Melody Beattie is an extraordinary and famous author – for good reason. She’s written fifteen books but her first one – Codependent No More – was a groundbreaking work. It was published in … good grief!… 1986. Has it been that long? I guess so! She became THE VOICE for codependency… and still is!
She felt it was time for a refresher. As it turns out, her book The New Codependency (published in 2009) can stand on its own. Even if you’ve never read anything else by her… or maybe more so, even if you HAVE… you can sit down with this book and learn something new.
There are many layers to any discussion about codependency. Now, more than ever! The times, after all, are a-changin’… and with them, new solutions for old problems… along with old problems that have morphed into brand new ones.
Just take one situation: Adult children, well into their 30’s and beyond, living with their parents. I actually have quite a bit of experience with this. Why? Because, when my first husband and I were just starting out, we made some dumb decisions. The first one? Eloping. I don’t regret marrying him but I do regret the WAY we did it. See, we’d only known each other for six weeks or so. Both of us lived at home. He was 20, I had just turned 21. Where, exactly, did we think we would live? Hell if I know.
I know where we ended up, though: with his parents. It didn’t last long… a few weeks. Then we moved into our own apartment. That should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t. He had problems keeping jobs, you see, and we used to joke that he’d just wink at me and I’d get pregnant. And so, it was after a couple of winks that our little family of three with one on the way found ourselves homeless. Again. Back to the parents, we went.
These people were unfailingly kind and accepting… and there was never any question about where we’d go. With them, of course. They didn’t say no. We didn’t try to find anywhere else. How could we? Neither of us was working. I had a one-year-old and one on the way.
So, we moved in with Mom & Dad… and this time, stayed a year or so. We had our bed, a crib, and a portable bassinet in one bedroom. It got crowded, so they let us build an apartment in their enclosed patio room. Fun times. *shaking my head* When we finally moved out, it was for good. I determined that we would never rely on someone else to support us.
I also had a grandmother who loved me very much. She couldn’t stand to see me suffer… and suffer, I did. Every time my (then) husband was out of work – which was very often in the first five years especially – she stepped in to help. Sometimes, it was groceries. Occasionally, it was our rent. It was always something, it seemed.
I don’t want to take away from the treasure she was to my children, my late ex-husband, and me … we all adored her. But in the context of codependency: She was a caretaker and I was the perpetual victim. It’s shameful. <<< A good word for it. I felt consumed with shame and embarrassment and didn’t know how to stop it.
And then… there was another feeling. Resentment. Where did THAT come from, I wondered?
Now, I know. It came from me. I resented her for not allowing me to see what I could do without her help. And then I felt guilty about that. Who gets angry at someone reaching out to help? What kind of effed-up shit is that?
Then, I was divorcing after a 20-year marriage and rebounded right into my second husband, who had to take care of me because he was sponsoring me for immigration reasons and I couldn’t work for years.
So, yeah. I understand codependency.
Not every caretaking situation is codependent. Not every codependent behavior is wrong or bad. It’s just that there are times of “too much”… and it is then that we suffer.
The bottom-line of Beattie’s work is to learn to take care of yourself. This was something everyone I knew strived for… and I was certainly raised to reach for that. I just lost sight of it. Once I got sucked into the vortex… well. It was tough getting out.
This book breaks down the behaviors that need to change in order to overcome unhealthy connections and forge a path that is our very own — made up of our choices, footsteps, and journey.
This is a fantastic book, full of exercises, examples, and tools for healing. Beattie is an excellent writer, too. I love this book! Even if it’s hard to look at my reflection in it.