Lisa used to believe that she needed to be responsible for everyone and everything around her. She was a chronic ‘fixer’ and believed she had to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.
When she shares what she’s learnt about codependency it’s a huge a-ha moment for lots of women, whether they’ve experienced a partner with addiction or not.
Love is caring. But it’s not care-taking.
Relationships are about two independent people taking full responsibility for their own happiness and health coming together in union. This has been a big lesson for Lisa – to let go of attachment to what the people around her will do and find peace within herself.
This episode will be helpful for anyone who has ever walked on eggshells, forsaken their needs for others (chronically!), felt like they are or they know the solution to someone else’s problem and abandoned themselves for ‘love’.
Hey, if you are a solo/online business owner, coach, expert struggling a little with momentum in 2021, come along to a free workshop where I share how I drive things forward during such times. Start your week in brand new ways! Register for the workshop here
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Hey, it’s Lisa Corduff. Welcome to the podcast, where you can expect inspiring, energising and transformative conversations with people on the path of personal evolution. I’m here to really live my life and if you are too, these conversations are just for you. I’m really glad you’re here. Enjoy.
Hey, there. Welcome to another episode of the podcast and this time with the story told … Well, enough of the story told for you to understand a little bit more where I’ve been coming from all these years. I can tell you for sure that it feels like a bit of a relief to, I guess, be seen, have it expressed, know that however it was received is okay. I have received amazing messages from people who feel like my story is their story and I’ve sent a lot of love to women who are navigating hard seasons. And I do, I send that love really wholeheartedly because it’s absolutely not easy. So on the back of having said what happened, and that I was the wife of an alcoholic and I was trying to make sense of so much for so long, and the ending was really the very worst kind, I wanted to delve into now some of the stories amongst the story. The issues, the nitty gritty, some of the big themes that started to emerge for me, that I seem to end up talking about a lot to women.
Today I thought we would start with the topic of co-dependence. Now in no way am I at all a psychologist or therapist or anything like that. So I really want you to know, and really hear me when I say that I’m sharing about this stuff from my own personal experience and I’m doing it because I know whenever I do, there are women who go … sort of a bit of a light bulb might go off for them and takes them down a path of, I guess, just a little bit more awareness. I’m going to talk about co-dependence because I had no idea what it meant. I also had no idea … Once I started to understand it, I was like, “Oh, this is me because we have addiction in our relationship.” It’s not even that. When I talk in my programmes about co-dependence and recognising co-dependent patterns of behaviour, I mean, women are like, “What? What did you just … Hang on a minute? What do you mean this way of loving or this way of relating isn’t … there’s another way? Hang on a minute.”
So I’m just going to talk about some big themes around co-dependence and also how they appeared in my marriage. The cool thing is is that I’m in a relationship now where I get confronted with this stuff all the time. I mean, in real time with another real human, I am practising a new interdependence, I guess. So let me talk about it. I mean, you might be someone who’s heard about it. You might even think of yourself as someone who is codependent, but for those who are new to it, the best way I can kind of think to describe it, when I knew that I had an issue with co-dependence, it was because I fully, 100% was living my life and believed that I could make Nick better, that there were things that I could do, or not do, that would directly impact his choice to stay sober and that his health and wellbeing and everything was my responsibility. It was my job. That’s what I believed.
If you love someone and you’re just quietly walking on eggshells around them, or you spend a lot of your time thinking about things that you could do or not do that will directly impact them, you are ultimately taking responsibility for them, for their actions. You’re saying, “It’s my job to help this person do this and this and this.” I mean, you’d be a fixer. You’re a fixer. You’re like, “Let me get my hands on it. This is my job.” So I mean, when I say to women, “Don’t go saying … ” We know, we come across stuff. If you’re listening to this podcast, then you’re a woman who’s probably doing some inner work on herself who’s just gently kind of raising her consciousness by just questioning things that she’s always believed or observing herself, instead of just being in it all the time.
