December! Winter weather is here, falling snow, decorated trees and carols filling the air. I grew up in a time when I couldn’t wait to make a snow man in the front yard before coming inside to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa while we watched Frosty on prime time TV. It was a care free time. One that I wish I could return to….
Life in a codependent relationship is never easy. The everyday demands that are put upon a couple are bad enough, but when you top this with a coating of codependent struggles it can be nearly unbearable any day of the year. However, the holidays provide a new set of struggles that have the potential to destroy the strongest of couples and families alike.
For the codependent this time of year is filled with dread, there are parties, gift exchanges, family gatherings, shopping excursions and church events around every corner. Coping with a codependent relationship during this time of year is exhausting, quite often there is an abundance of alcohol at these events and the chemically dependent partner will take advantage of this putting the other partner in position of having to deal with poor behavior and making excuses to save face. More often than not the fear of exposing your secret to the rest of the world will result in turning down invitations and staying home alone. Missing out on the joys of the season becomes unavoidable. Being able to say, “NO! I’m not going to do this anymore!” and put yourself first is nearly impossible. But it’s a step towards healing.
Spend a few moments talking to the family of most any chemically dependent person and you’ll find they too dread the holidays they once waited all year for growing more excited as the days passed by. Time with family, enjoying friends, good food, nights filled with gifts and laughter were once the memories that were passed down from generation to generation. The struggle of a codependent family is one in which this feeling of fear and dread is also passed on to our younger generation. Seeking treatment at this time of year is often difficult, not only are you busy but so are those who have dedicated their lives to assisting you. That does not mean that you should avoid treatment, reach out to a professional therapist, counselor or life coach, who can help you cope with the struggles before you. And then put on your ugliest Christmas sweater and head off to the company Christmas party with a friend, child, or another coworker. Little steps to keep your own identity during this time of year are ones that are easier to pick up as you do begin down the road towards recovery as a couple, or individual.
This step towards healing is one that comes with a high price, stress, lack of sleep, panic, anger and depression will all creep in and consume you. But there are things that you can do to ease these internal struggles and make yourself feel happier about the holiday season, and your steps towards recovery.
When you first feel your stress level or anxiety increase take a few brief moments to work on your relationship – not with your codependent partner – with yourself. There are many types of recovery that you can do alone in a just a few minutes a day from positive visualization, internal mantra’s, self-affirming conversations with yourself, journaling and meditation.
1. Sit or lay down in a comfortable, quiet place.
2. Close your eyes and breathe deeply
3. Concentrate on relaxing each muscle in your body, one at a time.
4. Start with your feet and work your way up.
5. Continue to breathe deeply
Once you’ve taken a few minutes to relax both physically and mentally, take a few minutes for yourself before returning to the day’s events around you. Allowing yourself to enjoy these few minutes to take time and refocus on yourself is on of healing and learning to love yourself once more.
Putting oneself above others is a struggle for the codependent. In my own struggles the desire to always make things right for every one added quickly to the stress I experienced daily as the holiday season began to roll closer each year. Beginning with back to school my anxiety would sneak up on me, by Halloween it was a daily nagging feeling that grew into a monster inside my soul by Thanksgiving. Everywhere you look winter brings with it the reminder that all things come to an end, and just as they come to a close there is an expectation of a fresh new start that should be reassuring. This feeling of closure every year drove me to kick it into high gear in order to make the holidays perfect for my friends and family, unfortunately it also provides for a plethora of events that will exasperate the actions of the addict in my life. Instead of being a happy time of endings and new beginnings I found myself trapped in a vicious circle with no end in sight.
If you find that you are suffering year after year in a codependent relationship in your immediate family, or romantic life, don’t feel that you are trapped an alone. There are others in your shoes, there are people trained to help you. Seeking out help is frightening, but it is the best gift you can give to yourself and your loved ones this year. Don’t allow this cycle to go on untreated; research has proved that the longer a codependent relationship continues without treatment the worse it will get for all those involved.
You have the right to be happy, you have the right to enjoy the holidays, you have the right to enjoy….your own life! Whatever you do, go into the holiday season allowing yourself to take care of yourself before you bother yourself with those of others around you. Take all that focus you have on making others happy and caring for them, and focus it on YOU!