Learning to live in the real world

I arrived to adulthood with no idea how to relate to normal people. How could I? My childhood home could be described as dysfunctional at best. The foundation and building blocks to live in the real world were not taught in my home. Looking back, I can see that I was the peace maker and the caregiver. I avoided negative consequences at all costs. I can assure you, I arrived at adulthood Codependent and broken; A perfect candidate for an alcoholic’s wife.

I knew exactly how to take unacceptable events in my life and choke it down. I knew exactly how to bend over backwards to keep the peace in my home, and I knew exactly how to take care of everybody but myself. Sure this bothered me. Their has many times I would become very angry with myself for allowing unacceptable in my life. I would even bow up from time to time and throw my little hissy fit only to back down to keep the peace.

The other thing character defect that my childhood taught me was over sensitivity. I took everything personal. My feelings were hurt easily, and when they were I would either withdraw or I would strike out at the person that I had perceived was trying to hurt my feelings. Everything was my fault or I caved and saw myself as a complete victim.

I married the first person that showed any interest in me. He was my savior; my knight in shinning armor. Honestly he really was. He understood without me telling him how difficult things were for me at home and he was protective and kind. He was also an alcoholic.

Since alcohol was not a culprit in my home growing up – oh yes there are a lot reasons for dysfunction and codependency without alcohol and substance abuse – I never recognized the signs that he had a drinking problem. The only thing that I saw was that he was shy without alcohol and a little more social with it.

I have learned that everything in life has consequences. Some that are good and some that are not. I learned a lot about the bad ones before I healed enough in my 12 Step Recovery Programs to be able to recognize and enjoy the good ones. I have been in recovery a long time. My life and how I live it has changed dramatically since I began this journey, but even to this day, I have to be on my toes to not allow some of my old ways of thinking not back into my life. I know now that when I have an over reaction to step back and look at the situation to see if I am “over sensitive.” I know that when someone hurts my feelings to step back to see if I have done anything that I need to apologize or make and amend for. If there isn’t, then I know that the person that hurt my feelings has a problem and it is not about me. Once I realize that, it is easier for me to not take whatever they said and did personal because I know that it has nothing to do with me. Sometimes my feelings are still hurt but the difference is that I don’t beat myself up and blame myself for their bad behavior.

It is now much easier for me to recognize manipulation from the broken people in my life. Yea, even though I have had some healing and recovery not everyone in my birth family got it, in fact, none of them did, and that has created a gulf between us because I don’t live my life the way they do anymore. Their lives make me sad but I know that I can’t make the changes in their life for them anymore than I could make the changes in my alcoholic’s life that he needed to make. The very fist lesson was learning that I was powerless over other peoples’s lives. I was not powerless over mine. It took a while for me to learn how to become responsible for my own life but every single step was worth it.

When I get sideways in a relationship…….

One of the key symptoms of codependency that has been a life long struggle for me has been learning how to be comfortable in my own skin. I am light years from the person that I used to be but I’m not completely there yet. In other words I am a work in progress. Most of the time, today, I am at peace with myself; Most of the time. But every once in a while I can be broadsided by stinking thinking and some of my old insecurities will pop up.

When I get sideways in a relationship it is usually because I have allowed someone to much importance in my life or in my mind. Anytime I catch myself needing affirmation from someone else in order for me to feel good about myself I am in trouble. Any time that I tolerate unacceptable behavior towards me from someone else, because I fear loosing my relationship with that person, I am in trouble. When I become willing to sacrifice my needs for someone else’s wants, I am in trouble. Anytime I am doing something for someone that they are perfectly capable of doing for themselves, I am in trouble.

You would think that after all of the years that I have been in recovery, after all of the growth and healthy changes that I have made in myself and in my life, that I would not get caught up in those old traps. But hey, every once in a while it happens. I don’t understand why, it just does. BUT!!!! the difference today, and when I began this journey, is that I don’t spend a whole lot of time in those unhealthy relationships, before I realize that I have once again crossed an unhealthy boundary line and been seduced into an unhealthy relationship.

