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Zoeygirl

In 12 step recovery

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Zoeygirl

The first time I went through the 12 steps was several years ago when I was still married. We had gone to a marriage counselor who had recommended that my ex go to an anger management 12 step group. I decided it looked interesting, so I started going to a group for food addiction, because I have always used food for comfort. As I started attending the group and working the steps, my focus quickly left food addiction and went to codependency, mainly because that was what was keeping me in my marriage (and causing me to eat, and some other stuff). That group, along with you all, caused the huge paradigm shift I needed to get the strength to leave my ex. (btw, his group didn't help him at all!) While I was in that group I remember also thinking I had a love addiction problem, but I couldn't focus on it at the time because I had bigger problems to solve.

What is love addiction? Like codependency, it takes many forms. Basically it is a distorted view of love that stems from childhood neglect or trauma. The person who has it has no self-esteem because they didn't get it from their FOO, so they try to use "love" to stuff their pain, just like an alcoholic or drug addict. The problem is that it's not really love, it's more of an obsession. It can lead an overwhelming fantasy life, obsessive thoughts, relationship/sex addiction, abusive behaviors, controlling behaviors, codependency, crippling low self-esteem, etc. My ex is a huge love addict, and he manifests it through abuse and control (he equates control with love). My love addiction is not as ingrained as his, but manifests more as fantasies, obsessive thoughts, and the absolute conviction that I cannot be happy without a man. I am working on these things with the help of the steps and I'm making progress.

I used to believe that codependency was at the root of all addiction, but I don't believe that anymore. Now I believe that love addiction is. You know when the Beatles sang, "Love Is All You Need"? They were right. If you don't get healthy love as a child, you will have a lifetime of trying to make up for that in unhealthy ways. Unless you get help.

This is the hardest thing I've ever had to face, because it goes to the core of my being. I was emotionally neglected by my parents from my earliest memories, so I started fantasizing at a very young age to make up for it. It's always been a part of me. My fantasies were always about some guy I had a crush on who was going to sweep me off my feet and save me from my loneliness. Usually this guy was emotionally unavailable like my dad, and there have rarely been times in my life when I did not have someone who I could fantasize about when I was feeling sad or lonely. Just like the alcoholic pulls out a beer, or the drug addict pulls out a needle, I would pull out a fantasy. These fantasies also kept me in my abusive marriage for so long, because I kept believing that I could change him. That's a fantasy.

When I first faced my codependency, admitted that I was being abused by my ex, and faced the prospect of divorce, that dismantled my entire religious belief system--it dismantled it and then, with help, I was able to reconstruct it. Love addiction is dismantling who I AM, and I'm in the fire right now, but I know if I stick with it I will be able to reconstruct a healthy view of love and therefore life. But I have to go through the fire first. It hurts like hell. The early stages of recovery, when you first realize how sick you are, feel like someone grabbing you by the shoulder and pushing your face in the dirt and screaming, "Look at who you are! You're disgusting!" I'm a believer in the 12 steps because I've been through them before and I know they work, but I'm at the hardest point right now.

I guess the point of this is to blatantly ask for some encouragement! Has anyone been throught the 12 steps before?

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Lorelei

I have not, Zoeygirl, but I am inspired by your bravery and dedication.

Yes, this is HARD, but it is the BEST thing you can ever do for yourself!

It's a TRUE act of faith, and hope, that you CAN change yourself, and make a difference.

I admire you very much, and agree that the outcome is so worth the journey.

xoxoLorelei

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Lorelei

Sometimes the DailyOM just speaks to our situation, you know?

