Table of contents:
- No one needs it
- Matters of the heart
- American fight
- On the same rake
- The rescue
- From scratch
- Expert commentary:
The unhealthy feeling when, without a loved one, you seem to be unable to breathe, is familiar, alas, to many. The reasons for codependency are different, but equally pernicious. Our heroine named Lana told how she got out of these tenacious paws once and for all.
As a child, I never felt safe at home. His father was a violent alcoholic, and his mother was hot-tempered and critical. If dad did not drink, then he played a lot of computer games: I often sat down next to him, tried to involve him in a dialogue, but I rarely managed to do this. Even though my father was physically close, emotionally he was infinitely far from me.
Dad never made good money, and Mom had to become the breadwinner in the house, so I practically did not see her - at most in the evenings and on weekends. But even then she usually did her everyday life - cooking, washing, cleaning. I tried not to interfere, as my mother could easily flare up.
Violence in my family was the norm. A frequent occurrence: the father got drunk, and he and mother fought. But the matter was not limited only to physical violence: emotionally in our family everyone suppressed each other. If my mother and I fought or I expressed my disagreement, I was punished with a boycott. The mother could not talk to me for several days, but for the child it is unbearable. As a rule, I went to put up first, regardless of whether I was to blame or not.
I was often compared to other children, criticized, devalued my success or not interested in them at all. When your relatives do this to you, it becomes the norm. So servility developed in me: with good behavior, humor and complaisance, I tried to win the love of mom and dad.
No one needs it
When I was 12, my parents finally divorced, but then I felt guilty about this, believing that I was not a good and obedient child enough to save the family.
Relations with peers also did not go well: until the age of 14 I fought a lot, because I could not always explain something in words. I grew up hot-tempered, there was a lot of pain in me, so any criticism was perceived by me as a direct attack, and I fought back physically.
At school I was an outsider, I was bullied both by my peers and by some teachers. Already today I understand that I had a typical victim psychology: it was as if I wore a “Kick me” sign, which people willingly did.
I hated school and after the 9th grade I continued my studies in college. The teachers who bullied me thought it was a good decision. They openly said that nothing would come of me, I would marry an alcoholic, give birth to 10 children, and I would sort out beets in the nearest supermarket. These voices still ring in my head, although a year ago I defended my master's thesis and lived in the States for some time.
Matters of the heart
I have never been a beauty, but I have always been a cheerful and interesting girl. They often wanted to be friends with me, but not date, so I built romantic relationships mainly with those who chose me. It happened that I managed to get the attention of the guy I liked, but it was short-lived. And soon, fearing to be rejected, I no longer initiated any romantic encounters.
My first codependent relationship began when I was 16 years old. At first glance, I didn't like the guy at all: he was almost 18, he was registered with the police for causing grievous bodily harm in a fight, he lived separately from his father and mother, was brought up by his grandmother, who often beat him. In short, he was also a victim and codependent. Let's call it J.
The more we talked, the stronger I felt our kinship. In the end, I was no longer interested in the world around me, friends, study. I skipped college just to be around him. J.became the center of my life: in separation I went crazy with longing for him, called, wrote, cried. It was crazy. I completely disappeared into the person.
We started to swear. I often became the reason for the quarrels: I wanted to save him, fix him, do better, since he did not study or work, he lived on an allowance for the loss of his parents, who were deprived of parental rights. Our couple was supported by me. Saving a "drowning man" was the norm for me: all my childhood I saw how my mother saves my father from alcoholism.
We were together for 3 years, which was accompanied by emotional chaos, lack of money and a constant solution to his problems. I lost all my friends, but I desperately clung to J., it seemed to me that he understood me better than anyone else. But the longer we were together, the more I realized that this was not my person. The intellectually abyss also increased: I was preparing to enter medical school to become a clinical psychologist, and he was content with the education of 9th grade.
We parted several times: I felt bad next to J., but even worse without him. It was my drug. And yet, on the eve of my college final exams, I asked to take a break in order to have the strength to study. During this time he found another: he knew that I would not forgive treason.
My world was destroyed, and then I began to destroy myself as well: I got drunk, went to clubs and stayed overnight in questionable companies. By the fall, I developed depression: in my head I was replaying our relationship and at some point idealized J. to such an extent that I could no longer imagine my life without him.
