Honest, Open, Willing
Years ago when my husband, John, and I separated, I was forced to give up my drug of choice, John. I could no longer make myself feel good by focusing on him and what I perceived as his “problems”. The result was I became overwhelmed by my feelings of abandonment. I quickly substituted in another pain killer, binge shopping. At that time, the first Target store in our city opened less than a mile from my home, and I went to the store and filled a shopping cart with clothes. The next day, I decided to take back almost every item and I told the lady at the returns desk what I thought was the truth, which was that I discovered I already had similar items in my wardrobe about which I had forgotten. We shared a moment of humor about having so much clothing we could lose track of some of it, and I left the store feeling okay. Within two weeks, I found myself staring at another heap of clothing I had just brought home from Target the night before.
This was for me what in A.A. is called a moment of “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization”, and what I believe many codependents also experience in a less obvious but equally devastating way if the disease of codependency goes untreated. I knew my life had become unmanageable, and I was powerless over my self. I hit a bottom when I became aware of the truth of my dysfunctional existence.
During all that turmoil, I was attending several 12-Step meetings throughout each week, and I also was sharing a wakeup phone call every morning with another person working on recovery. I believe now I was then at a crossroads, and the Higher Power of my understanding provided me with the fellowship for support so I could feel safe enough to experience the process I now refer to as HOW (I want to acknowledge there is a 12-Step program named CEA-HOW, and I became aware of the Honesty, Openness, and Willingness concept of that fellowship and could relate to the applicability of it in my life.) I was able to be HONEST with myself about my inappropriate behavior, I could be OPEN with my trusted recovery people about my inappropriate behavior, and I became WILLING to live with the consequences of my inappropriate behavior. And that is just what I did. I took my bags full of new clothes back to Target and encountered the same woman working at the returns desk; I suffered the embarrassment of having no excuses for myself this time, and I walked out of Target with the full understanding that my life was out of control and I had better get busy learning and practicing how to live instead of how to just survive.
With the help of a bountiful, dynamic Higher Power, the fellowships of CoDA, AA, OA, and CoSLAA, and also the help of several highly competent licensed clinical social workers along the way, I began to recover my self and become the person I always wanted to be. Today, when the “urge to splurge” hits me, I am able to share with another recovering codependent what I know is true for me: When the three-year old Martha gets upset, the thirteen-year old Martha takes her shopping! I know the simple (but not always easy) act of sharing this truth about myself with another CoDA person eases the pain of the moment and takes the power away from the impulsive/compulsive response to that pain.
The 12 Steps of CoDA are all about learning and practicing to be honest, open, and willing. It is my hope that I am able to continue throughout the rest of my life to be a part of the fellowship of Codependents Anonymous because I want to remain as I am now, precious and free.