I am a believer who struggled with co-dependency and alcohol. The first time I was exposed to the Twelve Steps, it was in Alcoholics Anonymous and they gave me sobriety from alcohol. I was on the 4th step working this program, when my sponsor sent me to Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA), and Co-dependents Anonymous (Coda) to find myself and identify where the pain in my life was coming from. In other words, my sponsor recognized her limitations and I recognized her frustrations in working with me. The last thing my sponsor told me to do was to go to my chemically dependent meetings daily. So, I went to three or four or more meetings every day. I started with one AA meeting a day plus whatever other Twelve Step meeting was on the schedule. I am still grateful to this day for what I learned about myself in all Twelve Step arenas, because, no matter what the addiction was that was being addressed, the Twelve Step Programs all used the same basic process. My first lesson was that it was not my sponsor’s responsibility to fix me, but my responsibility to make my recovery happen despite my attitude. Then mercy walked into my life. Yes, God’s mercy (God’s ability to hold from me what I deserve) and grace (God’s ability to give me what I don’t deserve).

Those sharing there experience strength and hope in Coda meetings gave me a sense of choice about my recovery from the pain identified in co-dependency. I looked for the easier softer way and could not find it. I prayed for it, waited for it, searched for it, longed for it, and hoped for the key that would unlock this mystery of recovery in my life. I can’t count how many times I attended seminars, bought books, and went to counseling hoping to be transformed and relieved of this pain I carried. I came to know that the Twelve Steps are the core for transformation and the path to recovery. The old timers would say, “You can dance around these steps all you want and suit up and sit in meetings forever. But when you choose to change your life, you will begin to work these steps.” Every book, seminar and counseling session I had enhanced my recovery when I started working these steps.

At Twelve Step meetings, the group would read what was called the Promises. At the end of the promises we read the statement, “God will do for us, what we cannot do for ourselves.” How profound those words were. Later the revelation would kick in! I sat in my meetings for so long a time focusing on my problems of caretaking, shame, controlling, obsessing, victimization, and self loathing (for starters), instead of focusing on the solution. Putting down the alcohol giant and prescription drug giant was nothing compared to this giant called Co-dependency. These Steps changed me and transformed me in ways that I had to experience and not just intellectualize. I was told in meetings many times that in order to become a humble person, one must experience humility!

It is with the greatest respect for the Twelve Steps that I share this part of my journey where I found myself and my purpose in life. Working the steps meant making an effort to apply principles to my life and when I did, what a profound behavioral, emotional, and spiritual result occurred. A significant personality change had taken place in my very being! I no longer talked the same, walked the same, or went to the same places. One example was that after a few months of sobering up, a coworker came up to me and asked me if I was on drugs. Wow, I thought to myself. Have I changed that much?

Immediately, Step One gave me permission to stop controlling, deal with my fear, and take care of myself at work. BUT, I found myself trying to control others, namely my children and family, well into my recovery process. I had driven off a husband and relationships of any close friends, except my one childhood friend Carol. She listened to my whining and crying and is still my pal.

Although it may be subdued today, that sinful controlling nature can rear its head at any given moment. I had made myself feel crazy, and my life had become unmanageable with both overt and more subtle gestures to control many people. I was trying to control what they did, thought, felt, and how and when they changed. I had been so enmeshed with the life of my children and out of touch with myself. I was caught in a torrent of obsessive thinking,–not saying no, not saying what I meant, not being in touch with what I wanted and needed, not having boundaries, and not living my own life. These patterns are what created this giant of co-dependant unmanageability. When I look at the pattern of my life, I can identify this generational sickness.

I didn’t start drinking until I was 20 years old. Fear kept me from what I hated the most which was out of control people. When I was a child I used to put my shoes by the bed at night just in case I would have to run. I was always trying to run and hide. I would go out the door by the kitchen, grab a coat and run out to the garage. If I couldn’t get out unnoticed, I went and hid in the bedroom closet. I would crawl into the very back and hide under whatever I could stack on top of me.

