I was brought up in a strong fundamental Christian tradition. This afforded me the opportunity of having very clear and stable rules on how to live. With my home life being unstable and rules changing quite frequently, this became my comfortable place. There was no room for questions or different points of view; there was only one right way and one wrong way.
I realized when I was grown, that my family was dysfunctional. I was taken aback a little by this realization. What did that mean and really what did it have to do with my life as an adult? I learned that, in my family unit, I was the placater/caretaker. I took it upon myself to be responsible for the emotional well-being of my family. It was my responsibility to make sure that everyone was happy. That meant when my sister or brother and my mom were fighting, it was my job to make it better. Sometimes I would do this by lightening the mood with a joke; sometimes through just listening to them talk out their issues. I knew when it was payday because my step-dad would not come home on time. I knew what that meant – my mom would be upset. I did everything I could to keep her mind off of the fact that he was not home yet and more importantly what may happen once he did get home.
Based on the stable rules that I had learned in church, I believed that this was what I was supposed to do. Here are some of the rules that I learned:
Scripture: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20)
Rule: You do not matter any longer as your self is dead. You are now like Christ, do everything that He would do.
Scripture: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Gal 6:2-3)
Rule: You are nothing – if you think otherwise you are lying to yourself. To be like Christ, you must carry other’s burdens.
Scripture: “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denari and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ (Luke 10:33-35)
Rule: Always look for people in need and be the Good Samaritan, take care of them and help them to get well, not matter what the cost.
I am not sure if my church did not highlight the scriptures that called for self care or if I was so willing to please (i.e., be like Christ) that I just did not hear them. The result was the same. Other’s needs always came before mine. Whatever I needed, someone else’s needs were always more important and took priority. These rules were finite.
After several traumatic events, I found myself questioning everything that I knew to be true. The rules of my childhood did not seem to apply to my adult world. This is where I am in my journey. I no longer take for granted that everything told to me is fact, especially in the area of religion. I question everything and base my opinion on what I feel and if the philosophy serves me at this time in my life. I embrace my journey and am sitting with the realization that I am a recovering codependent.
Being codependent, I find it challenging, if not impossible, to focus on myself. I feel extremely selfish even thinking about it. However, in order to stand firm on my journey’s path with the hope of moving forward, I am working toward healthy self care. Here are some exercises in my recovery program including self care:
· When tempted to ‘fix’ someone’s situation, imagine him/her by healing light and trust the universe to take care of them
· I am not responsible for other’s happiness
· I am not responsible for someone else’s behavior
· I cannot change someone else
· I give myself permission to practice mediation
· I give myself permission to explore my spirituality
· I give myself permission to not have all the answers
· I accept the fact that I am in recovery and this is a process