One of the biggest things I had to learn last year was boundaries. One of the other biggest things I had to learn was what was my responsibility, and more importantly what wasn’t.
I had grown up the oldest daugher of two alcoholics. Their disease made them incapable of parenting myself or my two younger brothers. So from an early age I had taken on a lot of things that weren’t my responsibility including being the mother
figure to my younger brothers, listening to my Mum’s drunken ramblings about her problems, and doing all the housework etc. I was a child but I was completely a codependent.
Fast forward several years to 2016. I’m 25 years old sitting in a doctor’s office explaining how I was extremely fatigued, had lost my will to socialise, couldn’t sleep and felt incredibly anxious. My doctor told me I was overworked, stressed and burntout. I told him I couldn’t be any of these things, I’d only been working my job for 18 months since finishing university. He explained burnout is not just being overworked at work, it’s being overworked in other facets of life like family, relationships etc.
The penny dropped for me; I completely failed to enforce boundaries and let so many people drain me of emotional and social energy. It never ceases to amaze me how our unhealthy childhood behaviors play out into full patterns in our adult life.
At this point in my life I was working in frontline care and protection social work where we were three staff down in my office. Despite this, everyone else left at 5pm but I offered to pick up all the extra work and would finish each night at 9pm. My alcoholic parents owed me thousands of dollars. My mother would ring me drunk every night and talk about all her problems for an hour or so, and would sometimes ring me on my lunchbreak too, talking about the same problems I’d heard the previous night. I also had acquired numerous friends who phoned me to talk about their issues and never bothered to ask how I was.
I was completely depleted, burntout and over worked. I hit rock bottom. I was so fatigued I had headaches constantly, my hair fell out and I had numerous aches and pains. 25 years of being a codependent had caught up with me.
Luckily I have an incredibly supportive partner. Together we sat down and talked about the boundaries I would have to put in to get my energy back.
I told my parents I couldn’t give them anymore money.
I told my Mum I will talk to her on the phone twice a week and she has to be sober for these conversations.
I had some hard conversations with friends about my support to them and that it was feeling very one-sided.
I quit my job and moved out of frontline care and protection social work.
I’m determined to break the cycle of addiction/codependency. Luckily I have never personally had problems with substance abuse. However I have had problems with being a codependent. It’s my goal to break the cycle. When I have my own children my fiance and I will be able to model healthy boundaries and behaviours to them.
It’s not always easy. The last 12 months of challenging and changing my whole lifestyle has definitely had its ups and downs but I’m so glad I did it. I’m finally getting some energy back, my anxiety has decreased and I can sleep again.
I’m happy to say I’m breaking the cycle, and it starts with me.