I decided recently to take a few steps back from my relationship with my sister because of her codependency with her husband. It wasn’t an easy decision and, on some level, I’ve been totally wrestling with feelings of guilt surrounding it.
You see, for years, my sister was there for me when I struggled with one addiction after another. She stood by my side, even if it meant regularly putting herself in the line of my toxic fire of addict behaviors. She suffered greatly because of it and truth be told, if she hadn’t been codependent with me, it would have helped her to live a far healthier life and maybe even driven me sooner into the rooms of recovery, because I kept relying on her to fix and nurture me, when I should have been doing it for myself.
Now the role is reversed, as I’ve continued to work on my recovery from all my former addictions, I’ve witnessed just how deep her struggle is with her codependent addiction. I’ve seen how it’s robbed her soul of being true to herself, typically due to fear and a desire for approval and acceptance, something I too have known all too well and learned it came from never learning how to truly love myself. The deeper I fell into this addiction, the more I placed the majority of my hopes, dreams, needs, wants, and desires, and sometimes even my entire life itself far behind those I became codependent with. Both my sister and I learned this so very well because of our mother. Our desire to receive her love was how it all started. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how much we did right, there always seemed to be something more we had to do to gain our mother’s love.
I spent the better part of four long-term relationships and almost two decades of my life stuck in that pattern, accepting far less than what I deserved. It took a few severely abusive friendships during 2009 to 2011 that were extremely codependent to wake me up and see how much I was throwing my life away. Most of the things I did socially with those I was codependent with was what they wanted and rarely what I wanted. I threw money their way, even when I couldn’t afford to, and I gave up all my hobbies and friends for their interests. I’d drop everything just to be with them, even at the expense of another. My belief was they’d ultimately love me the way I wanted if I just did everything they wanted me to do. I eventually discovered it was a lie, but I kept on believing it, usually because once in a while they’d do something really nice for me. Deep down I always knew I deserved better, except my fear kept me a prisoner until the pain became great enough to do something about it. I’ve become much freer from codependency the more I’ve worked on my recovery, but I can definitely feel that part of me still there in my guilt to stick by my sister’s side, just like she did for me, except now I see how unhealthy doing so really is.
The pain I’ve experienced thus far trying to do what she did for me years ago has become too great a toll upon my health. It’s often driven me to want to re-engage in my old addictions all over again. The painful rejections of my attempting to make visits there or here while they keep on taking vacations everywhere else, the pain of never being allowed to go on vacations with them, the pain of not being able to see my nephews graduate from high school, the pain of being told that her Christian therapist says the issue is between her husband and me and not her work to do, the pain of my addictive past regularly being brought back up as a passive-aggressive weapon, and the pain of continuously watching her go round and round for years in this vicious cycle of misery with him, has become too much.
My pain isn’t because of how he feels about me, because how he feels about me ultimately doesn’t matter. My pain is due to constantly putting myself in the line of fire of her codependent behaviors with him. As much as I want to keep standing by her side, like she once did for me, I realize I can’t anymore, because continuing to do so, may very well drive me straight back into the hell of a life of addiction.
That’s why I’m at least for the moment, taking this step back from my relationship with my sister. My only prayer is that in fully removing myself from any part of the equation, that she’ll finally see the problem isn’t with me, or even her husband, it’s with her codependent addiction to him. And as Al-Anon says, one might need to “detach with love” when the pain of dealing with an addict becomes too great.
So, I just hope my sister can understand why I’m doing this, because for as much as I love her, I don’t love her codependency, nor the great pain it brings upon my life…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson