Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Key Strategies for Proactive Parenting! What Parents Need To Know and Do!!

Last blog, we started a conversation on Proactive Parenting!! What Parents Need To Know and Do!! Because April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, it is especially important to draw attention to our parenting, but as  parents and guardians, when we signed  up to have children or take custody of them we made a long term commitment that requires our best practices day in and day out! A significant responsibility in our parenting includes educating ourselves about social dangers such as child abuse and implementing effective strategies that will help to protect and prevent our children from being victimized. Before we discuss a few more key strategies for Proactive Parenting,  let's review from the previous blog the two Proactive Parenting Principles that we first must solidly integrate into our mindset and then apply to our parenting styles. Remember, these principles hold true regardless of the social danger, concern, or challenge.
PP #1 - The degree of access or exposure to anyone or consumption of anything is a predictor of the degree of consequence - positive or negative. 

PP #2 - The degree of innate trust ascribed to a closed system can be a reliable predictor of an abusive environment and/or where perpetrators carry out their dangerous agendas.

As we move on to key strategies for Proactive Parenting, parents and guardians, I want you to think back to the day of your child's first day of school, or day care, or time away from you.  I want you to think about your feelings on that day.  You were probably happy, teary-eyed, a little sad, and most likely worried - maybe even filled with anxiety!! You knew you had to let go, but at the same time you knew that your child was accustomed to your nurturing, loving, and protective care. And you wondered if your child would be safe in a new environment with unfamiliar individuals in charge. Given the myriad of social dangers in today's society and with the prevalence of child abuse, I believe that parents and guardians must navigate throughout their children's development with that same or increased vigilant commitment they naturally and willingly blended into their parenting when their children were entering that first environment away from home. I believe that to do less is to put our children in harm's way.

Let's take a look at a few key strategies for the on-going implementation of vigilant commitment into our Proactive Parenting.

  • Educate yourself and stay informed: Although child abuse is a difficult topic for all of us, we cannot turn away from it. Read about it, understand the warning signs or red flags of perpetrators, be able to recognize symptoms of victimization, and know how to help your child.  As I did last week, I will give you references at the end of the blog.  
  • Investigate, research, run background checks, and do your homework: Before you move into a neighborhood, before you enter your child into any day care, school, organization, etc., before your child goes alone anywhere - learn everything you can about this person or place and make sure you have reason and evidence to trust your decision.
  • Communicate with your children - age appropriately: I cannot stress this enough! If your children don't know what is bad or wrong or abusive behavior and if they are threatened by the perpetrators not to tell, how will they know what to do? There are excellent age appropriate materials available - get them now and start the conversation. Then, keep the conversation going!  See references below.
  • Get to know your children's real life neighborhood and their net neighborhood: Most parents or guardians know some of their children's friends. Get to know all of them.  Get to know their parents or whoever else is living in the home! Sadly, most parents do not know their children's net neighborhood. This is so important!  Don't assume they are safe, especially if you don't know where they are spending time and with whom! If you have not already done so, please get your family on a Family On-line Safety Agreement. This is absolutely mandatory.  
  • Monitor, supervise, and/or randomly check in on your children: When our children were little, we checked up on them constantly!  We didn't want them to get hurt! I believe we must continue to do so, especially if we have given or granted them a significant degree of access or freedom.  Parents often ask me, "Am I invading my children's privacy when I monitor what they are doing?" My short response is, "No, this is your responsibility - to protect them."  My longer response is, "If you have communicated to your children ahead of time what you expect of them and that you will be monitoring, or supervising, or checking in on those expectations, your children will  know that you care, and they will feel safer." Don't give in or give up, especially when your adolescents or teens are rolling their eyes or talking back! And, don't pull away from them; believe it or not, teens need you just as much now as they did when they were little!! Perhaps even more! They just have a different way of showing it!    
In closing, parents and guardians, contrary to what we often here from outside sources as well as from our own children...

          You have the opportunity to be the most significant influence on your children's lives. 

