Abandonment Recovery

Abandonment Recovery

“…[A father] walks [his daughter] across a log in the water and puts her high upon a rock jutting out in the stream.
‘You stay here while I go pick us some huckleberries for lunch,’ he says.
‘Don’t go far, Daddy,’ begs the little girl.
‘I won’t,’ he promises. He makes his way back across the log and into the forest as the little girl studies the back of his red shirt to keep track of him. He is momentarily hidden, first behind this tree and then behind that one. Suddently there is no sight of red at all. Perched atop the giant rock, the little girl begins calling to her daddy, hoping he is right nearby only teasing her.
‘Daddy, I’m here,’ she calls. ‘Daddy, where are you?’ But after a while she can’t hold back her terror. She screams into the forest with all her might. The forest remains silent.
As night falls, the little girl is frozen with fright on the cold, hard rock…
She has been abandoned.”

-The Abandonment Recovery Workbook by Susan Anderson, pg. 3

A topic I have not discussed in great detail is abandonment. The reason for that is simple: I didn’t think to write about it. At the beginning of recovery, my counselor was very subtle with me when it came to my issues. As topics arose, we would address them together and move on to the next. I eventually learned of the vicious cycle of love addiction and love avoidance. The knowledge that I had been living my life in such a pattern made me sick to my stomach. It was the motivation I needed to tackle my codependency and work hard at all costs to recover.

I went through the 12 steps of CoDa (Co-Dependents Anonymous), which took me about 8 months and then processed as much as I could of my love addiction. This past year has received the honor of becoming “The Year of Love Avoidance Recovery”. I was discussing some life ponderings with my counselor and she made the statement that if I didn’t work on my abandonment issues, I would not be able to let down the walls of my love avoidance.

That’s when some neurons started lighting up in my brain. I was like, wow. Why didn’t it occur to me sooner that if I wanted to work through my love avoidance that I should start with the root fear?

The excerpt at the beginning of this post is by Susan Anderson from her book called, The Abandonment Recovery Workbook. I heard about her on this podcast she came on as a guest. The way she described relationship withdrawal was so relatable that I was like, she gets it. I trust this woman. She experienced extreme betrayal through the ending of a long term relationship. It was through her own recovery that she formed positive exercises to heal from the wounds of abandonment.

What I really like about this workbook is that each chapter covers a problem and a positive solution. Many self help books give all the problems at the beginning and I never end up making it to the light at the end of the tunnel. The Abandonment Recovery Workbook has a good balance.

One issue with the workbook is that the questions, so far, have mainly focused on a recently ended relationship. So, if you’re working on parental abandonment or a form of abandonment outside of a romantic relationship, you may have to alter some of the questions a bit. Even though that’s the case, this workbook has brought some things to light that I don’t think I would have discovered without it. I am very grateful to Susan Anderson and the work she has done on this issue.

After the illustration of the little girl being abandoned by her father, Susan Anderson provides an exercise: Take a little break from reading this book and think about an experience in life that left you feeling as if you had been put on the rock. Describe. (Anderson, Pg. 7)

I challenge you to take her up on that exercise! The symptoms of abandonment play out in the mundane areas of our lives. You may be responding to life through your childhood experience of abandonment. It’s worth looking into.

Thanks for reading! Check out Susan Anderson’s book, The Abandonment Recovery Workbook on Amazon!

Two Things on Wives and Submission… Because You Asked

It may seem odd that I would venture into a discussion on submission within marriage, being that I am not married. However, I’ve been wrestling with this topic due to the place I’m at in recovery and the counseling degree I’m about to pursue. I’ve seen relationships done poorly… and that’s about it. My frame of reference for a healthy marriage is slim.

In the beginning stages of my codependency recovery, my view of relationships was completely dysfunctional. Instead of looking to God to be my everything, I was searching for that man. Slowly, my eyes have been opened to the value, gifts, and purpose I have in Christ. God has brought me to a place of active engagement in the present and I’ve come to really appreciate and enjoy life as a single woman in my thirties. I now know that a husband cannot fix me and that marriage is not the be-all-end-all of life. My contentment and joy come from Jesus.

