Friday, January 30, 2009

Step Nine

Step Nine
"Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others."

As I mentioned, this Step is a partner to Step Eight. And once again, I am imagining Earl Hickey crossing people off his list.

This Step takes us a major leap forward in establishing boundaries-the differences between us and another person, the differences between our behavior and another's. It also grounds us in what will become a new way of life: allowing other people to have their paths and issues and learning to have our own. In this Step we learn to own our power to take responsibility for ourselves and our conduct in relationships.

If you have done your work in the other Steps, you have a list of people. The list should include the person you have probably harmed the most....yourself.
-Codependent's Guide To The Twelve Steps

When I take this Step and make my list I will definitely include myself. My obsession with control and the frustration I feel when others don't behave the way I think they should has hurt me far more than it's hurt anyone else.

There are other people that I'll include on the list but will probably never make contact with, like poor Todd; a guy I dated shortly after my divorce in 1990. He was a nice guy and I think he really liked me and wanted a chance to get to know me. He was way too normal and healthy for me. He took me out on a couple of dates, then one night we went to a nice dinner. When we got back to my house I cried and told him I just couldn't go out with him any more because there's no way I'd ever love anyone the way I'd loved my ex-husband. And at the time, I really meant it.

It's too bad someone didn't hand me a copy of "Codependent No More" right then and there.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Step Eight

Step Eight:
"Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all."

I've been waiting for this one. Steps Eight and Nine go together. I think I like them so well because they remind me of one of my favorite television shows "My Name Is Earl". You know; Earl Hickey got his karma so bad that he made a list of all the people he's hurt in his sordid life, and each episode he goes around trying to make a wrong....well....a right.

If you know me, you know I'm a firm believer in karma and that our thoughts and actions directly affect what happens in our lives every day. This isn't really about karma, but it is about righting our wrongs.

The goal of this Step is to be honest with ourselves, not unduly hard on ourselves. For many of us, being too hard on ourselves is a trait we closely associate with our codependency. After thinking through and taking this Step many of us find that much of our guilt has been unearned. Often we come up with a few behaviors we do not feel good about; sometimes more. But this Step is here to help us. It helps us clarify exactly what we have or have not done and sets us on the path to taking care of ourselves. The purpose of this Step is to restore us to right relationships-with ourselves and other people.

I haven't formally taken this Step, but I've thought about it. Pretty soon I'll start my list. Except for those who may have found this blog by accident, chances are most of my readers' names will be on it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Step Seven

A couple of notes to my readers:

I apologize for the long intermission. Between the storm at work and a death in the family, it's been a trying week.

Also, I know the Twelve Steps series is long, and doesn't apply to everyone, but I think it's important to be familiar with the process. I really think all of us can take at least one thing from the Steps. Besides, I'll be referring to them in the future and it will be good to have a reference point. With that being said.....thanks for your patience....let's finish this up.

Step Seven:
"Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings."

In case you haven't figured this out yet; my husband didn't make me codependent. I'm starting to clearly see I've pretty much been that way my whole life. So it's a little unnerving to think about asking God to take those tendencies away. If he does, there may not be anything left.

I don't want to stop helping people. I don't want to stop fixing things. People rely on me to help them and to fix problems for them.

When we take this Step, God doesn't come down with a vacuum cleaner and suck out all that is inside us. God doesn't take my personality. God doesn't remove me. God only takes those traits that restrict and stop me from being myself. - Melody Beattie

I have been asking God to remove the parts of my personality that cause me so much pain. I can help people without obsessing about them. I can fix things without breaking myself. I can use my powers for good.....not evil.

That's a wonderful feeling.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I'm taking a short intermission from the "Twelve Steps Mini Series" to talk about something else.

After much worry and anticipation, the "big storm" I had been preparing for finally hit this week. For the first time in our 100+ year history, my place of employment closed an office and eliminated several jobs. Two of the affected people worked for me. I had to tell a single mom with two teenage boys, and a woman whose husband is laid off from his job that effective immediately, they were no longer employed with the company.

It sucked.

The same thing just happened at my friend Puddin's place of employment.

I know we are just two of many, many companies affected by the current economic crisis, but when it hits home it hurts.

Rather than go on and on about this I think I'll just take the Forrest Gump way out and say "That's all I have to say about that."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Step Six

Step Six:
"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character."

Several days ago I was telling Madison about a situation involving my husband and me. We started bickering about something silly, and I immediately found myself going into my role as codependent. I was aware of it. I felt myself going there, I knew when it happened, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. Once I had landed solidly into my role I stepped back, stopped talking, and removed myself from the situation. When I came back into the room later, everything seemed okay again.

