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Love Addicts Anonymous

I was Powerless

I 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.

I 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.

But 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.

I 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 for years.

My 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.

Eventually, 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.

When 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.

There 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 my life.

What 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.

Through 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.

With 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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© Love Addicts Anonymous, 2004