01 May 2011

Letting go of secrets

Step Five of CODA says, "Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs."

When I finally reached the fifth step of AA, I had reached a point where I needed to share my evil past with a living, breathing human being. I needed to acknowledge my past, accept responsibility for it and find hope for the future. I don't mean for this to sound self-centered but the fifth step of AA was entirely about me.

I mention this because the fifth step of AA would be a lot easier taking - than the fifth step of CODA. With AA everything was about my defects of character and while the fifth step of CODA would list these same defects of character. The only way for me to do this fifth step was to involve another person - the person I was addicted too.

For me to say that I was irresponsible was easy but having to show how I was irresponsible was more difficult. An example would be that the person I was addicted to was caught stealing and barred from a store. I made stories up about why we didn't shop in that store anymore. In fact, the story grew to the point that it was my fault we didn't shop there anymore.

My point is that by doing the fifth step of CODA I was finally letting go of every secret that kept me from being the person I was meant to be. I believe with every fiber in my body that every alcoholic and every addict is a co-dependent.

And for recovery to move forward this issue must be dealt with. For the co-dependent that means not only dealing with the guilt but going deeper by dealing with the shame. Early in my recovery, I was introduced to an author who changed my life. His name is John Bradshaw who recently celebrated his 42nd year of sobriety.

Bradshaw was the one who taught me the difference between shame and guilt. I had a lot of guilt for the things I did, but it was the shame that led to my co-dependency issues. With guilt, I knew I made a mistake. And I also knew I could correct it. But shame was deeper. With shame, I believed I was a mistake. There was no way for me "to feel better", because I was no good.

It was because of shame that I constantly sought approval of others, even at the risk of damaging myself.

But that would begin to change when I did my fifth step. I began to realize that I wasn't a bad person. It was my addiction and co-dependency that made me make horrible choices. By completing the fifth step I knew how sick I was. I knew that I had a disease, which I could manage, with the help of my Higher Power, one day at a time. There isn't any chance at a saner tomorrow without dealing with our past. Serenity begins to enter our life after the fifth step. By telling the truth to another human being, we experience true humility for the first time. With this humility came spirituality and a new sense of purpose.

By recognizing my co-dependency I began the lifelong practice of self-love. Love is a choice. And up to this point I chose not to love myself.

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