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Avoidance/Perfection Issues and Recovery

Old 09-16-2015, 07:47 AM
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Avoidance/Perfection Issues and Recovery

My running group decided to up our mileage by a mile this morning from earlier in the week-- frankly much longer than Ive run (alone) in a long time and I was worried sick I would not be able to keep up and almost bailed on the running group today because of it-- Doesn't sound like a lot and in reality, it isn't...

But one thing I am noticing about myself as Im trying to be more in tune with my choices and feelings and actions etc... is this:

1. I am avoidant to an almost unhealthy degree when I fear I may embarass myself, not do well at something or look "stupid".

2. I do it at work (HATE being the new person at a job because I dont have it all figured out yet and I hate not pleasing everyone and worry almost obsessively that Im going to disappoint/upset someone and half the time it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy)

3. I turn small things into a large deal in my own mind and create unnecessary panic and anxiety for myself because of it. For example, this running a longer distance thing kept me up late last night with worry.

I see my older daughter being JUST like me and I want to cry.

Do others of you find that you're like this?

Is this a byproduct of living with the craziness of alcoholism? My xAH is also a narcissist and was abusive and I grew up in a very abusive home too.

Just when I feel Im starting to figure myself out and get some pieces together I feel like I recognize more stuff that is dysfunctional at best and frankly has the capacity to derail me personally and professionally too...

I feel like I live most of my life with most people who know me, presenting as if Im confident and put together and inside I am panicked most of the time.

I try hard to not bail on things because of this anxiety but sometimes I do and the fact that I even think about it is concerning to me....

I wonder if this is anything others of you have experienced too...
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Old 09-16-2015, 07:58 AM
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Yeah, I tend to be that way, too. A LOT. As much as I'd love to say I don't care what people think of me, I do, especially in the context of doing new things--and especially with stuff related to my job. If you read my thread about stressing over my trip to Morocco (leaving in just over THREE DAYS), you'll see what I'm talking about. I can get paralyzed over decisions that really DON'T MATTER that much--fear of making the wrong decision, doing the wrong thing can really hang me up.

I didn't have pressure on me to be perfect growing up, and I don't think it has anything to do with my relationships with alcoholics. It MIGHT, however, have something to do with WHY I became an alcoholic. Drinking numbed down the anxiety.

Now, I still experience the anxiety but I've learned to cope with it for the most part--at least to the point where I don't have to numb it. It does make me procrastinate, though.

Hey, none of us is perfect. I think almost everyone has some personality traits they'd be better off without.
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Old 09-16-2015, 08:03 AM
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I definitely used to be like that -- growing up with a mother who would criticize your every move if it wasn't "perfect" will do that to you. After many years of therapy I don't hear that voice anymore. I do the best I can. When I make mistakes, I focus on correcting them and learning from them rather than letting myself get embroiled in the shame cycle of self-blame and flagellation.

But I think it's interesting that in my non-day-job life as a stage actor, I never let my fear of embarrassment or being less-than undermine me in any way. The show must go on and all that. I'd like to think getting into theatre primed me for the work I have had to do in recovery from being an Adult Child of an Alcoholic.
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Old 09-16-2015, 08:15 AM
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Yep - I have it pretty bad. I've always been that way though - I don't think it has anything to do with me living with alcoholism. We were raised by amazing people - that made the world, their relationship, their finances, and our family as a whole LOOK completely perfect. Us kids had to act perfectly - or else. Haha i'm 38 and it's still a shock to me that they aren't superhuman like I thought.

And here I was - doing the exact same thing, but in an alcoholic household! I think I have shaved years off my life by work and worry to make it all look so pretty.

We're all getting better - baby steps!
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Old 09-16-2015, 09:13 AM
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As soon as I saw the title of your post, I knew I would see myself in it.

I am sober for 258 days and live with my AH and I am exactly as you describe yourself. I grew up in a very dysfunctional atmosphere (father a hoarder, mom very depressed) but no expectation of perfect performance coming from either parent.

I have been trying really hard to let go of the idea of perfectionism for myself but have miles to go before I will be able to let go of the need to present myself "perfectly" to the world.

This need to present perfectly has caused me to miss out on a lot of living. If I don't feel confident in my ability to perform perfectly I won't try at all. If I don't try, I don't fail. It is a terrible way to live.

