Beside my apartment complex swimming pool, I lay face down on a lounge chair in my swimsuit reading Codependent No More open on the concrete beneath. Hiding tears behind my sunglasses, I was thankful it was a week day and the pool wasn’t crowded. In my early twenties while living alone, healing hovered over me through a canopy of sunshine and the words of a book. It was the first time I realized I was no longer held captive by fear and the consequences of my mother’s alcoholism. The first time I realized that I needed help too.
I bought the book when I started to look at my behavior like a spectator watches a play from the audience. Who I was on the inside – the good girl who makes good decisions – didn’t match my behavior on the outside. Yet, I felt helplessly addicted to the behavior, terrified of who I was becoming.
My attempt to “save” someone was stopping me from being emotionally honest. I didn’t realize it then, but one of the ways to numb feelings — avoid the pain of vulnerability — is to insert yourself in the place of God in relationships. It’s easier to escape the reality of your own life, by focusing on the layers of someone else’s unhealthiness.
It all broke apart one sleepless night seething with anger over a boyfriend’s selfish behavior. I jumped out of bed, drove to his house and beat on his bedroom window while standing in the bushes. His father answered the door in his pajamas. He happened to be the one sleeping in my boyfriend’s room that night. He graciously let me in and escorted me through a dark house to the room where his son was sleeping.
When I crawled back in my own bed an hour later, I was mortified by my actions. I woke up an entire household of people. I didn’t recognize myself. And that’s what scared me.
Oddly, I thought I was choosing a relationship with someone who made me feel better about myself. But I chose the person of potential I idealized below the layers of bad choices instead of the reality staring me in the face.
As the child of an alcoholic, I chose emotionally needy relationships because they gave me a faulty sense of empowerment, a distorted view of my identity in helpfulness.
After that middle-of-the-night encounter, I decided to attend my first Al-Anon meeting.
Week after week, I sat among a group of empathetic strangers in stages of recovery, beginning a journey toward wholeness. And God wooed me toward greater intimacy with himself.
On the heels of ending what my girlfriends called that ridiculous relationship, I met H at a church party. After our first date, he surprised me with an impromptu visit. While he knocked on my apartment door, I hovered in silence on the other side holding my breath.
When you’re more comfortable surrounded by people who keep you on an emotional roller coaster, you aren’t sure what to do with genuine kindness without ulterior motive. H didn’t need my help; that was new for me. I opened the door after he left and found a wrapped box lying on the doormat. I chose to take an uncomfortable step toward wholeness that day. I think you know how it ended.
Jesus didn’t come for the perfectly put together, he came for the needy, the broken, and the sick. (Mark 2:17) I don’t cry behind my sunglasses any longer, there is nothing to hide.
Join us in the comments and for further discussion at Redemptions Beauty Book Club on The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown as we let go of numbing, powerlessness and scarcity this week to cultivate a heart of resilience, gratitude, and joy. This is day 9 of 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End. Find out more here and join us for daily posts delivered to your inbox by adding your email address to Subscribe in the sidebar. It only takes a few seconds and it’s painless, I promise.
Linking with Jennifer and Emily.