It takes courage to get out of unhealthy relationships that are wounding you. There are so many fears surrounding ‘abandoning’ codependent relationships such as:
- Being alone and without them
- Hurting them if you leave
- Never meeting anyone who will love you again
There is also so much fear in general when it comes to changing and facing the unhealthy things inside of us.
I first met Tim 11 years ago when I decided to reach out for counselling. I had already been sober for 5 years through AA at this point, but I had just lost an old friend that I previously used with through suicide so I reached out for counselling with the goal of processing that loss. Although it seemed as if Tim wanted to help me with that loss, he also saw that even though I had worked through the AA steps, I had many underlying issues that I had not dealt with. He definitely had another agenda in our sessions. One of the issues he told me I should deal with was the fact that I was holding onto an old using friend out of “loyalty” because we grew up together. We had been writing each other emotional letters and our romantic feelings would come and go over the years. I did not want to lose him but Tim said something to me that hit me like a baseball bat in my gut. He said “If you don’t let go of this guy, your growth will be very limited.” What?! Let him go?! I was terrified! I thought to myself, “How could I let him go? He would hate me! We’ve been friends for 15 years! I would feel so alone and empty! I have no one else!” I painfully wrestled with this decision, but I wanted to grow more than I wanted my old life and old friends, so I wrote him a letter saying goodbye. It was then that I began to form friendships with people on the same path as me, who loved Jesus with their whole heart and wanted to live a life of love, service and growth.
Once I let go of my old life, as hard, painful, and scary as that was, God was able to fill my hands with better things – healthier friends! Making true close friends in recovery was, and is, never easy for me.
It brought up a lot more of those ‘underlying issues’ Tim was telling me I had to deal with such as my insecurity, jealousy, shame and abandonment fears. At times, I coped with this well, but at other times, I would let control, manipulation, and anger get the best of me. One of my friendships in particular started off really well. We both encouraged each other spiritually; we travelled, danced, had awesome deep talks and she helped me heal from a lot of my issues. I had never had a close friend like this before in recovery! We blessed each other with wonderful things for many years! It felt so good to get that love, attention, and validation that I so desperately craved my entire life. After a few years, she went through some deep suffering and she changed, and I felt more insecure because of this and our friendship was never the same.
This triggered me a lot and after a while I began to think (subconsciously) that this friendship was the solution to my abandonment, insecurity, and shame issues. I pursued her even more intensely. I looked to her to look out for myself so that my emotional needs that were not met from childhood would now be met. I was hoping SHE would solve the soul wounds. I took one of the 12 needs (relationships) and overindulged that to feel okay emotionally. Thus, addiction to a person began, codependency took root and I began displaying some narcissistic tendencies making the entire relationship about my needs (most of the time). Addictive behaviours came out – impulsivity, terrible boundaries, using each other, etc. At times, we struggled with communicating needs and resolving conflict and just like an addiction, it gradually got worse and worse. I had become blinded and was in total denial at how unhealthy I had become for both of us. I got to a point over the years that the unresolved issues felt like a boulder we were trying to push up a hill. Due to a variety of factors on both our parts, we both were not in a good place where we were healthy enough to deal with all this baggage. We were feeding each other’s shame, wounding each other and making ourselves sicker. So again, I found myself back in Tim’s counselling office having that hard discussion about how I need to let go or it would keep me stuck in these shame and codependency behaviours. Thus, it was time to say goodbye for now. Grieving this friendship has been one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done in my recovery. I was in the anger stage of grief for about six months before I was able to move onto the acceptance stage. The song below is a break-up song: the lyrics are incredible, and it has really helped me put words to the toxic part of the friendship and come to terms with its end. I hope it speaks to you about a relationship where maybe you need to “let it go”, as much as it may hurt.
You Say by Lauren Daigle
“I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough. Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up. Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low? Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know, ooh oh.
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak and you say I am held when I am falling short and when I don’t belong, oh, you say I am yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) I believe.
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me. In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, ooh oh.
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak and you say I am held when I am falling short. When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) Oh, I believe.
Taking all I have and now I’m layin’ it at Your feet. You’ll have every failure God, You’ll have every victory, ooh oh.
You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing. You say I am strong when I think I am weak. You say I am held when I am falling short. When I don’t belong, oh, You say I am Yours and I believe (I), oh, I believe (I) What You say of me (I) I believe. Oh, I believe (I), yes, I believe (I) What you say of me (I) I believe (oh)”.
I’m carrying you all in my heart.