However, a trend in recovery is that when you begin to see a flaw or pattern within yourself or when a truth about God is revealed, it’s easy to swing passionately to the other side of the emotional pendulum. Now that I know God is everything and that I don’t need a man to be my god, I find myself reacting in a feisty manner toward any concept that remotely makes women seem “lesser than” men.

Comments about men being the “leaders” of a marriage or “letting” their wives do this or that just makes my blood start to boil. I’m like, Shoooot. A woman can make more logical, intelligent decisions than a man. We women can do anything a man does and we can make improvements on it. Heck, we can even look better doing it. Why on earth would a man get to make the calls just because of his gender? That’s misogynistic. 

Bottom line: If submission is a thing, I don’t find men worthy of this role.

In addition to my place in recovery, I’m also about to enter into the biblical counseling program at Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s occurring to me that a counseling degree probably involves providing families an ideal scenario for a healthy family.  I felt that I needed to figure out what my stance is on a functional family unit. I know that in biblical pursuits, I cannot ignore the glaring scriptures on the topic of submission.

I started my research in Genesis, because that’s where you always start, and the only difference I found in the creation of Adam and Eve (minus their gender) was the order they were created in. Outside of when each of them were created, God did not give them different jobs. They were both to be fruitful and multiply. They were both to subdue the earth and rule over it. (Genesis 1:28)

From what I read, it did not sound like the typical sermons I hear of a marriage relationship, which often boils down to this: Adam had a really big, important job to do and he couldn’t accomplish it without his trusty administrative assistant, Eve. And just like he had a big job to do, men today have big boy jobs that they need help with. So, they let their wives do some stuff around the house and maybe in the workplace to lighten their load.

I looked further in Genesis, but besides that really mysterious verse within the Fall’s curse about Eve desiring Adam, it basically confirmed that after the Fall, people were sufficiently screwed up. So, I went to the New Testament to check out the controversial scriptures on marriage. Let me just say that Paul was right when he said he didn’t have eloquent speech. I think with sensitive topics like submission, verbage is everything, and Paul didn’t soften many blows. Just reading the portions of his letters about wives and their husbands got me feeling very defensive.

I was reading the scriptures “in emotion” and getting really confused, so I stepped back and listened to some sermons on those scriptures for outside insight.

I didn’t like what I heard. Basically, the argument for men being the leaders of the household was that they were created first. In Genesis, I couldn’t find anything written that proved that idea. I wasn’t about to place my beliefs on a symbolic implication.

I looked through scripture to see if the “created first” idea was anywhere else. And lo and behold, it was. Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” Ouch. Now, the context surrounding this scripture had to do with a local church issue, but I believe verses 13-14 were written as a universal truth. Paul brought it into the local church scenario to back up his word of counsel to his readers.

For me, personally, that was the end of the road. Paul was an apostle chosen by God to grow the church and expose the truth of the gospel. He was given special insights by God and has unique authority. I submit myself to the Bible as the inerrant, authoritative word of God. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t make it false.

There are sacrifices a man makes as he enters a marital relationship, but I want to keep this particular post very basic. My intent for initial research was to see if submission was legitimate and according to my findings, it is. So, on that most elementary of levels, these are the two thoughts I concluded with:

1. Choose wisely

Marriage is not a game and it’s not a place to go looking for all your problems to be fixed. In my past, I have played the dating game and succumbed easily to the emotional pulls of love addiction and love avoidance. That was not fair to myself or the person dating me. And despite the fears of intimacy and abandonment, I continued to pursue romantic relationships because I believed marriage would give me emotional rest. I thought marriage was the epic climax where life really got started. Everything else I participated in (school, work, friends…) were all hobbies God had given me until The One arrived.

