My name is Rebecca and I am a co-dependent. Generally, I like to think of myself in more hopeful terms that don’t make me feel so bad. Like maybe, “recovering co-dependent” or “I used to be co-dependent” or maybe even “I have co-dependent tendencies”. But truth be told, while I have tenaciously poured my soul into recovering from the woundedness of my past in an effort to fracture the vicious habit of co-dependency, I cannot seem to break the cycle.
Co-dependence in clinical terms simply means “a psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as an addiction); broadly : dependence on the needs of or control by another.” I grew up in the home of an addict and co-dependent and by kindergarten spoke the language fluently without even knowing it. I subconsciously took in the message that in order to feel not-so-out-of-control I needed to try to fix the hurting people in my life. Being the fixer gave me [a false] sense of control. I watched it play out every day of my life as my mother and father pulled on the tug-of-war rope of abuse and protection. By the time I was a young woman I was well-trained in protecting the abusive people in my life because if I confronted their sickness it only exposed the tender truth that I was a victim. No one wants to be a victim and codependents subconsciously believe that exposing the truth will prove more difficult and cause more pain than the actual abuse itself.
As a result of my upbringing I have often gravitated to relationships that will make me feel powerful by being the fixer. I have read more self-help books, sat on more counseling couches, received more healing prayer than most people I know. All of this has produced a much healthier me and has given me language and tools to identify my dysfunctional behavioral patterns. I am proud of the fact that I have been able to share this journey with many people and in turn, they have also joined the arduous path of self-discovery. But deep within me there is still a tendency to have a very ugly lie reinforced: the lie that says I don’t deserve to have my own needs met. No matter how much emotional, spiritual and relational healing I have experienced, I still struggle to believe, deeply believe, that I am worthy.
Professionally, I train people in the concepts of human dignity and how to uncover and empower the God-given assets and talents of others. No one enjoys being the recipient of charity. In opening up your hand to receive from some one it indicates that you are in need. It says, “I cannot provide this for myself and therefore, I need you to give to me what I cannot.” This feels weak and vulnerable and so we rush to cover up our tenderness with power, control and pride. However, I firmly believe that it is in this vulnerability, when exposed to safe, healthy, loving people, that produces true empowerment. It is ironic then, that I struggle with believing that I deserve this kind of dignified treatment from others.
While this might seem very intense, it is nonetheless true. And yet, as i write it all out in black and white it is strangely empowering to admit to you, friends and strangers alike, that I am needy in this way. It feels good to have the courage and strength to admit my neediness and not hide it from your eyes. I am very aware that I have a strong personality and that it may be uncomfortable for you to know this about me. But I need to say it. And I don’t want to cloak it with shallow words of hope in an attempt to make us less uncomfortable. I know I am in charge of my journey and I take responsibility for proactively growing, changing and healing. But I also face the truth that I cannot heal on my own and that no matter how much I don’t like it, I need others to place their gentle hands over my wounds and close them up with patience, truth, faithfulness and transformative love.
This raw confession comes to you for my own benefit but I hope that it gives you courage to face your own neediness. I hope you can reach out to someone and admit your need so that they might have the dignity of being your wounded healer. May we not resist the pain that it costs us to be healed by others. May we reach out with trembling hands and hearts and offer our tenderness as a gift to other hurting people. And may these small gifts be transformed, even miraculously, into something beautiful and whole.