Maybe it has something to do with trying to keep my broken, worthless self safely hidden.

hugs for all of us
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Old 09-16-2015, 09:29 AM
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hmmmm, it's a wonder (and I have said this quite honestly) i never abused alcohol or even really drank...

i feel like it would be easy for me to ease this angst/anxiety with self medication, but evidently part of my perfectionistic streak makes me neurotic about ever losing control so i never found drinking appealing...

i suppose that i should count my blessings in that regard...

my maternal and paternal grandparents all had siblings who died of alcohol related ailments... my own family (grandparents and parents) were very much raised with alcoholic mindsets but they themselves never drank-- however their behaviors were still quite "alcoholic/dysfunctional etc..."

i have to tell you all that it actually helps knowing im not alone in this issue-- it feels like a shameful secret that i carry to not let this stuff get to me and to have these insecurities... somehow knowing im not the only one, lessens its grip on me a bit...
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Old 09-16-2015, 09:41 AM
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Ill go find your thread on Morocco! Im simultaneously envious that you're going somewhere cool AND glad it's not me who has to go do something new because as much as I would philosophically like a cool adventure, I am MUCH more comfortable in yoga pants on my own couch... lol

While I never have had substance abuse issues, I have battled addiction issues relative to eating issues for most of my life (ie: controlling anxiety by not eating and judging my merit on my external appearance which easily fools people into thinking I am the oh so put together woman that I most definitely am NOT!)

In any event, it's really interesting to hear from others, particuarly you Lexie, someone who I so respect and enjoy and have learned SO much from, that this is an issue that a lot of us struggle with...

I can be my own worst enemy... Worrying about possibly failing all but paralyzes me at least once a day over something...

Originally Posted by LexieCat View Post
Yeah, I tend to be that way, too. A LOT. As much as I'd love to say I don't care what people think of me, I do, especially in the context of doing new things--and especially with stuff related to my job. If you read my thread about stressing over my trip to Morocco (leaving in just over THREE DAYS), you'll see what I'm talking about. I can get paralyzed over decisions that really DON'T MATTER that much--fear of making the wrong decision, doing the wrong thing can really hang me up.

I didn't have pressure on me to be perfect growing up, and I don't think it has anything to do with my relationships with alcoholics. It MIGHT, however, have something to do with WHY I became an alcoholic. Drinking numbed down the anxiety.

Now, I still experience the anxiety but I've learned to cope with it for the most part--at least to the point where I don't have to numb it. It does make me procrastinate, though.

Hey, none of us is perfect. I think almost everyone has some personality traits they'd be better off without.
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Old 09-16-2015, 10:34 AM
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Oh god yes, I used to be exactly like that. DD & I JUST talked about this on the way to school this morning. Where she doesn't clamor for the spotlight she has zero problems stepping into it. She's pursuing it slowly, baby-stepping into chorus & theater now that she's feeling academically strong. At that age, I would've preferred to crawl into a hole in the fetal position & play possum. The anxiety over having to perform in any way would paralyze me for weeks ahead of time.

I know it has to relate to my ACoA parts because it's been around since so early in my life. I was not at all comfortable rocking the boat or drawing attention to myself unnecessarily. Having to work with assigned partners or participate in public speaking exercises in school was insanely stressful, even manifesting physically at times. I couldn't ever get comfortable because I didn't have a touch point for normal for *me* like that - I went through life {at those ages} feeling like I was walking on eggshells one minute & a high wire the next. The safety net came & went, morphing constantly.

It is 180 degrees different for me now. I just am so much more in touch with myself & have an acceptance of the fact that I WILL make mistakes in life. As long as I do my best to prepare, support, take accountability, "do better when I know better", etc then Let It Go, Move On.

Dealing with people? They're JUST PEOPLE. At this point in life I've dealt in relationships of all kinds with people from ALL OVER the map in every way & at the end of the day, people are people. No better or worse than myself, no higher or lower in value. We create our own value in the intangible, immeasurable ways of our own moral behavior. The closer I get to knowing & liking & loving myself, the less I care about what other people think & more willing I am to step into that spotlight. Now, I rely on this in my daily working life. I interact with people on all sides of the socio-economic spectrum in my job - networking, marketing, client & prospecting meetings, professional alliances, team-building exercises at conferences with absolute strangers. Bring it on. I am comfortable in my own skin, even when I'm nervous - like before a BIG presentation.

I have 2 go-to thoughts that I conjure when my nerves are in the Driver's Seat:

1st is the voice of my BFF from when we were so very much younger & I was intrepid about putting myself out there saying, "What are they gonna do?..... Take away your birthday???" I laughed so hard the 1st time she said that to me that it lodged in my brain, I think. It reminds me of the ridiculousness of being nervous in those situations AND how fleeting the moment really is - I spend far more time being anxious before & after than during the Event Itself.

