Showing posts with label Melody Beattie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Melody Beattie. Show all posts

Friday, March 18, 2011

Book Review Fridays: The Language of Letting Go

I can't believe it's already Friday, frankly. I haven't been posting because things have been so incredibly busy at work. Last week I discovered a wonderful book called The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie. The book is a once-a-day meditation series and I am finding it very helpful. Each entry is fairly short and provides specific guidance on an element of working through issues related to co-dependency.

I've tried other meditation books, but have found it difficult to make a real commitment to reading them each day. I'm not sure why, as there isn't anything specifically wrong with them. In this case, I do find real comfort that I'm not alone in how I feel. I also feel inspired to change the way I think and feel about things in my life.

Today is an exceedingly short post, but here's to getting through another weekend sober.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review Fridays: The New Codependency

I'm re-reading a book I read early on in my recovery, The New Codependency, by Melody Beattie.

When I first read the book, I was 100% steeped in mirroring and internalizing what I thought others wanted from me. Every second thought related to how someone else felt, what I could do to improve the situation, and what would happen if I didn't do that thing. When I drank, I was able to shut the voices down, drown them, so they would finally be quiet. And if not quiet, when I was drunk enough I was able to say, "fuck it," and mean it. I felt like everyone had unstated expectations and endlessly judged my success or failure to meet them.

So, when I first quit drinking, I was in pain. Part of my detox involved finally having to listen to the endless voices swirling around in my brain. I couldn't believe how constantly they told me what to do, because I'd never really listened to them before.

In the rooms I so often hear other women say, "The worst part of my drinking is that I lost myself." I felt this way too - like I'd gone so far down the rabbit hole that my ability to describe even the barest facts about myself seemed impossible.The opening of the book spoke to me:

I know what it's like to lose yourself so badly that you don't know if there's a you or ever was one. I spent thirty years not knowing what boundaries were and another ten learning to set them. I gave until I was depleted and needed someone to take care of me. I threatened, begged, hinted, and manipulated to get what I wanted. I was convinced that I knew what was best for other people. I got so busy teaching them their lessons that I forgot to learn mine...I obsessed until my head ached. Literally, it hurt. I didn't know what feelings were. Whenever I said I felt something, people said, "Don't feel that!"
She speaks of the relationship between abuse and survival that result in this behavior:

Blaming ourselves is a survival skill. It helps us feel in control when life doesn't make sense and being abused doesn't make sense at all.
It made sense to me that these behaviors are learned in childhood as survival skills designed to keep us safe. When I was a child and my father drank, we all tiptoed around him, trying to avoid his fits of sadness as well as his anger. Part of my avoidance was that by the time I was a teenager, I really wanted nothing to do with him. I didn't want to see him drunk. By then, I'd turned my fear and anxiety into disgust and anger to protect myself from all of the times he'd let me down or embarrassed me. But part of it was an on-going sense of danger and unpredictability that we lived with. The sense of safety brought by superstition and by doing what was expected was instilled early on. When it worked out as I expected, it validated the strategy and made me feel safe, but it also meant that when it didn't work out I felt guilt and sense of failure.

P!nk has this great line in her song, Sober, "I'm safe up high up high, nothing can touch me... no pain inside, you're my protection." If I'd discovered this song when I was still drinking, this would have been an anthem for me: I fully believed that by getting drunk, I couldn't get hurt. What I didn't realize at the time was that by not accessing or processing the hurt, I was daily compounding it. The point wasn't to avoid the bad feelings, but to learn to separate what I was feeling from what I thought everyone was feeling about me. When you take on the weight of the world, any attempt to feel is overwhelming.

I've decided to re-read the book, because,well, now that the fog has cleared, I can see that there is a degree of superstitiousness that remains. I still struggle not to take on the world. I've been working on a self-affirmation - "You are not them. You are you." whenever I feel stressed out. The very fact that I need to do so, almost daily, should give some indication of where I'm still at. I'm hopeful that I am in a better position to work through the exercises in the book now. When I first read it, the main thing I gained was the understanding that I'm not alone. Millions of people live this way too.
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