I don’t want to get all evangelical, but lately I’m feeling a lot of love for the programme of Co-Dependents Anonymous. I run my local meeting every weekend. Sometimes it feels like a chore, but even on those days I do get something out of it.
It’s hard to explain CoDA (if you’re interested, I wrote about codependency a while back here). Essentially, it’s the fellowship I love. The meeting I go to is for women only, and those women I see regularly there are a remarkable, tenacious and compassionate crew. They’re from all walks of life, with varied perspectives and life experiences. But each Saturday, we come together as equals to listen and be heard and support one another.
I’m just starting to realise that the support I get during meetings doesn’t end when I walk out of that room. During last week’s meeting, I shared that I was feeling anxious about my therapist going on holiday. I explained how I fear time alone with myself, how having nothing to do usually leads me to ruminate and often spiral into dark places.
Several people spoke to me at the end of the meeting. They reiterated that I am not alone and they will be there for me. What’s new is that I could allow myself to believe them. I didn’t instantly go into my negative self-talk and assume they were just being kind and offering empty words.
This week, I made a point of keeping in contact with them. Even just short text messages make a difference. Those words of encouragement have helped me feel stronger in the past few days. This afternoon, I went for a long walk in the beautiful, frosty woods with one of my CoDA friends. We walked for hours and talked non-stop about everything from our pets to the sexual abuse we both suffered as children. It was liberating to be out in nature, at ease, and speaking about things I could never bring up in conversation with my other friends.
People at meetings often talk about the ‘gifts of recovery’. Admittedly, I am cynical. The ‘higher power’ stuff is all a bit much for me. And using the term ‘gifts’ jars with me because it feels too religious. It feels like something handed down to a person, when actually, what we’re talking about here are successes people have to fight tooth and nail for. They’re not given, they are earned.
That said, I am happy to hear my friends celebrate these ‘gifts’. Language aside, this recovery thing is really bloody hard, and it is so important to notice those small yet significant changes that happen as a result of all that exhausting effort.
If I force out the cynic in me and silence the crushing critic, tonight I can celebrate finding my CoDA friends. They accept me and hear me with compassion and patience. They offer to be alongside me when I’m having a tough time. They share their own struggles, their true feelings, and their stories of strength and hope. That’s an amazing and valuable thing for me to have in my life.