The other is something I picked up from DD's drama coach when she was 6 - he reminded them that nerves are GOOD. Nerves are NORMAL before every performance. It was FEAR that wasn't ok. He told them to close their eyes & do a "gut check" & ask themselves, "Am I nervous or scared?"
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:05 AM
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I LOVE all that you said FireSprite!

Thank you!

My two daughters are like night and day in many ways, but sadly, they each seem to have developed my uber perfectionistic tendencies (their dad thought he was the worlds brightest, most talented man to ever walk the earth and was unrelenting in his "coaching" of them when they were younger and "helping" them with academics...

I have to believe that crap didn't help but I also know that the girls watch me closely and have learned some not so great stuff from me too...

I was thinking about this to I lay in bed much earlier this morning, seriously contemplating just bailing on the running group bc of nerves... I ultimately got up, went, and was fine... And I decided that success for me today was going to be making myself get up and go and at least try. And I thought to myself, "you know WTBH you tell your kids to at least be willing to try and maybe you need to hold yourself to the same standard"...

Work in progress I guess, right?
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:14 AM
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Yeah--I try, myself, to push out of the comfort zone. That's part of what this trip is about. It's also what I was doing when I took the motorcycle class last year. That didn't turn out so well--I was one of a couple of people in the class that flunked. I don't like failure--AT ALL--but at least I tried it. I even got back on after laying down the bike. I'm just not a terribly coordinated person and a poor candidate for something that could get me killed if I did it wrong. Still, I tried.

And the silly thing, too, is that even though I'm usually glad I did something, even if it didn't turn out perfectly, it still quite often holds me back from getting moving. I think it's just a way of thinking that becomes habitual. In my case, anyway.
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:18 AM
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FWIW - I watch my boss just dissolve into self-induced busy work because she turns every molehill into a mountain. A few weeks ago we had a plumbing issue at the office that she spent 3+ hours on the phone trying to solve via the construction crew next door & the city's various depts. for sewer/water/irrigation. She was SURE this was the fault of whomever had been working outside close to our property the week before. All this before the plumber shows up & spends 10 mins determining it to be solely our problem, a common blockage. Service completed in about an hour. Or, a third of the time she spent running in circles & ignoring the HUGE pile of work she's been verbally stressing over for weeks. She spends far more time on creating processes than DOING them, more time planning than doing, more holding & waiting for the "right moment".... than LIVING in it because now IS the right moment.

She has a completely dysfunctional family, but no addiction that I can see in any way. But emotional neglect, awful communication, lack of any bonding, etc? Yes. She is like a screaming, red, flag for codependent behaviors in more ways than I can list here.

You know, sometimes a hidden blessing in all of this is how DD reflects my recovery back on me. When I see her act a certain way or use a tone or judgment that I KNOW she learned from me it's a wake-up call to change myself. I have to stay humble enough to see it & accept it & own my mistakes, but when I can manage that it brings me to amazing growth points. As I correct her behavior I have to verbalize that, "I know you learned this from me, but I'm going to change that behavior too because it's not right for these reasons ____..."

I am, in essence, re-living much of my childhood alongside (not through!) DD. As she hits milestones, I reparent my hurt, inner child through it emotionally too.
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:24 AM
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Yeah, that would be me. Spending more time on planning the fix than doing.

And it doesn't, as you've noted, bring about appreciably better results. I sometimes do wing it with VERY little preparation (often the result of procrastination), but if I get an early start I worry every detail to death. Waiting till the last minute brings its own stress, but sometimes it feels better than doing the endless PROCESSING.

What we are talking about right now is the primary thing I would like to change in my life. So far I haven't had a lot of success with it.
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:50 AM
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I'm sure it's different for everyone. I scratch my head watching her only because I see how all her over-prepping fails her over & over & over. She never allows for the uncontrollable, never expects something unpredictable to happen.... HOWEVER she speaks as though she does. If it actually worked for her, I could see why it would be a hard habit to break.

And that procrastination thing - oh yes. She pushes deadlines past reasonable (despite all the careful attention paid to the plumbing, {eyeroll} then rushes to turn chicken crap into chicken salad (to paraphrase one of RAH's favorite sayings, ha!) & comforts herself later when it wasn't done to her expectations, by reminding herself that she was victimized by the loss of time due to the plumbing repairs. What?