How you choose to parent them, how involved you decide to remain in their lives and for how long, and to what degree you maintain your vigilant commitment in support of their well-being  - all of these factors will be a strong contributor to their safe navigation through the social dangers of our time. Remember ~

     Proactive Parenting isn't about restricting our childrens' freedom,    
          It's about safe-guarding our kids as they experience what it means.       


Nationally and internationally known advocates for child abuse  and sexual assault prevention ~

Rise and Shine Movement  - "We equip parents to protect kids from sexual abuse. Because it's not a stranger.  It's someone you know."

RAINN - Rape,Abuse, Incest National Network

Protect Our Defenders  (Advocates for our military active service members and veterans who are victims of abuse.)

National Self Helpline - 877- 995 - 5246

Please visit Holli Kenley for more resources.
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Proactive Parenting!! What Parents Need To Know and Do!!

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  As with other wellness issues, it is important to designate time and attention increasing our awareness through on-going education and communication. However, with one in three girls and one in five boys being victimized by the time they are eighteen, I believe it is critical not only to continue our conversation on a daily basis, but it is also imperative to implement Proactive Parenting. Because there are several experts whom I highly respect and who have family friendly resources available to parents or guardians (*see references below), for the purposes of this blog I am going to give you two important strategies for Proactive Parenting.

Most responsible parents work hard to provide nurturing, loving, and safe environments for their children.To do otherwise, in my opinion, is shirking the responsibilities of parenthood. At the same time, many of us know that no matter how hard we try to protect our children and to prevent bad things from happening, there are many factors that are simply out of our control. And, as we well know, not only do our children have free will but because their young minds lack good judgment, they sometimes make poor choices that invite harm into their lives. However, it is many times the case that because of the very nature of being children with their vulnerabilities, sensitivities, and trusting inquisitive personalities, our innocent ones are easily targeted, preyed upon, or abused and exploited by highly disturbed individuals. What then, can parents, guardians and those of us trusted with their care do to be more proactive as we parent our children? This is important. Let's examine two parenting principles.

First, integrate into your thinking and apply to your parenting style Proactive Parenting Principle #1. Regardless of the social danger, concern, or challenge, this principle holds true.

#1  - The degree of access or exposure to anyone or consumption of anything
 is a predictor to the degree of consequence - positive or negative.

This is important.

The degree of access or exposure to anyone or consumption of anything 
is a predictorto the degree of consequence - positive or negative.

Let's look at a few examples of positive consequences with this principle. The more we expose our children to reading early on their lives, typically they become better readers. The more we introduce our children to music, sports, or other interests, the more they are likely to excel or exceed in those areas. On a more serious note, the more access our children have to healthy influences, interests, and environments, typically the more safe and well-adjusted they will be. 

Let's also look at this principle and a few examples of negative consequences. If our children largely consume unhealthy foods, the more their health is at risk. The more time our children spend in the sun without protection, the more dangerous it is for their skin. On a very serious note, the more time our children spend on technology without proper guidance, the more at risk they are for visiting unsafe net neighborhoods.The easier our children's access is to drugs, alcohol and other social dangers, the more likely our children are to participate in them.
As we apply this principle to the issue of child abuse, we must understand that although there are never any guarantees to prevention, we - as parents and guardians - must keep an active pulse on our children's degree of access and exposure to any familiar or unfamiliar person or environment. I strongly encourage parents to take a brutal assessment of each and every decision you make for your children regarding how, when, where and with whom they are spending their time, especially if it is time alone with an older individual. And although most parents tend to take a very active interest when their children are younger, often times their oversight diminishes as children age and as they test the rules and expect more freedom. Of course this is understandable, but the dangers do not decrease with age; in fact, as access, exposure or consumption increases, so does the severity of consequence. In next week's blog, I am going to address specific strategies for implementing this parenting principle, but for now do the following:
  • Assess each decision you make regarding where your children go, with whom, how much time, and what kind of supervision or oversight is in place (in their real life and cyber life). 
  • Do your homework. 
  • Run background checks.
  • Trust your gut.
  • Stay involved. 
  • Show up unannounced.
  • Be present and available for your child.
Proactive Parenting Principle #2  is a tough one - rarely discussed but critically important. Again, integrate it into your mindset and apply it to your parenting style. Here we go.

