“The only person you can now or ever change is yourself. The only person that it is your business to control is yourself.” ~Melody Beattie
In 2019, I decided to leave my marriage and start over. Although my relationship with my ex-husband brought deep pain and many months of suffering, I felt content with my decision.
In a short time, I began to feel great. I developed a healthy routine, exercised regularly, began meditating every day, spent time in nature, maintained healthy and deep connections with people, and tried to focus on the positive.
For a few months, it seemed to be working. Until I met a man and got emotionally involved with him. I realized then I’d really been living in denial.
The moment I began dating or seeing someone more intimately, my life felt unmanageable. Suddenly, I would abandon my daily routine and spend days preoccupied with what this person was doing or why it would take them thirteen minutes to respond to my message. I’d become obsessed and wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
I was quick to throw a tantrum to create more drama and fights. In some twisted and weird way, it felt exciting. I had something to resolve and take care of. I was feeding off the extreme lows and highs with people I dated.
As an adult child of an alcoholic, I didn’t understand what it meant to be addicted to excitement, as stated in the famous laundry list. Now I do.
My need to control the other person, the fear of abandonment, my obsession over people’s feelings, and my desire to fix their problems while ignoring mine brought an unbearable pain I couldn’t ignore anymore.
It all broke down this year. I met someone who once again triggered my codependency and challenged my trauma wounds. Shortly after we started talking, I began to feel crazy again. Constant anxiety, fear of loss, desire to control and manipulate situations, were coming to the surface until the relationship ended. Another failed attempt to be in a relationship.
What followed was intolerable emotional pain. I never felt so lost in my entire life. I couldn’t function properly, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t work, and I was paralyzed by desperation, hopelessness, and loneliness.
Meanwhile, somewhere between my pain and inability to see my worth, I broke through.
For the very first time, I was forced to feel my emotions. Although it felt brutal at times, I was at least feeling. The pain cracked me open in my core and didn’t allow me to numb anymore. Anger, worthlessness, guilt, shame, fear of loss, the pain of believing I am hard to love—it all came pouring out full force.
Who would have ever thought that a broken heart, or at least what I perceived as a broken heart, would uncover my codependency and lead to emotional healing and more authenticity?
For the next couple of months, I would come home, lie on the floor in the middle of my bedroom in a fetal position, and brace myself for the emotional outburst that was about to come. I was processing and releasing my emotions, and there was no coming back.
I would breathe heavily and cry uncontrollably for days and weeks to come. I would cry at work, at the store while picking avocados, when I was falling asleep, or watching a TikTok video. It didn’t matter. For the first time in my life, I was feeling my feelings and didn’t push them away.
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. I had no logical explanation for this emotional rollercoaster until I talked to one of my good friends, Gaia. She mentioned a book she was reading, Codependent No More, and suggested I check it out.
I never considered myself codependent. By definition, I was the opposite of it. I had my apartment, paid my bills, lived on my own, worked while building my business, and took care of myself.
However, I decided to give it a shot and read it. What followed was epiphany after epiphany and a few A-ha moments. I began to understand why I felt crazy when entering any intimate relationship or a possibility of one. I began to see how the pain from my codependency allowed me to open up.
As I was sitting in my studio apartment while contemplating everything I’d learned and now understood about codependency, I knew that this was about to significantly transform my life if I did the work and didn’t stop.
Living with a person with chemical dependency shapes you into a control freak with unhealthy survival mechanisms. Codependency is one of them. The only way to change is to be willing to face the truth and commit to deep inner healing.
So, the question was, “What is the next best step I can take right now to heal and recover?”
At first, I needed to take personal inventory and be honest with myself. Who am I? What are my toxic traits, and when does my codependency step in? When do I manipulate people? Am I trying to fix people’s problems to increase my value and prove my worth? How can I stop doing that and rely on myself for approval and validation?
I remember the day when my mum called and let me know that our dog, Aida, had suddenly passed away. Shortly before her call, I’d had one of my emotional relapses and picked a fight with a person I was seeing at that time. I then used this disturbing news and my sadness as a tool to manipulate the other person. The victim façade I put on made them forget about my toxic behavior and feel sorry for me instead. What can I say? Manipulation at its best.
Honestly, it was not easy, admitting to myself that I manipulated people, that I was emotionally dependent on them and wanted to control them. This was not the type of resume I would want to show around, but at least it was real.
I was standing in my authenticity, and it felt incredible.
Once I became aware of my behavior, it was time to forgive.
The tricky part about growth and healing is that once you become aware of your shortcomings and trauma sabotaging techniques, it is easy to move from practical awareness to self-judgment.
So, I needed to forgive, forgive, and forgive some more. Therefore, I incorporate forgiveness into my meditation practice. I didn’t understand how utterly guilty I felt until I sat down to practice forgiveness through meditation for the first time.
After I closed my eyes and said out loud, “I forgive myself,” I had to pause the recording. My emotions came pouring out. It felt as if I had been holding my breath and finally exhaled after many years of keeping things inside. The guilt and shame came washing over me, and I began to release them.
I finally gave myself a break and instead of harsh judgment and criticism, I offered myself acceptance and empathy.
One of the most common patterns of codependent people is that we constantly feel guilty and not enough, and we limit ourselves from anything good or loving since we don’t believe we deserve it. The only way through this madness is to use compassion and understanding toward what we have done or who we believe we are. It’s about empathizing with our past, becoming aware about what happened to us and the impact it had.
No one is born to manipulate and control. It’s not who we are. It’s who we become as a survival mechanism. We adopt these toxic traits until we are brave enough to look in the mirror, admit to our mistakes, and break our patterns. And the only way is through self-forgiveness.
I started to work the 12-step program for codependents. I also learned that recovering from codependency is a journey, not a destination. Healing codependency is about self-control, constant self-care, practicing detachment, surrendering, and developing a healthy relationship with power.
As I learned from Melody Beattie, an author of numerous books on codependency, recovery is the only way to stop the pain.
Growing up in a household with chemically dependent people or in a home that doesn’t provide safety and proper nurturing, you may develop an unhealthy relationship with power as a coping mechanism. You may believe that if you can control and predict everything and fix people’s problems, you’ll be fine. You’ll be in control. You’ll be loved and enough.
But the only thing you can fully manage is yourself. Any time you try to control things or people, you’ll experience pain when they don’t meet your expectations. As you may already know, people do what they want, and many situations don’t play out the way we envision.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is to find my power by looking into a mirror. Stopping the pain is about practicing detachment, letting go, working on my recovery to overcome the fear of loss and abandonment, and giving myself as much love as I possibly can.
The need to control often results in desperation that brings suffering, while practicing detachment and caring for yourself brings peace and allows healing.
Today, I say with confidence, “I am codependent.”
I am aware that to live healthier, I must stay truthful to my recovery. Sometimes I win, and sometimes I fail. Over time, there will be fewer losses and more wins. It comes with practice. I am mindful of the emotional and mental relapse that comes with the process. I know that I will fall into my old patterns and then struggle to get back on track.
However, I know I have the power to make different choices. When things seem to fall apart on the outside, it’s time to go inside, feel, process, and forgive. That’s my new way of life. Although it challenges and triggers wounds I need to heal, it gives me hope to believe those good things can happen for me too.