Childhood Trauma is the Feeding Ground for Codependency

Photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

Childhood trauma can be cured. The trauma happened and will remain as it was experienced. But we can learn to change allowing the abuse to harm us today.

As Dr. Gabon Mate states-”The essence of trauma is that, as a result of the overt abuse or neglect, or because of the relational trauma, we lose the connection to our essence. That’s what the trauma is. The trauma is not what happened; the trauma is not that I was raped, the trauma is not that I was abandoned, the trauma is not that I was hit, the trauma is not that my parents didn’t know how to listen to me.”

“That’s not the trauma; the trauma is that, as a result of that, I lost the connection to myself. Hence, I lost the connection to my essential qualities: my joy, my vitality, my clarity, my wisdom, my power, my strength, my courage. That’s the trauma!”

“The good news is, THAT can be healed, because if the trauma is the loss of connection to myself then that loss of connection to myself can be healed. What happened 50 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, or 3 years ago can’t be healed. If you were raped when you were five years old by your grandfather, that’s never going to change. But if the effect of that was that you lost the connection to yourself, that can be changed.”

If we don’t accept the feelings of sadness, remorse, rage, etc. that accompany our memories, we will increasingly lose touch with reality. By rejecting healing, we intensify it.

“As the survivor struggles with the tasks of adult life, the legacy of their childhood becomes increasingly burdensome. Eventually, often in the fourth or fifth decade of life, the defensive structure may begin to break down. Often the precipitant is a change in the equilibrium of close relationships: The failure of a marriage, the illness or death of a parent. The facade can hold no longer, and the underlying fragmentation becomes manifest. When and if a breakdown occurs, it can take symptomatic forms that mimic virtually every form of psychiatric disorder. Survivors fear that they are going insane or will have to die “ Judith Herman

“Playing the victim or being overly responsible allows the adult child to avoid focusing on himself or herself.. Both roles are saturated with codependent avoidance of feelings and being responsible for one’s own feelings. By concerning ourselves with others and their chaos, we avoid doing anything about our own lives. By being overly concerned about others, adult children wrongly think they are involved in life. In reality they are missing life. The enmeshed , codependent ACA can be so wrapped up in another person’s thoughts and actions that the adult child has no inner life or outer support when the relationship wanes. Codependent ACAs describe feeling lethargic, disoriented , and hopeless when their partners are gone. This is the high price for focusing on others.” ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) Red Book

I realized that I was an alcoholic and went to AA on Nov. 24, 1976. I never drank again nor did I ever think that alcohol could help any problem I had. From that day, I knew that I was a pickle and could not go back to be a cucumber. Or, as I choose to interpret that change, that I was a butterfly with no desire to be a caterpillar again.

However, it wasn’t until June, 2009, in my 33rd year of recovery, when my husband left me for another woman that I hit my emotional bottom. Bill W., the co-founder of AA, wrote in a letter reprinted in the Grapevine dated July of 1956 that he believed the next frontier of AA would be emotional sobriety.

The main emotional support system I had in June, 2009, was my ex-husband’s large extended family. The night he left, 60+ people left my life. I had no warning of this complete abandonment. Today I am grateful for this experience. I finally had to give up my “prideful self-sufficiency”. As Bill W. wrote about in his letter about emotional sobriety, I had become dependent on the family and had given up that complete surrender to the God of my understanding.

In taking another 5th step after this betrayal, I realized that I had recreated the home of my childhood. I had the good mommy role and my husband was the bad daddy. He acted out his misery by having an affair and leaving me.

But I realized that I still wasn’t getting to the source of the matter. I no longer feared abandonment-I had survived. But why didn’t I feel completely free?

This experience led me on the path of healing my childhood wounds. I was the oldest child-or rather-I was the youngest parent in that home. I took my duties so seriously that I taught myself to deny myself anything that would challenge my mother. In return, the power connected to this role of being the boss was my first addiction. One that I am only now, after 70+ years, giving up.

That is why I call codependency the addiction of power. And I believe all addicts must go through this 2nd recovery-the recovery of codependency. I will always be codependent. It is about loving too much. But I know my pattern now and know when I need to redefine my boundaries.

When I realized that my family of origin was my main addiction, I had to accept that I had only known being codependent in relationships. When my narcissist husband left me that year, I hit rock bottom emotionally. Finally. My addiction recovery started Nov. 24, 1976. So it took me 34 years to find my emotional bottom. Hard head and slow learner. But I found no reason to drink.

Maybe the narcissist husband was my choice so I could give up codependency. I know one of the reasons I married my 2nd husband was because he didn’t like my drinking. I didn’t either. So he led me to my sobriety from alcohol in 1976. Maybe the 3rd husband being narcissist led me to giving up codependency. At any rate, it worked. I finally had to begin living an honest emotional life.

Once you learn your significant other is always more important to you emotionally than yourself, you simply replace significant others.

I believe that mental health is ever fluid and not a fixed position for any of us. Other disorders that may have interfered with the mental health of the family are: perfectionism, materialism, overeating, gambling, religious fanatics, sexual disorders, power, codependency, depression, workaholism, etc.

Anyone growing up in these family conditions will have problems with intimacy, boundaries and difficulty expressing feelings.

“Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.” Jane Middelton-Moz



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Kathy Berman

Addiction recovery date:11/24/1976. Addiction recovery; eating clean; self-discovery. Kathy Berman’s Publications lists my Medium publications.