#2   - The degree of innate trust ascribed to a closed system can be a reliable predictor of an abusive environment and/or where perpetrators carry out their dangerous agendas.

Before you read that again, I want to define two terms used in this principle:
  • Innate trust - This kind of trust comes with the entitlement given to the trustor accompanied by the natural subjection or compliance of the trustee. This kind of trust usually carries with it a power differential.  Examples are parent- child; pastor - parishioner; coach - athlete; mentor - student; doctor - patient.
  • Closed system - This is a term which refers to any kind of  family unit, organization, place of worship, or any type of grouping of individuals where there is a system of rules or regulations in place (written or understood) which can be protective and constructive in nature but can also be secretive and isolating. A closed system typically has a person or persons of authority, power, or position who enforce or impose their rules or regulations. Given the hierarchy of some systems and their alliances, often times individuals in authority protect or cover up the offenses of the perpetrators.   Examples include families; places of worship; children's teams, classrooms, organizations or clubs; or familial extended relationships or friendships.   
With these explanations in place, read this again.

The degree of innate trust ascribed to a closed system can be a reliable predictor of an abusive environment and/or where perpetrators carry out their dangerous agendas. 

While I understand that child abusers can be random individuals and criminals, it is sadly and tragically more times the case that they are in our own homes, families, and within the organizations and/or groups of individuals with whom we and our children socialize and trust. Over the years treating victims of sexual abuse and trauma, I was constantly sickened by the perpetrator's identities: baby-sitters; step-brothers; uncles and aunts; step-parents; close family friends; biological parents; friends of older siblings; coaches; teachers; grand-parents; faith leaders; biological brothers and sisters. And the list goes on.

The point is this - children have a natural trust in those individuals whom they turn to for love, nurturing, and fulfillment of their basic needs. Horrifically, some of those same individuals are sick human beings who can manipulate a closed system by instilling fear, shame, guilt and secrecy in children in order to victimize them.

Although I am going to give parents more concrete strategies in next week's blog, Proactive Parenting Principle #2 works hand in hand with Principle #1.  As you are assessing your children's degree of access or exposure to anyone or any environment, parents - you must scrutinize the degree of innate trust that you have ascribed to that person or personsand you must evaluate the dynamics of the closed system.

Ask yourself the following questions regarding innate trust ascribed to a person or an environment:
  • Why do I trust this individual or organization? What proof or evidence do I have?
  • Have I done a background check or done my research?
  • Have I just assumed that this person or group is safe? 
  • Have I checked up on my child  when he/she is alone with this person or group?
  • Are there any unhealthy symptoms, signs or red flags with this individual? What does my gut tell me?
  • Am I ascribing too much trust to this person or group? Am I aware and paying attention to my instincts?
And ask yourself these questions regarding the healthiness or unhealthiness of a closed system: 
  • Do your children feel free to talk to you about anything? 
  • Are they fearful or afraid of someone in  your own family, neighborhood, or other?  Would you recognize their fear, anxiety, or other distress symptoms?
  • Have you asked your children lately if they feel safe? Have you asked them what they do if they didn't feel safe? 
  • Have you talked with them about their bodies - what is private and what to do if someone touches or hurts them in any way?
  • Is there someone that you are afraid of or who is abusive to you? Have you asked yourself what messages you might be teaching your children?  Have you asked them how they feel?
The next few questions are critical!
  • Have you talked with your children about secrets and threats? Do you know if anyone has asked them to keep a secret or threatened them if they didn't?
  • Do your children know, without a doubt, that you will believe them, protect them, and take care of them if they tell you something bad?
  • Are you a safe harbor for your children?

