • Lacking boundaries and have difficulty saying, “no?”
  • Continually justifying and explaining myself?
  • Unable to get over losses or break-ups?
  • Staying in a relationship I’m not happy with because “something is better than nothing?”

The above lists were gleaned from Celebrate Recovery resources and Codependency for Dummies by Darlene Lancer, MFT. (If you’d like a more “official” online quiz to feed your inner test-taker, you can find one here: http://www.codependencynomore.com/

Although these are only partial lists, and behaviors almost everyone exhibits at times, I invite you to prayerfully consider whether they are red flags in your life. If so, don’t wait! Find a trusted person to speak with about your situation. Read further about codependency. Find a counselor. Ask God to deliver you from the bondage of your own lowered expectations for your life and personal relationships.

I claim this promise from God for you today, “…I redeemed you from the house of bondage…” (Micah 6:4). Be redeemed! Be free! Be whole!

 

Living In The Present

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Image Credit for “Yellow Roses”: winter_can_wait

My romantic husband wants to buy me flowers. I squelch him every time. After nearly four years of marriage, I finally figured out why. The epiphany revealed itself at the Writer’s Workshop I attended a couple of weeks ago when I was asked to write a lead about a memory involving flowers. The lead turned into the following paragraphs:

“Yellow roses smell like death. Death of dreams. Death of desires. Death of innocence. I loathe yellow roses. With Jon, every momentous occasion was marked with yellow roses. Tulips are my favorite flowers. But unless it’s Easter, tulips are hard to come by, so Jon bought me roses. With my credit card.

I used to pretend to be happy and surprised. But somehow they always made me sad. Even though every August I was the only teacher with a dozen yellow roses delivered to her desk, in my heart I knew I was also the only teacher whose husband smoked crack and pawned his Christmas presents. Everyone oohed and aahed and thought he was wonderful and said I was “lucky.” I didn’t want to feel special. I just wanted to have a normal life. And I didn’t feel so lucky when the credit card bill came. When eventually I dumped those drooping roses in the trash, my insides were more wilted than they were. Year by year my girlish dreams died along with dozens of yellow roses, until I knew that they could not, would not, be revived.”

So, now do you understand?” I asked my husband as we walked around the block together on Monday evening. “I think I have some sort of strange emotional conflict whenever you bring me flowers because historically, for me, flowers have often meant that someone was trying to cover something up or pacify some wrong, or just put on a big show when there wasn’t anything in the marriage to support the show.” His head nodded, “yes,” but his face still wore a puzzled expression.

My poor husband. He’s a good and kind man. Sometimes I’ve hurt him because I’ve responded to him with behaviors and emotions carried over from my previous life as the wife a cocaine user. I didn’t want to bring any “baggage” into our marriage. I thought God and I had resolved my issues. But, don’t “issues” rear their ugly heads in the oddest moments? Like when your loving husband brings you roses on an affectionate whim and you just feel annoyed rather than overjoyed?

I do not want to be in bondage to my past. God says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1-26 ESV) I am free from the past. In Christ, I am a new creation. I do not need to mar the present with a thin layer of the past every time something happens that jolts me back to my former life. I was reading about codependency the other day and I came across this quote in the book Codependency for Dummies by Darlene Lancer: “It’s normal to need control and predictability, but the family of an addict or abuser is in perpetual crisis…You learned to control your feelings and behavior to feel safe. You’d never again be at someone’s mercy…you…may be anxious, dread disaster, and try to control people and events because of your past fear even when there’s no evidence for it in the present.” (P. 60) That is me. I don’t want it to be me. But sometimes, it is.

At a Women’s Retreat I attended last month, Dr. Vicky Coe said something that struck me as profound. I summarized it this way in my journal. “God has to take you out of your comfort zone in order to bless you. Especially when we are going to the next phase of life. There is growth in discomfort. We are creatures of habit. We have difficulty in our walks of faith because we live on yesterday’s faith. It’s a daily walk. We can’t live today on yesterday’s faith.” She’s right. I am a creature of habit. I don’t like to be taken out of my secure, controlled environment. I want everything to just be safe. And normal. And okay. But God in His mercy, wants me to trust Him. So he has given me a gregarious, out-of-the-box, spontaneous, romantic spouse. I’m not allowed to control every situation. I cannot squelch his passionate French heritage, and if he wants to bring me flowers, he wants to bring me flowers! Who am I to shut him down? I cannot live today on yesterday’s brokenness. Today is a new day. Codependent controlling behavior will not steal my joy. I will thankfully receive every gift God has in store for me today. Even if that gift is roses! I hope you will, too. Let’s not deny ourselves the gifts of the present because of the pain in our pasts.