|Shift in Thinking!|
First step - Shift in thinking or mindset. This may sound obvious but in order to begin your healing, it is critical that you make a shift in your thinking or mindset - acknowledging that what you are doing isn't working for you! If you still believe that you are responsible for saving someone else and that if you stop doing what you are doing, the other person won't make it on his/her own, you probably are not ready to get well. I know this may sound harsh, but I want you to know that I speak from personal experience. Let me explain.
I am a CC, a Classic Codependent! My codependent characteristics - people pleaser, care-taker, rescuer- were part of my being for as long as I can remember. However, it wasn't until I was older that I learned how harmful those characteristics were to me. As a young woman in college, I entered into a highly unhealthy codependent relationship with an alcoholic. Oh yes, he was bright and funny, and often times charming. But he was sick, and I thought I could help him or change him. After three plus years of relational turmoil, DUI's, legal and financial woes, and countless additional resources spent on rescuing him, I remember very clearly one day saying to myself, "I can't do this anymore. I just can't. And I won't." The shift in my mindset took hold. For me the pain of staying in the relationship far exceeded the pain or difficulty of getting out of it. That shift in my thinking propelled me into step two.
Step two - Detachment. All of the experts whom I have read and studied on the topic of codependency agree that in order to begin the work of recovering, it must begin with detachment. Although there is much to share on this concept, for the purposes of this blog I will give you a couple of insights as you move forward.
- Turn your focus inward. As codependents, our focus remains outward (toward the person/s we are controlling or saving). How we are feeling typically is measured by or reflective of what the other person is doing or not doing or how the other person is feeling. Slowly but steadily, begin detaching from this outward focus. Every time you start worrying about the other person/s, stop and recenter your thinking on you! And start asking yourself what you feel, need, and want. This is hard work, I know! It feels unnatural to think about ourselves. In fact, it feels quite foreign! And, you might feel fearful or anxious, uncertain as to what might happen if you aren't available to save the other person! Remember this - when you were available to rescue, control, or take charge, it did not produce lasting change, if any change at all. Now it is time for you! Turn your focus inward!
- Separate your worth and identity. Because we have invested so much of ourselves into someone else, much of a codependent's worth and identity are strongly connected to the other person/s. Our thinking is "If she fails, I am a failure." Or,"If he doesn't make it, I haven't done my job." Wow! Read those statements again! We are pretty powerful people if we can control what someone else does or doesn't do! I know I'm being a little sarcastic here, but I want to make a point. Our worth and identity have nothing to do with what someone else chooses to do or not do. Each person has free will, including us. And we must begin to detach - separating our worth and identity from the other person/s and begin investing in ourselves. Allow me to return to my story as an example.