(Photo: Talk to the hand or take the green light in the middle? No one to choose but you.)
Some people don’t like hearing about recovery–mine or anyone else’s. To others, stories of recovery are helpful tools on their own journeys to healing. I’ve heard both opinions regarding my recovery blogging here on Carless. The solution? Self select. Read or not as you are so inclined. If you find my story has meaning for your personal recovery journey, then my putting this out there is worth the discomfort of less understanding souls. I give myself permission to write my own words.
Permission, as it turns out, is at the heart of my problem. A hallmark of codependency is seeking permission from those that you love. For everything in your life. It’s cliché to keep repeating that alcoholic families lead to emotionally abused, codependent children, children who go through their adult lives begging and manipulating those around them (without any sense that they are doing it) to allow them to be who they are. And not get hit, or hurt, or abandoned, or privately–or publicly–humiliated. Cliché or not, the sad part is that it’s true.
I’ve been on such a journey for almost 37 years. (Depending on how you look at it, that journey didn’t take that fork in the road to recovery until fairly recently–discovering spirit, re-discovering GLYNY, Devyn leaving, finding CoDA, finding God, take your pick). I spend my life looking for permission to live it. To feel my feelings, especially love and anger, to make decisions, to trust myself, to move forward.
To believe that I am not worthless. Oh, how I hate that one.
I strangled Devyn’s love for me by my unseen (by me) need to be validated at every turn to feel any measure of self-esteem. I could not bear to be away from him for more than a few days at a time, or to be out of touch for more than a few hours. It didn’t mean I did not love him (I did and do, very much). But my problem wouldn’t allow me ever to show it properly. And it hurt him so much he left, and continues to be absent from my life (and with, I suspect, not a very high opinion of me anymore).
So what does a codependent person do in that kind of a situation? Well, for me, besides luckily finding myself led to recovery and the long-overdue facing of my demons, you sit there like a deer in headlights a lot of the time, too. When the foundation of your self-worth suddenly disappears, no matter how ephemeral and unhealthy that foundation was in the first place, you, at first, have absolutely no idea how to react. Beyond fear, and grief, and a lot of finger-pointing at other people (at least until recovery helps you to see the problem lies within), there are far too many frozen moments.
My partner left five weeks ago and he may never give me permission to speak with him again. I am in the middle of a cross-country move that I fear may not be the right thing to do. I am in need of attending to my consulting practice. I am in need of consistently turning on the spigot of self-worth inside of me, on my own for a change. I bounce between confidence and the lack thereof as my life and plans continue, and as I continue to do my best shot at “90 in 90” with CoDA (and the Steps I have quickly come to know intimately).
And yet, my codependency orders me, under pain of sadness and fear, to wait for marching orders from those around me. They will not come. They are not anyone else’s to give me. My friends, my colleagues, Devyn, no one can give me the permission to live my life that my problem, clinging on for dear life, continues to make me want to wait for. Moving forward in calmness and confidence can be a regularity in life. It is for many people. It is not for codependents.
It’s the scariest thing in the world.
I cannot stop those I love from finding it hard to deal with me in the aftermath, or coming to judge me by my problem. I cannot control the reactions of others any more than I can control the love that I feel for those I have hurt in my former blindness. I pray every night for an end to animosity and a return of the benefit of the doubt in my relationships with those most important to me. God knows what’s in my heart and where I am in my healing, and I struggle very hard with that being enough for now.
But God helps those who help themselves. With that in mind, I have one thing more to say. They are words my family has owed me for 37 years and I have never gotten to hear. I have owed them to myself for almost as long.
I give you permission. This permission comes from the only one who has any right or power to give it to you. It comes from someone who loves you and has always been there. It comes from me.
I give you permission to feel whatever you feel, without fear that the world will fall in or you will be judged or shamed.
I give you permission to love yourself and hold yourself in high esteem, always, whether you are alone, in a couple, or in a crowd.
I give you permission to make decisions, and to know that you have the power and judgment within you to make the best decisions for yourself. I give you permission to believe that one bad decision and the end of the world are not the same thing.
I give you permission to feel anger, and to know that showing anger to those you love does not mean that they will retaliate or leave.
I give you permission to let go of Chicago and move to New York, and to enjoy the fun and wonder in that.
I give you permission to believe, no matter what anyone else is capable of believing, that you are on a wondrous recovery journey you have been led to by God, and that you are committed to it, and that you are healing.
I give you permission to believe you are not the same man Devyn left five weeks ago. I give you permission to miss Devyn, while I’m at it.
Most of all, I give you permission to believe that you are a deeply loving person, lovable by others, and loved by those around you, simply for who you are. You’re just wounded. And you are healing. Your ability to love and be loved will only increase when that process is complete.
This permission is irrevocable. It cannot and will not ever be taken away. God and I will remain by your side and see to that.
Michael, I give you permission to set yourself free.
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.