If you’re an 80s music fan, you probably remember Robert Palmer’s song, “Addicted to Love.” The lyrics ring true for those who, like me, have put far too much weight on needing someone else’s love to feel happy. After all, addiction is a deep craving and the craving for love can be just as strong as the craving for alcohol or heroin. Yes, we’d like to think we’re immune to this stuff, but we might as well face it—we’re addicted to love.
My name is Dominica and I’m a recovering codependent.
What is a codependent, you ask? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a psychological condition in which someone is in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship that involves living with and providing care for another person (such as a drug addict or an alcoholic).” In other words, it’s someone who looks toward others for self-worth due to a lack of self-love. Codependency involves people pleasing, being a door mat, lacking self-care skills, lacking boundaries, worrying, manipulating in order to get love, crashing when love or attention is withheld, and so much more.
Before I was in my relationship, I had no idea what codependency was. It didn’t take long for me to figure it out though when it eventually knocked me over and I had to frantically search for fragments of my heart splattered on the ground. We must have liked doing the toxic tango because we danced for over five years, all the while knowing what we had were clearly called “issues.”
There’s a saying in recovery groups that goes, “When the pain gets great enough, you’ll do something different.” If that’s the case, I should get a prize for my pain tolerance because I suffered way longer than necessary. For over three and a half decades, I was slopping mud over my heart, so much so that I could barely feel the vitality of such a vivacious organ anymore. Unsurprisingly, all of my time spent stuffing negative emotions, being confused about a crappy childhood, running from old wounds, and wearing the “I’m fine and dandy” mask did not serve me well.
See, what I really was in this relationship was miserable. I didn’t want to be in it, but I was so insecure that I just couldn’t leave. However, one day, I just snapped. I suddenly lost it, both mentally and emotionally.
When this happened, I went to a friend and told her about my breakdown, wanting to find some sort of consolation or something to give me hope. She knew about my misery for a while and that I needed to be out of the relationship. So, instead of feeding me sweet nothings, she turned to me and said, “Good. It’s about time. Now embrace your breakdown with all you have!”
“What?! Embrace it?” I remember thinking to myself, “Actually feel all the emotions surfacing from every nook and cranny of my soul?” I couldn’t comprehend how this would make things better at all, and not spin me out of control. Why would I want to feel the weight of my dark emotional world for even one more minute?
It was then that I had my “aha” moment. The proverbial light bulb turned on and I realized right then and there that by embracing the whole motherload, I would finally be embracing my truth. That is, the truth of who I was, what I wanted and what I needed. My friend’s words reminded me of all the pieces of wisdom that I heard over the years, but now it finally downloaded into my heart.
Resistance is sometimes like swimming upstream. It’s tough, and you think you’re going with the flow, but you’re not. Give yourself permission to stop. Let go and flow downstream with ease. And so I did. I stopped resisting; I let go of all control; I opened the prison bars and crawled outside to take a peek at reality. I let the cool waters of truth wash me down the stream, trusting that I’d be alright.
Deep down in my heart I knew what I had to do all along. The pain that I continued to feel had a lot to do with me not speaking out or being in my truth. In my moment of realization, I could see that I was not a bad person for wanting out of a toxic relationship. Maybe, just maybe, I could turn things around.
I ended the toxic relationship and entered a season of solitude, therapy, and meditation in order to begin healing old wounds and journey toward self-love. For the first time in my life, I took a real season to myself. No people pleasing. No major commitments. No relationship. No attention seeking. Just silence, meditation and therapy.
How to Move Forward
Codependency and love addiction are sneaky. You must stand guard. As much as they may have wanted to keep me in their control, they actually helped me to release my soul from its hiding place. They caused me to turn inward for answers and to rediscover who I really was at my core.
After all, I wasn’t really that love-starved little girl trapped in an adult body. I wasn’t really that insecure and fearful woman petrified of being alone.
I was simply living life unaware. Lacking clarity. Unawakened.
Over time I began to see how the past, including my childhood, caused me to lack love for myself. I was basing my feelings on how others treated me instead of my own self-worth. I sought therapy and I joined a 12 Step group called Codependent Anonymous. Both helped me to begin sharing my story and healing. I started to rediscover my true self and began to love myself for who I was. And it felt good.
It took time. It took effort. I learned why professionals say that each person ought to take a solid year or two (or more) single as an adult to dedicate to healing and growth. To learn who they are without being tied up with another person intimately.
Today I’m grateful for the role that codependency played in my life. It caused me to take a serious look at my mental, emotional and spiritual life and make some changes. It helped me go back and contend with childhood wounds that stifled my emotional growth. It led me on a journey toward self-love as an adult. In fact, it helped me become who I am today—a radiant, happy and secure woman enjoying every day in this marvelous journey called life.