I went to the grocery store last week and as I was loading my food onto the conveyor belt, at the cashier, I felt a very familiar feeling. I made some pretty good food choices that day. I had lots of fruits and vegetables, some protein and I permitted myself to buy something sweet. Just a small one-time snack that would be done in one sitting.

You see sugar and I are not friends.  My weight has been all over the place my whole life, so I know that I have to be careful. Watching what I eat is part of self-care that everyone should practice. I learned from my overweight father long ago that food can make you feel good (at least for a while).  So when I placed the treat on the conveyor belt, I felt ….well, I felt ashamed.

I’ve been battling codependency for 7 years and every once in a while some of those old thoughts pop into my head. Thoughts about not being good enough, thoughts of shame and thoughts that just generally want to beat me up.

The funny thing was that the woman behind me was tall and slender and she loaded her cart with all kinds of garbage. She piled on ice cream and chips and processed foods. I didn’t think anything of it. But for me one, tiny, little treat made me feel like shit and I felt that the cashier would judge me and the people in line would judge me, when in reality they couldn’t of cared less.

When I was young I was chubby and I can remember as far back as the age of 6 when my ubber thin mother would say things to me like, “You’re always going to have a problem with your weight…you’ve got your father’s genes….” The message was – you are defective, you’re broken…there is something wrong with you and I internalized that message and made it my own.

I have a three year old niece and she’s such an awesome little girl. I can’t imagine, for the life of me, ever putting any kind of thoughts like that into her head.  I can understand that my mother was fed the same kind of disparaging messages when she was young and she was just perpetuating the same toxic behavior,  but it still congers up a lot of anger in me, that my mother could be so…stupid. “Who says those kinds of things to a little girl.”

When I was young I had shoulder length curly blonde hair. I had a 65 year old grandmother that loved to comb my tangled hair. The problem was she had really and I mean really shaky hands. So sitting with her meant she would rip out my hair and I would cry and run away (who wouldn’t) every time she got near me with a comb. My mother’s solution was to cut off all of my hair, like a boy’s haircut and she would  say,” It’s your own fault. You can’t sit still,” and despite all my crying and begging and pleading – off came the hair. My best friend had long, straight shiny dark hair to her waist and I looked like a boy. To this day I still have trouble dealing with hairdressers, but she always put the blame on me for everything and I was just a kid.

The messages I constantly got from her were, “You are bad – There is something wrong with you – You are responsible for everything bad.”

We didn’t talk about things in my family either.  We ignored major issues that needed to be discussed. There was never any healthy, open dialogue about anything.  When I was in my relationship with my long term narcissist, we didn’t talk about anything either. We avoided conflict and avoided the truth at all costs, because neither one of us wanted to acknowledge the truth. Nothing that needed to be said was said. We were both repeating our childhood patterns and found people who were, all too willing, to fill those familiar rolls.

The real truth is – I was just as afraid of intimacy as my narcissist was. Both of us were afraid to let the other in, afraid of how we would be judged and shamed if anyone ever found out about who we really were.

Codependency is such a dangerous disease, because it attacks us from within. It’s the monster inside of us and we keep feeding it, keep making it stronger and we keep replaying the same theme over and over again. The people who were closest to us, who meant the most, were the ones that caused us the most damage as children. They were the ones we couldn’t trust, so we kept looking for that same match as we marched our way through adulthood. That is our normal and it’s a terrifying normal, because there is no peace, no happiness until we get this monster under control. The more you recognize codependency in your life the easier it will become to manage.

Codependent Feelings and Behaviors

  • Feelings of guilt or shame for normal human wants or desires
  • Feelings of inadequacy or of not being good enough
  • Feeling that you don’t deserve – love, to have your needs met, to be happy, to be treated with love and respect
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Fear of conflict
  • Fear of being judged or abandoned
  • Quick to doubt yourself and feeling that you need permission
  • Belief that you have to be perfect in order to experience things that other people simply expect
  • Feelings of not being comfortable in your own skin
  • Inability or fear of communicating your needs

The disease of codependency is a wily one. It attacks from all angles. It’s that hurtful, hateful, enemy voice that is always trying to make us feel shame and guilt for being ourselves.

I have always been afraid and ashamed to be me.  Being me was something that I had to hide and not let anyone see. I used food to experience moments of joy, the kind of joy that only a sugar rush will give. It momentarily filled my void. These were behaviors that I modeled from my parents.

Today when those thoughts pop into my head, I am detached enough from them and I am able to see them for what they are, so I will actually say to that voice or those feelings, “F**k you.” I overpower them and I don’t react to them anymore.

Internalizing, feeling or wanting to be invisible, believing that you need permission, feeling constant heartache, disgrace, self-hatred… all of these reactions I have managed to overcome, mostly through cognitive processes, by recognizing them for what they are and knowing where they come from.  When you realize that you are an adult and that you have the power to change how you react and handle situations, it becomes your salvation.

As adults we can learn new coping strategies. We can take charge of our lives, we can empower ourselves, we can get inspired and we can take action. All you have to do is start to wade through all the cobwebs in your thinking and start paying attention to how you are feeling and how you react. Ask yourself – In what ways does codependency manifest in my life?  Once you start to notice it, you will realize that you have a choice – you can keep reacting like a codependent, or you can start reacting in healthier ways that will make you happier and benefit your life. The truth is, when you’re a child you don’t have a choice – you were a victim of your environment – now you have a choice – make the right one and keep making the right choice until it becomes second nature and when that voice pops in your head and tries to beat you up – you know exactly what to tell it.

Hey, is that chocolate?


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