Here's today's email:

May 25, 2009

The Start of Change

Breaking Family Cycles

It is easy to believe that in leaving our childhood homes and embarking upon the journey of adulthood, we have effectively removed ourselves from harmful and self-perpetuating familial patterns. In looking closely at ourselves, however, we may discover that our behaviors and beliefs are still those that were impressed upon us during our youth by our parents, grandparents, and the generations that preceded them. We may find ourselves unconsciously perpetuating cycles of the previous generations, such as fear of having enough, not showing affection, and secrecy patterns. Yet the transmission of negative patterns from one generation to the next is not inevitable. It is possible to become the endpoint at which negative family cycles that have thrived for generations are exhausted and can exert their influence no longer. Breaking the pattern is a matter of overcoming those values imprinted upon us long ago in order to replace them with pure love, tolerance, and conscious awarenes! s.

Even if you have struggled with the cumulative effects of family cycles that were an expression of established modes of living and a reflection of the strife your ancestors were forced to endure, you can still liberate yourself from the effects of your family history. The will to divest yourself of old, dark forms of familial energy and carry forth a new loving energy may come in the form of an epiphany. You may one day simply realize that certain aspects of your early life have negatively affected your health, happiness, and ability to evolve as an individual. Or you may find that in order to transcend long-standing patterns of limiting beliefs, irrational behavior, and emotional stiltedness, you have to question your values and earnestly examine how your family has impacted your personality. Only when you understand how family cycles have influenced you can you gain freedom from those cycles.

In order to truly change, you must give yourself permission to change. Breaking family patterns is in no way an act of defiance or betrayal. It is important that you trust yourself implicitly when determining the behaviors and beliefs that will help you overwrite the generation-based cyclical value system that limited your individual potential. Many people are on the earth at this time to break family cycles, for all of you are true pioneers. In breaking negative family cycles, you will discover that your ability to express your feelings and needs grows exponentially and that you will embark upon a journey toward greater well-being that can positively impact generations to come.

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Echo

How are you disgusting? I'm sorry but that part of your post just stuck out at me. I don't believe you are disgusting in any way. I, also believe I am a love addict of sorts, in recovery, through counseling. I am at a point now where I no longer believe I NEED a man in my life and there hasn't been a single one since my divorce. It is getting easier, Like you, I started really young fantasizing about some special guy that was going to sweep me off my feet. Well, it never happened. LOL So, now here I am, trying to learn to love and rely upon myself for my own validation and happiness and not worry about a man loving me anymore. It isn't easy, not by a long shot. I have been through hell trying to deal with it, being single, having no man after spending my entire life with one or another. This is literally my longest time without a man since I was a young child. I met my first boyfriend when I was 13 and it went from there. So, I do understand but I don't believe wanting to be loved makes you disgusting. One thing my counselor always pounds into my head is to be gentle with myself, love myself first and give myself a break for the past. It's back there...it's not here or in the future. Time to move forward and not look back, I say.

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girlygirl

Hi Zoey,

I read your post and send you lots of support and hugs!

I need serious help. I have a major problem with codependency and probably love addiction. You should read my post on the "other board" today. it is pathetic! I should just copy and paste it here..but not sure. I only posted it there b/c I didn't have this web address saved on my work computer and I really needed some support mid-day. You should have seen me, I was a mess. :(

How can I get help like you did? How did you find your group? I went to the CODA web site but didn't see groups in my area. I'm going to give it another try and see if they've formed any.

Do you have any other ideas how I might find a group? Lately, my codep has spun out of control as my sig. other has departed on a long journey and I feel abandoned and very, very sick. If I don't get help I'm really going into a downward spiral of depression and hopelessness. If you have any ideas please let me know. I have a great therapist who lends me support in many ways. But this codependency I have is something I innately know I have to work on in a 12 step setting. I just know it...

Thank you and best of luck,

Girly Girl

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Zoeygirl

Hi gg,

I also innately knew that I had to "fight" this in a 12 step setting! I think it's awesome that you recognize your pattern and want to work on it! You will find a wealth of information at Love addicts. There is stuff to read, a quiz to take to see if you are a love addict, and message boards. The boards are a lot like here--you will find a lot of like-minded people and support! You can also work the 12 steps on the boards, which is what I have been doing. I think you can also search for groups in your area. I kind of like doing the work online because I can do the work and get the support on my own time. The website is run by Susan Peabody, who is a pioneer in love addiction and wrote a book called Addiction to Love: Overcoming Obsession and Dependency in Relationships.