This is a horrible mentality because it does not promote the kind of healthy patience and trust that is needed to choose wisely. Scanning the globe for that person who is going to fix you almost guarantees a poor choice in a marriage partner. It’s important to find someone who is satisfied in God. They are submitted to Jesus Christ and have a teachable heart. As a potential husband, this person should be more concerned about their responsibilities to Christ than your submission in marriage. If the person you’re dating is fixated on how you will submit in marriage, you need to pause and evaluate your relationship with that person.

You want a man that understands the weight of his place in a marriage relationship. You want a man that is connected with God and following God’s leadership. A married couple that is equally submitted to Christ and sacrificial to one another is a power house couple. That is a relationship that can have deep impact on their family and their community. It can be a life transforming relationship for both husband and wife.

Be very careful about who you marry. If you are a recovering love addict or love avoidant, make sure you bring the person you are discussing marriage with to see your counselor (If you don’t have a counselor, I highly recommend finding one. They offer valuable insight that is difficult to get anywhere else.). You want wise people to look at your relationship from an outside perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in fantasy and unknowingly step outside of reality.

2. Submit wisely

After you’re married (hopefully to someone who is surrendered to Jesus), there will be times you need to submit to the leadership of your husband. I can’t give you all the details because I don’t know where God will take you. I am also single (never married) so I can’t give you any personal insights on submission within marriage.

What I can tell you is that you can submit wisely. Being a wife who chooses to submit to her husband’s leadership, does not equal a woman without a brain or her own relationship with God. If, as a wife, you feel that your husband is asking you to do something that is against God’s character or will, you can say no. You are first and foremost under the authority of Jesus Christ. God has not called you to become a doormat to a man who thinks he can command you to participate in anything sexually immoral. God has not called you to put up with emotional, physical, spiritual, or mental abuse. These things are always outside of God and His will.

If your husband is asking you to submit to him, it should most often involve something to you and your family’s benefit. Your husband has just as great a sacrifice as your submission because he is to love you as Jesus loved the church. That is huge. Your husband is carrying a serious responsibility. He is not going to be perfect at it but it is his job.

In conclusion, as a single, choosing someone to marry is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. It should not be driven by love addiction or love avoidance. You want to make sure that you are not trying to fulfill a fantasy you have created. The highs from the addiction and the magic of your fantasies will eventually fall apart. Once that happens, you may find yourself in a position you don’t want to be in. Walk with God in your singlehood and trust His timing. Your marriage timeline may be different than God’s, but that’s okay as long as you are willing to surrender it to Him.

There’s more to life than a wedding ring and a relationship with a man. What other wonderful adventures does God want to take you on before you get married? Ask Him and start noticing your surroundings. What people are in your life? What opportunities are presenting themselves? What things of beauty and joy are around you? Life is wonderful as a single and it can be wonderful as a  married person. The key is choosing wisely and prayerfully and with many trustworthy witnesses! And even then… you’re going to have hardship. 🙂 However, both singlehood and marriage are gifts from God to be cherished and enjoyed. Surrender yourself to God and let Him guide you through life. He knows what’s best and He loves you. He will provide you with what you need.

Did Somebody Paint That?

Did Somebody Paint That?

I was walking into church yesterday, and as I was walking through the children’s ministry section of church, a girl looked at a mural painted on the wall, pointed, and asked her mom, “Did somebody paint that?”

I looked at the mural and was like, wow, what a stupid question. It’s obvious someone did that. The brush strokes were evident and the paint layers on the wall were painfully visible. My mind held on to the girl’s initial question, though. Did somebody paint that? 

I started thinking, Isn’t that what everyone is asking? Dying to know? They look at nature, people, emotions, gender and ask, “Did somebody create that?”

The answer is innately known: YES!

Without a creator, this world really is too good to be true. It is increasingly evident that more faith has to go into the solution of time to explain what’s around and in us than the solution of God the Creator. God who has made Himself known through creation, His word, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

This is an important realization for a recovering codependent such as myself, because knowing that this world was created, knowing the creator is Yahweh God, believing in His Son, Jesus, and reading the life-breathed word of God, I can know some important things:

I was made. And not by any amateur artist. I was made by the Master Creator. The One whose creation peaked the inspiration of our history’s greats. All art is an imitation of what God has made. The human body is a fascinating, intricate, and beautiful structure. Not only that, we, unlike the rest of creation, have the life of God in us. It says in Genesis that God breathed into Adam the breath of life (also translated souls). God filled man with a life unlike anything else given to creation.

