In yesterday’s post on Domestic Violence, I provided a couple of links to resources someone who is experiencing or has experienced Domestic Violence can access as part of their healing and recovery processes. The fact of the matter is that even if we aren’t in a relationship where Domestic Violence is present, we may still be in a relationship where there is major dysfunction happening, in any number of ways. If we are in a relationship with someone who experiences compulsive or addictive behaviors, or if we experience them ourselves, there is dysfunction which could create the same effects in our lives as if we were in a Domestic Violence relationship: Isolation, Loss of Identity, and Cycles of Abuse.
Cycle of Abuse image obtained from the University of Tennesee, Knoxville, Division of Student Life’s Safety, Environment, and Education Center page on Relationship Violence
I have come to recognize and realize that I have compulsive behaviors and tendencies in my relationships with others and in my relationship with food. These behaviors and tendencies are directly linked to the chronic depression I have experienced since adolescence and possibly earlier. This means that when I entered into the relationship I’m in the process of changing, almost 18 years ago, I brought in thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and experiences which contributed to the dysfunctions and the damage to myself and others from being in the relationship.
In order to heal and become more functional as an individual and as a mother, as a friend and co-worker, or any other relational role I will take on or find myself in, I have to take ownership of MY part and process. I have to let go of fear. I have to stop focusing on the other person(s) in whatever relationship I may be experiencing difficulty in.
I am a codependent. I am a compulsive over/undereater. I am a perfectionist who gets immobilized by the reality and truth that I will never be perfect or be able to do the things I want to do perfectly.
All of these things have played into and enabled the isolation, the conflict, the tension, and the difficulties in all of my important relationships. Being able to recognize and admit these things is just the beginning of the journey.
Therapy is needed, for sure. However, experience has taught me that therapy alone is not the solution. Gathering information and learning about these issues is helpful, but, again, it is not going to create the change which is needed. Self-will and self-determination have not worked either. I know because I’ve spent more than two decades trying to help myself and help those around me into being better, doing better, and very little has improved. In fact, sitting at my computer after having spent both Christmas and New Year’s Eve alone, with poor physical and mental health, no income of my own, no family around to celebrate with, and the majority of my friendships being virtually sustained and maintained via my keyboard and computer screen, I can honestly say that it’s a miracle things aren’t worse than they are.
It’s time to return to The Twelve Steps of Recovery.
Whether the issue is Alcohol, Illegal Substances, Gambling, Shopping, Hoarding, Clutter, Sex/Relationship Addiction, Food Addiction/Eating Disorders or any other compulsive, obsessive, addictive behavior, there’s a group for that! There are local, face-to-face meetings, online meetings, and telephone meetings.
These are peer-led, peer-supported programs operated and served by people who have personally experienced the things which make our lives unmanageable. These are people who have learned a new way of thinking, of doing, of being. They’ve done so with the help and support of others. A majority of them have experienced healing, growth, and recovery as they have come to understand and surrender to a Higher Power. Others have difficulty with the Higher Power/God aspect of most Twelve Step Recovery programs and have established alternatives.
Here is an excellent online resource for those who are beginning to explore the Twelve Steps:
12Step.org ~ This is a comprehensive website dedicated to providing information and resources about the Twelve Steps and supporting those seeking “freedom from addictive behaviors.” Visitors to the site will find the following:
- The Steps – a comprehensive look at each of the Twelve Steps, which have been generically adapted from the original 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.
- Meetings – a page offering brief explanations of face-to-face and online meetings with links to resources for locating meetings.
- References – a page providing an overview of sources for the Twelve Step Recovery process.
- Tools – worksheets, workbooks, and other tools that can be helpful to someone starting to work through the steps
- Journal – free, downloadable desktop software for Windows XP, Vista, & 7; Mac OSX version 10.4, 10.5 and 10.6
- Directory – search for Twelve Step resources by a variety of ways: Addiction, Approach, Non-English and many other options
- Social – an opportunity to engage in their forum for those in recovery
The thing I’m learning to remember is that there are at least two people in a dysfunctional relationship. Both people are part of the dysfunction. Both people need to seek their own path to healing, growth, and recovery.
If your partner or spouse, friend, child, or parent is an abuser of substances or one who is engaged in compulsive/obsessive behaviors and/or addictions, that person is responsible for seeking his or her own process, or not. You can’t force it or coerce it. If you are experiencing distress because of their choices and actions, you are responsible for choosing to live with it, leave it, work with it, or whatever you do. They are not responsible for easing your distress or creating your happiness . . . you are. So, figure out what you need to do, then do it. Easier said than done, I know, because I’m in it right now and it’s a struggle. But, I have hope that the struggle is worth the outcome.