Susan, a thirty-two - year- old recovering from codependency, faithfully worked her program for two years, and began to feel stronger. She sought the encouragement of friends outside the program, and began to realize her dream: to open her own flower shop. Things went very well, at first, because Susan had a flair for floral design, and was personable with customers.
Then, the shop began to get very busy. Susan felt stressed. She was attending three meetings a week, and working constantly at her shop. After being exhausted and stressed for several months, she decided to drop her meetings. This gave her the extra time she needed for herself, but it had consequences: she felt guilty and afraid of relapse, and her friends from meeting began telling her she needed her meetings, and she was making a big mistake. Soon, they stopped calling her. Susan ignored her fear and stress for a while, but without emotional support, her enthusiasm for her business began to falter. She began overeating and bingeing, she became panicky and disorganized, and she eventually gave up her store lease and moved the faltering floral business into her home. She was in despair, and ready to give up, go back to being a secretary (which she hated), and attend all her old meetings. Susan says: "I was a mess - worse than before I joined CoDA. I even talked to a Doctor and tried prescription drugs, but they just made me drowsy. The anxiety was still there. I began to feel suicidal."
A concerned friend, seeing that Susan was overloaded with guilt and self-doubt, suggested therapy. In counseling, Susan got the help she needed to examine her decisions of the past year. Soon she was able to see that her problems had merely been the normal things that happen with a new business, and her relapse occurred because she let her guilt and fears override her thinking ability. We worked to resolve her fear of failure, which originally came from a family belief that she was the "pretty one" and "not too bright"; but was exaggerated by her twelve-step friends' insistence that she would fail if she left the group.
She got in control of her eating again, made friends among other people in the floral business, and reevaluated what she wanted to do with floral design. This time, she designed her business to meet her needs and desires, kept it smaller, to be less overwhelming, and took some courses in business, and ignored what friends thought she should do. Susan is now enjoying a small, exclusive and thriving business, and she has time for a social life, recreation, friends and romance. She says, " Without advice or help from anyone who knew floral business skills, I got frightened and confused, and stopped doing what I already knew how to do to keep myself healthy. I know now that it's my responsibility - not the program's, to keep me doing what I know is right, and to learn what I need to know."
self-determination and self-respect are the necessary keys most dependent people need to be able to take full responsibility for and control over their own lives. Without these keys, dependent people are like Teddy, a well-educated and talented man who, when he began to be aware of his internal attitudes, said in frustration, "I'm 36, and I still live my life as though someone else is in charge of it." Why does Teddy feel this way? Because he believes others can take care of him and advise and protect him from harm better than he could himself. To feel wholly in charge of himself and his life Teddy must give up the dream that there is someone else who can make it better, who can take total care of him, who can be responsible for him more effectively than he can himself.