I am no stranger to alcoholism.
My older brother fought a tough battle with it which led to being on the TV show Intervention in February 2008. Even after the show, it took him a few years to get sober. But he did. And I am happy to report that he has been sober for over 7 years now. I am so proud if him.
What most people don’t know is that while we were filming the show, we discussed doing a double intervention on my stepmom too.
At that time, she characterized herself as a “functioning alcoholic.” She always said that because she had a job and went to work everyday, she didn’t have a problem.
But she did. Years later, when my dad ended up in the hospital, she lost her job. And that was the beginning of the end.
In June of this year, she passed away due to complications from alcoholism.
After all of the shit I went through surrounding alcoholism – brushing it under the rug, getting angry, obligated to enable, cleaning up literal and figurative messes, swooping in to save the day over and over again – I really thought once the alcoholism was out of my life, all of the other issues surrounding it would be too.
That is, until the other night when I was scrolling through Pinterest and saw a quote that stopped me dead in my tracks.
When I read this, it was like all of the pieces finally connected and I had an “oh shit” moment.
Here it is:
People pleasing? Making other people’s problems my own? Self-esteem being dictated by other people?
I. Am. Codependent.
Anyone who has known me for five minutes knows that I live and die by what other people think of me. Happiness has ALWAYS been circumstantial and external.
I felt like I had been SEEN!
Immediately, I began to research further:
- Difficulty making decisions
- Taking on others’ interests as my own
- Not knowing what I want
- Not know how to communicate what I do want
- Struggling to set boundaries
- Using relationships to fill a bottomless void
This is me to a T. I started to cry. First, in relief. There was finally something that explained why I feel and act the way I do. Then, in anger. And the anger sat for a while.
“Here I am being punished yet again by the actions of someone else. Here I am again having to clean up the mess long after the person is gone.”
Then, I cried out of overwhelm. What started as a way to cope, a way to survive, is now a deeply ingrained, complicated problem that will take years and a shit ton of work to undo.
I feel…defective. I feel overwhelmed.
The challenging thing with this kind of problem and what drives me crazy about personal development, is that there’s no rule book. There’s no quick fix. I can’t binge read a self help book over the weekend and be “cured.”
This is going to be hard. But it’s worth it.
Because I want to know who I am without being defined by my relationship to someone else.
I want to learn how to say no to things that don’t serve me.
I want to know and pursue things that truly interest me.
I want to learn how to take care of myself first.
So, I will do the work. Because I deserve to be happy.