In closing for today, I know that this is a lot to take in. And I know that some individuals reading this are themselves survivors of sexual abuse or trauma. It is never to late to reach out and get help. There are so many good people with the same or similar story who have dedicated their lives to helping others and who are passionate about preventing child abuse. Next time, we will discuss more specific Proactive Parenting strategies, but for now I want to leave you with a few resources.  These warriors are nationally and internationally known, and I am honored to be associated with them. Please, visit their websites and their materials.

~ Proactive Parenting is not optional...
It is our responsibility  ~

Rise and Shine Movement  - "We equip parents to protect kids from sexual abuse. Because it is not a stranger. It's someone you know."

RAINN is a national site that provides a myriad of resources and support. RAINN - Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network

If you are a victim of abuse or your son or daughter has been a victim of abuse within our military, please visit Protect Our Defenders. You are not alone.  Support and resources are available for you.

If you are a parent/guardian of a teenager (or a tween- teen) looking for guidance in discovering their worth based on what is important to them and in  making healthy decisions for their life, get a copy of Another Way  by Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT.

National Safe Helpline -   877 - 995-5246

Please visit Holli Kenley for more resources.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Talk About Codependency: Day 6 - The Importance of Support Groups!

Over the past several blogs, we have been discussing codependency as it relates to us and our well-being:
Now What Do I Do ?- Day 3  ; Day 4  ; Day 5

Support From Others

Before we conclude this series, it is important to talk about Support Groups. Please keep  reading! No matter where you are in your recovering journey with codependency, Support Groups can and do play a vital role in your healing. I'd like to share a personal example.

When I was in my early thirties, I was teaching at a middle school where a I met a wonderful teacher who befriended me. I will call her Alice. She was an older, very wise woman. I was captivated by Alice as she described her difficult past of addiction followed by her many years of sobriety. As Alice came to know me, getting acquainted with my codependent personality, she encouraged me to attend Al-Anon. Even though I had been in counseling previously to address other issues, I did  not know what she was talking about! You see, at the time, I didn't even know what a codependent was! Alice began teaching me about codependency and encouraged me to attend Al-Anon. Even though Alice typically attended her AA meetings, she agreed to accompany me to my first Al-Anon meeting . At the last minute, Alice had to cancel but I went alone. I will never forget that initial meeting. Although I was nervous, I didn't have to say anything except my first name. Immediately, I was mesmerized by the individuals and their stories. As each person shared his/her struggles and conflicts as well as ensuing stories of growth and healing with codependency, I felt a level of belonging I had not experienced in a long time. The complex and complicated mixture of codependent feelings I held on to for so long were shared by others; I was not alone. I attended for over a year, and continued going whenever I felt I needed additional support.  I learned something incredibly valuable...

Bravely Look Inside

It is often quite easy to see the faults or flaws in others ~
Mostly it is difficult to discover them in ourselves.
Support Groups are mirrors into our ways of being ~
  as we confront and  courageously examine what is there.

Today, there are a variety of support programs available for codependents.  Where do you start? Get on your computer and search your area for CODA (specifically for codependency) groups; or Al-Anon groups. If you belong to a faith-based organization, many places of worship have "Celebrate Recovery" groups and may also provide other support groups. If you have a recovery center in your area, call them or get on their website; typically they have on-going groups as well. Today, there are usually numerous meetings in a week; sometimes in a day.  Many of them provide child care and most of them are at no cost! Also, if you know someone who has attended a group or knows someone else who has, get a recommendation. Or call a therapist in your area and ask for direction in finding a group. This is very important - if you attend a group and don't like it for whatever the reason is, don't give up!  Find another group or meeting!  In addition, another source of support is through attending codependency workshops or classes. Again, get online and search your area or check with the recovery centers in your community. There is most often a fee for these workshops or classes, but they can be extremely helpful and healing.

  Don't procrastinate!  Get started today!  