Knowing from our very beginning that we were given such value, we also know the following because God told us so in His word and in His actions:

We have a purpose
We have a future
We will never be abandoned
And for you love addicts out there: your love story is already happening.

And when I say that, I mean: wouldn’t it be nice if a person could give us love, affection, affirmation, protection, provide for all our needs, show up at just the right time, and be completely head over heels for us? In my short life span that has been packed with dating, I can say I’ve never met someone who has met these qualifications. I don’t believe I ever will either. I think what we’re looking for is God. He has put His life into us and until we acknowledge we come from a Creator who loves us and surrender our lives to His will and His calling, we will never ever be satisfied or reach our fairy tale happy ending.

God is the absolute best fairy tale ending and better than that: He is in reality.

Wow, I got off on a tangent there. Anyways, the question! Did somebody paint that? Of course! Did somebody create this? The evidence is undeniable. True, effective healing from codependency starts with surrender to the Creator of it all: Yahweh God.

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” John 12:44-

 

Stop Being an Avoidant

Happy New Year! It’s crazy that I’ve had this blog for a year – that I’ve been in recovery for another year. When I met my counselor at our first session two years ago, I wasn’t sure what she would tell me. I knew that family members had been seeing her and were transforming in ways I never thought possible. I thought I was a pretty balanced person and just needed a little fine tuning. After all, they were insane and I was merely a minor case.

Was I ever wrong! I learned I was a miserable, love addict searching for what I already had.

After the first two sessions with my counselor, I left with a light of renewed hope and a joy I never thought possible. This led me to realize I’d been miserable.

Next, I was also working towards a relationship that I had been putting all my hope in for the past year and a half. Over the next five or six crucial months, I would discover I was a love addict pursuing a love avoidant. I was stuck in an endless fearful cycle of intimacy and abandonment. I’d been on an emotional roller coaster for most of my dating life.

Through all of this, I discovered that my walk with God could be opened up into an unending supply of everything I could need. His attributes are lovely, divine, and freeing. His thoughts and feelings about me are overflowing with love, acceptance, affirmation, beauty… you name your need, He has already been providing since you were born. I was finally free.

Do you know the joy of being free? I needed to be free mainly of myself. My obsessive thinking and negative beliefs about myself and how God viewed me. Being healed of that, alone, has catapulted me into a new life that I never want to be free from. I know it’s only going to get better.

I am so grateful.

A lot of ground has been covered in a fast two years and 2017 is here. In the codependency daily devotional, Letting Go, a series of questions are presented for the New Year. One of them struck me in particular: What blocks or character defects would you like to have removed?

After having devoted two years to my love addiction recovery, this year, I would like to focus on removing my love avoidance. It’s a side of myself that has received very little attention due to my out of control love addiction. This year, it’s time to take on the avoidance. Socializing, here I come! It’s time to work through my fear of intimacy and connect… omg.

Desire without Knowledge

Desire without Knowledge

“Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” -Proverbs 19:2

Have you ever made an impulsive relationship decision? I have. Many, many times and over again. Usually it is in response to my obsessive thinking.

Obsessive thinking begins with a desire. The desire could be seeking a cure for loneliness, pleasing someone, it might be to solve a problem… something to make your life better than it currently is. Desires are natural. We are wired to satiate our needs and that’s not bad. It’s how we seek to satisfy those needs that can get us into trouble.

For example, in college, there was a guy I was friends with. He was a great guy but I had never liked him in a romantic fashion. He, on the other hand, liked me a lot and was waiting for me to come around. I knew this even though he hadn’t communicated it to me. Guys can be so annoyingly obvious (when you don’t want them to be).