I have to say that facing this addiction has been both the hardest thing and the most rewarding thing I have ever done (outside of raising my kids!). I'm only on step 3 but I'm already getting my life back!!

Keep in touch--we can support each other! I'll go to the other board and read your post.

Zoeygirl

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Esme

I'm just taking a guess, but I know that there have been some pretty horribly distorted views of myself that feed the inner lies that I'm not loveable. I think if something causes a very young child to feel that way, the child automatically assumes and takes responsibility for the pain of it. The child 'reasons', I'm not loved, I'm not treated lovingly; therefore, I'm not loveable. The child grows up, but the core belief of being innately the cause still remains buried in the heart. The child may also take it further with limited reasoning to survive the inner pain: I'm not feeling loved, but I know this person is supposed to love me; therefore, the pain and longing means something bad about me.

A very young child often takes responsibility for pain, and tends to interpret pain as cause and effect. I feel good; therefore, I'm good. I feel bad; therefore, I'm bad.

I believe that trying to examine it, perceive it and understand it, are not enough to change it. I believe that the answer is to not to merely focus on the negative origins, but to learn about what we wish to replace it with; in other words, study and understand what safe and loving relationship is, and move proactively to have that in your life. When something truly good comes, bringing light and hope within, it tends to remove the old dark places out of us, simply because there isn't room easily for both of them. Sometimes, we have to separate ourselves from something toxic that is barring the way for the good to come, and that can be absolutely emotionally ragged and painfully frightening. Something is torn away in the process, and the gaping wound lies open, a void of space emotionally wherein we feel adrift, abandoned and unsure of 'good' filling the space.

I went to a 12 step group by default once when I was just looking for a women's Bible study, but it turned out to be a great gift for me. I'd read the books, but no light had gone on inside. I went through several months of a 12 step group, and the light turned on bright and clear. I understood finally what codependency was, and the connection between my codependent thinking and behaviors, and the problems in my life.

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Zoeygirl
I'm just taking a guess, but I know that there have been some pretty horribly distorted views of myself that feed the inner lies that I'm not loveable.

Yes, that's probably true. Codependency and love addiction (and all addictions) stem from distorted views of love that come from our FOO. The Bible goes on and on about love, and for a reason. It is the ONE thing that determines the emotional health of a human being, and it starts in childhood. God designed it that way. It's devastating how we humans muck it up so badly.

I believe that trying to examine it, perceive it and understand it, are not enough to change it. I believe that the answer is to not to merely focus on the negative origins, but to learn about what we wish to replace it with; in other words, study and understand what safe and loving relationship is, and move proactively to have that in your life.

Yes, that is what I love about 12 step groups--if you work the steps, you are taken beyond understanding it to doing something about it. If you just get to the point where you understand it and stop there, you just spin in circles!

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HVC

I admire you, and find this a really timely thread. I also suffer from food addiction and read "women who love too much" in the mid-90's. I identified with much of it, but of course, didn't see it REALLY applying to me. Then the 2nd failed marriage hit. :)

I love how you said Love Addiction might be at the root of all addiction. I never thought of it that way, but isn't what we are ultimately longing for is love and acceptance?

Much to think about on this thread. Thanks for starting it....

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Guest bluesky1
The first time I went through the 12 steps was several years ago when I was still married. We had gone to a marriage counselor who had recommended that my ex go to an anger management 12 step group. I decided it looked interesting, so I started going to a group for food addiction, because I have always used food for comfort. As I started attending the group and working the steps, my focus quickly left food addiction and went to codependency, mainly because that was what was keeping me in my marriage (and causing me to eat, and some other stuff). That group, along with you all, caused the huge paradigm shift I needed to get the strength to leave my ex. (btw, his group didn't help him at all!) While I was in that group I remember also thinking I had a love addiction problem, but I couldn't focus on it at the time because I had bigger problems to solve.

