Hello, I'm Elisa. And I'm a ___________. How do I fill in that label? How would you? Does it match how God "labels" you?
By Amanda Anderson
Several years ago, I went through a very painful breakup with one of my closest friends, and it devastated me. I had just come through an intense time with her, trying to support her through a brutal divorce that left her and her children in financial distress. Just as we were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel for her family, our friendship plunged into darkness.
I sought help and solace in prayer from a trusted woman in my church family. As I sobbed out my story, she made a suggestion.
"Have you ever considered a Codependents Anonymous group? Why don't you check out our Monday night meeting?"
My first thought was, "No. I do not want to do that."
Ten years before I had been at a different bottom: I'd been diagnosed with postpartum depression. That bottom revealed an ongoing and previously undiagnosed anxiety and depression issue in my life. With treatment and the Lord's help, I had made a lot of progress, and shared my story with others. But I felt that I had become the poster child in our Women's Ministry for Mental Health Disorders.
So I didn't want another label. I did not want to take the long walk across our church campus from the sanctuary where the "normal" Christians were to the rooms across campus where the 12-step groups met - for AA, Alanon, and Codependents Anonymous (CODA). I did not want to wear a CODA t-shirt along with my "I Struggle with Depression" t-shirt.
But somehow, I dragged myself to a meeting. And there I found not a new label, but a solution. (And also, we don't get t-shirts. It's anonymous.)
For the first time I found other women who had struggled to find healthy, fulfilling relationships with good boundaries. Each of us was "seeking to overcome the emotional losses of our childhoods" and all of us had become hypervigilant to the needs of others, and - to varying degrees - out of touch with our own needs.
In CODA I learned to see the ways I was giving to others in the hopes that they would intuit my needs and give back to me. I began to see unhealthy patterns in many of my relationships that all stemmed out of my fear of being left behind, misunderstood and unloved. If I could make myself essential to a friend through helping, then they would never leave me. No wonder I couldn't fully stop being anxious and depressed!
I began to learn that God saw me as loveable and valuable beyond my ability to be helpful, and that others would too.
Best of all, I learned to practice what had been preached in the church sanctuaries I'd been in just about every Sunday since childhood. I learned to surrender to and trust God. But first, shockingly, I learned the ways I did not trust him; and I learned to process the reason why. Irony of ironies, codependency hasn't been added to my roster of "issues." Instead diagnosis and the process of 12-step helped me drop "anxious and depressed" off the roster. It was the healing I didn't know I needed.
So now, I take the label proudly: I'm Amanda, and I'm a codependent in recovery. And I experience daily one of the promises of the program that we read in every meeting: I feel genuinely loveable, loving and loved.
I'm so glad I took that long walk.
Amanda Anderson is an author, blogger, MOPS speaker and Bible teacher. She will be a featured speaker at the upcoming West Coast Life Recovery Conference at Mariners Church on Saturday, October 6 alongside Steve Auterburn, Dr. David Stoop and more. Her first book is due out in July 2019 - All My Friends Have Issues: Building Remarkable Relationships with Imperfect People (Like Me).