am 37 years old and I have been responsible for taking care of
someone else my entire life. My parents came from dysfunctional,
addicted, violent homes and were unable to break the cycle. They
did the best they knew how but my parents were troubled and unable
to model a healthy relationship. I became their source of happiness.
I was my mother's confidante and surrogate partner/parent as well
as my father's surrogate partner/parent. It was total enmeshment.
I was responsible for keeping them happy, keeping them healthy
and making them feel safe and secure.
felt special and loved, but in reality I was abandoned. As my
caretakers it was their responsibility to take care of me and
attempt to provide for my emotional needs but the reality was
that I was taking care of them to meet their emotional needs.
I quickly learned that my primary job was to take care of my parents
yet it was impossible for me to meet their needs because as a
child I was incapable.
I did not know this as a child and it instilled a sense of failure
and inadequacy in me. This in turn made me feel that I was unimportant
and had no worth. I felt responsible for others, accepted blame
readily, was eager to please, deferred to other's opinions, and
feared being considered selfish if I acted assertively. I quickly
learned that I should be a "good, happy girl". I remember
crying and my parents telling me to please stop because it was
upsetting them. I learned that my anger and sadness were bad emotions
that upset people so I never expressed them. Instead I felt anxiety,
fear and somatic paining yet, I exuded happiness. I had so buried
any other emotions that I truly did not know how they felt. My
feelings were a source of discomfort and this discomfort made
me unable to develop trust in my own feelings and judgments. Anxiety,
fear and chaos were familiar feelings for me and therefore comfortable.
I thrived on these feelings. I sought these feelings out because
they made me feel normal.
have scattered memories of my childhood. I have happy memories
but many of my memories involve fearful situations. There are
also memories of the various boys that I have obsessed about since
I was 4. They were boys I went to school with or boys in the neighborhood.
Sometimes I wouldn't even know the boy; I would only know his
name. I would create personas for these boys and I would create
our fantasy life. I would carry a torch for some of these boys
first real relationship began when I was in high school and ended
when he pulled a gun on me at college. After that relationship
I no longer picked violent men but I continued to pick unsafe
men. I never experienced withdrawal for very long because I rolled
from one relationship into another. I would meet a guy and we
would have this amazing connection. We would feel immediately
comfortable and attached to each other and spend every second
possible together. It was like we had known each other our entire
lives. That was the great high. The reality is I have known "this
guy" my entire life because he is always the same guy, just
a different name and face. I would give up all other aspects of
my life to spend time with "him". I did not know or
understand the importance of balance in my life. Our relationship
would be great for a period of time and then the magic and the
high would start to wear off. I would start to see him as he really
was instead of who I had created him to be. I would mold myself
into the person that I thought "he" wanted me to be.
I was very attune to how to behave to make others comfortable
and happy. I feared abandonment from him but did not realize I
was abandoning myself. We fed off each other’s unhealthy
behaviors and became completely enmeshed with each other. I had
no identity. I didn't know what I wanted, what I liked, what I
didn't like. I learned to like what "he" liked and want
what "he" wanted.
the high would be gone and I would feel really bad about myself.
I would also feel completely suffocated and smothered by him.
I would feel disgusted, unlovable, and worth nothing. This would
lead me to act out to get those good feelings again. I would begin
intrigue and then become involved in an emotional affair. Once
the emotional connection was established with someone else, I
felt safe to leave the current relationship. I didn't have to
deal with abandonment because I had replaced one guy with another.
And I was again on the high because I had really found "the
one" this time.
I was in junior high I realized that I had the ability to seduce.
As I got older, I used seduction and sex as tools to manipulate
and feel powerful. When I felt powerful, I felt self worth. However,
I did not enjoy sex. Sex was meant to make "him" feel
good. When I was able to make him feel good, I felt powerful.