I spent the first 3 yrs learning that if I prepare too early ahead of her "real" timeline, I'll re-do the stuff 3x before we get to the actual moment of necessity. If I let her know that there are 50 different shades of green to choose from for a marketing piece, I'll pull my hair out for 3 days while she decides. If I narrow it down to the top 5 that I KNOW she'll like? She'll find one that she loves inside of 15 minutes. And if later she finds that I eliminated 45? She'll spend time reviewing them all & still settle on the one she originally picked. BTDT, learned that lesson. It's gotten better because she's built trust in my decisions after going through that process so many times, thank god.

For her I know it comes down to vulnerability (I've told her so) and blame. Even when it's not angry blame, she has to know where to put it. Fault must be assigned before she can move forward (& she'll do so happily in most cases, she's not a purposely negative person). I told her I'm buying her Brene's books for Christmas because she loves that kind of reading to begin with & this is a perfect add-on to her collection.
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Old 09-16-2015, 11:56 AM
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The waiting until the last minute is my big thing too and in part it's because when I start things well in advance, I obsess to a debilitating degree over every bit of minutae and get NOTHING done...

I am so insecure I guess, in my own ability, that I work myself into a near frenzy in anticipation of things...

And I so see myself in my kids and use it as a major reminder of what I need to work on in my own recovery-- that's so true of me too...

It's amazing how much Im reading what feels like my own words in both your posts Lexie and Firesprite!
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Old 09-16-2015, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by wanttobehealthy View Post
Do others of you find that you're like this?

Is this a byproduct of living with the craziness of alcoholism?
Yes to the first part, and no to the 2nd, at least in my case. There was no alcoholism in my FOO. I mean, well, my mom's mother was an alcoholic, but died when Mom was still very young. And then her father passed away from cancer and Mom was raised in a children's home. Mom definitely has some strong co-dependent traits, though. IDK... My FOO was pretty "normal", no alcoholism or addictions, no narcissism, no intense pressure to be perfect from my parents. (The desire to be perfect was all me.)

I know I've pretty much always been this way. I really, really feel like I have to get it right before any one sees. The first few months at a new job are an anxiety-riddled nightmare for me, even if I love the new environment and the new responsibilities. I screen calls - both personal and work, because it's easier and less anxiety inducing to know what they're calling about before we talk. I'm lucky that my current boss understands that I'd like to gather my thoughts or do some research before I talk with them and doesn't mind that I call them back a bit later the same morning/afternoon. My last boss didn't.

While I was with AXH, and we'd have to go to events for his friends, it was 100 times worse. Because, not only would I have my little voice whispering what-ifs, but I had AXH being critical and then asking WHY the heck I was so nervous, what was my PROBLEM? Even if he was supportive before the event, I often got ridiculed after the fact. So if he said we were going, we were going and I had to hide my nervousness.

I think now I've gone the opposite way and have a tendency to indulge that desire to avoid stuff. In some respects, it's freeing, being able to. But there are times that I really just have to do it. And I'm trying to avoid less. But I get the chance to make that decision. And this:

Originally Posted by wanttobehealthy View Post
I see my older daughter being JUST like me and I want to cry.
Is part of the reason I'm trying to move past my tendency to avoid and practice in private. Because I see it in DS, too. If he doesn't see me learning and making mistakes, and that it's OK to make mistakes, how is he going to know that it's OK? And with him, I think that it is in part my example, because he doesn't have the same type of personality that I have, little social center of the class that he is. Or maybe it's a combination of my example and his early life with me and AXH.
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Old 09-16-2015, 12:55 PM
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I love these!
Originally Posted by FireSprite View Post
I have 2 go-to thoughts that I conjure when my nerves are in the Driver's Seat:

1st is the voice of my BFF from when we were so very much younger & I was intrepid about putting myself out there saying, "What are they gonna do?..... Take away your birthday???" [...]

The other is something I picked up from DD's drama coach when she was 6 - he reminded them that nerves are GOOD. Nerves are NORMAL before every performance. It was FEAR that wasn't ok. He told them to close their eyes & do a "gut check" & ask themselves, "Am I nervous or scared?"
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Old 09-16-2015, 01:41 PM
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It's hard to know how much are inherent personality traits & how much is a response to Life, isn't it?

At 2 my niece barely spoke. As she got older & it became more obvious we paid more attention. One day I overheard her playing alone & reciting her abc's & chatting away very, very quietly. When she started talking she was all words one day & full sentences the next. She'd been secretly practicing & went from being the kid that never spoke to the kid that spoke well, practically overnight. She's always been careful, methodical. Her father is an alcoholic, she deals with abandonment issues, and at that age she'd been exposed to a lot of hidden fighting & abusive talk by him toward my sister... but there's no way I could connect the 2 in cause/effect. That would be insanely presumptuous.