The first step for me is recognizing all of the wrong dynamics in the relationship. The second step is changing the way that I interact with this person. If the relationship dies because I required self-respect in the relationship, then I know that I never had a real relationship with that person in the first place.

My motive is the key component. Why do I do this that or the other with this person? Am I doing the right thing for the right reason? Am I trying to change, manipulate, control or endear that person to me? In one of my daily reading books, when I looked up the word motive in the index, the first page that was listed that related to motive was 101. Just like any college 101 course it starts with the beginning. That page talks about being honest with myself about why I do and say the things I do.

My fist sponsor was extraordinary. One of the many wonderful things that she said to me, was for me to just be me. She said I was good enough, and to live my life like I was good enough. It was not necessary for me to sacrifice my self-respect to be accepted or to keep a relationship.

Of course I had to learn to respect myself before I could require it from someone else. This transformation did not happen over night. It began with the 4th and 5th Steps. In those steps I learned a lot about who I am and why I say and do the things I do. Without recognizing the things in myself that set me up to fail, I would never have a chance to respect myself. Self-respect came with the willingness to change the things in me that needed to be changed (my character defects). Without being humble enough to ask for God’s help, to help me let go of those negative aspects of my life that held me back form being at peace with myself, I would never have the strength or courage to do what I needed to do. Without making amends to people that I had harmed I would always live with the shame and sometimes self-loathing that would hold me back.

When I write a gratitude list if always includes the 12 Steps because it was through these steps I learned how to be at peace with me.

Choosing not to play their games

Anger in my life used to be like a pendulum that oscillated from one emotional extreme to the other. I was either seething and raging or defending myself from seething and raging. There was never a winner. Only hurt feelings, wounds and scars afterwards.

When I was the one seething and raging I took no prisoners. I would stuff and stuff and stuff my feelings until I could not take it anymore, and then, BOOM, I would explode. Many times I would blow up over something totally unrelated to what I had been angry about in the first place. Always, without fail, that outburst left me with embarrassed and regretful feelings toward myself. Many times I would try to shift the blame, for some of the nasty things I said in a fit of rage, to someone else for pushing me to the breaking point. I hated myself for being out of control.

Defending myself from the seething and raging of someone else could also push me to a breaking point. When that happened I essentially gave power to someone else over my emotions. They only had to push the right buttons to make me lose control and put me on the defensive. Learning to take away the power of abrasive and caustic people in my life has been an essential part of my recovery journey. Ignoring them is not always the answer. It is not okay for these bullies to talk to me and treat me in away that I would never allow anyone else to treat me.

The difference now is that, instead of allowing someone else to goad me into an over reaction, I instead choose how I am going to respond to them. The key was in the “wisdom to know the difference” between stuffing my feelings or choosing not to respond to play their games. It was the wisdom of knowing what I could and could not change. For me it was understanding that I could not change them but I could change how I responded to them.  My sponsor taught me to analyze my anger. Was my anger really frustration over my inability to change my alcoholic? Was I hearing something about myself that I didn’t like, that deep inside of me, I was afraid might be true?

When I was a kid there was this little saying that “sticks and stones will break my bones but word will never hurt me.” But that was not true in my case. Words hurt me and changed me to not trust and to be constantly on guard. There is another saying in our program that feelings aren’t facts, but in my case anyway, at the time I was going through them, felt like facts and they hurt like facts.

For me the solution was not easy. There was no one right answer that solved my anger issues. It was letting go of the struggle to try to change what I was powerless to change, in the first place, in the 1st Step. It was taking the 3rd Step and trusting God to guide me through the difficult situations in my life. It was taking a 4th, 5th and 10th, Step to help me understand what I was feeling and why. It was learning to forgive and making amends to others that I had hurt in the 9th Step. It was the building of my own personal self-confidence and self-esteem that took place as I progressed through all of the 12 Steps. It was practicing these principles in all my affairs in the 12th Ste.