There were many incidents that happened in regards to my parents’ toxic behavior that I reacted to, and this abuse took many forms: emotional and physical abandonment, neglect, verbal abuse, physical abuse, alcoholism, and more. One night that I remember in particular, I really believed my father was going to kill my mother. My father had come home from work drunk, like many times before. But that particular night my mother would not stop yelling. She always tried to control by yelling back which made him react and then the hell would start. My little brother who was six years younger happened to be at home with me that night. My older sister and brother were always gone staying at other people’s homes. The next thing I knew, my brother and I wanted to escape but we couldn’t get out of the house. So we went upstairs to the attic bedroom. I was sitting at the top of the stairs shaking uncontrollably. I was no longer aware of anything but my shaking. I must have had a white out! Then it was morning, and I came down the stairs. It was a natural reaction to just start cleaning up the mess of broken furniture and blood around in the kitchen and bathroom. To my amazement, I noticed that not a single window was broken. At least people driving by wouldn’t notice what happened again. The family secrets were still protected.

My father died at the age of 44 when I was 20 years old, and at that time the family was uncontrollable. So I bought a one way ticket to Cincinnati, Ohio, where my maternal grandparents lived. So, you could say I ran away from home when I was 21 years old. Later a psychologist told me healthy children run away at twelve. I had no intentions of going back home to Washington. So I got a job and lived with my aunt and uncle until my drinking had escalated and I was sinking in sin. But, I was still teaching Sunday school classes and drinking with the whole family on a regular basis!

Sin is what separated me from everything I longed for. By age 24, I was an unwed mother. Oh, what shame I brought upon this Irish Catholic Family. My feelings were that I didn’t need these people anyway. Now, with having my baby, I would have someone who really loved me. I sued my child’s father as a reputed father for $25.00 a week to cover child care so I could continue working and take care of myself. I didn’t need anyone.

My mother remarried and soon asked if my little brother could come and live with me. He had been getting in trouble and, according to my mother it was our cousin’s fault (not addictions). He came to live with me and I bought an old car for him to get to and from a vocational school. Soon the school called and wanted to know why he wasn’t coming. He was an out of control drug addict. Everyday was a nightmare. I found my self packing the baby’s diaper bag and putting my shoes and purse by the back door of my trailer – just in case I would have to run. The night came when that giant went on a rampage. The police were called and it took four of them to put my brother on a straight board and shackle him. He was bleeding from tearing up the house with his fists, so he was taken to the hospital. In the hospital he was left on the straight board shackled, yelling that he was going to kill me if I didn’t get him out of there. After seven hours he came down off of what ever he was on and we left the hospital as if nothing happened. He just walked out after they unshackled him.
After a few days I escorted him back to Washington State via airplane. I had not been home for six years. That very night after the family gathering, my brother came home from wherever he had been drugging and started fighting with my mother and she tried to control him just like she did my father. I was in the back bedroom with my baby shaking uncontrollably. I kept saying to myself, “I will be on a plane in two days and I am never coming back.” This was the same house, 13 years after the incident with my parents, only six years after my father’s death, and I was experiencing alcohol and drug addiction of the next generation.

By 26, I married a man I did not love. I had no real concept of love at that time. The only thing I was sure of at that time was that he would not hit me. I knew him since I was six years old. Our fathers worked together and drank together. My decisions were made with logic, or lust, or both. Now I had a drinking partner, and we had two more children. We drank drink for drink and it would behoove him to be sure I had all I needed.

When I reached the saturation level of alcohol it caused ugly depressions, and then I would go to the psychiatrist and switch to valium. The family much preferred me going to shrinks and on prescriptions. I never thought about whether I was actually getting better or worse, I just went back to the doctor and they changed the color of my valium. I just took it. I did not want to feel. My prescription drugs were still keeping me from dealing with me. That cycle went on for the eight years I was married to my now ex-husband.
Finally I stopped the valium and started losing weight and thinking more about my career. I was always thinking about my and I. When I went to the doctor, he was very surprised to see how healthy I looked, and he asked me if I was getting a divorce. All he did was plant a thought in my head. That thought said, “Why not?” I filed for a divorce and for the next 2 years my ex-husband and I fought for control of the children and possessions. We also had to go in front of a judge over the children’s visitation and financial support before the divorce was over. The judge said, “I can’t tell which one of you is lying,” and she asked if we wanted a guardian ad-litum. In total ignorance I said, “Yes”. Now I really had to protect the lies and the secrets about my drinking. Needless to say, the three story home with a water view, the Dalmatian dog in the window of the home, the van and matching car were all lost due to the fight for control. At the end of the divorce, after fighting for two straight years, the kids were left and nothing else survived.

Now the children were taking care of themselves. We went through an additional five years of custody battles after the divorce. My ex-husband married a woman who had practiced witchcraft in the past. The children were exposed to ouija boards, ghosts living in the house, and astrology readings when visiting. Even living the out of control and godless life that I was, I had to get the children out of my ex-husband’s house. So I put in for a promotion to Yuma, AZ. It took the judge and guardian ad-litem to get me out of Washington with my children. But I was still thinking only of I and my.

