My first addiction in my youth was co-dependency. I didn't realize it but the healthy boundaries that should exist between parent and child did not exist in my home. My parents weren't bad people. Quite the contrary, they were productive, involved and good people. Unfortunately, they married young with wounds they never healed from their own childhood and very poor communication skills.
As a result, I became my mother's sounding board for her negativity, pain and secrets and I became my father's distraction for the lack of intimacy in his marriage. He came to me for affection and attention, not sexual needs.
Needless to say, I was a breeding ground for all sorts of uncomfortable feelings ranging from rage, sadness, guilt, shame, fear and panic. I further developed an unhealthy dependence on my best friend and later, my boyfriend. I lived in fear of being abandoned if I didn't meet other people's needs. If my best friend was bitchy, I tried to be nicer so she would be kind. If my Dad disapproved of my boyfriend and pulled away from me, I broke up with boyfriend to get his love.
With all that untreated internal chaos, I became bulimic at sixteen. At eighteen, I started to drink, snort lines, take an occasional ecstasy, cheat on my boyfriend and smoke cigarettes. By twenty one, I was a hot mess. I was active in all of my addictions with my eating disorder being the major cause of my distress.
I told my parents and boyfriend I had a problem and my parents sent me to see a family friend who also happened to be a therapist. Unfortunately, I was so afraid of what my parents would think about my lack of control, I lied to the therapist and pretended it was just a phase.
I was dying to be perfect because I thought if I was perfect my parents would find peace and happiness and the tension in our lives would be gone. I continued on that mission until I was thirty one, to no avail. The only thing my people pleasing mission accomplished was my own demise. I couldn't see how sacrificing my own needs and truth was killing me.
Today, I have thirteen years sober and am free from all of my addictions, except maybe my co-dependency. I still tend to take on other people's pain and withhold the truth if I think it will hurt someone. I am getting better at not doing that because I realize it is a form of manipulation and no one benefits when a person in a relationship deceives. The Truth shall set us all free and sometimes the Truth is painful because it means changing our patterns and letting other people feel their pain.
If I could give my teenage self some advice from what I know now, I would say the following:
1. You are not responsible for anyone else's life or actions. Whether its your parent, sibling, friend or lover, you do not have the power to make anyone happy or unhappy. Happiness comes from living a life based on your inner truth.
2. Find people who support you and your dreams and surround yourself with them. They can help you separate the True from the False and will get you through difficult times when toxic people are negative and critical.
3. What other people do is a reflection of them, not of you. Hurting people hurt people. Unhappy people try to pull down other people. Happy people want you to be happy too.
4. Whatever it is you love to do, do it no matter what anyone else says. It can be a hobby or an occasional pleasure or a job, but never give it up or else a part of you dies.
5. Even if you think there is no one who can or will help you, if you ask for help from your heart and you mean it, unbelievable things will come to pass for you. Angels in the form of other people who do care will show up, either at school or on the street or in random places you visit. When you meet them, recognize you are loveable and worthwhile.
6. Every problem is born with a solution. Every addiction is born with a freedom. The first step in changing your life is the desire to change. You may not have money to hire a therapist, but you can go to a school guidance counselor and ask for help. Let someone know what you are struggling with and that you want help and you will find your solution a day at a time. Never give up on you-you are worth it!!
All my best,
P.S. Lastly, you can reach out to us at Addictionland