My recovery programs have encourage me to acknowledge my feelings. Denying them would not make them go away. Understanding the source and understanding that I have choices has empowered me to do what ever I need to do to unlearn and reprogram my wounded negative side to one of joy and happiness. I could be bitter, resentful and angry or I could choose to learn from my past, forgive, let go and move on. I made the choice to do whatever I had to do to have peace and joy in my life. I made the choice that if somebody was going to be miserable it wasn’t going to be me.

This is how I learned to be at peace with me

I lived two different lives. I had a public life and I had the real life. The public life was what I wanted other people to see and believe about me. The real life, the reality, had me hanging on by a thread. I have been in conversations where I have heard people say things like, I would not put up with that, why doesn’t she leave. I have even heard someone say she likes being miserable or she would do something about it.

It is so easy to judge someone else’s life when we haven’t lived it. It is very easy to say what we would and would not do, when we have not been tested. It is another thing all together to walk through the fires of hell in life and come out the other side whole. The thing is, that you don’t come out the way you went in. The thing is, that the fires of hell transform us. They either engulf us and destroy us or they refine us.

The first step of accepting that I was powerless over other people’s behavior freed me from feelings of guilt and shame. It wasn’t my fault, it was not because of something I did or did not do. In fact it wasn’t about me at all. That step said to me that if I even fantasized about trying to control the uncontrollable, my life would become insecure, chaotic and crazy. We were two separate people. They were responsible for their thoughts and behavior and I was responsible for mine.

Whoa! Then that wonderful second step pointed me in the right direction. You see, without the gift of believing in a power greater than me, the first step would have stripped away all possible hope in my life. That awesome second step, believing that there was a power greater than me that could restore me to sanity, that was my get out of jail free card. With the restoration of sanity in my life I can now begin the process of becoming who I want to be, regardless of what the other people in my life chose to do about their life. Sanity gives me the ability to make better decisions for my life and my well being.

But sanity doesn’t produce wisdom over night; or didn’t for me anyway. It wasn’t like Bingo! All of a sudden I always made the right decision. What it did was open my eyes and made me more aware. It pointed me in the direction of the next Step. Sanity, peace, joy and happiness in my life came from giving up that self-will that pushed me to try and force solutions that I wanted.

When I surrendered my will and my life over to God’s care I accepted that no matter what happened in my life I was going to be okay. I may not get everything I wanted, the way I wanted it, when I wanted it. But I would get what I needed and what was best for me. I learned from bitter experience in the past to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. So trusting God with my life helped me to get the wisdom to know the difference over things that I was responsible for and things that I needed to walk away from.

In our recovery program they sum up the first three steps as Step One – I can’t do it. Step Two – God can. Step Three – I will let him.

In the Fourth Step I make a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself – not someone else – but of ME. That’s right, a searching, fearless and moral inventory of me. Oh my stars. Now I have to peel the scab off of the wounds in my life and drain out the poison and infection.

The Fifth Step is pretty amazing. We admit to God to ourselves and then another human being our wrongs. Why is God the first person we admit all of our hurts, habits and hang-ups too? It all goes back to the third step where we said we trusted God. When we see ourselves through Gods eyes, we see our life through the grace of his forgiveness. The Fourth and Fifth is not about condemnation, it’s about restoration. By seeing our life through God’s eyes, through God’s grace, we can do it without vilification. It is not about blame it is all in helping us to understand how we got this way and what we need to do to get better.

My 12 Step journey is a journey of love. I did not like or love myself when I started and through these steps I have learn to be at peace with me.

Life changing pain

What does it take? Why does one person reach out and embrace any opportunity available to heal and change? Why do others hang onto their hurts like it is a wall of protection, and live their whole life miserable? I lived miserable for a long long time before I was willing to take down my wall. They say in our program that we will not change until it hurts us more to stay the way we are, than it does for us to change. When I first heard that I was not so sure I believed it. I was so beaten down that I had given up hope. I had surrendered to my misery.