In November, he called and offered to meet, we talked for a long time and … decided to get together. And again this vicious circle: I dropped out of school and endlessly controlled his every step - where he is, with whom he is, what he is doing. In the end, we parted completely.
After some time, I went to America for an internship. On the one hand, I was happy about this heady freedom, adventure, on the other hand, I missed home, I was lonely, and I subconsciously looked for a relationship so as not to feel abandoned.
Soon the manager of the hotel where I worked introduced me to the guy. Let's call him Tyler. We started dating. In American culture, women are perceived as equal to men. I got used to the patriarchal system and, accordingly, expected from Tyler what he a priori could not give me. Our mentalities constantly collided, and this gave rise to constant conflicts. For example, we made the same money, but in public places everyone paid for himself. I was angry and offended, realizing that it was not only culture, but also a banal unwillingness to take responsibility for me.
But these are the flowers: Tyler was a drug addict and a gambling addict, because of which his mood was always unpredictable - he could react to the same situation in completely different ways. Such a life on a powder keg reminded me of my childhood: my mother, too, could flare up for any reason. Tyler was high most of the time and played the console, building a thick wall between us. And the more I tried to get through to him, the more impregnable this wall became. At the beginning of our relationship, we often walked, spent time together and talked, but after a month of our living together, it all disappeared.
We often quarreled, he began to steal my food (remember: everyone in our pair paid for himself, and I risked being hungry), took my bike without asking, and shrugged his shoulders or lied to all my reproaches. Constant domestic conflicts forced me to stay late at work, and him - more and more often to smoke weed. The relationship was getting worse. Constantly eating stress, I gained 10 kg, my self-esteem fell. I was jealous of Tyler, afraid of losing him.
He began to repeat that he was bored and we needed to get out somewhere. This is how I met his friends. One day we went to a bar where I drank too much.Tyler's friend's girlfriend offered me drugs, and I, wanting to turn off my brain and stop thinking about this destructive relationship for a while, agreed … The consequences of that party turned my life with Tyler into a hell full of humiliation, psychological abuse and physical aggression.
I used to fight my feelings of abandonment with alcohol. In the United States, it turned into a drug. And relationships are torture.
We began to "play" who would hurt whom, flirting with others in front of each other. Once at home during a showdown after one of these "games", he grabbed my hands, hit me sharply against the wall of the cabinet and stared with a full hatred look. Then I realized: this is the end.
What saved me from this relationship was that my work contract ended and my mother flew to the States. Already near the taxi to the airport, Tyler just hugged me like a friend and waved goodbye without saying anything. Just like that, he parted with me, as if nothing had happened between us.
We continued to maintain contact, even planned to meet, but a couple of months after my departure, we still broke up, and then stopped communicating altogether. It’s a miracle that everything ended this way: later analyzing this relationship in conversations with a psychologist and in self-help groups, I realized that I was one step away from becoming my mother - an exhausted woman beaten by her husband with nowhere to go.
On the same rake
I went back to school (last year in psychology), but I just couldn't let go of Tyler. Once I had a nervous breakdown right on a couple. On another day, during a group exercise, I burst into tears and was reassured by the teacher. It was she who advised me to see a psychologist.
I did just that: I went to therapy for several months and pulled myself together. But, as they say, to sew - sewn up, and whether everything is in place, they forgot to check. I was functioning, but there was a deep trauma inside me, hence the sluggish, but prolonged depression.
During this period, my third codependent relationship happened. He was a student from another country. Paradoxically, fearing rejection and abandonment, I chose people who would leave me 100%. This guy destroyed my self-esteem, already undermined by my previous boyfriend. I was seriously considering suicide. It seemed to me that I was defective, wrong, not deserving of life itself. He endlessly criticized me for my appearance, my cooking skills, my thoughts, my work. I never could please him in anything, and the more I dreamed of earning his love. Suicidal thoughts again led me to a psychologist, and it was only thanks to psychotherapy that I got out of this relationship.
The fourth relationship was not much better. First, they were at a distance: we saw each other a couple of times a year. Secondly, he was an alcoholic: he ate cereal with absinthe for breakfast.