One night, I was in my apartment and felt this strong need to connect on an intimate level with a guy. I wanted to be associated with someone. I didn’t want to be single anymore. I wanted to have “that someone” I could talk to. I felt so warm and sure about this feeling. It was definitely time to make that happen. Well, who do you think popped in my mind to fill that longing? My friend who liked me, of course!

I lovingly texted him that night (because who talks about serious things on the phone anymore?) and confessed to him that I really did like him as more than a friend. He was very excited about this news and felt that his waiting was finally paying off. We set a time to go on a real, official date. I went to bed that night feeling satisfied. The obsessive thoughts and the feeling of being incomplete now over.

Guess how I woke up? Terrified.

The romance of a lonely night being over, the reality set in of what I’d done. I’d told a guy that really liked me that I liked him back… when on reflection, I realized I didn’t like him like that at all. I felt better in the morning. Not so alone. But now I had a serious problem. I had let a guy on that I cared about. He was thrilled thinking that we were off to a romantic journey that would end with us getting married and having a lovely family (is this true? I didn’t know because he had never said that, but it was what I assumed he was thinking – another bad trait of living in a fantasy world and not reality).

This is how it ended with this guy and how most of my relationships played out: I tried to stick with the relationship and hope that my feelings would grow for the person I had roped myself into dating. It never worked and usually within two weeks, I was breaking up with the guy, he was confused, and our friendship was over. He was hurt… and so was I.

“Desire without knowledge is not good.” In Proverbs, Solomon teaches that knowledge, wisdom, discernment all come from God. If you are not including God in your decision making, you’ve only got half the brains… maybe less. The second part of that psalm states, “Whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”

I lost my way repeatedly because I was reacting to my desires and leaving knowledge (reality and God’s will) out of it. Losing my way caused the guys I dated to feel lost, as well. We ended up with hurt and confusion.

If you struggle with love addiction, it’s important to let the fit pass before making a decision. Wait at least a week before making big decisions, especially when it involves another person.

It’s easy to believe that only a significant other can satisfy your desires. If that were true, God would not be as awesome as He says He is. The great thing about God is that He always does the unexpected. You think you know how He is going to answer a prayer and then He does something you could have never dreamed and it’s way better than you could have imagined.

When you feel lonely, tell God and ask Him to remove the feeling of loneliness and replace it with His love, contentment, and companionship. Ask Him to heal your feeling of loneliness in the way He deems best. Let Him know that you look forward to seeing how He does it. If there is a person you have in mind that you would like to fulfill that need, let God know but be open to His way of doing things.

Through my recovery, I am now beginning to see the patterns of my emotions and thoughts. By slowing down and making myself wait to act on my desires, it’s helping me gain discernment on areas of my life that are unhealthy. I’m learning to go to God and surrender my desires and seek His will on an issue. This is so much better than falling prey to my desires which have no foundation, minus my fantasies.

Bottom line: wait on God. His will is best and He knows better than you do what you need to fulfill the desires He has given you.

Exercise: If you struggle with impulsively acting on your desires, pause. When you’re obsessively thinking, stop and write out your desire in detail. Surrender it to God. Ask Him to satisfy your desire in the way He deems best. Thank Him for what He’s going to do. Then, wait. Don’t make a decision for a week. Surrender your desire to God as many times as you need. Remember, you’re in no hurry. Allow time for prayer, reflection, and hindsight. Embrace your desires (meaning, it’s okay to feel lonely for a little bit. You’re not going to die.). Wait on God and He will answer.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Day “Four”: Helplessness

Day “Four”: Helplessness

As my “ten day” challenge to myself progresses, it’s apparent that my definition of a day is not the 24-hour term, but more like a day in regards to a long period of time… which is great. So, here we go:

Helplessness! Here’s a great one: “Overwhelming others with your needs and wants.”

This one is for all the love addicts out there. Helplessness is not as obvious as it sounds (to the helpless one). If someone had told me I was acting out of helplessness, I would have denied it. Consciously, I’ve always defined myself as independent. I believed that if I had a need, I would take it straight to God and trust that He would take care of it.

