Last week at my group session one of the women arrived late (and yes, I do have her permission to share this story...normally what happens in group time is confidential). During her time to share, she apologized for being late and admitted that even though she really needed to be drinking liquids because of some congestion, she had not brought in her Sonic cup because she was concerned that we would somehow judge her, thinking she had been late because she stopped by Sonic...even though it was old Sonic cup that she was 'recycling' and she hadn't even been to Sonic that morning. We had a good laugh at that one and sent her out to the car to get her cup...
And even though we laughed, we weren't really laughing at her so much as at ourselves because that's what we do and that's how we are, isn't it? I appreciate her transparency because it got me thinking about myself. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what other people might think of me if I do this or that...how will this come across, what will they think if I do that or say that...obsessing about the possibility of being judged and perhaps offending someone...or agonizing about decisions and becoming paralyzed and then not caring for myself in healthy ways because I choose to try to please someone else instead of giving myself permission to care for my own needs (somehow the whole 'thinking of others first' thing got all distorted). I can remember hours of obsessing about previous conversations or situations and literally convincing myself that people might not ever want to see or talk to me again, certain that I had probably offended them with this or that comment...yeah, I agree, it's exhausting!
This is the nightmare of codependency (by no means a clinical definition, obviously, just my personal perspective). For me, codependency often means taking on too much responsibility for others' emotions and reactions/responses and trying fix things that are not mine to fix.
In recovery, it's a little easier to define 'sobriety' for an alcoholic or a drug addict because, well, it's pretty obvious. But with issues like codependency, it's a little harder to define what sobriety is...for me it's more about intentionally working on and facing my issues and marking off the time since surrendering that issue to Christ. And then looking back to see if patterns are changing and whether I can detect if I am becoming more healthy. And then one day something happens that is like, wow, I'm changing!
That's been my experience. For instance, I went to Walmart just a little after lunch on Sunday I didn't really want to be there at that particular time since I wasn't feeling too well and I knew it would be crowded, but I had to buy some things for the salad I had signed up to take to community group that night. I remembered to pick up a few other things we needed as well and I kind of guesstimated how many items I had, deciding that I could go through the fast lane because it appeared that I had about 18 things, give or take a few. All the lanes were really busy and it took me a while to get to the register.
As I was putting my things on the counter, a guy behind me said, "Excuse me, ma'am, but I work with Walmart and I wanted to talk to you about how many items you have in your cart." And I was like, seriously?! The poor guy's wife was obviously embarrassed at his behavior and quickly assured me that he did not work with Walmart. She tried to cover up her discomfort by explaining to me that they were just a little frustrated with their shopping experience since they had been in been in another Walmart and the electricity had gone out. So they had come to this Walmart and were having to deal with the crowded store and slow service. I began chatting with them about how inconvenient that was while I kept checking out...and then of course, the card reader wouldn't read my cards for the first few attempts so it took longer than usual to get out of there.
What struck me is that my response to this situation was so different than it would have before...for one thing, I did not let this man's inappropriate comments bother me, period. I just didn't let it in. Then I was able to sympathize with their "plight" even though they really did choose a pretty bad time to go to Walmart if they wanted to get in and out quickly...I knew it would be busy at that hour and pretty much just expected for it to be slow going. I absolutely did not obsess about my choice of going through the fast lane (okay, I will admit to later counting my items, there were 22...yes, over 20 but pretty close and some things were multiple items) and I definitely did not obsess about the conversation with these people. If they want to think I'm a loser and such a criminal for going through the fast lane with 2 items too many (and I doubt they actually counted), then that is their problem and not mine. I'm probably never going to see them again anyway, so why should I have my life ruined by the opinions of strangers? In fact, I was rather amused at the whole situation instead of feeling embarrassed or annoyed.
So I think that's pretty good evidence of 'sobriety' for my codependency and that's pretty cool.