What is love addiction? Like codependency, it takes many forms. Basically it is a distorted view of love that stems from childhood neglect or trauma. The person who has it has no self-esteem because they didn't get it from their FOO, so they try to use "love" to stuff their pain, just like an alcoholic or drug addict. The problem is that it's not really love, it's more of an obsession. It can lead an overwhelming fantasy life, obsessive thoughts, relationship/sex addiction, abusive behaviors, controlling behaviors, codependency, crippling low self-esteem, etc. My ex is a huge love addict, and he manifests it through abuse and control (he equates control with love). My love addiction is not as ingrained as his, but manifests more as fantasies, obsessive thoughts, and the absolute conviction that I cannot be happy without a man. I am working on these things with the help of the steps and I'm making progress.

I used to believe that codependency was at the root of all addiction, but I don't believe that anymore. Now I believe that love addiction is. You know when the Beatles sang, "Love Is All You Need"? They were right. If you don't get healthy love as a child, you will have a lifetime of trying to make up for that in unhealthy ways. Unless you get help.

This is the hardest thing I've ever had to face, because it goes to the core of my being. I was emotionally neglected by my parents from my earliest memories, so I started fantasizing at a very young age to make up for it. It's always been a part of me. My fantasies were always about some guy I had a crush on who was going to sweep me off my feet and save me from my loneliness. Usually this guy was emotionally unavailable like my dad, and there have rarely been times in my life when I did not have someone who I could fantasize about when I was feeling sad or lonely. Just like the alcoholic pulls out a beer, or the drug addict pulls out a needle, I would pull out a fantasy. These fantasies also kept me in my abusive marriage for so long, because I kept believing that I could change him. That's a fantasy.

When I first faced my codependency, admitted that I was being abused by my ex, and faced the prospect of divorce, that dismantled my entire religious belief system--it dismantled it and then, with help, I was able to reconstruct it. Love addiction is dismantling who I AM, and I'm in the fire right now, but I know if I stick with it I will be able to reconstruct a healthy view of love and therefore life. But I have to go through the fire first. It hurts like hell. The early stages of recovery, when you first realize how sick you are, feel like someone grabbing you by the shoulder and pushing your face in the dirt and screaming, "Look at who you are! You're disgusting!" I'm a believer in the 12 steps because I've been through them before and I know they work, but I'm at the hardest point right now.

I guess the point of this is to blatantly ask for some encouragement! Has anyone been throught the 12 steps before?

No Zoeygirl, I haven't been through the 12 step plan, but my ex-partner went through 2 anger management courses, both of which I don't think have done much. He's been associated still with those into substance abuse in a big way and has been on and off with his current girlfriend for the last 16 months (funny that men can't be alone while in recovery isn't it?)

I applaud your insight and your courage and I wish you well on this road that you're on now. May your religious beliefs and friendships uplift you and encourage you to continue to pursue what you believe in.

bluesky1

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Lily Bright

Look at who you are, Zoey... through the eyes of another.

You are who you are... and it is good enough.

YOU are good enough.

Just as you are.

You are worthy.

You are worthwhile.

Right now.

This second.

You just weren't TOLD that.

But you always HAVE BEEN.

And always WILL BE.

Promise.

Remember, the FIRE is to cleanse and purify you.

It melts away the "dross", leaving behind only the GOLD.

No one said it wasn't gonna hurt.

That "fearless moral inventory" is supposed to list all your QUALITY traits, as well.

Everything GOOD about Zoey.

Have you listed all your GOOD?

Step 4 (From 12step.org)

During the first three steps I have turned my attention from my addiction and the wreckage that it has done to my life to the God that I have come to realize can deliver me from my addiction. I have faced the truth of my situation and turned this situation over to the God who can help me. Now it is time to start seeing things as they truly are rather than through the glass of my addicted mind and heart. The first step in this process of "getting real" is to take an honest inventory of my life. Exactly where have I been, what have I done and how far did I go in my addictive behaviors? When and where did they start and where have they led me? This is a vital step away from my addicted life filled with chaos and insane behaviors towards a conscious life filled with more personal power and serenity.