Subconsciously, I was a big, melting blob of helplessness. When no one was looking and I could shed all the walls and defenses of the day, I would collapse into woe-is-me mode. I would beg God to fix my life, fix me, get me out of situations; help me. When I felt that He wasn’t doing a good or fast enough job,  I would dump all of that on the guy I was dating. Not upfront, but in nonverbal, in between the lines expectations.

Any time life got uncomfortable, I would expect my boyfriend to set things right. I needed his calm assurance, advise, prayer; time. If he didn’t text me properly, give me the right affection, or read my mind and show up at my house when needed, I took that as him not caring about me. If he did, somehow, come through for me, I was on top of the world. Life was perfect and hope-filled.

I know this sounds dramatic, and it was, but not outright. I could hold my crazy in pretty well. However, the roller coaster of the dating game was miserable. The continuous expectation that some guy could read my mind and fix all my problems was absurd… yet plausible at the time.

Pia Mellody writes that helplessness sabotages your life because others, “…may experience inadequacy and guilt at not being able to meet your needs,” “…may need to back off and escape such a huge responsibility,” and “…may experience pain when you react with resentment because they are not meeting all your needs.” What a heavy burden to carry for your significant other, friend, or family member! How can someone experience intimacy with a person that is always in heavy dependency?

The answer is: they can’t.

If people can’t help you in your helplessness, who can? What if I told you that there is someone who not only knows your dependent, but unconditionally loves you for it?

Dr. Glenn Kreider wrote in his book, God With Us, that God knew you would always be dependent on Him from the beginning, but He created you anyway. God is the only one you can be completely dependent on and also intimate with. He can handle your resentments, calm your crazy, and fill you with a companionship unlike any other. When you are filled with love and intimacy with God, you can have healthy relationships where you pour into instead of constantly drain.

I’ve been working through this character defect for a while and it has cleared away the miserable chaos from my life. Take your needs to God, ask Him to remove the gross feelings and replace them with His good character traits, and ask Him for forgiveness for not trusting Him. God is good and He wants you to be dependent on Him. So do it. 🙂

“Tomorrow”: Financial Problems… Ew.

 

What is Codependency?

 

What is codependency?

If I’m going to be writing a blog on codependency, it’s probably a good idea to define it for you. This is actually a difficult concept to define because it is so broad. Codependency, in one sense, is old school idolatry. It’s looking to anything or anyone besides God to provide you with everything you need to feel valued and safe.

The other side of codependency, is since other people and things cannot provide 100% of our needs, in fact, people often damage us rather than protect, we develop coping mechanisms to get us through our fears, insecurities, and life difficulties. This can play out through how we do relationships, how we eat/take care of ourselves, and how we view reality.

In Pia Mellody’s book, Facing Codependency, signs of a codependent are having difficulty in:

  1. Experiencing appropriate levels of self-esteem
  2. Setting functional boundaries
  3. Owning and expressing their own reality
  4. Taking care of their adult needs and wants
  5. Experiencing and expressing their reality moderately (Mellody, pg. 4)

I have personally experienced each of these symptoms and began the process last year of overcoming these life obstacles. It’s been one of the best ventures I’ve taken in life. It’s hard to face the unpleasant (and sometimes tragic) parts of our life, but I guarantee you it’s worth it. Face your fears and your pain. Be honest with yourself and grow because of it. You’ll begin to see the broken ways you are handling life.

It can be painful, but! It is not until we discover these coping mechanisms and surrender our damaged selves to the Lord, that we can truly experience freedom from the pain of our past and how that translates into our present situations.

So, welcome to my blog. Where I will share with you my own journey to functioning healthily and in full surrender to God. Happy processing!

1. Mellody, Pia, Andrea Wells. Miller, and Keith Miller. Facing Codependence: What It Is, Where It Comes From, How It Sabotages Our Lives. San Francisco: Perennial Library, 1989. Print.