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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