Codependency Is One Persistent Habit I Will Break

June 19, 2013 Kellie Jo Holly

On May 3, I arrived at my sister's home in Texas. I left Marc (19) and Eddie (17) behind in North Carolina despite my breaking heart. Financially, I simply couldn't afford to pretend "it will all work out" any longer. Codependency kept me there, financial ruin forced me to move.

In hindsight, I wish I'd left a year ago before life became more difficult for my oldest son. My staying allowed him one more year of destroying himself with drugs in his safe and protected environment - my home. I feel like a fool for enabling Marc and falling into the habit of codependency. I thought I'd already learned that lesson from his father in that substance addiction always wins over good sense. The rope I gave Marc to hang himself twisted around my neck instead, suffocating me and separating me from my inner safe place.

I feel like a failure for leaving Eddie: I promised him to stay until he graduated high school, and I broke that promise. Distance from my children hurts, but sometimes standing by their side as they grow and learn hurts too. Watching their father tear them up inside from 1300 miles away hurts no less than it did from 3. My only consolation is that I know, deep in my heart, that both of my boys will find me alive and well here, near Austin, doing better than I've ever done in my life, within this next year. I think both of them will make their lives here, in time.

Codependency, Enabling, and Denial

I look forward to the changes to come. My sister's home is drug free, drama free, and lie free. However, all of these people and the excitement of starting fresh creates new emotions that I must face, comprehend, and deal with in my own way. Sometimes I don't know how to deal with emotions at all. I stay quiet and still inside instead of "feeling" anything. Forcing myself to "not feel" is a remnant of the denial I fortressed myself with during the abuse in my marriage and the ensuing experience of enabling Marc.

When Eddie, my younger son, was small, he found himself overcome with other people's emotions to the point that he didn't know if he felt the emotion or if someone else did. Now that I am breaking free of the denial of Marc's problem and my emotions, I find myself also sorting through emotions to decipher "theirs" from "mine". "My" emotions aren't always clear to me. Am I excited because I am excited or because "they" are? Am I laughing because I am happy or because "they" are happy?

During my first year of freedom from my ex, all of the joy and excitement the abuse suppressed flowed through me, fueled miracles, and felt extremely wonderful. I felt on top of the world and felt every emotion across the spectrum knowing that what I felt was mine. I came to believe that if Marc lived with me then my feelings could affect him, lift him up, and allow him to find peace. But Marc wasn't ready for peace. He didn't even know what peace felt like. Unable to "help" Marc, I allowed myself to slip back into self-blame - the pain of which tossed me back into the fortress of denial.

Since moving to Austin, I've noticed that when my boyfriend feels down, I feel down too. When he is happy, I am happy. That would be fine if my feelings were empathetic (felt from the outside and understood as being his). However, I feel his feelings and internalize them - make them my own - and that is a sign of being too enmeshed with his feelings...which signals codependency. I can't run from myself. I brought my bad habit with me.

Distance Gives Some Clarity, But I Can't Move Away From Me

However, from 1300 miles plus a month and a half away from the desperate situation in North Carolina, I can see my problem more clearly. Here in Austin, my hopeful, happy, pleased, and excited feelings remain difficult to distinguish from my housemates'. I wonder if I own those emotions or if they're second-hand vibes created by living with hopeful, happy, pleasing and excited people.

codependencyAre my emotions real or rub-offs from my family? I guess it doesn't matter if the "good" emotions are mine or not. Eventually, by practicing holding good feelings from any source, I'll begin to create them for myself. This environment is fertile. I can grow my tiny roots of happiness and hope into large, strong, stable roots of good feeling for and about myself. My courage can reignite and regrow as firm as it was in the last days of my abusive marriage and throughout the year that followed its final day.

Despite my optimism, I wish there were two of me - the mother who could stay near her children, and the woman who needs this new and fertile environment to grow. I've learned that no matter how smart or strong I am, substance abuse and the resulting disordered mentalities of the people I love can drag me down in a heartbeat. My great capacity for "love" needs to know a boundary. I must set the boundary soon before "love" kills my relationship.

I can do this. I can feel my feelings and let others own theirs. I know I can.

*By the way, something happened to Marc the night I left for Austin that turned his life around! He is no longer using or abusing substances (and has a support network to ensure his sobriety). Enabling them never helps. Sometimes you have to let them fall so they can see the value in standing up again.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2013, June 19). Codependency Is One Persistent Habit I Will Break, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

June, 19 2013 at 12:03 pm

Since moving to the Austin area, have you taken time to do some exploring of the area? Perhaps a little solitude and fresh air will help some. Visit a park or someplace where you can be alone for a little while to recharge, meditate, and examine your own feelings.

Donald J. Funk
June, 19 2013 at 11:00 am

Kellie, Your new-found strength and knowledge shows through your words and actions. You will find peace and satisfaction as you continue to learn, experience and enjoy the "new" you. And, in it, you are becoming a mentor and teacher to help others who are in similar circumstances. That's pretty cool! djf

June, 19 2013 at 10:56 am

And, so sorry I spelled Kellie incorrectly! ;)

June, 19 2013 at 10:55 am

Enjoyed reading this very much and, sadly, identify with so much of it. Wishing you all the clarity and love available to you, Kelly. Forward we must go.

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