Sometimes, codependency is like living in a fantasy world. A world of suspended disbelief. It’s a circus. A madhouse. A roller coaster from Hell.
And yet, it’s predictable and stimulating.
We fall in love with the myths, and perform high-wire acts to confirm them.
We thrive on applause, and feel ever more the clown when our efforts are reviewed as foolish, dangerous, and disgusting.
But the curtain rises again. And we’re compelled by forces beyond our control to go faster, higher…everything bigger, better, more.
But for as death-defying as codependency feels, recovery is much harder. It’s closing the curtain, removing the makeup, and letting the applause fall silent. Show over.
It, too, is painful.
Because there are a million more circuses out there. The audience you lose will find another. Or start their own. The show must go on–somewhere.
All the world is a stage, after all. And it’s a mad, mad world indeed.
This week, I’m supposed to work on Step 2.
We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Sanity is defined as the ability to see the truth. If Step 1 was about letting go of our unmanageable lives, Step 2 is about finding solutions to the insanity.
But first, we must believe that those solutions exist, and not within ourselves.
Believing is a choice. Believing is a tentative place. It’s a place to begin, even without convictions. I think the greatest difficulty we have with believing is that we want something with more certainty to start with; we want more assurance.
Hell, yes, I want more assurance.
I want to know that I won’t lose my audience. And that audience is him.
And yet, those other circuses. Those millions of circuses. And they’re colorful and bright and beckoning.
They’re women on Facebook who point the camera at their cleavage. The blondes who post how horny they are. The 20-somethings who insist they love much older men as they drop their nipples into the willing mouth of their first date. Into his mouth.
I spoke to a friend last night who shared that she, too, struggled with Step 2.
I read it and instinctually felt they were calling me insane, she said.
Restore us to sanity does sound like a tongue-in-cheek way of saying: You’re crazy.
But in many ways, Step 2 is bringing forth in me a lot of resentment. The codependency glasses are off, and the world looks different.
The movie “Constantine” comes to mind in which one of the characters insists in seeing the otherworldly: angels and demons. She’s warned that her decision cannot be undone. And yet she insists. She becomes horrified.
Our Step booklet, I once texted to my sponsor, should come with a similar warning.
Ignorance is bliss. Recovery is not.
I cannot not see the truth anymore.
As my friend listened to my Step 2 woes, she shared something shared with her: We must allow others the dignity of choice, and we must similarly allow others the dignity of the consequences those choices bring.
Living in ignorance is a choice. As is living in guilt and shame. As is not setting boundaries. As is seeking external validation and shifting blame.
So when he’d spent three out of five days with his kids last week, and texted me that he was considering cancelling our plans for the evening because he feels he just doesn’t have time for the kids anymore, I laughed.
And when I shared this with another CoDA friend an hour later, I laughed again.
Living in guilt and shame is a choice. And I need to allow him the dignity of that choice. As well as it’s consequences.
When I got home, he told me he and his 11-year old son had decided that on the weeks he has commitments that prevent him from taking the kids skating on their regular Monday night, they’ll do something else on Tuesday.
Whatever the kids want to do, we’ll do it. All in one evening.
My first reaction was: But what about me? What about our time together?
My second: My God, he’s committed to living in guilt.
And then I feel the resentment lapping at my feet. And throat. Burning the back of my eyes. Because I. Can’t. Say. Anything.
I must own my own journey. I must allow him the dignity of his own.
Damn Step 2.
Damn being restored back to sanity.
The glasses have fallen and I can see the truth. My truths. His truths. And the only truths I’m responsible for are my own.
It’s not unlike seeing a toddler wearing their shoes on the wrong feet and knowing they will surely stumble and fall if it’s not corrected. You can point it out: Honey, your shoes are on the wrong feet. But at some point, you need to let them make their own decision about it, and let them incur the consequences of their choice.
And yet, this isn’t a toddler. This is him. My boyfriend. My partner. The man I begin and end each day with.
I can do nothing but allow him his dignity. He’s a grown man, he’s told me. These are his kids. He’s can make his own decisions.
And he does. Out of guilt and shame. Out of a constant need for external validation.
For all the times I wept to a confidante about why he didn’t love me anymore, why he was cruel, why he wouldn’t make me a priority–they all said: this is him, not you.
And finally, I see that they were right.
And it’s maddening. It’s horrifying. It makes me want to scream.
Because he cannot see it. Will not.
Because he is comfortable in his ignorance.
Because his insecurity is bolstered by Facebook likes.
Because extending himself physically, mentally, and financially to keep the kids happy convinces him that they’ll love him more, and gives him more Facebook fodder to keep those likes coming.
Because being affectionate toward me when I need it would be letting go of his need to control everything around him, especially me.
Because openly and flagrantly keeping a close eye on those other circuses may not make me fully reopen my codependent show, but it does mean I’m ever tempted to keep the high wire act in a box in the back…just in case.
And I do.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s why I’m struggling so much with Step 2.
Step 2 means not just seeing the truth, but committing to it without the reassurances my codependent self so desperately wants.
And committing to it does not mean I have a just in case.
Step 2 is the belief in the truth. Belief that though the truth may be ugly and difficult, it’s far better to live in the truth than with one foot on a just in case.
Now that’s terrifying.