My Journey To Accepting My Codependency Took 23 Years
In 1986, when I was 10 years sober, I read Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More. I was shocked that I identified because I was a recovering alcoholic. Then, as now, codependency was sidelined to be the addiction of those who enabled addicts. So I put this identifying with codependency aside. I had more lives to manage and control.
After a betrayal and a painful divorce in 2009, I finally hit my emotional bottom after 33 years of recovery. I knew I had to find why I had had 3 divorces. None of my marriages was to a rotten guy nor did I experience any real suffering during them.
Husband#1 and I were both alcoholic. I left that marriage by running home to my parents and abandoning everything except for my clothes and car. Why did I leave? Although we were both teachers, we went to our favorite bar most nights. I felt that this risky behavior would catch up with me. So I took a geographical cure. Except I took me along.
Husband#2 and I met at my next job of teaching.high school. It was the consolation of my own high school and 2 other towns. My uncle, mother, new husband and I all taught at the same school. I continued my drinking but this husband didn’t like to drink so I kept my drinking until after he had gone to bed. I drank with Johnny Carson. After I came to recovery, I was asked if I had ever blacked out and could honestly say no because one Johnny Carson show was another. I just remembered that I had ended up in bed sometime. Then I would hide the beer or wine bottles.
This second marriage produced a daughter. When she was 5 years old, I knew from having watched my father’s struggles over the years, that I was heading for disaster. I have great instincts and have learned to follow them. So I turned myself in. At 3 months sober, I went to live for a month in a very humble home for alcoholic women. This saved my life. I now know that I was at a high risk for relapse because I had never suffered any public shame from my drinking. . When I chose to go to the Maranatha Home, as a military officer’s wife (my husband had switched careers), I could have chosen to go a country club resort rehab. Instinctively, I knew that I had to stop running and face the music.
One of the saddest experiences of my life is that I realized over time that this husband who was such a loving and caring companion preferred me drinking. I pleaded and begged for him to find his own recovery. But he was the codependent, the “well one”. The world views codependents as good people and heaps praise and rewards on us. But each member in a recovery couple needs his/her own recovery.
In a struggle to hold this marriage together, we went to marriage counseling. The moment that I knew I had to break this bond happened while I was cooking bacon. Our counselor had given us the task not controlling the other for 1 week. While I was turning the bacon, my husband came over and took the fork out of my hands so that he could do it “better”. I knew I would return to drinking if I didn’t leave the marriage.
I was single or separated for 10 years. Then I met Husband#3. I met in at a New Year’s Eve party. He is an active alcoholic. I was living in the worst place I had ever lived in and needed financial help . We were married for 15 years until he had an affair with one of our customers. Then they moved down the street from me. We had been emotionally divorced for many years so while this surprised me, I knew it was time. The emotional bottom was caused because he forbade all of his family to communicate with me in any way. So about 60 people — my support system — left my life in one night.
The main reason I tolerated these slim pickings of marriages was because I had a deep fear of abandonment. As I wrote in another story, I lived on an emotional island as a child. We children had to take sides in every argument which was a daily event. To top off that misery, sometimes my parents would both reject me.
Now with this last divorce I had been totally abandoned. I have no family left. The good news is that I accepted my aloneness and even began enjoying it. Money was a constant concern as I had only social security to live on to take care of a home and a car. 10 years later, although I have tried several income sources, I am still in the same situation. I chose not to date as I needed all my energy and focus on enjoying the life I have. And I do. I am so grateful for my rich inner life.
My first job in 2009 was finding a new support system. So I returned to AA — a great place to meet like-minded people. Because I have a dual — or quadruple — addiction, I really dislike all the homilies that try to turn the group into a cult. A person with an experience is never at the mercy of someone with an argument.
The main homily I disproved with my experience is “if you don’t go to AA, you will drink again”. I left AA for long periods (many years) over my sobriety and had no desire to drink. I knew drinking had never been a solution. In reality, I have had few long periods of going to meetings. I do use the 12 steps to evaluate my life.
I stayed in AA on 2009 until I found I could no longer sit still about the lack of growth I found in the AA movement. 75 years after its beginnings, the program had nothing added. But Bill Wilson had recommended additional growth being necessary 50+ years ago.
Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, mentioned emotional sobriety in a Grapevine article he wrote in 1958. He wrote: “I think that many oldsters who have put our AA “booze cure” to severe but successful tests still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps they will be the spearhead for the next major development in AA, the development of much more real maturity and balance (which is to say, humility) in our relations with ourselves, with our fellows, and with God.”
So, instead of meetings, I chose to start a Facebook page, Emotional Sobriety, on January 17, 2011. It is my 12th step work — the step we give to others what was given to us. I had posted to it every day except for 1 week. To date (12/18/2020) over 25,000 people follow or have liked the page. It has been a source of joy and growth for me as I started in anonymously and have only recently when required by Facebook posted my ownership.
I also started a blog in November, 2004, also named Emotional Sobriety, which I update weekly. Having had 8 blogs I added over the years, I am now transferring everything to Medium.
All my Medium work — Kathy Berman’s Emotional Sobriety