How Did It Happen
Years ago in a desperate feat of self-preservation, I relinquished control of a vessel transporting my hopes and dreams. Finally I'm regaining command. With the help of my pseudo-therapy beagle Spot and a kitchen paring knife, I’m charting a new course from being Co-dependent to independent. Only low self-esteem and the vessel’s two inhabitants stand between me and my dreams. Because my dreams are peaceful, force shouldn’t be necessary. It’s apparent both men are unaccustomed to an independent captain.
The standoff begins when the big one requests pizza for dinner. The little one agrees, and I wavier. Their hopeful smiles are impossible to resist. While they phone in the order, I retreat to my cabin. The beagle follows. My mantra, “I am the Captain now,” is a whispered question instead of a victorious decree.
Changing the vessel’s course is painstakingly slow, yet small advances are made. I’ve made contact with other captains who teach me how to navigate the choppy waters of co dependency. Tonight, I decide to feast on baked spaghetti, and I make enough cheesy pasta to share with my new crew. If they balk at the pasta, I will graciously encourage their search for an alternate dinner.
Much to my delight, they tried the spaghetti and liked it. We dined in the commons and enjoyed each other’s company.
I teach the little one how to change the sheets on his bunk. He rejects this new responsibility with stomping and huffing. I ignore those behaviors, so he ups the ante with tearful caterwauling. The beagle retreats, and I text a friend who long ago sailed through this dicey pass. She reminds me I don’t have to participate in this behavior. I retire to my cabin and wait for the squall to pass. Thirty minutes later, the little one immerges. The bunk is made.
My mentors review my progress. I’m pleased to report the crew is now enjoying strawberry smoothies, vegetables, fine polish sausages, omelets, and even unsweet tea. They praise my success, but one of the well-seasoned captains asks about the vessel’s chores. She’s empathetic about my reluctance and recounts her own struggle against her vessel’s unequal division of labor. She challenges me to keep teaching and empowering my crew.
A storm brews off shore of our small vessel. I continue to make culinary advances, but I’ve ignored the advice of my mentor. Tomorrow is my weekly review, so I must teach the little one how to swab the deck. I’ve dreaded this day.
He spies the vacuum, and the battle begins. The resourceful little scoundrel is a fierce opponent; he replaces behaviors that no longer work with new tactics. He cries and then hits with a rapid fire on, off, on, off, on, off of the vacuum switch. I too am fierce, yet kind. I ignore the new behaviors. He leaves the deck to “clear his head,” a well-played move. He returns and continues with the rapid fire power surge and manages to produce tears.
I dig into my recovery arsenal and find a way to keep my focus on me. I bite my tongue, not to control my anger, as I would have in the past, but to control my laughter. His next move is clever. He dashes the vacuum around the deck in two seconds flat. Since it’s impossible for the entire deck to be properly swabbed, I inspect his work. I ask him to give some areas another swabbing.
More tears are shed, and the vacuum is thrust into the wall. I opt to ignore the hit entirely. I will not teach him violence gets a reaction.
Forty-five minutes later, the deck is swabbed, and I’ve remained calm.
It’s time for the little one to again change the sheets on his bunk. I anticipate a battle, but he completes the task without resistance!
Today, I must retest the little one on swabbing the deck. To prepare for the potential battle, I steal some time away in my cabin for quiet reflection.
My Quest Continues
I’d like to tell you this saga is fictional, but the battle of the vacuum actually happened last week. Although I’m blessed not to be living with active addition, my codependency is a generational sin that affects everyone in my happy little family. I’ve enabled the two men to be pampered. I’ve chosen to put them first and be responsible for their happiness. I’ve allowed my life to be dependent on theirs.
Since I’ve become aware of my unhealthy behavior, I’ve had to make some tough changes that affect us all. The anticipated battle is often worse than the reality, although there have been some casualties along the way.
I’ve only survived the rough seas because of programs like Al-Anon and Celebrate Recovery and the brilliant friends I’ve met there. If you’re struggling to regain control of your life, I hope these tales show you change is possible. It’s your turn to “Be the Captain now!”
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Pam Carver
If you need help getting out of a co-dependent relationship, click on the link below for a free resource to identify and locate mental health professionals near you.