I was so determined to fill a void I had inside me with love from others
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Before CODA, my life was unmanageable. I was completely absorbed with my personal relationships. I was focused solely on how to protect myself -- stressing constantly about what I thought others thought of me, how they were acting towards me, and how I could control my surroundings by controlling them. I could not see many underlying old beliefs I had that were not serving me or others. Beliefs like “compromise is what makes relationships work” and “the emotions of others are my responsibility.” And even the old beliefs I could see after trying years of therapy like “your dad didn’t love you enough to stay” and “if your partner leaves your life will be less valuable,” I still could not control. What I thought was emotional empathy and good communication skills, was really an obsession with understanding and controlling the actions and motivations of others. That meant that when I failed at this impossible aspiration, and someone did something I didn’t like, I spiraled -- not eating, not sleeping, and using all the brain space I could be using to contribute, grow and live my own life, to focus on others. My life was very small, and I was miserable.
My lowest point came when I had the idea to open my relationship with a long-term partner because “not all of my needs were being met.” I was so determined to fill a void I had inside me with love from others, that I threw myself and a lot of people I cared about into emotional turmoil. It took a traumatic ending of that relationship and immediately rushing into another relationship that at once started to struggle, to make me surrender to the truth that no matter how hard I try -- I am powerless over my compulsion to seek love and relationships to make me feel the internal safety and serenity I so deeply crave. It took me hitting my bottom to realize that something on the outside can never fix something on the inside. In a leap of faith, I attended my first CODA meeting.
Things really changed for me when I found this primary purpose meeting and worked the 12 steps out of the Big Book of AA with a sponsor. My entire outlook on life and relationships changed. Relationships of any kind no longer play the role of security-provider or guide in my life. Instead, I live my own life through connection with an inner resource that has changed my thinking and behavior in a way no human solution could.
For example, my parent and sibling recently had an argument that ended in estrangement. Growing up it was always the 3 of us, looking out for each other in the midst of divorce and illness. I learned early on that it was my responsibility to take care of them. That evening I had a moment of reflection that the me who lives in my compulsion would have been so anxious at an argument that was not my own. That anxiety would have propelled me into putting my own life on hold – focusing on them and how I could manage their relationship instead of my own life and decisions. Treatment I would have expected in return if the roles were reversed. After that moment of reflection, the me that lives in recovery told both of them that I loved them but was unavailable to participate in their argument. I went to a meeting, called a friend to ask them about their life, ate dinner, and slept soundly. I no longer have to live in my compulsion, through no will of my own, but instead through an opportunity to live a way of life gifted to me by the 12 steps. Even though my response caused tension in my relationships, I was grateful for the opportunity to practice real love -- the kind that is honest and contributes the unique perspective only I can bring to my life, and that does not abandon me in the same way I tried so hard to prevent others from doing. Through showing up in this new way, my relationships are changing, creating space for a new and healthier way of life.
And the best part is, I get to recommit myself to this new way of life every day. Every time I falter, become disconnected from my inner resource, or find myself living in old patterns, I have an action program I can turn to -- being of service to others and contributing to life what I was previously hiding out of fear. Little things like a dissenting opinion at a meeting for fear of hurting someone’s feelings all the way up to big things like where I want to live and if I want kids for fear of not aligning with my partner. CODA has completely changed my life. I am grateful, excited, and invigorated to live every day in connection with my higher power.
“Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently live in a new and wonderful world, no matter what your present circumstances.”
(Big Book of AA, page 100).