Codependency stems from lots of places.
Mine went from mildly existent to off-the-charts after my brother died. Before then, I had struggled with thinking I could fix other people in my life. I had failed at fixing other people, of course, but the stress of it wasn't consuming my life.
I remember one Sunday afternoon, sitting next to my brother at his bar. He was telling me that the finances were bad and I told him to let me take a look. Being a CPA, maybe there was something I could find that might help. He insisted that there was nothing I could do, he told me it was "too far gone".
"Too far gone". Hopeless. Out of reach. I actually looked up hopeless on Dictionary.com. It defines hopeless as the following: feeling or causing despair about something. Despair? Despair is defined as the complete loss or absence of hope. Complete loss. . .
I know now that it was probably best to let it go, to hand the keys back to the owner and be done. That day, I felt a little disappointed that he didn't take my help, but I didn't linger on it. I went on with my life. I worried about him most days, but I never would've thought he would take his own life.
No, finances weren't the only thing troubling him. I won't get into all the details here, but there were multiple stressors hitting him from multiple angles. Ever feel like you can't catch a break? That's sort of where Michael was at. If something could go wrong, it was. But, let me be clear: he didn't help the situation. He made choices and put himself in bad situations that made his problems much worse than they needed to be.
It's easy to see the forest through the trees when you aren't in the trees.
After Michael died, my codependency habits skyrocketed. I had always been concerned about other people that were drinking and/or using in my life, but once he died, it was like I refused to allow it to happen again. I wouldn't let it happen again.
So, I found the treatment centers. I made connections for people. I made excuses for people. I tried to help people get sober and clean. It felt hopeless.
I learned through many months that slowly turned into years, how I couldn't fix people. I wanted people to see what I seen in them: an opportunity to be a different person. Read that again: An opportunity to be a different person.
I could see potential that either people in my life didn't see for themselves or they simply didn't want for themselves. It was arrogant of me to think someone should be different. But, I could see a clear path and in my mind the answer was simple, "JUST DO WHAT I AM TELLING YOU TO DO!".
I'm sure you know by now, this isn't how it works. No matter how much potential we can see in someone, if they can't see it in themselves, it can feel pretty hopeless: full of despair, a complete loss.
Think of someone in your life that provides some stress in your life. Have someone in mind? Good. Now ask yourself this question, "If this person never changes, will all my sleepless nights, the stress headaches, the anxiousness, the endless worrying - will all that be worth it?". Will you make it to the end of your life and be happy that your worried day in and day out for nothing?
Don't get me wrong. Some of you have children that are addicted and some of you have spouses. This isn't an easy realization. But, the reality is that you are likely stressing yourself out over something that has a 50/50 shot of going the way you'd like it to. And, even then, will your loved one be what you want them to be?
What if, instead, we ponder the idea of setting our expectations at a realistic level (usually pretty low, check out the expectations post here) but remaining hopeful (yes, hopeful!) that it could be better? If you start to do this, you might notice that the things that once stressed you out don't as much anymore. You might notice that you feel more peaceful, more rested than normal. And that. . . well, that feels pretty darn full of hope to me.
Questions? I love hearing from my readers - send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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