If you’ve done any of my programmes, you understand that your thoughts aren’t you and all of that stuff. Powerful stuff. Once you’re sort of on that path, you can be really keen to share that with the people around you. Really keen. I mean, I know for me, I was like, “Oh, if I get him this crystal, that crystal is going to do this and this and this.” Or, “If he just reads this book, if he just gets this concept, then everything will change for him. I just need him to do some hypnosis. If I can just get him to see a hypnotherapist. I’ve just researched and I found a place that I think is going to give him the inner child work that he needs to do to heal at a deep core level, and then everything’s going to be fine.
I know, I just need to keep the kids quiet so that he doesn’t feel stressed and anxious so he doesn’t drink today. I know if I say, “Let’s have sex tonight,” then I know he won’t drink too much because he loved sex the most. I know if I can just work really, really hard to grow a business, then he won’t have to work anymore and he doesn’t need to be stressed and he can work on his art and I can make that happen for him.”
So if any of that stuff is ringing a bell for you, if your head is a lot of the time … and this could be your partner, it could be your child. I think a lot of parents are in co-dependent relationships with their children. We fix, we care take them instead of caring for them. It’s a line that I think so many women have crossed without knowing that they’ve crossed it, and that’s why I’m sharing it today, because I can remember my friend Lisa Carpenter, and she sent me an amazing book. She sent me … It was daily meditations on co-dependence and I was like, “I don’t understand this co-dependence. It feels like something that someone else would be a part of. I don’t think it’s really me.”
Well, I started reading these little meditations, it was blowing my mind. I would say that when I started to learn about co-dependence, of course, I mean, I spoke to Nick about it. Like, “I think we’re this,” and he in his rehabs and going to therapy and all that sort of stuff was realising we were too. The crazy thing is we think we’re loving so hard, we think we’re loving the best, because so much self-sacrifice goes along with that kind of love. I knew my patterns of this were creating a kind of learned helplessness for him. He wanted to stand on his own two feet. He wanted to own it. He wanted to own his recovery. So started the process of me, what I called lovingly detaching from whether he chose to stay sober or he didn’t. I had to detach myself just with so much love because I loved this human, and yet I recognised finally, I was never, ever responsible for the choices that he was making.
I wanted to be. Man, I wanted to be, because if it was up to me, he would have stopped. I gave him every reason in the world to stop. But then what happens is, and it’s kind of insidious because you don’t know it’s happening, is that because you think that it’s your job and you’re responsible for this person, that then if they’re not doing that thing and if you’re not doing a good enough job, if they’re making a choice that’s different, then you’re not enough of a reason for them or you’re not good at your job.
This little voice in my head would say, “If he loved me, he would stop.” Because I had attached myself to being the reason he would stay sober or he wouldn’t. Or the children. What was he doing? Doesn’t he get it? That shows a complete lack of understanding of addiction personally, and it’s like the most obvious sign of co-dependence. Because each human is responsible for themselves. Even my kids are. I can want to support them, help them, love them, but I’m not doing it in the same way. They’re going to have their journey through life and so much of that, I have to lovingly detach from them being anything in particular. This is their life. It was always Nick’s life. It was always his choice. Well, that’s debatable because of how you understand addiction. But what I had to confront was the role that I was playing in this dance that we both had going on.
We were both aware of it and it’s ultimately why he decided to end the marriage. Like, “I need to do this.” I was heartbroken because my whole identity was wrapped up with being his wife. Who was I if I wasn’t Nick’s wife? His carer? How was he going to be okay without me? Heavy. We do this in all sorts of different ways when we’re so enmeshed. I didn’t even see Nick as separate to me. It felt like it was all together. I would do things, I would put him above me in most things I can remember waiting for months and months and months to see this healer. Nick was in a really bad way. I mean, I’d been on this waiting list and I’d waited and I was so excited. It wasn’t even a question in my mind that I should give that appointment to Nick when it came up. I was like, “Well, he needs it more than me. He needs it more.”
