I believe in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. Love they neighbor. Be Jesus to the world. But can I help everyone who asks? Can anyone? The situation in my old neighborhood challenges me – and moreso my ex – to ponder this.
When my boys used heroin, it wasn’t just them. Almost their whole group of friends (not the girls as far as I know, but the guys) became addicts. I can easily name eight of them … maybe ten. And it probably reaches further than that. We’re talking about a middle- to upper-income suburban community; the place where people move to get away from this stuff. But I digress.
Recently, my ex came home from work to hear a phone message from the mother of one of my son’s childhood friends. This young man is now in the court system for charges stemming from his drug use. The mom has seen how well my son, Dan, is doing, and she asked my ex if he would be willing to meet with her to talk about it all.
Here’s the thing: This young man has been trouble with a capital “T” ever since we first met him (which was when the boys started kindergarten). He was in the court system before they were out of middle school … before any of these kids were using drugs of any kind. And the family has always had a reason why the things he did were not his fault. There is a deep root of co-dependency there beyond what either me or my ex feel able to step into.
So my heart aches for these people, but I’m going to be honest: I pray for this young man and his whole family but if I did not ever see them again, and if my boys did not ever know this young man in their lives again, I would be fine with that. I feel heartless! I’m not heartless … I’m just a little bit afraid. I’ve been lied to by this boy way too many times – before heroin and after. And they’d all have to show me that they are honestly and wholeheartedly working a serious recovery before I could reach out in any way. My ex feels the same. And yet we struggle with the decision to stay detached from them because we know how important it’s been for us to have people give Dan a chance, you know? I guess it’s all in God’s hands.
Heroin. Addiction. Lord knows it’s a communty affair.
It’s 5:00AM and I have been up for an hour. So I’m reading: “Codependent No More,” by Melody Beattie. If you are in the Codependent world, you know the name. I’m on chapter two, and it has me thinking.
The more I read about codependency (“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”), the more I think of my ex husband. He is not at alcoholic nor is he a drug addict. But he does have some obsessive behaviors and he does require a certain level of … compliance … from the people close to him. I found being in a relationship with him more difficult than I could bear in part due to certain requirements of that relationship. At some point you just had to agree with him on things or he’d talk you in circles for hours until you did. And you had to go along with certain routines because breaking them would send him into a fury. After awhile, I learned to agree early on in the conversation, or to supress my own desires if they threatened to break the routine…this to avoid the inevitable hurtful outburst that would follow.
I was codependent in that relationship because I was changing my behavior in order to control his behavior. I get that. I see it in my children and I wonder how to address that with young people. Their dad loves them and doesn’t have a definable addiction that I’m aware of. And perhaps they are codependent in response to me. I wonder.
I’ve also begun thinking back to my father, who has always been a drinker, more and moreso as the years went on. But he was never mean. He would always get either silly or deep, and he’d always tell you how much he loved you and how guilty he felt for not being good enough. In response, I spent much time insisting that he hadn’t done anything to feel guilty for, telling him I loved him, and insisting to myself that I could love anyone despite their behaviors… codependency. It’s a vague concept that clearly is part of my makeup.
The book says that codependents have trouble acting on their own behalf because they spend most of their time reacting. I cannot count the times I have started projects or wanted to act on ideas, made brief projects, and ended them saying, “I just couldn’t carry it through. It’s so hard to keep my focus while (X and I are arguing…the kids are having problems…work is requiring…etc.)”
Just some early morning thoughts. Codependent no more. Sounds nice…