Don’t get me wrong I tried a lot of different things to make the pain go away before I felt completely defeated and gave up. I tried self-help books, I went to seminars and workshops, and I sought out fortune tellers as well. I would have short burst of hope. I felt good while I was their, but when I went back to my reality all of my good feelings slowly faded away. I was raised in church and attended church regularly. But the problem with church for me was that from the time I was a child I did not believe what they were trying to tell me. In church we sang, Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Then I would go home with my dysfunctional family and I wondered why Jesus wasn’t there to protect me. I did believe there was a God, I just did not believe that he would help me.

Then one day a friend bullied me into going to a 12 Step recovery meeting. I went with a closed mind. Everything they said, I had a “yes but, that doesn’t apply to me” attitude. But I really had no where else to go. I had burned a lot of bridges. I had exhausted my friends and they were too frustrated with what they perceived as my unwillingness to help myself. My friends were wonderful. But they did not understand my life. How could they? They were quick to judge and offer advice even though they had never experienced any of the hurts in my life or anything like it. I believe that in the back of my mind there was this voice saying, what did they know about pain? My family was as messed up as I was, so they were no help. I really had no where else to go, so I kept going back to the meetings.

In my mind, I was critical and judgmental of everyone there. My life was still spiraling out of control at warped speed. But slowly over time I began to see transformation in the lives of other people. I could see other people’s life getting better even though they were in the midst of deplorable circumstances. I could identify with “those people.” When I saw other people in my circumstances began to laugh and enjoy life, that was when it became too painful for me to stay the way that I was.

People come in all shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, with different experiences. We are alike in many ways but different in many more. I have come to realize that what rocks my world may be boring to someone else. What talks to my heart may fall on deaf ears to another person. For me, it was a 12 Step recovery program that unlocked the prison of pain and suffering in my life. The treasures that I have found working these steps and applying them to my life is beyond measure. I personally believe that God uses every resource there is to help us find our way. I believe that God used these 12 Steps for me to find him, and I believe that he used them to strip away the ugly in my life so that I could find the beauty.

No, I do not believe that 12 Step programs are the only way.  I have seen people be transformed through their church and their faith.  I have seen them be transformed through professional counseling.  I have seen people latch on to something in a workshop or seminar or in a self-help book that has helped them heal and grow.  We have a pretty smart and awesome God and he meets us where we are.  He led me to a 12 Step program and it was through that program that I built and strengthen my faith enough to trust him with my will and my life.

 

Very few people live a “charmed life”

There has been so much written about Codependency. On the internet alone there are thousands of articles explaining and defining Codependency. Most of those articles are written by the “experts” and the “professionals” who are trained and educated on Codependency. Many of them have workshops, clinics and write books on the subject. And then there are people like me who blog and write about it. I am not a trained professional and therefore I can only write about what I know from my own personal experience.

Based on everything that I have read, my life is a textbook example of a Codependent Life. I write this blog because I can’t not write it. When the idea first came to me I bought a book about blogging. The book said that if you can’t spell, if you don’t understand grammar and punctuation don’t waste your time blogging because no one will read it. My immediate reaction was to forget the blogging idea. So I canned the idea for several years.

You see, I am dyslexic. I am dating myself here, but when I was growing up we never even heard of that word. So I struggled in school. I was punished for my grades because I was “not trying,” “I was not paying attention,” and I was even considered not very smart. Dyslexia is not just reversing letters and numbers. For example, we can know that the proper word is “know” but we will write NO. We will read it many times and never see that we wrote NO instead of know. We “know” the difference between to and too and two but we may not see it when we write it. We may write it twenty times correctly and then write it ten times incorrectly and never see that we did it that way on paper. And of course there is the punctuation nightmare. I do know how to use a period, question mark and an exclamation point. Other than that I am totally lost. This problem has made me feel vulnerable all of my life.

Like I said earlier there is something in me that makes me write this blog and I believe that it is just my way of overcoming “one more” problem area in my life. I believe that I could be Codependent because of this one problem alone – even if I had not been raised in a dysfunctional home and even if I had not married an alcoholic. This one problem, at times, has made me feel dumb and inferior, and I have no doubt in my mind that I could have become a card carrying Codependent because of this one problem.