Through God’s mercy and grace, I sobered up eight months later in Yuma. But now I found my self putting my shoes and purse by the window just in case I had to run because of the fear of my children. All three children were using and drinking and questioning me saying, “Who do you think you are to tell us what to do?” My sponsor told me to leave those kids alone. I would face that giant soon enough. All three of my children had alcohol and drug addictions. This was the next generation. Runaway children were living in and on top of my house. One was sleeping on top of the adobe structured apartment using the amenities of my house.
The day I faced this next generation giant, I called on God in the spiritual realm, and the police in the natural. I announced to them in the presence of the police that if what they were doing was against the law it was not negotiable and I would turn them in to the law. This was now tough love. So it would be a good idea to tell their friends that I am not turning them in, I am only turning you, my children, into the law.

On that day, I identified where my pain was coming from. The wounded children I saw standing in my home overwhelmed me. I knew that I was now well equipped with the Twelve Steps to change myself and to give this gift of living to my children. As a survivor, I wanted so much to stop this legacy of abuse and abandonment. I had become so aware of how the abusive behaviors of my parents drove my life. And I was now so aware of how I had repeated that abusive behavior with my children. So I announced that we were going to go as a family to church or my Twelve Step Program. I left it up to them and, of course, they chose the Twelve Step Program. Church was never a part of their lives and they did not know that I had met Jesus in my Twelve Step Program. An old timer had given to me the book Sermon On The Mount by Emmett Fox. The co-founders of the Twelve Steps used the Bible, Sermon on the Mount, and a leaflet called the Upper Room before they divinely put together their program. I had studied the history of the Twelve Steps and found this out in my search for the truth. I now knew the truth about Jesus and my relationship with him. Amen.

For the next three years the roller coaster ride was constant. My older son quit school. My second son was getting into gang activity. My daughter was just a mess and violently rebellious. During the next three years, tough love would prevail. I put my older son out of the house because he chose not to return to school or get a job. Then he found a job and left for Idaho with a contractor. I told him to call home collect anytime he wanted as well as confirming that I loved him. I now had to seek help for my second son. He was out of control and Juvenile Authorities told me to let him stay with someone else so that I would not get hurt. I went to the treatment center and made arrangements to get him in there. Juvenile was notified of the arrangements and sent the police with me to get my son from his friend’s home. My second son was in treatment for 30 days. I rested knowing that he was safe. I went to the treatment center three times a week for one on one, family counseling and multi-family counseling. After 30 days he came home, and the very next day my daughter was arrested outside of the house for domestic violence. I went back to the same treatment center and they gave me a package deal. She entered treatment and was there for three months.
The family and ex-family all were convinced I was the only problem. Their father was supposed to carry medical insurance on them and he did. But after the treatment was over, they found out it did not cover them out of the state of Washington. I was financially bankrupt. Once these two younger kids were out of treatment, they were put in special education. Next thing I knew, my older son called wanting to come home. I could not deal with all of this so I called my little brother who was sitting on the top of those stairs with me way back when and asked his help to take my son into his home and put him back in school.
Several years before, my little brother was committed to Western State Hospital and put on the criminally insane ward for a three year sentence. He had his 21st birthday in that mental hospital. All of this was a result of drugs and alcohol. One little old lady came to the Twelve Step meetings in that ward every Thursday evening for three years and told my brother that God saved him for something very special. My brother took my older son in and put him back in school. God had saved my brother from drugs and alcohol for something very special and he was able to fulfill his amends to me and help my son. Two years past, and my older son came home after he graduated from high school to see me before he went into the Army. It was a gift to see him.

I made an appointment for all of us to have our picture taken as a family. I knew it might be the last time I ever had the three of them together. We were getting ready to go and the three of them were fighting over what clothes they were going to wear. They all came out with black on. I did not care. Then my older son went back in the room and put a purple shirt on over his black shirt. After the picture was taken my older son left with his old friends from school and my second son said he was going to a party. But being on intensive probation it was denied. Then I said, “I am not fighting with you anymore,” so everybody left and I walked to a meeting. I was gone for a total of four hours and some Marines had picked my second son up off of someone’s yard and brought him home. I heard him calling from the bathroom and pushed the door open. He had overdosed. The right side of his body was as if he had had a stroke. The ambulance was called and the emergency room doctor was in my Twelve Step group and he assured me he would let me know everything right away. My son had overdosed on straight Jack Daniels alcohol!

