God, why do I storm heaven for answers that are already in my heart? Every grace I need has already been given me. Oh, lead me to the Beyond within.
– Macrina Wiederkehr
I’ve been to my Tuesday 12 Step meeting of Co-Dependants Anonymous this evening and heard some great shares. Today was a Step reading, so we read Step 1, as it’s January, month 1.
1. We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.
I’m living this step at the moment and I’m about to start my very first CoDA Step Group this month too. CoDA never ceases to amaze me, because the minute I feel like I’m getting it, all I’ve actually done is take a step into a much larger world. At which point I have to go back and find the humility to start all over again. It really is a process like none other and does indeed feel like I am pealing an onion. The skinny, wafer thin layers mind you, not the fat, thick layers.
I found substance addiction pretty easy to get my head round, you take something, it makes you feel good, then you don’t feel so good. If I stop taking the substance, eventually I overcome the urge to ‘abuse’ that substance. Be it tobacco, alcohol, sugar, caffeine or drugs, there is a biological reaction which I find relatively easy to see. This is probably due to me deciding to stop smoking about 4 years ago, in advance of coming into recovery. I just stopped smoking and decided that I would never smoke another cigarette, as I knew, from experience, that there is no such thing as just ‘one’ cigarette, only the first ‘one’.
Process addiction was harder for me to get my head around, because I was, and it is to do with, self medicating. Sex addiction generally isn’t what I once believed it to be. I use to admire the likes of David Duchovny and Michael Douglas because I thought sex addiction meant you just got to have a lot of sex. I was wrong. For example, our 12 Step literature describes our addiction thusly:
Before coming to Sex Addicts Anonymous, many of us never knew that our problem had a name. All we knew was that we couldn’t control our sexual behaviour. For us, sex was a consuming way of life. Although the details of our stories were different, our problem was the same. We were addicted to sexual behaviour that we returned to over and over, despite the consequences.
Sex addiction is a disease affecting the mind, body and spirit. It is progressive, with the behaviour and its consequences usually becoming more severe over time. We experience it as compulsion, which is an urge that is stronger than our will to resist, and as obsession, which is a mental preoccupation with sexual behaviour and fantasies. In SAA, we have come to call our addictive sexual behaviour acting out.
Co-dependency however, is so subtle and ingrained into our cultures and societies that many of us do not even realise that we have a problem, because to us, our behaviour is ‘normal’. I stopped using the word ‘normal’ about 18 months ago and now use ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’ as defined by my own boundaries.
Whatever you do is down to you, but if I feel your behaviour is ‘unhealthy’ for me, then I have the freedom to exercise choice, which means I can ask you to stop it or I simply leave. Either way, the responsibility is on me to take some form of action, otherwise I am simply condoning/encouraging/enabling your ‘unhealthy’ behaviour.
Sometimes it is just easier to leave without explanation, because it can be really difficult to explain to someone who is unknowingly ill, that their behaviour is inappropriate, because to them, everything appears ‘normal’.
You can’t change someone who doesn’t see an issue with their actions.
I am learning that I can’t directly change people, nor should I have the desire to change anyone. The 12 Step program teaches me the meaning of acceptance; tolerance; patience; forgiveness and respect, amongst other things. I must respect myself and others enough to know that we are all walking the same path, some of us have reached a little further than others, but there is not really any difference between us. Our experiences may be slightly different, but our Being is fundamentally the same. The moment I started to look for the similarities, rather than the differences, was the moment I started to recover.
How can I have compassion for myself, if I am constantly judging myself and others? The simple answer is that I can’t. Once I look inside and identify with the emotion/feeling and the conscious Being within, I see myself and that insight allows me to heal both myself and others.
It is this insight into healing, that breeds love and compassion. When I realised that even on a genetic level, there is something like a 3% difference between us and a banana, I began to learn that understanding our similarities is far more important than looking for our differences.
Differences could be viewed as simply the same lessons, presented by the universe in a slightly different way, because we all have a slightly different perspective on reality and our way of interpreting it is slightly different too, but we are all ultimately made of the same ‘star stuff’.
If I want the world to change, I must first look inward into thy self and manifest the change that I choose to be in the world. If I change my world, then I have changed the world by the virtue that I have changed my perspective and my way of interpreting reality. There really is no more to it than that.
Live long and prosper V