Regardless of the reason, heartbreak is heartbreak. I guess what I am trying to say this morning is that there are a lot of reasons why we become emotionally fragile in our lives. I have come to realize that very few people live a “charmed life.” Most of us experience heartbreak, disappointment, pain and suffering at one time or the other in our life time. Those experiences can make us or break us. We can learn from those experiences and own them or they will own us.

It wasn’t until I found my way to a 12 Step recovery program that it ever occurred to me to be an overcomer. Until then I had been resigned to be inferior to everyone else walking the planet. The acceptance, understanding and peace and happiness that I now enjoy is why I have such a love affair with my recovery programs. I know there are other ways, but the hope that I needed came through the 12 Steps. Each step helped me to peel back a layer of doubt, fear and insecurity. This blog is a “12” Step for me. The transparency I try to communicate on this blog is my way of carrying the message to others and practicing these principles in all my affairs. I want the walking wounded out there to know that they are not alone and that there is hope.

Time did not heal my wounds

The ingeniousness of the 12 Steps is mind blowing to me. Life is complicated. There is no way that I could have ever been able to navigate through the fragmented pieces of my life and come out whole without the help of the 12 Steps and my recovery programs. The 12 Steps are in a specific order for a specific reason – maximum results. I am not saying that there are not other alternatives to find healing and recovery because there are. But since this is my blog I am just sharing what worked for me.

I kept waiting for something or someone to saved me so that I would feel whole. But as long as I waited nothing changed. There is a saying that time heals our wounds and I am here to tell you, in my case, that was a lie. As long as I walked around wounded and miserable I stayed wounded and miserable. My resentments grew and I was hurt and angry. All of these emotions became distorted over time because I nursed and fed my hurts. My negative feelings grew to epic proportions.

The poison from those negative feelings spread over into how I felt about myself and how I looked at life. Trust was out the window. No way could I ever trust anyone to say or do what they told me they were going to do. And when they did follow through, I kept looking for an ulterior motive. I could never trust the real me to anyone so I “dressed the part” of how I wanted others to see me or how I thought they wanted to see me. But no matter who I pretended to be on the outside on the inside I was still fighting my demons of insecurity and self-doubt on the inside.

Over time ignoring or pretending that I was not hurt, pretending that I was not disappointed, pretending that I was not angry and resentful did not make the pain or the vandalism to my self-confidence and self-esteem go away. Time did not heal my wounds because I was only masking the hurts and disappointments in my life. And because my wounds were not healing I would either shut down and not allow anyone to get close to me, or I would gravitate towards the same type of unhealthy people. You see, I had done nothing to change me over time.

My sponsor helped me to see that healing the brokenness inside me was the only way that I was going to stop the depressing loneliness and the revolving door of unhealthy relationships. In order for me to do that, it was necessary for me to write down, in black and white, a fearless moral inventory of my relationships and events in my life; in other words a 4th Step – a fearless moral inventory. Even then I struggled with understanding where I was going wrong. I could not be objective. I felt raw when it was completed.

Thank God the steps did not stop at the 4th Step. It was in the 5th Step, “Admitting to God, to myself and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs,” that it all started to make sense. “Admitting to God” – If I had not taken the 3rd Step of turning my will and my life over to the care of God I would have been afraid of the 5th Step. You see, before I took that 3rd Step I saw God as a punishing God just waiting to catch me in a wrong. I could not take that third step until I knew that I could trust that God only wanted the best for me. I knew that God was not out to harm me or to make me feel bad. I knew that He would not use my hurts to make feel bad; but, He would use my hurts to help me rise above them.

When I chose my sponsor I chose her through the eyes of the 3rd Step. I looked for someone that had the peace and serenity that I wanted. I trusted this woman to be God’s voice to help me evaluate my inventory objectively – almost clinically. It was through this process that I begin to understand the source of my wounds, how they happened and how they affected me. Talking it over with my sponsor was like taking the scab off and flushing out the poison so that real healing could begin. But understanding the wounds, understanding how and why I thought and felt the things that I did was not enough. I had to progress through the remaining steps to find that peace I was looking for. Like I said the 12 Steps are in a specific order for a reason. Each step prepared me for the next step.