In closing, I want to share a short story with you - about an extraordinary group of women.  During my last few years in practice, I invited a select group of women to join a closed group (limited in size) I was leading on codependency. I asked these eight codependent women because each had worked very hard on their issues through individual counseling for over a year, and I felt they might benefit from group work. For the first session, I asked them to complete one assignment - to write down their personal journey and  be prepared to read it to the group. On the evening of the first session as each woman read her story, the others wept - for the reader and for herself. There was really just one story with eight versions, but the pain-filled themes remained the same. As the year unfolded, meeting twice a month, I witnessed how this remarkable group of women supported one another, held each other accountable, and grew in ways I never thought possible. For our last meeting, I asked them to make a two part collage of words, pictures, etc. that represented them - before the group started and now, at the close. As was true for our first meeting, as with many other sessions, the women wept - but this time their tears reflected a shared healing experience of doing the hard work of detaching from their old ways of being and of embracing self-care. The flow of emotion represented a celebration of reclaiming themselves and redefining their identities - and of a collective joy that bonded them in the process.

This is the power of Support Groups.    

While your recovery work remains your own to do, 
it doesn't mean you have to do it alone.

For more on codependency, I share my personal journey in...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Let's Talk About Codependency: Day 5 - Now What Do I Do?

For the last several blogs, we have been discussing codependency by focusing on steps in answering the question - Now What Do I Do? If you have not done so, please go back and review Step One - Shift in thinking and mindset; Step Two - Detachment (turning our focus inward and separating our worth and our identity) : and Step Three - Self-Care . Today, we are going to focus on Step Four - Boundary Work. However, before we do, I want to clarify one very important point.

Although we - as codependents - will need to work all these steps simultaneously as we continue our recovering work, I believe it is almost next to impossible to start our healing unless we are ready and willing to shift our mindset and thinking. We must accept that we are not responsible for another person's well- being and that what we have been doing is not working. At the same time, because we are codependents, we will slip back into this thinking, time and time again, and we will need to continue working on this toxic mindset. So, expect movement in and out of all the steps, and work on what you need to in the moment. Now, let's  move on to Step Four - Boundary Work.

The other day I had a nice long phone chat with a good friend of mine.  I will call her Lorie. We've known each other for many years and we are both CC's - classic codependents! We have laughed with each other and cried with each other - over our rescuing and controlling catastrophes! Lorie has worked very hard on her Self Care, especially over the past several years. However, it wasn't until recently that she really started working on her Boundaries. Because Lorie always has been extremely codependent with her children (who are now adults), this has been hard for her. Even the other day as she shared how she implemented a very strong boundary, Lorie said, "I feel so selfish". I reminded her, as I have myself many times, of the following:                                                          
A Safe Space To Heal.

Boundaries are not about putting up walls to keep people away. 
Boundaries are about creating a safe space for you to grow and heal.

Boundary work involves discovering what you will accept and what you won't accept while protecting yourself and your growth. It's putting your Self Care into action. How do you start?  Here are a few beginning exercises:

1. Reassessing relationships: This is such an important exercise. It involves taking a brutal and honest inventory of your relationships - and what is healthy and unhealthy about them. For example, Lorie began by making a list of  the healthy as well as unhealthy aspects of her relationships with her adult children, her parents, and her siblings. She said this was very helpful because she able to validate the good parts while acknowledging the problem areas. One of most problematic issues with Lorie's adult children involved money. Over the years, she had given her adult children and grandchildren large amounts of  money, spoiled them with material items, and taken them on expensive vacations. This may not be problem for some individuals, but after years of investing beyond her means, Lorie found herself in serious financial trouble. While completing this exercise, Lorie not only came face to face with the consequences of her codependency, but she also realized that her primary motive behind these overly generous actions was to rescue her adult children from experiencing financial hardships that she dealt with as a child. This was a hard truth for Lorie, but an empowering one.
Reassess Relationships!

Let's begin creating a space for you to grow and to heal! Get out a piece of paper or get on your computer and make two columns - healthy and unhealthy. Under each column, write down the names of the individuals with whom you have relationships and next to each one, write down the aspects of the relationship that are healthy or unhealthy. As you identify the unhealthy parts, focus in on behaviors where you have been over -investing - behaviors that have left you drained and depleted - behaviors that have not changed the unhealthy individual.  Then, get ready for exercise two.