Because it’s going to fix him. Because this is the thing that he needs. Because I, somehow as a human outside of him, knows what’s best for him. I didn’t know. That’s so arrogant to think that we know what’s best for other people. It’s crazy if you really think about it, isn’t it? We do it all the time. So that was the reality of what I was living. Here’s cool news for anyone who’s like, “Okay, so what’s happening here? I just thought I was loving on my people,” and I’m sharing this because I work with thousands of women, I see thousands of women take full responsibility for everybody around them and wonder why they are so tired.
People are going to people, they’re going to make their own choices and you can love them and be detached from whatever choice they make. It’s not easy. I’m not saying it flippantly because I ultimately … We ended the marriage. He did his work for six months. He relapsed and he died. So you can imagine that co-dependent Lisa and the stories I was telling myself, the guilt I felt that has been in ways from people who love him. I can remember being at a celebration and someone associated with the family just saying, “He couldn’t live without you. He was lost. He didn’t have his anchor.” That person hadn’t even known he was an alcoholic until months after he died.
I just think, “Oh, I’ve had to do a lot of work on that.” So ingrained was my belief. I’m sure that that’s the way it looks to a lot of people. But I know what happened between Nick and I, I know us both waking up to this whole world and I also even just think the state I went into having three kids really quickly, we had no family support and it became something that … I can really remember just being in the zone of those early years of motherhood. I look back now and I think he was really in it with me. He really was, but I was also being responsible for everything.
So what does that then do when we do that? We take away other people’s power. “I know the way to do this.” Do you? Did I? That wasn’t the easiest time. I think it happens sort of subconsciously. Anyway. Well, it definitely did because I wasn’t conscious that I was doing it. There’s outcomes that have happened because of this, there’s outcomes. I spent just years thinking that I could do things a certain way and everything would be okay. I absolutely lost the ability to tune into and communicate my needs. That’s something that I actually still struggle with a lot. It’s a real work in progress for me.
Our relationship was really … it was lots of highs and lows. It was really intense. It was intense because we were so enmeshed. Whatever he was feeling, I was feeling and vice versa. It was just so dramatic. I think that what I am learning about now, now that I can see it for what it is, and I can sense when I’m falling into that, and it’s something that I’ve spoken a lot about with my boyfriend. I mean, he sort of came into my life when it was all being dismantled. I knew I had a chance to do something differently, to love differently, and yet the patterns are really strong, right? So when he would say … I mean, I can remember him saying to me, even when we were having sex, he just say, “Just don’t do anything. Can you just receive? You don’t need to do anything.” I was always kind of on, I was always thinking that I had to do stuff.
It’s been this beautiful kind of gift to learn how to receive, for him to say to me, “I’d really love you to tell me what you need right now,” and for me to be unable to come up with the words, which is crazy, isn’t it? I mean, here I am, I use words all the time. I think of myself as a very good communicator and I kind of suck because the type of relationship I was in, there wasn’t a to and fro, it was all energy towards Nick most of the time. He was willing to receive that and I didn’t even know that there was another way. Now I’m open to receiving, I am learning what my needs are in certain moments in time, I am actually able to craft my responses instead of just real heightened enmeshment.
It’s a really, really cool thing to create a relationship where … and this is going to sound crazy for some of you. You’ll be like, “What were you doing all those years, Lisa?” But to have this … I’m Lisa Corduff and I’m currently in a relationship and I’ll still be Lisa Corduff, even if I’m not. That’s a whole new thing for me, to see myself as sort of sovereign Lisa making choices about her life. Because it was Nick and Lisa. As I said before, I didn’t even think about what life would be without him, because that was so much a part of my identity. But right now I know my happiness is my responsibility and my boyfriend’s happiness is his responsibility and it’s a really cool thing that we also bring so much happiness to each other’s lives and he is someone who I can lean on.
I mean, he has his own stuff happening. I mean, I just don’t think you can get people who’ve lived and loved in certain ways at this age who aren’t kind of working through things, but it’s this coming together of two whole humans and learning about each other and being able to voice when something doesn’t feel okay, and having that other person respond. Anytime I’m sort of like, “I’m just feeling a bit, blah, blah, blah, blah,” he just comes forward and brings it. I’m like, “Is this how it works? If you can actually communicate what it is that you need, you actually receive those things?” Because I felt like I didn’t have a voice in my relationship for so long, and that was not Nick’s fault. That was me. That was me making him my life.
