Hi, I’m Jaclyn, and I’m codependent.

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.

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When Happiness is Circumstantial

My happiness has always been circumstantial.  It has always been external. It has always been something that happened to me, instead of something I created.

Most notably, happiness has always equaled accomplishments.

And for reasons that aren’t important in this post, I learned at a very young age that accomplishing things is what made people like or love you.

So now I’ve got two things going against me:
1. Happiness is out of my control.
2. Happiness depends on what other people think about me.

Talk about some heavy shit for a kid.

And I’ve carried this philosophy (for better or for worse) through my entire life.

To this day, I struggle with making decisions because I need the input or permission of at least two people before doing so. To this day, I struggle with making decisions because unfailingly, those two peoples’ opinions will differ, forcing me to upset someone.

Usually I go with what’s expected of me. What will make the most people happy. What will make the least amount of waves. What will make me less of a burden on other people.

I have to tell you. This shit is exhausting.

So, growing up, I pushed myself to be the best. Be the best student, make a name for myself. Straight A’s, student body president, debate team, basketball, Spanish National Honor Society..the list goes on. Then, as I got older, those accomplishments changed, of course taking into account what was expected of me:

  • Graduate high school.
  • Go to college.
  • Get a job.
  • Meet a nice boy.
  • Marry said boy.
  • Have children.

The philosophy of “I’ll be happy when…”

And then these things came and went and I still wasn’t happy, not at my core. It was all external. All circumstantial. And here’s the problem with, “I’ll be happy when..” The truth is, it never comes. It’s a moving target. It’s always just out of reach. “I’ll be happy when” is a life sentence of unhappiness and unfulfillment.

My entire life, I’ve felt a void. A void I can’t name. A void I can’t fill. A problem I can’t solve.

And for the last year, I’ve become increasingly interested in the concept and pursuit of happiness.

If happiness isn’t the things that happen to me, then what is it?

I haven’t figured it out yet. I can tell you all the things it’s NOT.

It’s not getting approval.
It’s not being liked.
It’s not finding a man.
It’s not making X amount of money.
It’s not finally losing the weight.
It’s not having stuff.
It’s not the perfect marriage, 2.3 kids, and a house with a white picket fence.

If it’s not these things, then what is it?

Is it fleeting moments of joy that add up to a happy life? Is that the best we can hope for?

Is it a mindset? That you’ll be happy no matter what’s going on in your life? Then isn’t that a method of avoiding problems?

I am really curious to know your feedback.

The best I can figure it so far is that finding happiness might be finding purpose in my life, learning to love myself, and perhaps most importantly, forgiving myself and letting go.

All of these things are so much easier said than done. There’s no roadmap for this. I love a good game plan. I love steps to follow. But this journey, is anything BUT. I am in uncharted territory. I don’t know how to figure it out. I am putting in work – researching, working through past traumas with my therapist, working to shift my perspective. But it still feels so out of reach right now.

I will keep trying. I will die trying before I die with my emotions being slave to the things that happen around me.