2. Selective investment:  What do I mean by selective investment? When I've shared this concept with others, some people think I am a little nuts! But, remember, codependents over invest - to the degree that we become depressed, exhausted, and angry!!   That is our nature!  So, we must work on selective investment where we are deliberate in our thinking about how much we want to give of ourselves and our resources. For example, Lorie has cut way back on her gift giving. She has learned how to budget small amounts for her grandchildren and has eliminated supporting her adult children. She is now saving for her own needs. Lorie has also stopped sending other family members money, realizing that much of it went to rescuing them as well.

Degree of Investment!
Just like Lorie, we can select our degree of investment - we have that power!  Go back to your list of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Next to the unhealthy aspects and the codependent behaviors you identified, write down a specific action of how you can lessen your investment!  Choose one behavior at a time  and be specific about your action. Don't procrastinate. Get started, now! Reclaim your power! As all this good stuff is happening, you may begin to doubt yourself and you will probably experience resistance from others! So as you anticipate it, get comfortable with exercise three. 

3.  Setting and adjusting expectations: The good news is that when we reassess our relationships and we start investing selectively, we will begin feeling better and better! As we continue to heal and grow, it is only natural to set expectations of ourselves and of others. With yourself, I encourage you to be patient, kind, and gentle. Learn from your successes and your failures; adjust your expectations as needed. For others whom we have been rescuing, it is important not to expect too much of them, if anything at all. As you change your behaviors and get healthier, others will be confused, angry, and resentful. Adjust and readjust your expectations of others;  make sure they are realistic.  When Lorie started setting boundaries in her financial rescuing, her adult children were angry and blame-filled. Even her grandchildren were rude and disrespectful. Lorie learned how difficult it is to set a boundary; however, she also told  me that when her adult children and grandchildren recently visited for the holidays, not a word was mentioned about the inexpensive but thoughtful gifts.

Unrealistic expectations lead to hurt - from ourselves and from others. So, be mindful of how you are feeling. Set and adjust them as needed! Also, remember - the more consistent and constant you are in your newly implemented healthy behaviors, the more your Boundaries will be respected, laying the groundwork for realistic expectations to fall into place.

In closing, as I have said numerous time, recovering from codependency is incredibly hard!  I know; I have spent a life-time working on it!  For the purposes of this blog, I have given you wellness basics.  The resources I am recommending are really helpful and I encourage you to partake in them. Along with this point, as I stated in Codependency: Day 1 - What Is It?, codependency is a part of our personality; it is who we are!  Many codependents acquire their care-taking and rescuing personas as children; and many could really benefit from counseling to sort out their more specific origins and heal their inner wounds and voids. I share this with you because...

  I want you to know you are not alone;
 I want you to know that much has gone into creating us the way we are - 
and it will require much of us to move forward in healthy ways.     

Believe and Be Well

For an informative and restorative interview, take a listen to an interview with Dr. Karen Sherman where she and I discuss... What is codependency? What am I feeling and why? How do I begin to heal?

For much more on codependency, please consider reading Chapter 9 - Revive and Restore - Boundary Work,  Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition

And,  Codependent No More  by author and expert Melodie Beatty

Next time, The importance of Support Groups!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Let's Talk About Codepedency: Day 4 - Now What Do I Do?