I certainly won’t go down that path again, because it’s the thing that I probably regret the most for both of us. This is a thing when stuff like this goes down and addiction being a family disease, you have to face some truths that are uncomfortable, really uncomfortable. I wish I wasn’t the only one from our marriage getting the chance to learn how to love in healthier ways. I wish he was getting that chance too. I know today that my needs are worthy of being communicated. I know that I can love my people and not feel 100% responsible for what they do or their outcomes. That includes my children. I will love you and I also know this is your precious life. I’m going to see my spot here as your mom and it’s not to care take every single thing that you do. They will make their own choices.
So there’s a lot more that I could share on this, but I think the last thing that I’ll say is creating interdependence is sort of the term that I’m feeling drawn to. Because I think I went quite far in the independence, like I will never need anyone again. So this included when I was in a relationship. It definitely wasn’t like a coming together. It was a, “I will enjoy the pleasure that you bring to my life. I will take it, but I’m not …” It’s almost like I’m not available to love that way, so therefore arm’s distance is nice. I am an independent woman. I will never get enmeshed like that again. So I went so far to the other side that it was almost probably not possible to create that kind of an actual relationship because I wasn’t making myself available for that. I also know that what I am bringing is a whole lot of junk to the table a lot of the time that I get to just lovingly observe. I get to lovingly observe myself creating new patterns.
I do very much appreciate that there is language between my boyfriend and I about this stuff and a loving acceptance of both of us creating something brand new that neither of us have been a part of before. I give full permission to myself to have a relationship that feels easy. That’s kind of cool too. And always checking in with myself. It’s like when you’ve been so far in one extreme, it’s quite easy to notice when you’re in that extreme again. It’s the in-between parts now that’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s sneaking along. That little part, I might just need to bring things back. I might just need to just ask for a little bit of space so I can just figure this out.” But not in the same way I used to, which was like, “I’m overwhelmed, I don’t understand what I’m thinking or feeling. I need you to go away now. Please go away. Go away. I need some space. I need space.”
I mean, one time I did that, because I almost … You get caught, and I don’t know anyone else who’s been in relationships beyond a marriage. It’s like, “I don’t want to be back in my old patterns, but I sort of almost don’t quite know how to move forward with this in a measured way at this stage.” So I then just … I mean, another pattern that I’m starting to break, which is just retreating away from what feels hard, sweeping things under the carpet. Absolutely did that for a very long time. Anyway, that’s a whole other thing, but then I was met with, “I’ll give you the space that you need. I’m a little bit confused, but I’d really then love you to tell me what it is that you need in these types of moments beyond the space. How do we come back?” I was like, once again, “I don’t even know.”
It’s like I’m honestly learning how to do relationships, which is a very interesting place to be in your 40s, but I have all these lessons under my belt, right? I have an awareness of when I’m moving into the fixing, the taking responsibility for the making, his actions means something about me. No. He’s himself. I’m myself. Our happiness is our own job. I lovingly detach from whatever choices he makes. I work on myself. He works on himself. Happy days. Well, not always. Let’s be honest. No, nothing’s perfect. But if this resonates with you, if you’re like, “Ooh, ooh, this whole co-dependence thing, I thought that was something that doesn’t relate to me,” there’s some amazing books out there and I do definitely think that it can absolutely appear in parenting. We take it all on. We got to save the world, save everyone. We can do it all. Give it to me. I’ll do it.
Well, yeah. So get yourself some resources. Melody Beattie is amazing. Her writings about co-dependence have really helped me. A book called Codependent No More is always recommended. I’m interested to know if you resonate with this. You might recognise it in some people around you even. It’s always a dance between two. So there’s that.
Right. I’m going to see you in the next episode. I think we’re going to be talking about over functioning. Ooh, done better than that in my time. I’ll see you then.
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