Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle

11 Sep

This is something I read yesterday, and I wanted to share it here.  It really connected with me, big time.  This isn’t going to be an eloquent, well-planned post.  It is just a small snapshot of what has been bouncing around in my mind for the last 12 hours or so.  This excerpt came from a longer post on a forum.  She is talking about breaking the negative cycle with an addict.

“Somebody has to break the cycle. There’s an analogy in an Al-Anon book that helped me get this.  Imagine there’s a ladder, and the addict is in front.  We’re behind them on the ladder, pushing and prodding them to go up.  They keep falling, and each time they fall, we cushion the blow for them.

We keep doing this over and over until one day, we notice there’s a ladder next to this one–but this ladder has OUR name on it.  So we begin to climb this ladder, and leave the addict to climb their own. When they fall, we can sympathize, but we concentrate on climbing our own ladder.  This addiction has NOTHING to do with us.  We have to learn to take care of ourselves and become healthy ourselves in or out of the relationship…

In learning to focus on my own needs and learning not to enable, I have gained a life where I know I’ll be okay no matter what happens.  To me, you have to put the focus on yourself.  Whether it’s therapy, S-Anon (which saved my life) or Al-Anon, get help.  Get tools to use that will help you move up your own ladder. ”

I like this analogy.  My husband and I are both traveling up ladders that will bring us to a healthier, happier place.  We are each dealing with our own stuff that can cause us to fall.  He is struggling against his addiction and his pattern of lying to avoid his feelings.  I am struggling against my codependency, controlling personality, and perfectionism.  On any given day, one of us may slip and fall.  I am tired of letting one person’s fall cause us both to hit the ground, though.  In order to keep moving upward, we need to focus on our own separate ladders.  We have to learn how to sympathize with whoever is falling and help motivate them to keep climbing, while continuing to reach toward our next rung.

We are both moving in the same direction.  We both have the ultimate goal of being healthier individuals with a stronger marriage.  We are moving parallel with one another towards that goal, but we will face different challenges on our climb.  In the past, I have been right there underneath him, waiting for him to fall and crush me.  I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity.  Now I see that I have my own ladder.  It has my name on it.  It isn’t going to be an easy climb, but it’s going to be MINE.

But what if he falls?  I still have that internal struggle that says I should try to catch him somehow.  But I can’t.  Not if I’m focused on my own climb, my own struggles.  Does that mean I won’t care if he falls?  Not at all.  It might even make me falter a bit on my climb, while I check to make sure he isn’t fatally injured.  On some occasions I may take a few steps backward.  But I won’t be down there on the ground with him.  It won’t take me to the depths of despair.  And I will eventually keep climbing, whether he catches up or not.

What do you think of that analogy?  Does it make sense to you the way it does to me?

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12 Responses to “Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle”

  1. chris1731 November 14, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    OMG….this is me. I’ll have to check the Al-non out. Great POST! Now I’ve found the ladder….time to start the climb. I’m okay with not catching my x-wife now.

  2. thewondermya June 22, 2014 at 6:09 am #

    Reblogged this on Healing my codependency and your narcissism and commented:
    This is so me now… Thanks for this wonderful blog !

  3. soniabellani May 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Reblogged this on My Blog.

  4. emotionaltornado September 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I get the analogy, but it leaves you wondering how that applies to the marriage being becoming one, a team, working together toward goals. If the ladders are parallel, and you keep going up without the spouse because they fell, isn’t that working toward a separate life?

    “I have tried to hold him up, cushion his fall, and mitigate his losses as best as possible, with great personal consequences, especially to my sanity.”—This is true for me also. I have done way too much to make his life easy, more comfortable, carried the entire load on this end. I am trying to heal myself, but if we don’t do some paired healing, we will grow apart.
    Just another way of interpreting/questioning it.
    It’s just an analogy, I can’t take it too literally.