Last time, we started our conversation on codependency by addressing the first two steps in answering the question - Now what do I do?  If you haven't had a chance to read the previous blog, please take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with Step One - Shift in mindset or thinking  and Step Two - Detachment. It is super important to understand detachment as I believe it is impossible to move forward unless we begin that process of turning our focus inward and separating our worth and identity from someone else and from his/her unhealthy behaviors. This is hard work and it takes time.  Before we move on to Step Three - Self Care,  allow me to share more of my own story (previous blog) and how it relates to the importance of detachment.
Detach and Heal
As I described in Codependency: Day 3, once I shifted my thinking about the relationship I was in, I was then able to begin my detachment work. Although I was still living with an unhealthy man, much of my detachment work focused on physically distancing myself from him. Because I was working several jobs and going to school full-time, I was not in his presence often. Of course, this helped me begin the work of detaching myself from him emotionally and psychologically, especially as I began to be validated outside of my relationship with him. After a year and six months, I graduated from school with my teaching credential, secured a teaching job in a different town, and left the relationship. There were times when I thought about this individual, and there were a few occasions when I talked to him over the phone about financial issues that still involved me. However, about two months into my new life, I was surprised when I received a call from him inviting me to dinner. He said he wanted to talk. He said he needed me. At that  moment, I was pulled back in. We made arrangements to meet for dinner at a restaurant in a small town between the two cities in which each of us was living. During the days before the dinner reservation, I found myself worrying about him and wondering if what I had done made him worse! After all that I had been through and accomplished, I still felt responsible for him and his feelings!

Self Care!

I want to share this with you to make a very important point. It is critical to detach ourselves - physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Although we may not be in the presence of the one whom we have been rescuing and controlling, we - as codependents - carry that emotional and psychologically burden with us. So, we must work on all three areas. Until we do so, we aren't quite ready to move into Step Three - Self Care. 

Self Care is self-explanatory!  However, it too, like the other recovering concepts with codependents, feels foreign. In the past, in order for us to feel good and complete, we have been taking care of someone else! Now, in order to heal, we must start taking care of our own needs, wants, and desires. Does this mean we are being selfish! You better believe it does! And probably for the first time in our lives!!  All kidding aside, this too is hard work. There is much to say about Step Three. To get started, I recommend the following exercises:
  • Each day, take a pulse on your own feelings.  Ask yourself, this question. What am I feeling and why? I would suggest writing this down in a daily journal. The point of this is to get in touch with your feelings - not someone else's!!  Be honest with yourself. Whether you are in a good place or in a troubled place, write down your truths and validate them. You have a right to your own feelings. And you have an obligation to attend to them. 
  • Secondly, answer or reflect upon the following questions. What do I want to feel?  What do I need?  And how will I get there? Don't get overwhelmed. Start with a daily goal.  For example- for the day at hand, do you want to feel comforted? Who or what contributes to that sense of comfort?  Arrange for a phone call to chat with a healthy friend, treat yourself to a long walk, or revisit spiritual practices or rituals that renew and revive your being. Keep your focus inward. Stay in tune with what you are feeling.  
  • Thirdly, ask yourself these questions.  Where and how do I invest into myself?  How can I give back to myself? Although this is similar to the second exercise, start thinking about what is important to you. What are your interests, hobbies, talents, gifts, and passions? Whether it is gardening, playing an instrument, going back to school, or joining a club or group - each day set out doing something that reflects an investment back into you! 
The Gift of Self Renewal

With all three of these exercises, you may feel uncomfortable or uneasy at first. However, with time and continued work on your Self Care, a sense of renewal will emerge. And as you continue to heal, it will become easier and easier to detach yourself from your unhealthy codependent behaviors. Allow me to return to my story.

Driving through the pouring rain in an unreliable car was no easy task as I made my way down the busy highway to the restaurant. Arriving late, my former partner was already intoxicated. There was an awkward greeting followed by small talk. Shortly after dinner was ordered, the pathetic man sitting across from me told me of his ongoing troubles and then he asked to borrow money. Over the next few minutes I watched his mouth move as he continued his poor me scenario, but I didn't hear a word. I thought about all the good things in my life - and I thought about how hard I worked to detach myself from this unhealthy person and this ugly situation. I tapped into my spirit of renewal and mustered up my strength. And as he slurred his words reaching for his drink, I grabbed my purse, paid for my dinner, and left the restaurant. This was a crucial turning point for me - as my Self Care kicked into high gear!

Start today! Start Now! Start giving yourself the gift of renewal! 

Next time - one more step on "Now What Do I Do"? 

And for more work on Self- Care -  Chapter 9- "Revive and Restore... Mind, Body, and Spirit" Breaking Through Betrayal: And Recovering The Peace Within 2nd Edition

And  Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie  

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