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Sexual trauma and co-dependency….finding the connection will be interesting. In Rosemary O’Connor’s book about taking care of ourselves in order to take care of our kids, she discusses two topics that go to the core of our self-esteem.

Trauma consists of a deeply distressing or disturbing experience and it affects us on all levels:  physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. We examine these traumas in our recovery – otherwise we are leaving ourselves open to relapse. We speak our truth – in meetings, in therapy, with a sponsor.

By doing so, we reduce the power that the trauma has over us. And it often provides others in our group with the courage to come forward and address their own traumatic issues. We feel safe.

When I was several years into recovery, I heard a woman’s story in a women’s meeting. She talked about how she had experienced sexual trauma at the hands of her husband – marital rape.  There was electricity in the room as women looked at one another with the sense that the concept of marital rape had never been considered by most of them before.

In the “meeting after the meeting” a group of us went to the local diner for bottomless coffee and one by one, each of us told stories of trauma that we had never shared with another human being before. Some recounted sexual trauma. Others talked about gaslighting – emotional trauma.

Some were talking about husbands or boyfriends. Some were talking about strangers, family members, memories of their childhood. A great deal of hurting AND healing occurred that night that slipped into early morning.

Rosemary suggested two very important tools. First, get counseling and therapy. It is worth its weight in gold. Without therapy, I would not still be in recovery. I can guarantee that. Second, consider taking a self-defense course and consider having your children take the training as well.  You will be amazed at how much more empowered you will feel.

Co-dependency is an addiction of its own. The drug of choice is another person. And it is just as difficult to recovery from this disease as any other addiction. Two stories from Alanon come to mind. One is that in the morning the alarm goes off and the Alanon turns to the alcoholic and asks “And how are WE feeling today?”

The other is the statement that when an Alanon dies, another person’s life passes before their eyes. When we are in the throes of co-dependency we are unable to focus on ourselves. We learn in Alanon that we can’t change the alcoholic – they must want to change. That goes for the co-dependent as well. Co-dependency can be dysfunctionally comfortable. We focus on others to avoid focusing on ourselves.

This becomes very clear when, in recovery, we become helicopter moms – trying to protect our children from every conceivable failure or mishap. But we can’t. Shit happens. And we are not the General Managers of the Universe, even though as moms we think we are or should be.  Being co-dependent with our children is a recipe for disaster for all of us.

So, what does Rosemary suggest as a tool of recovery? Well, the most important tool she suggests is that we write our letter of resignation as the “Queen of the Universe.” Learning and accepting that I am not in control of everything that happens is a very healthy activity for me. I have a loved one that is trying to get and maintain recovery and is having a really hard time. But I acknowledge that it is not up to me to fix that. He has a Higher Power and I ain’t it.

Consider doing the things for yourself that you wish others were doing for themselves. Take care of yourself and take the focus off of others. Make a list of things that you would like to do for yourself and each day, pick one of them….and DO IT.

Attend Alanon or Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings. I have told people in AA that if they have a family, using or not, they should attend CoDA and if they have sponsees, they should attend Alanon. I will add to this that family recovery life coaching can be transformational for the entire family, whether other substance users in the family are in recovery or not.

Darkness, fear and secrets are the enemy. They are defeated when one woman steps forward to speak her truth and light the way – Rosemary O’Connor


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