I was incapable of being vulnerable. In my mind power and vulnerability
could not coexist. In addition, I had an overwhelming fear of
intimacy and commitment. I had never learned to trust and I DID
NOT trust. I had erected great walls to barricade myself for protection.
Intimacy and commitment meant enmeshment, suffocation, smothering.
It meant being responsible for another person's care and happiness.
In essence I felt responsible for their life. It terrified me.
I did not want the responsibility of someone else. I only wanted
to be responsible for myself but I couldn't even do that. I was
not taking care of myself because I never learned how. I had only
learned to take care of others. But my actions had hurt a lot
of people and affected some friendships. I was putting myself
into unsafe situations and I was creating a considerable amount
of stress for myself.
are two events that brought me into therapy and LAA. The first
was that I became engaged to a gay man. We were both in denial
about his sexuality but deep down, we both knew. I was obsessed
with him and having him admit that he was gay. If he would admit
he was gay then it wasn't me. But he was in deep denial. He never
admitted and that made me feel like something was wrong with me.
I wasn't good enough, I wasn't pretty enough, I wasn't smart enough,
I wasn't funny enough, I wasn't desirable enough and I absolutely
was not lovable enough. I was WORTH NOTHING. He finally decided
to move out of our house and out of the state. It took him two
months to leave and it was the most painful withdrawal that I
have ever experienced. I fell into depression, got insomnia and
was riddled with painful shingles. It was time to seek help. I
went into therapy. The problem I had with therapy was that I was
dishonest. I did not give my therapist all of the information.
I was not going to recover. Two months into therapy I found another
man to get involved with. He was amazing. Everything I had dreamed
of. I stopped going to therapy and a year later we got engaged.
I was the happiest person alive. The panic, anxiety and feelings
of suffocation all started when I began to plan the wedding. I
relieved my fear and anxiety as I always had….I acted out.
I began an affair with my married boss. I ended my engagement.
I entered into one of the most chaotic and stressful years of
finally turned my life around was admitting that I had a problem
that I could not control. I was powerless. I turned to God and
prayer. I have always known God, even as a child. I accepted God
into my life when I was nine years old. I turned to God throughout
my life. However, when I was acting out I turned away from God.
I am so thankful for His grace, patience and forgiveness. During
this stressful time, I prayed. Through prayer, I found a new therapist.
I made a commitment to be honest with her and I was. After three
months of extensive therapy she recommended two 12 step programs
for me. Those programs were CoDA and LAA. I began these programs
in March 2006.
therapy I was able to acknowledge and accept how my childhood
abandonment issues affected my behavior. Family of origin and
inner child work helped me to discover that I had very little
self worth and no idea what a boundary was. I did not feel worthy
of being loved. I accepted bad, unhealthy, dysfunctional and unsafe
relationships because that is what I felt I was worth. Through
therapy and this program I am slowly learning who I am. I have
learned to get in touch with and recognize all of my emotions.
I realize that jolt of adrenaline that I once considered exciting
is not exciting but a warning. I recognize when I am beginning
to fantasize and stop myself. I recognize when I am about to engage
in intrigue and I stop myself. I say a prayer and thank God for
helping me to recognize what I was doing. I still struggle daily.
Some of my struggles include: learning to communicate instead
of withdraw, learning what healthy sex is, allowing myself to
be vulnerable and intimate, learning to trust, and not allowing
others to define who I am. Thankfully, I am being honest with
myself and taking care of myself. Most importantly I am no longer
getting my worth from others. I am not relying on other people
to make me feel good. I now know how to get worth for myself by
meeting my needs and when I meet my needs everyday I feel good.
I now understand what my eight needs are and I have the tools
to meet my needs everyday thanks to my therapist. Other tools
that I have found to be helpful in my journey toward recovery
are Therapy, Meetings, Reading and Researching, Journaling, Prayer
and Learning to parent myself.
all of these tools and God I know that I am a valuable and worthy
person and that a happy life is possible for me.
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