Can CODA help when you grow up in dysfunction, and then love a controlling, gaslighting partner as an adult?
As a child, Geraldine lived in fear of her mother's anger, which often resulted in beatings. She became her siblings' protector, and felt that it was her job to soothe her mother's moods, and to take care of her mother. At school she was shy and withdrawn. She just couldn't comprehend what the teachers were saying, so she did not do well.
As her GSCE exams were approaching, “one day, it was like a thought came into my head and said, ‘If you don't do this, you're proving everybody correct.’” She says, “Even to this day, I don't know how this has happened. This is somebody who hadn't bothered doing any work. [I] deemed [it] as being completely useless. I just started to work. I thought, I'm going to do this.” And she did, gaining the highest mark in 5 out of 7 exams.
With that, she could to go on to college (for those of us in the US, this would be similar to a 2-year technical college, as opposed to “university”). She says, “That was transformational for me, not academically but personally. I went from this really introverted, severely introverted and very depressed, teenager to this extroverted young woman who made friends.”
With the help of her higher power, she made it into university, where she discovered her profession, which she loves. But then “I crashed around when I was 30. I hit a rock bottom. I think probably, I was on the verge of a breakdown. My life had changed. I think … the job that I did was almost forcing me to meet myself, the bit of me that I'd suppressed.
“I ended up in therapy for 10 years seeing this therapist three times a week. I was in a bad way. It was all those things that I thought were normal, being beaten, being depressed, suicidal. I remember even saying to my then partner, ‘my mom used to beat me, but it never did me any harm.’ I really believed that until the bubble was burst. The pain that I felt, the suffering that I felt was so awful and realized that actually, that wasn't the way life was meant to be.”
She left the man she had been with for a decade. “He wasn't a bad bloke, but I surrendered so much to him. And I realized that what I'd done was I'd literally gone from home to him.
“So he was the other controlling person. I felt I had to find myself and I couldn't do it within the confines of that. Relationship and I had to leave him.”
She began to forge an independent life. Then, “this guy walked into my life and and I thought, ‘I've met my other half, my soulmate.’ I never thought that I was going to meet somebody at this stage of my life. I fell completely hook, line and sinker in a way.”
But it wasn't all wonderful. “I sensed that something was terribly wrong with the relationship that I was in.” Of course, she thought it must be her fault. “But as time went by, I thought there's something else that's going on here. … I felt like I was losing myself inside this relationship. And I was terrified. I guess I was so enmeshed with my mom, I started to become enmeshed with him, but he was a really sick man who was deliberately manipulating me to become enmeshed so that I would lose myself completely.”
Luckily, she had come to Codependents Anonymous (CODA). Her brother was in Cocaine Anonymous (CA), and she loved going with him to his meetings. She loved the 12 steps. She once said, somewhat jokingly, “maybe I've got to become a coke addict and I can join.” Her brother responded, “that's not a good idea, Geraldine, but why don't you go to CODA?”
In CODA she started to really find herself, and also found support in another member who had been in a similar relationship. She managed to end the relationship, but that didn't end her danger, which included a couple of attempts on her life.
Throughout she continued to work the program in CODA, and she says “I believe that being in CODA saved my life. I believe that being part of the fellowship saved my life.”
Readings and Links
Geraldine read “Reaching out” from Cocaine Anonymous.
Ashley suggested a topic on the Concepts of Service. Akilah and I actually recorded some in 2015, but the titles of the episodes do not include the word “concept”. Instead they are titled by the principles we find in each concept, such as “Responsibility and Authority”. You can find all the concept episodes with this link.
Another listener suggested the topic of “my relationship with alcohol,” and I mentioned episode 112 “Do you Drink” from 2015.
An upcoming topics is music and recovery. Have you found particular artists or songs or pieces that speak to you in recovery? Maybe they reflect what it was like, or maybe they inspire you to new growth? Tell us about them! Please call us at 734-707-8795 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or experience, strength and hope. Or just leave a comment right here.