    • beautifulmess7 September 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      I don’t know, that is a good question. I guess if he falls too much in his recovery, i.e. keeps telling lies, starts acting out, has another affair, then I will have to move on with my own life. Being married to an addict is difficult, and at some point you do have to decide if you want to keep cushioning them from rock bottom at your own peril or get healthy with or without them.

      • emotionaltornado September 11, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

        I think the same goes for a cheater. If he goes back to cheating on me, to the lying and endangering my health with his choices, continuing to emotionally disrupt my life and destroy my sanity, I think I would have to pick a point to move on also. So many other factors play a role, but when someone would have to choose the separate ladder as a separate path may come if they keep falling and you cannot be happy in the place they keep dragging you back to.

        If the relationship is more like a ball & chain pulling you back under, then you might have to cut the chain. Then if you find yourselves in very different places in life, you make tough decisions.

        Very heavy to think about.

        • wendy swanson September 14, 2012 at 3:19 am #

          With that in mind, I cant believe how many time I have screamed that enough was enough, yet here I am ten years latter, pushing my bounderies farther and farther back. In my defense, he just did a full discloser on monday. Needless to say it was worse than I could have ever imagined. I feel like that ball and chain you speak of is tied around my neck and I can think clearly, let alone make any rational decisions right now. MY head is screaming for me to run and save myself, but my heart cant imagine life without him. That just seems crazy! how can I imagine my life with him?

          • beautifulmess7 September 14, 2012 at 8:56 am #

            I know that conundrum. I never thought I would stay with someone who cheated on me. A friend of his had his engagement broken off a few weeks before the marriage due to his own porn addiction. I remember at the time thinking “Good for her. I wouldn’t put up with that lying and bad behavior.” Little did I know that I was…

            I have tried to figure out what part of staying is because of him, and what part is because of my own fear. It’s hard to untangle. In my head I know that I would be fine without him. I have a good job, the mortgage is in my name alone, I have excellent credit, and I am almost paying all the bills myself right now anyway. The irrational, fearful part of me is terrified of a life without him there. The thought of changing my entire life, losing my best friend, having to separate our things, and going through divorce proceedings makes me feel tired, depressed, and panicky.

            I have also pushed my boundaries farther and farther back over the course of the relationship. We just sat down together a few weeks ago and ironed out a boundary list together. It has consequences, which are there for me as much as for him. I need to see that I decided in a coherent, unemotional state that cheating on me again is grounds for divorce. I need to see that continuous acting out with porn and lying to me is a huge breach of trust and will result in separation, and possibly divorce if he doesn’t take the steps necessary to get back on track in his recovery. Because I know in the moment that fearful part of me might just grasp onto the one person who just hurt me so deeply instead of protecting my fragile emotional health.

            I have heard from many people that rash decisions shouldn’t be made directly following a disclosure. I’m not so sure about that advice, though. If you know what you heard was a deal-breaker, then it just was. For example (not saying your husband did this), if I found out about child pornography or child molestation there is absolutely no way I could ever reconcile with him. Period. I wouldn’t have to think about it, I wouldn’t have to consider things for 6 months, I would just know. There are other things on my deal-breaker list as well, but that is just an extreme example.

          • emotionaltornado September 14, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

            I guess I have a unique situation that I am without him. It is much like we are months into a separation due to his job being far from home. I keep trying to tell myself to be strong. I can’t imagine separating this family for real and I really don’t want to right now.

            I have said before that the lines we draw are in the sand. We move them more that we are willing to admit. I know I have. A second affair did move the chain from my ankle to neck also. It is so damn hard.

            I hope you find happiness in whatever way works for you.

            • beautifulmess7 September 15, 2012 at 8:39 am #

              I hope that you find happiness, too. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be in your situation. It is almost like you are separated. I suppose you have to be climbing your own ladder towards recovery right now because you are all you have. You show such amazing strength.

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  1. Delving Into My Childhood « Being a Beautiful Mess - November 10, 2012

    […] Breaking the Negative Codependent Cycle (beingabeautifulmess.wordpress.com) […]

  2. What’s Next? What SHOULD We Be Doing? « Being a Beautiful Mess - October 17, 2012

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