That's what this Step is all about. You are totally aware of the problem and your inability to control it. You are sick of playing the role and are entirely ready to give it up.

For so long I have relied on these behaviors, my codependent behaviors, as trusted friends. But they have turned on me. What once protected me may now be my undoing.

I am ready to learn a better way.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Step Five

Step Five:
"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs."

At first, this Step seemed simple to me. I've admitted to God, myself, and anyone who would listen exactly what seems to be wrong. Apparently it's much more complicated than that. It seems there are a host of counselors, clergy, and other professionals trained in the process of the Fifth Step. It goes hand in hand with the Fourth Step, and I'm told the two Steps together should encompass about a year. Who knew?

Most agree that it is better not to do a formal Fifth Step with a neighbor, friend, spouse, or other family member: it may backfire and hurt us. I suppose it's like finding out you have a disease and going to your friend to ask for a Band-Aid, when you really need to see a physician. If there are deep rooted issues you are just now discovering or admitting, you would want to be steered in the right direction as you uncover them. In my case I've been through plenty of professional counseling, and I'm pretty sure we've touched on a good portion of my "issues" and where they came from.

At this time I'll simply say I'm not ruling out more counseling or an organized support group. I'm just not ready for it right this minute. I guess that means I'm not ready to work this Step right now. "fearless moral inventory" from Step Four is far from being complete.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Step Four

Step Four:
"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves."

Not surprisingly, this is a Step I haven't worked much. From what I've read, I'm not alone. No one likes to take a hard look in the mirror. Codependents REALLY don't like it. We much prefer to watch (and judge) what others are doing.

Melody Beattie writes "In a searching and fearless inventory, we look for what is right about ourselves and our values. We look for the wrongs we have done too. But also included in this moral inventory are our self-defeating behaviors and the moral issue of whether or not we love ourselves."

A few months ago I would have blamed every problem in my life on my husband's drinking. Since hitting my wall, I have made some small strides, but I've got a long way to go on this Step.

  • I have a lot of love, and my ultimate desire is for me, my family, and friends to live happy, healthy, and peaceful lives (just like my fictional namesake, Mary Bailey)!
  • I consider myself a very good mother.
  • I consider myself a very good manager.
  • I've never felt like a very good wife....either time.
  • I've been a good daughter. Not great; good. I'm harder on myself than my parents would be.
  • I have a serious problem with trying to change people and/or control their behavior.
  • I have always been attracted to men that I will ultimately try to change or fix.
  • I consider myself a true, dedicated friend.
  • I don't like it when I don't get my way.
  • I like to be in control all the time. I despise feeling out of control. I despise it.
  • Sometimes I don't like myself. Sometimes I like myself a lot.
  • I want to get better.
  • If I can help other people get a little better in the process, that's icing on the cake.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Step Three

Step Three:
"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God
as we understood God."

One of the people I admire most in the entire world is a friend of mine named Margo. Margo and I have worked together for 25 year now and have survived marriages, divorces, births, deaths, and a whole lot more. If I've heard her say it once, I've heard her say it a thousand times; "we just have to turn this over to God".

We all have different ideas about who God is. Personally, I believe only the complicated ideas are incorrect. Whoever God is to you, complicated or not, when we let go and ask Him to guide us He will. He may not always guide us in the way we think He should, but rest assured....He will always guide us in the right direction, whether we know it at the time, or not.

I'll be honest. In the months since I've started writing this journal I've turned most of it over to God (I'm a control freak, remember?), and I'm happy to's worked! In working this Step, I see answers and I see results. Most important, it gives me incredible peace of mind.

While I'm still perfecting it, I embrace this Step and I believe in it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Step Two

Step Two:
"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity."

It's not easy for a person who is used to controlling and "fixing" everything to come to terms with the idea that anyone else (even God) might be better equipped for the job.

I thought the only thing that needed to be done to restore my sanity was for my husband to quit drinking. I was wrong.

I've always been a very spiritual person. Not religious; spiritual. I've prayed every day of my life since I can remember. Sometimes I talk to God several times a day. It seems very natural to me. Yet when my husband brought home the AA blue book about two and a half years ago I must admit I was surprised at the strong emphasis Alcoholics Anonymous placed on asking God for help.

For years I prayed that God would help my husband quit drinking. For the life of me I don't know why I wasn't praying for God to restore my sanity. Now I do....regularly.

