10 Editor's Pick
March 26, 2019

5 Lessons for the Codependents of the World.

I met someone wonderful.

After years of self-imposed singlehood spent recovering from codependent issues, my journey led me to an incredibly special, extraordinary woman, for whom I am grateful. But beginnings are fragile, and my tender heart has been unexposed while I’ve tended to myself.

I could not be more excited about this. Yet, at the same time, it terrifies me.

As a recovering codependent, I’ve had my share of heartache and suffering. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about my low self-esteem, anxiety, and my desire to have someone else to fill my expansive void. I’ve struggled with my former enthusiasm for rescuing others and not having to think about my codependency or my life as an adult child of an alcoholic.

For the past few years, I’ve been alone by design, breaking my past pattern of moving on quickly, jumping into the arms of my next distraction. That wasn’t going to happen this time. I made the conscious choice to figure out my sh*t—and that meant focusing on myself.

Still, my track record of picking awful partners haunts me. Relationships and marriages with a parade of women, each one more inappropriate and destructive than the last. A past full of careless whispers and broken promises. Yet, they all started out with such hope. Such is the nature of codependency.

So here I am, balancing the work I’ve done in my recovery with my fear of another heartbreak. I’ve worked my ass off and broken patterns. But most importantly, I go into this relationship happy with myself and my life. Sharing not from a place of emptiness and not-good-enough, but from self-love and gratitude.

But there are still moments of struggle. Awareness is only the beginning. I can get triggered by the insecurities and doubts, and feel my racing heart leap into my throat. The difference now is that I am aware that it’s happening. Like a reflex, I feel myself pulled toward the struggle, pulled toward the self-protecting narratives that want to cancel out my joy. It is powerful, like the intense gravity of a black hole on a mission to pull me in.

From a place of detachment I see it unfold. It takes a lot of energy to resist and minimize the damage. It passes as all storms do, but it can be hard and scary as f*ck.

Afterward, I find myself on balanced ground. I am grateful for my recovery and accept that there are times I’m going to fight through difficult moments.

But this time, I am on my side—and that makes all the difference.

I met someone wonderful.

I am excited for this part of my journey. I feel gratitude for my open heart, and I’ll savor it every step of the way.

Recovering from codependency and heartache isn’t easy. Neither is loving again.

Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned:

1. We need to trust ourselves.
As codependents, we’ve been lacking self-love and self-esteem. We tried to gain them from other people. But our self-esteem and self-love is neither someone else’s responsibility nor theirs to give. It can only come from us.

We have to work hard to instill those things in ourselves before we can truly share love with someone else. We’re asking for trouble when we offer those things we don’t have to give.

2. We can choose vulnerability over our fear of rejection and abandonment.
One of the struggles we have as codependents is the fear that someone we love will eventually figure out what we already believe—that we are unlovable.

But as we begin to heal, we learn that we are worthy of love. We embrace who we are—the good and the bad. No more highlight reel. We can learn to be vulnerable in our relationships, sharing all of ourselves, including the parts we’ve kept hidden away.

There is no shame in being flawed. We are all beautiful, and perfectly imperfect.

3. We are going to struggle sometimes, and that’s okay.
We are a work in progress, and so is our recovery. Ebbs and flows. We can get ourselves pointed in the right direction, but things don’t improve in a straight line. We will have times of struggle.

The best thing we can do is to learn awareness of our patterns and triggers in relationships. When we recognize that we are triggered, we can be kind to ourselves while we struggle through it. The struggle will pass, and it is something we can practice.

4. We can accept an uncertain future.
We have always struggled with uncertainty. We embraced black-and-white thinking as a way to control our emotional risk and protect ourselves from heartbreak.

But the future is always in motion, always in flux. We can’t control it. Circumstances change, and we evolve. Some relationships last forever, and others don’t. Accepting this, and letting go of trying to control things, is what allows us to be present with our feelings and lean into the uncomfortable ones.

Rather than focus on things we can’t control, we have the opportunity to practice connecting every day. Showing up for all the small and seemingly insignificant moments each day, building love and trust along the way.

5. We can be brave with our feelings because courage is a heart word.
No one likes rejection and heartache, and as codependents we have also struggled with fear of abandonment. We’ve structured our lives around protecting ourselves from those feelings. But that has left us feeling isolated and small.

We can flip the script and be brave enough to accept ourselves and show up every day in our relationships. Show up to be seen and heard as we are, because we are all worthy of love and belonging.
~

If we can rise up and risk our tender hearts, we just might get what we’ve hoped for.

“You don’t blast a heart open. You coax and nurture it open, like the sun does to a rose.” ~ Melody Beattie

author: David Baumrind

Image: Say Anything... (1989)

Image: Elephant Journal on Instagram

Editor: Kelsey Michal

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Paula Styles Jul 13, 2019 5:59am

This is very similar to Brené Browns conclusions on Vulnerability and wholehearted living. Her books are helping me change my life.

Shannan Fiorenza Jun 9, 2019 11:13am

Love this!

reddhedd17 Apr 29, 2019 5:45pm

i needed it and this is good stuff

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David Baumrind

David Baumrind is a paramedic from Long Island, New York and a single parent to an amazing 12-year-old boy. He is an avid paddle boarder and outdoorsman. He is currently traveling his path to self-awareness, and is passionate about sharing his healing journey through his writing. Connect with David on Facebook and Instagram.