But alas, I’m working on it. If you don’t know what codependency is, you can look it up in the dictionary and find a lil picture of ME next to it. Ok, maybe not yet, but perhaps in the next edition of Merriam-Webster. In the meantime, codependency or codependence describes a pattern of detrimental set of behaviors within a dysfunctional relationship. This term originated in AA and Al-Anon meetings to describe the person enabling, covering up, excusing, etc. the alcoholics behavior. A codependent would try to control an out of control situation. Sometimes this would lead to resentment of the alcoholic, and often to the codependent’s focusing predominantly on the life of the alcoholic and not on their own life. This term of codependency has now broadened to include a person who behaves this way in any dysfunctional relationship, including an abusive relationship.

My name is Joy, and I’m a codependent.

I used to be a raging codependent. I read Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency by Melody Beattie. I went to Codependents Anonymous meetings. I have worked really hard at living my own life (since I have so much crap to sort through on my own nevermind adding anyone else’s unmaintained junk to it). I’ve not got this down perfectly, but I have made HUGE strides in the past few years at living my own life and not avoiding my problems by trying to fix/control someone else’s problems.

I tend to be in relationships, romantic and platonic with “wounded birds”. I don’t consider myself a wounded bird because I am in treatment, I actively help myself, I’m trying to get better. I consider a wounded bird a person who has major issues in their life and is not in any way trying to resolve them on their own. I last took in a wounded bird this past July. Before that, it was my previous girlfriend with C-PTSD. But my latest and hopefully last was my acquaintance I’ll call Lauren (and her son, I’ll call Andrew).

Lauren is a 23 y/o I met while in the wonderful shelter program I was in when I grew tired of living out of my car. [I had become homeless after I had decided to leave medical school & therefore no longer had loans for my housing & then also had to stop working because my flashbacks and dissociation were becoming more prevalent & unmanageable in a work environment] Her 4 y/o son, Andrew, and she were a giant cry for help. She was infinitely less proactive than I about acquiring housing, and other services available to people in our situation. I took her under my wing and acted as her big sister for the time I knew her. I also was a second mother to her son. At first I thought we had a reciprocal, healthy relationship. She would help me out with things I needed help doing and likewise, I did the same with her.

However, when Lauren finally found her own apartment, she returned to an unhealthy pattern of behaviors including drug use, manipulating people, stealing from friends and stores, being involved with unsafe people. When I was at her apartment one day cooking and eating dinner with her and Andrew, a drug dealer came over (supposedly 3 hours early). That put all three of us (especially her little boy) in a completely unsafe situation. He (the drug dealer) was very nice to me, and I stayed, primarily because I figured if I suddenly left he would think I was “a rat” and that may put me in an even worse situation. When he left, Lauren and I were sitting and discussing how she used people to get food, money, drugs, whatever she wanted or felt she needed. I asked her, “what do you use me for?”

Lauren started crying and said, “you’re my best friend, I don’t use you for anything.” Now granted the girl knew me for about a month or two. The next day she told me she was really hurt by what I asked, and I said I meant no harm, I was just participating in the conversation. I also told her that if she ever puts my safety at risk again, she will no longer exist to me and will never see/hear/speak to me again.

A few days later my paltry income check came through (it’s less than $100) and she took $50 of it from my zippered wallet in my zippered purse while I was showering. I gave her a grand leap of faith (note: NOT a second chance) for a few weeks, but would no longer allow her inside my home because I wasn’t sure if I could trust her. But I would continue to take her food shopping, etc. Three weeks later she knocks on my bedroom window (which she knows is very triggering for me) because her phone had been shut off. I opened it and told her I had a 102 degree fever, my asthma was bad, and I really needed to rest. She begged me to come sit outside while she had a cigarette since she hadn’t seen me in several days and “missed me”. So I went and sat outside with her until her son was thirsty and had to go to the bathroom. That was the only reason I let them in my apt. Then she told me some bleeding-heart story about how she wanted to quickly check facebook because her foster mom from when she was in middle school may have sent her her phone number. So I let her check fb and because of my fever, after about 20 mins, passed out. When I awoke she said, “ok my friend is about to pick us up.” I said goodbye to her and then realized I had been asleep for an hour and a half. I checked my purse and she had taken $8 I was going to use for cough medicine. I had actually just counted my money to make sure I had enough for the meds about 15 mins. before she arrived. So I picked up my purse and was about to get in my car because I had HAD it! when I saw her waiting across my street.

I confronted her and she said she would never steal from me, I was her friend, and I did everything to help her–why would she ever take from me? Then she got nasty and said, “what would I use $8 #$%% for?”. I said cigarettes, Lauren, that’s how much cigarettes cost now. Then she opened her bag (which I had given her because out of the shelter she had NOTHING), and then her son’s bag to “prove” she didn’t have it. Then her 4 y/o said, “why are you in my bag mommy, you took the money.” OUT OF THE MOUTH OF BABES…

Needless to say I terminated our friendship, gave her whatever she had left in my house, and have not gotten in a tizzy about her threats. She finally admitted she took it two weeks later. At 7pm she said she was my friend and would never take my money when I have so little. At a few minutes to midnight she said… I have something to tell you.

So… codependent still. A little. But I have a bs tolerance that has it’s maximum now (and it’s pretty low and preserves my dignity). I do not try to micromanage anyone else’s life, when I have so much to do on my own between living my life … and self-care. I finally have the self-respect to establish boundaries and limits, which I learned from a book! Certainly not my childhood. I’m glad to be able to say that while I’m not “Codependent no more”, and I am just “Codependent, a little.”

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“You can’t keep trouble from coming, but you don’t have to give it a chair to sit on.” — Proverb

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