I'm happy to say that at this point in my life I'm doing quite well with this Step.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Step One

Tonight I'll begin a twelve part "mini-series" dedicated to my interpretation of the Twelve Steps and how they pertain to my journey. The Steps mean different things to different people. This is strictly my interpretation of them.

Step One:
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

The Codependent's First Step is slightly different:

"We admitted we were powerless over others - that our lives had become unmanageable."

No one wants to admit they are powerless over something. The alcoholic will try for years to convince themselves and everyone around them they can handle alcohol like a "normal" person. That's why admitting there is a problem must be the First Step in any recovery.

For me, the second part of this Step came along first. It was no secret my life had been unmanageable for quite sometime. The "Unfortunate Deck Incident" mentioned in "The Day I Hit The Wall Part 1" (October 29, 2008) pretty much sealed the deal. And that's just the one incident I've had time to write about. Before that it was "The Empty House Across The Street Incident", "The (fill in the blank) Concert Incidents", "The Pool Party Incident", and "The Day We Buried My Mom Incident" to name a few. Not only was my life unmanageable, I was also about one step away from crazy.
True, a good part of that insanity came from my husband's alcoholism. But even on sober days I was still mad! That's when I discovered the first part of the Step.

It was hard for me to admit that I was powerless over others. I'm a mom. I'm an office manager. I like being in control. Truth be told, I'm really good at being in control. It wasn't until I began reading "Codependent No More" a few days after the "Unfortunate Deck Incident" that I fully understood my life was unmanageable due in part to my strong desire to control everything and everyone around me.

This Step is a huge one. One that I've fully embraced. I understand and accept now that I am powerless over others, and that my life had become completely unmanageable from trying. That doesn't mean I don't have to work at it. That has to happen every single day. But that's the beauty of the Twelve Steps. They are always there, in no particular order, to guide us along.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Twelve Steps

Yesterday during our weekly Sunday afternoon together, Scarlett asked me when I was going to write about the Twelve Steps. Other than a mention of Step One in my very first entry, I've consciously avoided them because I don't feel qualified to discuss them. I'm not in an organized group such as Al-Anon or Codpendent's Anonymous, and any ideas I could share about the Steps would be strictly based on my personal experience and opinions.

I studied the Steps a little deeper last night and discovered the beauty of them is that they are so simple, so basic, that even I could write about them. We are each free to find our own version of what it means to "work" a Step.

I'm a pretty firm believer that we all have "something" we do too much; something that causes us pain. For me it's worrying and trying to control others, for you it may be shopping or overeating. The Twelve Steps were originally designed for recovery from alcoholism, but they work for any addiction or obsession. They are used by many recovery groups from alcoholism to food addiction to codependence to sex addiction. Any compulsion or addiction that has negatively affected one's life or caused one to feel out of control.

Also, you can move about the Steps. You don't have to take them in order. Today you may find yourself working Step Three; tomorrow Step Nine.

I will dedicate the next twelve journal entries to the Steps. Again.....this is strictly an interpretation of them according to Mary and Mary's personal journey. Maybe you can adjust them to fit something in your life. Just substitute the word "alcohol" in Step One with your "thing". We codependents insert the word "others".

Here we go!

The Twelve Steps of Alcoholic's Anonymous
1. We admitted we were powerless over "alcohol" - that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

My kids are working on memorizing their multiplication tables. When we practice, we always go back over the ones that seem to be the toughest for them to learn. Usually it's the same ones over and over.

Remember the checklist from a couple of weeks ago (How Was Your Day?, Dec 30)? I've been pretty faithful to look at it regularly and see if I'm practicing what I'm preaching. I started noticing a pattern. Like the kids with their math, I keep tripping up on the same ones over and over again. This is a good thing, because I'm zeroing in on the areas where I need the most work. I seem to have the most trouble with:

Did I stand and deal with a feeling?
Did I start to get caught up in someone else's issues, then practice detachment?
Did I go on with my daily routine, when what I wanted to do was sit and obsess?

Becoming aware that I am struggling with these is making me more conscious of them. In the past three days, I'm happy to say I've seen improvement with all three.

Also, today I have some other fun news. The Public Relations team that represents Melody Beattie's new book "THE NEW CODEPENDENCY: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation" is sending me a preview copy to read. This is a follow up to Codependent No More, which was written twenty years ago. Apparently, society has changed a few things since then. Obviously I'm quite a fan of her teachings, and being so new to this whole concept, I'm very anxious to see what Ms. Beattie has to say! Definitely more to come about this exciting new book!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sit Down, Super Girl

Someone I know has been sick. She is young and quite overweight. She's been in the hospital with very serious weight related health issues. Her husband has also had serious health issues as a result of being obese. Unfortunately, the children aren't far behind. Even with these potentially life threatening illnesses, neither one of them seem to have any motivation at all to make a lifestyle change.