The next day my older son left for the Army. Once he was out of basic training, he sent me a gift. The gift had a ceremonial letter that I was to read before I opened the small box. The letter said that what I was receiving was a medal of honor for being his mother. The letter went on about how as a baby I held his hand as he learned to walk. Then I had to let go of his hand. At the end of the letter it said that I wondered if, by high school, my son was going to make it or not! I opened the box while tears were flooding out of my eyes. The gift was a gold necklace with a diamond in the center. Receiving my medal of honor for being his mother was the Grace of God experienced.

My son spent the next three years in Kuwait, Somalia, and another goodwill campaign. Then he settled in Virginia after he got out of the Army. My daughter now had a baby. The father was in jail, then more jail, then prison as a result of drugs and alcohol. When my older son heard the father was getting out of prison he sent for his sister and her baby to start a new life back in Virginia. She left and spent three days on a bus to get there. She arrived in Virginia on Thanksgiving Day and she spent the whole day with her brother. The very next morning my older son was shot and killed in a hunting incident. Our world was fractured.

I had spent a few years working on forgiveness while doing my steps. I went to the grief recovery institute and learned about forgiveness. Everything I knew and learned about forgiveness was slamming me in the face. The family was in a rage of anger and all I could do was stay focused on Jesus. I did not want to start questioning God. I felt so much gratitude for having sobered up in time to make those things right that I knew were seriously wrong. I worked the Twelve Steps. I made my amends to my children. Everything was right between my oldest son and my self. Thank you Jesus! My oldest son gave me back my dignity as a parent. My God, my God, how I hung onto that. When I went to my son’s funeral, I knew I would have to see this man who killed him and forgive him in order to keep my sanity and my sobriety.

After the funeral, the Captain of the National Guard Unit where my son was a member made that man come to the Armory to face me. That man was the weapons safety officer for that guard unit. I remember looking into his glassy eyes and when I reached to put my hand on his arm he pulled away. I told him that I forgave him but it didn’t mean that I would not hold him accountable. I expected him to pay for this funeral and encouraged him to get to his Pastor and find some peace. All he could do was to stand there frozen and I felt so free of him. As I got back into the truck the young man from that unit who took me home said, “That’s the bravest thing I have ever seen.” Now this young man was a sergeant in the United States Army. And this was the bravest thing he had seen. I had no anger or rage. It was over because I obeyed God. “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 KJV). Now I could get back to my home in Arizona and begin healing myself and reaching out to my family.

There are no answers. I repeated that statement to anyone who asked me questions and went back to focusing on God’s mercy and grace while going to meetings. Only God knows what happened out there in the woods when my son was shot and I held onto that truth that only God knows. There was only one witness as to where my son was standing originally. Thirty days after my son’s death, that witness shot and killed himself the night before the first hearing. Again, there were no answers. Hearings went on for three years before it went to a jury trial. Then the jury let the man who killed my son off in the natural, but he was not let off in the spiritual! God only knows what happened.

There is an ongoing need for me to surrender and trust God as I walk this journey called recovery, and there is hope for recovery from a lifetime of unhealthy relationships one day at a time. Psalms139:13-16 revealed to me that God saw me when I was in my mother’s womb. He knew my mother and father and the circumstances of the home where I was to grow up. He knew the many schools I would attend and the neighborhoods in which I would live. God gave me the ability to develop survival techniques and walked with me through the good times and bad times. He gave the survival techniques and guardian angels to keep and protect me revealed in Psalms 91:11. He chose me before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blame before Him in love revealed in Ephesians 1:4. He cried with me when I cried. He laughed when I laughed. He was grieved when I was abused. He watched and waited for me. He was looking to that day when I would repent of my ways and then receive Jesus as my Savior, as he waits for everyone. I know He longs for my asking, knocking, and seeking Him more and more intimately.

Your survival techniques were probably different than mine. Whatever they were, and whatever your life may have been like up to this point, I personally know that the peace of God can change the regrets and heal the wounds of the past turning them into thanksgiving and praise. Life is exciting, and I am grateful that I am alive for such a time as this. I am an over-comer by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of my testimony (experience, strength, and hope)!

Author's Bio: 

Author of Spiritual Infusion:Twelve Step Recovery and Revival Inside and Outside The Church