I can focus on the problem or I can focus on the solution.

My recovery journey has made me look at myself and my motives more than I wanted too and more than what was comfortable some times. My emotions have been all over the place and have been bewildering. Their has been times when I have been needy and suffocating to those around me. Other times I stiff armed people and kept them at arms length so that I would not be vulnerable. But regardless of how I treated or acted towards other people, on the inside I was always afraid of not being good enough and of being rejected.

Poor poor me. I was not blessed with a loving healthy childhood; and I married an alcoholic when I was only 18 years old. Basically I was jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. In reality I was running away from home. Emotionally I was broken. I was needy, fearful, angry and defeated for a long time. I was, and still am to a degree, a people pleaser; I have sacrificed my needs for someone else’s wants. I have tried to squelch the real me and become someone I didn’t even recognize desperately tying to be accepted. I have even been overbearing trying to prove to someone else that I have my act together, when inside I felt insecure. I have “acted” confident and strong while inside I did not even feel average. I was a sham; a counterfeit. So much so that I did not even know who the real me was anymore.

The funny thing is that all of my grand performances did not fool anybody. They could see right through me. They knew I was a fraud, I knew I was a fraud and I knew that they knew. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself. You would think that I would quit the role playing but I couldn’t. I would rather be a fraud than for them to see the real hurt and insecurities inside of me.

Fourth and fifth step inventories have provided great insight into why I do the things I do and feel the things I feel. I have learned that understanding “why” is not enough to make the hurt, insecurities and pain go away. For me it takes all 12 Steps to deal with my reality.

For example, probably one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced is to like and accept myself when someone else rejects me. My knee jerk reaction is that there is something wrong with me. It is my fault. That I am not likable or lovable. This self debasement has built layers of protection around my heart. As a consequence I let very few people into the real me. For me it was much less painful to be aloof and lonely than it was to be rejected.

These steps and this program has pushed me to evaluate those types of situations and to see if there is anything in that rejection that I needed to make an amend for? If I needed to make amend, then I needed to make an amend in order for me to know peace. BUT!!!! If there was nothing that I needed to make an amend for then it had to be their problem. Did the rejection hurt? Of course it did. But the difference before and after recovery is that I do not stay hurt for long and I do not take on responsibility for other people’s inadequacies. I have a choice to forgive them and let the slight go or I can continue to hurt myself and hang onto the hurt.

This amazing program constantly pushes me to know the truth, to take responsibility for my own “stuff,” and to make right, where possible, without hurting others and it has taught me about forgive. The choices always put the ball in my court. I can focus and the problem or I can focus on the solution.

Sheer will power could not save me from the pain that I was in

It is interesting to me how “working” through the 12 Steps has transformed how I think. It was impossible for me to “work” the steps and not be transformed. My first husband is the reason that I attended my first meeting. When I married my second, and now present, husband he asked me why I still wanted to go to meetings. I told him that everything he loved, liked and respected about me was a direct result of “working” those 12 Steps and going to those meetings. He did not even blink. He just smiled and said okay.

My family history and my relationships with dysfunctional people were, and still are at times, challenging at best. I am the only one in my birth family that has experienced any type of recovery. Any time I am around my birth family I am pushed to the limit to “work my program.” I have learned that in order for me to have even a shred of a possibility of having a relationship with my birth family, I have had to be selfish enough to protect my serenity and my sanity by not allowing myself to get sucked into their drama and chaos. Being with them also shows me how much I have grown and changed and it gives me an attitude of gratitude toward my alcoholic first husband. Without him I would never have gone to a meeting to begin with.

It is sad to say, but when I am with my birth family or other type of dysfunctional person I have to be vigilant at all times to prevent myself from getting sucked into their drama and to prevent myself from defending or justifying my way of life to them. I learned a long time ago they do not want what I have and therefore it is fruitless to offer. They think I am in some kind of cult. That I am a fanatic. I don’t even try to defend my recovery program to them. They are still angry, biter and miserable. They still see the glass as half empty. They are still burdened down with overwhelming emotional pain. They still paint everything in their everyday life with the hurt from their past.

