Human beings are wired for connection.
We have innate processes running deep throughout our subconscious that drive us towards other human beings, similarly to a magnetic pull that—while intangible—can’t be disputed.
We seek love. We seek comfort. We seek connection.
So why don’t we talk about codependency?
Why don’t we talk about the impending emptiness that we fear if we leave our comfort, our security, our vice?
Why don’t we talk about how many of us would rather settle for mediocre relationships that don’t meet us at the level of our needs, because that beats the potential of being alone?
What is it about being alone that is so god damn terrifying?
I am 25-years-old and single for the first time in my adult (and pre-teen) life. After writing about seeking externally to fill internally last month, I was bombarded by well-meaning friends and family telling me, “You’re going to meet someone better,” “You’re going to find the man of your dreams,” and “There are so many fish in the sea, you should probably date one who doesn’t live in the UK.”
But I am beyond grateful for the friend who said to me, “Hannah, I don’t need to say ‘You’ll find it again’, because it’s not promised and maybe you won’t. And that is okay.”
I stared at my iphone screen, jaw dropped. Stunned. I could only respond with “Ya. Oof.”
She said, “I know it feels good to be comforted…but like, you don’t need that. It is not a necessity. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter why you ended it or what comes down the road. It just matters that you love yourself. You are well taken care of.”
If only we were all courageous enough to combat hardships and pain head-on this way.
No, there is no guarantee.
No, you may never experience the level of beauty and health in a relationship that you did with your boyfriend who lived in England.
But yes, that is okay. You are still okay. And above all, it’s okay to not feel happy at all times.
If pain is our greatest motivator for change—and if pain motivates us to grow more than any other external or internal process—why is it that we find such difficulty in facing it?
Codependency, for me, runs much deeper than my alcoholism. I celebrated four years sober in a 12-step program in August of 2015. Not drinking and not using drugs is the very tip of the iceberg. I tell my patients this on a daily basis and they stare at me like I’m an alien.
What came before alcohol and drugs as our primary solution?
Emptiness. An innate discomfort.
As our basic text calls it, a constant state of being irritable, restless and discontented. That is what my baseline state of being was without drugs and alcohol. That is what my baseline state of being is without a relationship.
I recently had a phone conversation with my father who was voicing his concern for me, his youngest daughter, who has been openly talking about and writing about her deepest and most vulnerable pain. I told him about what I’m doing right now: actively not dating and instead seeking inward (through therapy, the 12 steps and incredible connections with people I look up to).
I explained to him that my baseline behavior is to seek anything and everything outside of myself to fill this gaping hole in my soul. He was dumbfounded. He wasn’t aware that alcohol was my solution, never my problem. He wasn’t aware that when I remove my primary solution, I get sicker. Not better.
It is the same for “normal” humans. Non-addicts, non-alcoholics. We all seek something—we’re wired for it. But when we stop ourselves and attempt to stop the cycle—stop the reactivity, the impulsiveness, the constant and relentless need for more of something—what happens then?
We are left with ourselves.
Codependency is a bitch, though. It tricks us into believing that we are not whole without our significant other—or any significant other.
I have read piece after piece on elephant journal about the merit of siting with self and leaning into the sometimes paralyzing discomfort of single life. A friend of mine told me that her therapist recommended she take six months to “work on herself” and actively not date anyone.
I thought about trialing this advice. And I was dumbfounded by my reaction.
An intense panic made its way into my psyche, brought on by merely flirting with the idea of abstaining from men. Similarly to the way I felt about the 12-step program when I first stumbled my way into it, I thought, “Maybe you can do that. But I can’t do that. I could never do that.”
Did I really just admit complete defeat and powerlessness over codependency the way I did with alcohol?
I looked back on my relationship history. The last relationship I was in was incredibly healthy, filled with a beauty that overflowed my heart past the brim. That relationship taught me that I could be present in a relationship, that I could experience real intimacy, that I could let my guard down and step into the great unknown of vulnerability.
Six months later, I am grieiving that relationship every day.
I broke the cardinal healthy break up rule the second I broke up with my ex. I immediately jumped into a relationship (if you can call it that) with a man who identified himself as emotionally unavailable to me before we even began to engage. I tried to prolong this relationship as long as I could. I rode that train until the wheels fell off.
But that wasn’t enough. Ever still trying to avoid the impending weight of my actual break up, I manufactured a relationship with a close male friend who I knew, in theory, I had absolutely nothing in common with. He was a great person—comedic, compassionate and carefree. I searched for loopholes in my brain to rationalize why dating him would be a good idea.
I woke up with an extreme panic almost every day and could not understand why. It was pointed out to me that maybe it was my gut (my intuition, my higher power, my subconscious) telling me that I was engaging in something that some part of me knew was inherently not going to work.
I felt defeated.
I tried online dating for about a minute.
I tried to reconnect with an ex from high school.
I tried everything but facing the harsh reality that after 25 years, I needed to stop.
This last six months have been by far the most eye opening and awakening for me. I keep thinking of one of my favorite quotes:
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~ Rumi
How different would the world look—would we all look–if we did this?
In the 12-step program we are encouraged to write a list of “ideals” that we have in mind for our partner. For years I have been crafting my ideals list, looking at potential suitors and identifying all the ways that they don’t match up.
Then I heard a speaker say at a 12-step panel convention say, “Our ideals list is so much less about what we want the other person to be and all about who we should be in a relationship.”
Mind = blown.
So maybe I need to work on being emotionally available, communicative and my ability to be vulnerable and trusting?
Maybe I should stop focusing all my energy on trying to manufacture a relationship with someone to fit this cookie cutter mold and instead focus all of that energy inward.
What a concept.
For I am whole already and the entire universe is inside of me.
The entire universe is inside of you, too.
Stop seeking. Dive in.
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