- From 12Step.org

We want to find out exactly how, when and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move towards their correction. Without a willing and persistent effort to do this, there can be little sobriety or contentment for us. Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is out of reach.

- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 43

In Step Four we call it a "moral" inventory because we compile a list of traits and behaviors that have transgressed our highest, or moral, values. We also inventory our "good" traits and the behaviors that represent them. In our life's moral inventory the defects or dysfunctional behaviors might include some that once worked; some dysfunctional behaviors may have saved our lives as children, but they are now out-of-date, self-defeating, and cause us a great deal of trouble when we use them as adults.

- A Hunger for Healing, p. 61

The purpose of a searching and fearless moral inventory is to sort through the confusion and the contradiction of our lives so that we can find out who we really are. We are starting a new way of life and need to be rid of the burdens and traps which have controlled us and prevented our growth.

As we approach this step, most of us are afraid that there is a monster inside us that, if released, will destroy us. This fear can cause us to put off our inventory or may even prevent us from taking this crucial step at all. We have found that fear is lack of faith, and we have found a loving, personal God to whom we can turn. We no longer need to be afraid.

... Step Four will help us toward our recovery more than we imagine. Most of us find that we were neither as terrible, nor as wonderful, as we supposed. We are surprised to find that we have good points in our inventory. Anyone who has some time in the Program and has worked this step will tell you that the Fourth Step was a turning point in their life. Some of us make the mistake of approaching the Fourth Step as if it were a confession of how horrible we are-what a bad person we have been. In this new way of life, a binge of emotional sorrow can be dangerous. This is not the purpose of the Fourth Step. We are trying to free ourselves of living in old, useless patterns. We take the Fourth Step to gain the necessary strength and insight which enables us to grow. We may approach the Fourth Step in a number of ways.

It is advisable that before we start, we go over the first three steps with a sponsor.

- Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text, Chapter 4/Step 4

A personal inventory is crucial to understanding the new direction of our spiritual growth. What aspects of our character do we need to retain and emphasize, and what should be modified or discarded? Six components that might go into such an inventory are described in the following paragraphs.

First, we may need to "tell our stories." This can be accomplished by journaling, that is, by writing out our stories, and by sharing them with others in recovery meetings or private dialogue...

A second component in our inventory is discovering the roots of our addictions and codependencies. In most cases, this means we have to examine our childhoods. What needs were not met there? What negative experiences or messages about ourselves did we absorb in the dysfunctional family of origin? ...

Third, we must confront and assess the full extent of our dependencies. Doing so, we will learn more about the severity of our primary addictions, and we may uncover other peripheral addictions we had not previously recognized. We should inventory and identify all of these codependent symptoms and addictions, which have manifested themselves in our adolescent and adult lives....

Fourth, we need to look back at our relationship history with the people who have been significant in our lives - parents, teachers, mentors, friends, romantic interests. We need to inventory all the ways we have hurt them and hurt ourselves by practicing our adult addictions and codependencies...

Fifth, we must address our guilt feelings. We realize that most addictions are shame-based and shame-propelled. To move beyond this shame-base, we need to distinguish between two major forms of guilt: 1) False shame, or carried shame... 2) Authentic guilt...

Sixth, we must "look for the good". An important counterbalancing dimension is that a Step 4 inventory should include the positive, as well as the negative, things about us...

- Serenity, A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery, p. 38-42

Zoey, my Daddy is 82 and aging so rapidly.

I spent so many years trying to BUY his love.

Trying to be good enough to be noticed.

I was in my 40s's before I realilzed it was HIM and not ME.

He didn't know how to love.

I wasn't unloveable.

But yeah, your story resonates with me; Lily the dreamer.

You could be my baby sister.

((((((Zoey)))))

Lily

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Zoeygirl

Aw, Lily, I'm just seeing this now. Thank you, big sis. =)

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