For me, sheer will power could not save me from the pain that I was in. I could not dismiss my past hurts, nor could I disconnect myself from those hurts without shutting myself off from life. I could dress and act the part of being whole, competent and confident, but no matter what I looked like or sounded like on the outside, on the inside I was still fighting my personal demons. It was not possible to rewrite the past, so in order for me to be free of past hurts I had to face those hurts head on.

Lancing those wounds exposed the distorted way that I saw life. For the first time I could see how, at times, I had placed impossible expectations on people in my life. No one could be that perfect. At other times I was in complete denial over grievous transgressions from others in my life. Without  God’s help and my 12 Steps I would not have known how to separate what was useful and what was worthless; or what was real from what was a hope or dream that was unrealistic. I would never have been able to step back and be honest with myself enough to see the part I played in my own misery. Without these steps I would have focused on all of my character defects and ignored my good qualities. They also helped me to set boundaries, forgive and make amends.

That is only a small sample of how these steps have helped to transform my life in a good way. I am not asking anyone else to drink the cook-aid that has tasted so good to me. It is there, free of charge, for anyone that wants it.

It takes time and practice to retrain a life time of negative self talk

One of the effects of growing up in a dysfunctional home was being stripped of self-confidence and self-esteem. I was a needy glass half empty kind of person. Emotionally I was all over the place. Harshly criticized for every nit-picky thing I constantly walked on egg shells trying to avoid repercussions and to keep the peace at any price to myself.

I got married and left home at 18. I was running away from the dysfunction and the hurts of my childhood. Immature and naive, I thought all my insecurities and hurts were going to go away because I was finally going to be special and important to someone. I thought that they were going to make me feel loved and confident. I thought that they were going to fill in all of the broken places in my life and make me feel whole.

Unfortunately, even on his best behavior, my husband was not the panacea for the hurt inside of me. First of all he was an alcoholic. His focus in life was alcohol not little ole me. He was just as powerless to help me feel whole as I was powerless over his drinking. We were the blind leading the blind.

Looking for him to make me feel whole put a lot of pressure on him. When I heaped all of my emotional needs and insecurities on his shoulders, I set both of us up to fail. Even if he had not been an alcoholic he still could not have filled that hurt inside of me. He could not rewrite the past and make it better. He could not promise me that I would never be hurt again. He could not have reassured me or complimented me enough for me to believe it.

Just like I could not help him find sobriety and freedom from alcohol, he could not help me find emotional sobriety, self-esteem and self-confidence either. As strange as this may sound it was his alcoholism that became the catalyst that pushed me into doing whatever I needed to do to take charge of my life and my happiness.

It was through the 4th and 5th Steps that I began to identify self-destructive patterns in how I related to people; I was needy, desperate, and willing to sacrifice my needs for someone else’s wants. I could see it. I just did not seem to have the power to stop myself from getting involved in those types of relationships over and over again. Fortunately for me there are 12 Steps so I just kept moving forward through the Steps. My sponsor told me that they were in a specific order for a reason and she wanted me to follow the 12 Step format. So I did.

Another thing that came out of those steps was identifying positive qualities about myself. Funny thing! Before I worked steps 4 and 5 I had been so focused on the negative I totally ignored anything good or positive about myself. It is not that I did not have any good qualities, I had them all right, I was just so focused on what I thought was negative about me that I never gave my good qualities an opportunity to surface.

It takes time to retrain a life time of negative self talk. With practice, one baby step at a time, I have learned how to love and respect myself. Every once in a while stinking thinking will pop in my head and challenge the progress that I have made. As soon as my mind gets out into the weeds I call someone in my program and talk it through. At this stage of my life I am not willing to waste a lot of time with backward thinking. My sponsor helps me to see through the deceit of my stinking thing. I am living proof that this program works if you work it.