Next to him I felt like a princess, and without him the world froze, and I counted the days until we met. He slowly healed my self-esteem, but he was infinitely far away. I suffered incredibly because of this, and my life was more like existence. Unloved work, hated studies, low self-esteem and a constant lack of money … The daily task was to live until the evening and not commit suicide.
I wanted to live differently, but I didn't know how. I understood that I was flying from one codependent relationship to another, because I couldn't do it in another way. I was extremely tired and at some point found myself on the threshold of a neurosis clinic. Alas, I could not get there because of the summer holidays that began there, but the salvation was still found - 12-step communities.
The first step was very difficult. Everything that my psyche carefully chose to forget, I took out, lived through a ton of pain, but for the first time in my life I let it go, and did not bury it deeper into myself. I treated my wounded inner child, on which my personality was based, determined the scheme by which I built relationships with people, learned to work with pain, abandonment, fears, ugly attitudes, and slowly unraveled this tangle.
Of course, kickbacks happened, I wanted to give up everything, but other recovering people and my mentor helped me. I remember how I had a hysteria and I shouted into the phone to my man that I was in great pain and I just wanted to die. Then I came to my senses in 14 days, although it used to take months.
I got rid of depression and suicidal thoughts: they have not been in my life for a year and a half, and this is a huge gift.
At the third step, I had a false feeling that I was fine and there was no point in continuing the program. But life has shown me over and over again that I was wrong. There were situations or people that activated my unhealthy behavior from the past.
I am still in the program and it has already become a way of life. I no longer survive, but I live. I plan my future, while earlier in the evenings I was just glad that I did not go out the window during the day.
Little by little, I cultivate self-love, I learn not to leave myself, because if I am always with me, then no one else can leave me. I take care of myself and listen to my own desires. I learn to defend my boundaries and declare when they are violated. I meditate a lot - it helps to live through negative feelings and bring myself back to myself. Today I understand that it is impossible to please everyone, but the main thing is to please yourself.
I was no longer attracted to problem men with a difficult past. Today I want a relationship with a full-fledged, worked-out man. Today, next to me are those who love and appreciate me for who I am. I do not need to adapt to anyone, please.
Codependency is impossible to get rid of at the click of a button. Not in a day, not in a year - especially when you have been "using" other people for decades. But today I have the tools with which I do not let myself fall into addiction again. I began to avoid romantic contact with people with addiction or difficult life history. I would have saved my soul.
Anna Ehrenburg Family psychologist
We are all, to one degree or another, in dependence and codependency. The problem arises at the moment when a person loses himself as a person who has the right to life, freedom, love, and completely drowns in another person. He essentially loses his independence, and his world, as we see in the example of the heroine, ceases to exist if there is no other person nearby.
Now let's talk about the source of codependency. We humans are very complex creatures, and this has both charms and pluses and minuses. A baby, just born, is as dependent on his adult as possible - without him he simply cannot survive. Imagine: you are hungry, you are cold or in pain, but there is nothing you can do - you can only hope for help. You are overcome with horror, and in your head the only question is: "Will I survive or not?" This is what a baby who has just been born and is completely dependent on his adult experiences.
Why am I so emphasizing this "my adult"? Anyone can support the life of a baby, but in order for him to turn from a child into an adult - strong, successful, happy, he needs his constant adult by his side, who gives him a sense of security, calmness and trust. Such a person loves himself, appreciates himself, does not allow anyone to destroy himself and knows when to say "stop" and get out of a relationship that goes beyond all boundaries.
But when the situation developed exactly the opposite (as in the case of the heroine), a person grows up with a feeling of emptiness, which he fills with the help of other people (sometimes - games, alcohol, drugs and even food), and if for some reason they leave, he experiences a terror comparable to the fear of death.
I very often hear about this in my consultations: when a successful person, who has achieved a lot, is handsome, healthy, cries and says that it is as if he is being turned off from the outlet, he does not even have the strength to move without a loved one. As if on the scales at this moment, either life or death.
The great news is that our psyche is very flexible: as adults, when we understand that there is a problem, we can fix it. Experts know how, gradually, step by step, you can work through the experience of childhood, where a person did not receive what was vital for him.
Codependency disappears. And working with yourself is absolutely important. The pleasure of life that comes after therapy is priceless and should be strived for.