I was getting an update on this woman's condition yesterday when an interesting conversation arose. K, the woman who was giving me the update is quite caught up in the woman's case; maybe a little too much. After some discussion K said "I have to get some of my own weight off before the same thing happens to me". I agreed that most Americans need to do the same. K then started telling me that she hadn't been able to even think about a "diet" for the last couple of years because her daughter has had so much going on in her life. She then started telling me how worried she was about her husband. He was getting overweight and never gets any exercise. He barely even gets up out of the chair. She said she was quite concerned about him too.

My head started spinning. I wanted so much to jump in and start an hour long lecture on codependence. Happily, I resisted pulling out my rescue super powers. Instead, in the most polite and healthy way I was capable of, I mentioned to K that while she is a very caring and giving person, she may want to stop focusing so much on the friend's illness, the daughter's issues, and her husband's lack of motivation and start focusing on herself. I reminded her that nothing she could do would fix any of these people because they had no desire to be fixed. I told her that the only person mentioned that she actually could fix is herself.

I hope I said the right thing, and I hope some of it sunk in.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Here's One For Ya...

Remember that scene from the movie "Jaws" where Brody, Quint, and Hooper are comparing shark stories? They kept "one-upping" each other; with each story came a bigger scar.

A similar thing happened to me the other night. I was having a conversation with someone who has also had relationships with alcoholic men. We started talking about the really out of control nights. It's scary when you think of the insane things the disease has driven us all to do. The more I thought about that, the more I wanted to write about it. I'd never air our dirty laundry, so I'll use a story I read in a book about a woman named Sheryl to make my point.

"I couldn't stand the sight of my husband. I had nothing but contempt for him. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to leave him. I couldn't make myself do much of anything except worry and check up on him.

My turning point was the night I chased him with a butcher knife. It was my lowest point. I was running through the house screaming and raving, when I suddenly became aware, for the first time, of me. I had gone mad. I was crazy-completely out of control-and he just stood there calmly looking at me. I knew then I had to do something to get help for me."

Sheryl joined a support group shortly after that incident. It was at those meetings that she began to label herself and her loss of control as codependency. She later divorced her husband.

When it gets that bad, it's time to find the "Courage to change the things you can".

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My New Mantra

It's kind of like the Pledge of Allegiance: I've heard it over and over in my life and probably could have recited most of it. But one day you really think about the words and suddenly they mean something. They mean EVERYTHING.

That's what happened to me recently when I came across The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr. Now, these words hang in my bathroom, right over my scale. I read them every day and am trying very hard to live by them. I felt like they were written just for me.
Anyone who is a recovering codependent should probably keep these words close by at all times.
God grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and Wisdom to know the difference.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Word of the Day

Today's Word of the Day boys and girls, is "Manipulation".

This behavior is closely related to controlling. It means that we try to get what we want indirectly or in a dishonest fashion. We try to seduce, control, trick, or trap people into doing what we want them to do because we are afraid to ask and be direct or hear a no. Many of us have done this so long we may not be aware we're doing it. Sometimes manipulation works, but it's usually accompanied by bad feelings.

Codependents are indirect. We don't do it on purpose. We do it because we've learned to communicate this way. At some point, either in our childhood or in our adult family we learned it was wrong to talk about problems, express feelings, and express opinions. We learned it was wrong to directly state what we want and need. It was certainly wrong to say no, and stand up for ourselves. An alcoholic parent or spouse will be glad to teach these rules; we have been too willing to learn and accept them.

For me, this one goes way back. As with many people of their generation, my parents regularly communicated this way. I was a quick study and learned it early on. My mother was a master at it. I thought it was brilliant.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Catchy Phrases Decoded

I'm not much of a planner, and I don't like to think about things too far into the future. I can only handle what's right in front of me. My friends know this and rarely ask me to make plans more than a few days out.

I do however, posses an uncanny ability to agonize about things I fear will go wrong in the future. I've been known to obsess about whether or not my husband might drink at a concert or party for months in advance. Maybe that's why I like today's Catchy Phrase so much:

"One Day At A Time"

A wonderful Twelve Step slogan that defines an innovative but effective approach to life: Instead of living tomorrow today, or next week today, or reliving yesterday, we live each day as it comes.

I'll be trying very hard to practice this concept in the new year. I guess Steven Tyler will too.