I know that the fear part for me came down to separating what was legitimate fear/worthy of the stress & what wasn't worth getting worked up over. I guess I never really learned the difference as a kid & after so many years of everything signaling a full-fledged response, it was just habit to over-stress every little event. Or non-event, as it were. So, Lexie's example of travelling to a foreign country for the 1st time would definitely be worthy of stress for me & it would be hard to stop that from becoming compulsive overthinking in terms of safety, language, access to finances in emergencies. But it would be easier to let go the 2nd & 3rd times & a no-brainer the 4th. (in my rich, alter-life I guess, ha!)

Another wise thought that keeps me moving forward when I start to let fear creep in is, "The answer is always No when a question is never asked."... which I also equate to my choices/actions (not just words) in terms of my universal path. The door is always closed when I refuse to turn the knob to see if it's locked. I will always fail if I never find the guts to try. And since I have honestly learned something from every little failure, what's really at stake in most cases?
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Old 09-16-2015, 04:05 PM
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I very much relate to the behavior you originally posted about.

For me it has little to do with being in a relationship with a problem drinker. For me it was in place at an early age and contributed to my eating concerns.

I did not get a lot of external pressure in my home to be perfect. I did try to the extreme (and still do) to be the "good girl." I internalized all the "swirly" stuff of my childhood, yelling, stuff between my dad/brother etc as "my fault." No addiction in my childhood, but a lot of codependency and addictions in both sets of grandparents I think. I also have always done a lot of observing from the outside before I jump in and do something.

I have since come to realize that this is a pretty normal belief system for kids....it is part magical thinking and part reality. I was desperately trying to stay safe in my family and make sure they cared for me, and I also deeply believed if I was a good girl then I would make them happy. I took those beliefs and those behaviors into my marriage with me. Surprisingly my husband in part due to drinking was emotionaly unavailable in a similar way to my family....so I got to act out those behaviors again.

Heck I think I got into the relationship so I could heal those childhood beliefs.

As an adult that good girl belief still exists, and I am just starting to realize that the belief that "it is all my fault," is deep down and is hindering my joy potential significantly. I don't think it is all my fault anymore, but my childhood beliefs are not always rational and continue to contribute to my life. Therapy, meditation, body work etc has all helped me to let go of some of this (in addition to time).

Great post.
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Old 09-17-2015, 09:22 AM
  # 19 (permalink)  
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Wow, that part that I bolded of yours LifeRecovery is HUGE to me... I had a therapist once who told me that we typically, consciously or not, often recreate the dynamic of unresolved stuff from our past in hopes of fixing it the next time around. It's little wonder I married someone with qualities of both my parents-- the not good qualities-- and somehow thought I would fix in him what they didn't do right...

Ive gotten so much from everyone's posts on this thread-- thank you so much... This is hard to think about and observe in myself but all the talking and thinking about this has opened my eyes to some stuff that I need to pay more attention to in me...


Originally Posted by LifeRecovery View Post
Want to be-

I very much relate to the behavior you originally posted about.

For me it has little to do with being in a relationship with a problem drinker. For me it was in place at an early age and contributed to my eating concerns.

I did not get a lot of external pressure in my home to be perfect. I did try to the extreme (and still do) to be the "good girl." I internalized all the "swirly" stuff of my childhood, yelling, stuff between my dad/brother etc as "my fault." No addiction in my childhood, but a lot of codependency and addictions in both sets of grandparents I think. I also have always done a lot of observing from the outside before I jump in and do something.

I have since come to realize that this is a pretty normal belief system for kids....it is part magical thinking and part reality. I was desperately trying to stay safe in my family and make sure they cared for me, and I also deeply believed if I was a good girl then I would make them happy. I took those beliefs and those behaviors into my marriage with me. Surprisingly my husband in part due to drinking was emotionaly unavailable in a similar way to my family....so I got to act out those behaviors again.

Heck I think I got into the relationship so I could heal those childhood beliefs.

As an adult that good girl belief still exists, and I am just starting to realize that the belief that "it is all my fault," is deep down and is hindering my joy potential significantly. I don't think it is all my fault anymore, but my childhood beliefs are not always rational and continue to contribute to my life. Therapy, meditation, body work etc has all helped me to let go of some of this (in addition to time).

Great post.
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Old 09-17-2015, 10:05 AM
  # 20 (permalink)  
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Is this a byproduct of living with the craziness of alcoholism?
No, I'm sure if you look back it was there before the relationship. But perfectionism is common among codependents. That's why taking the first step -- "I am powerless over people, places and things" -- can be so difficult.
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