The Thursday meeting that I attend has a unique structure: each week’s leader chooses a topic and 6 readings out of the book As Bill Sees It. This week I led and I choose the topic of Co-Dependence.
My Experience with Co-Dependence
This topic is super important to me because when I came into AA, I clung to people to feel safe. Through a combination of daddy issues, longing for validation, insecurity and needing everyone to like me, people had become my higher power.
On the one hand I’m a small business owner and only child, who is extremely independent in most ways; on the other hand, I couldn’t make most decisions without asking other people for validation.
Slightly older straight males, in particular, are people I clung to. However, the issue with clinging to people as your higher power, is that people are human. Humans are flawed. Therefore, people will always ultimately let you down. And like clockwork, each person I put on a pedestal eventually devastated me by being human and letting me down.
I’m also a recovering perfectionist - so I would hold myself to impossibly high standards. And as a result would also hold others to my same impossibly high standards.
Another type of co-dependent behavior I suffered from was the need to control situations. Which got me in trouble with work. Rather than delegating tasks - or training someone else to do them - I generally lived by the philosophy if you want it done right, do it yourself.
I needed to be liked by everyone in the room - even people I didn’t know, even people I didn’t particularly like - or I would be devastated. If I did something, say gave a presentation, and 99 people told me it was great, but one person told me it sucked, I would have concluded that I sucked.
The topic of co-dependence or Dependence on People as the book As Bill Sees It refers to it, focuses on pages: 63, 72, 176, 239, 252, 265.
Page 63: Free of Dependence
“I asked myself, ‘Why can’t the Twelve Steps work to release me from this unbearable depression?’ By the hour, I stared at the St. Francis Prayer: ‘It is better to comfort than to be comforted.’”
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 806-808). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Most of us were depressed, unhappy and otherwise miserable when we came into AA. After all, if things were peachy, we wouldn’t be here. But you won’t find much sympathy in AA. After all, everyone else has dealt with similar problems. And overcome them.
Newcomers learn quickly that the best way to feel better is to get out of one’s head and by reaching out and helping other alcoholics.
When you are focused on others, you don’t have time to focus on yourself. And gradually, as your life starts to have meaning, the depression solves itself.
Page 72: Dependence - Unhealthy or Healthy
“If we really depended upon God, we couldn’t very well play God to our fellows, nor would we feel the urge to rely wholly on human protection and care.”
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 884-885). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
When I came into AA, I got a sponsor within a couple of weeks. I picked my sponsor not because he necessarily had something I wanted - I didn’t even know the guy - but because he made me feel safe.
Plus, along the lines of the whole daddy issues character defect - he was an attractive, slightly older straight man.
As such, I reached out to him a lot in the beginning. About all my problems, big and small. I wanted him to fix me. To be there for me, to validate me, and to tell me what to do. He didn’t do any of those things. Whenever I reached out - if he replied to me at all - it was usually to tell me to pray and meditate on it.
As frustrating as it was in the beginning, I now see that he set me up for success. He taught me to rely on my higher power - and my own inner voice - rather than him as a “Guru” - in fact he is currently on a campaign against Sponsor Guru-ism.
Page 176: Domination and Demand
“The primary fact that we fail to recognize is our total inability to form a true partnership with another human being. Our egomania digs two disastrous pitfalls. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend upon them far too much.”
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 1717-1719). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
This page, in particular, resonates with me. My life was a combination of clinging to people I deemed stronger on the one hand, and taking on people I deemed weaker as projects, to help “fix” them.
By trying to fix someone else, I didn’t have to deal with my own issues. And it also gave me a bit of power over them, to make it less likely that they would leave, because they needed me.
Page 239: When and How to Give
“that, job or no job, wife or no wife, we simply do not stop drinking so long as we place material dependence upon other people ahead of dependence on God.”
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 2249-2250). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
I’ve never been particularly motivated by money or material things, but a lot of alcoholics are. They think that they cannot achieve sobriety - or live a fulfilling life - until they achieve x material goal.
When the reality is that you can’t achieve x material goal until you are sober. Anything you put ahead of your sobriety, you will ultimately lose.
Page 252: Alone No More
Alcoholism was a lonely business, even though we were surrounded by people who loved us. But when our self-will had driven everybody away and our isolation became complete,
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 2352-2353). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
It’s not until one has fully turned over their will and life to their higher power, that they realize how lonely and miserable their old existence was.
Every Friday I was with friends drinking. But the reality is that they weren’t really my friends. We were drinking buddies - nothing more, nothing less - and now that I don’t drink, I don’t hear from any of them.
Frequently, I was surrounded by people, yet lonely and lost. It was a miserable existence. And fortunately one that I no longer have to live.
In AA there is always something to do, always someone to hang out with. Like in life - many of them are acquaintances and not friends - but the difference is that we are sober. We do more meaningful activities. We are aware of what we are doing when we do it.
A lot of my social circle now revolves around people I’ve met in AA. And I’m a lot more fulfilled than I was previously.
Page 265: Neither Dependence nor Self-Sufficiency
We refused to learn that overdependence upon people is unsuccessful because all people are fallible, and even the best of them will sometimes let us down, especially when our demands for attention become unreasonable.
AA World Services Inc. As Bill Sees It (Kindle Locations 2459-2461). A.A. World Services, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
People will always let you down. Every time. They are human and flawed.
You, too, likely let people down. It is important to own your fears, be honest about your flaws and, like my sponsor did with me, refuse to be someone’s Guru.