It was the Fellowship that first attracted many of us to our program of recovery. What we discovered was a group of people who were learning to accept everyone as they were, who were interested in supporting each other through good times and bad…
AVOIDING PEOPLE AND CIRCUMSTANCES
Some of us, out of fear and/or shame, avoid any degree of closeness or intimacy with others. We work hard to prevent placing ourselves in a vulnerable position. We become skilled at hiding our fears, especially when things seem out of control. We may remain silent even when we experience injustice or abuse. Our codependence worsens; our fear and shame overwhelm us. We control and avoid others even more. But these behaviors are temporary fixes; our fears always return and shame is ever present.
Codependence is a disease that deteriorates our souls. As we continue to peel the layers, some of us discover that avoiding relationship is a survival tool we have used to avoid social, sexual and emotional intimacy with ourselves and others.
Relationship Anorexia exists when we avoid engaging in intimate relationships with ourselves, others or the God of our understanding. As children we didn’t experience limits or boundaries, nor did we learn how to have healthy relationships. As relationship addicts we attach ourselves to others to avoid being alone or feeling inner pain. As relationship anorectics we may isolate or conversely feel compelled to seek out groups to avoid being alone. We avoid the possibility of being shamed or hurt by denying our natural feelings and desires for healthy intimate, emotional relationships.
Some experiences of ACA members:
- As a child we moved a lot. When I went to a new school I didn’t feel “good enough” I was afraid that I wouldn’t be liked so I told myself I didn’t care and stayed to myself.
- I’m afraid to pick up the phone. I want to talk, but I’m so afraid that I won’t be safe. I feel “less than”. I’m afraid that the other person won’t take time for me.
- I don’t want to be in a relationship anymore. I’m tired of care-taking, trying to please and paying for a man who doesn’t reciprocate my feelings.
- I get my “high” from working the room at social gatherings. This ongoing choice helps me to avoid relationships.
FEAR OF INTIMACY
Intimate feelings are those that are most deeply personal. From infancy these feelings guided us as we attempted to get our needs met. If our caregivers couldn’t respond to our needs, we concluded that our needs and the feelings driving those needs were a mistake. Finally we concluded that we must be a mistake. The resulting toxic shame is profound and painful. To avoid experiencing our deepest feelings we develop dysfunctional patterns of behavior. We believe these feelings may actually cause us to die. This is the “terror” of intimacy.
One day however we begin to realize we have been living our lives for a long time without love. We observe the absence of closeness in certain areas of our lives; we observe that we are engaged in a policy of dread of others and a strategy to keep them at bay.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DETACHMENT AND AVOIDANCE?
Another way of stating this could be, “What is the difference between letting go and running away?
In avoidance, we’re driven by fear, more specifically, fear of shame. The dictionary states that avoidance is to dodge, elude, bypass or abstain. In codependence we find that avoidance enables us to escape from self-accountability; to ignore people or situations; to hide from the truth or to run away from our responsibilities. We do this in order to avoid the possibility of shaming through rejection, anger, disappointment or abandonment.
Detachment happens when we emotionally separate ourselves from our codependence upon individuals or situations. Simply put, detachment is based on love and strength. Avoidance is based on fear of shame.
For many of us, codependence and addiction arise partly from feelings of being different, “special” and separate. We may have spent our lives believing that we had to manage alone, that no-one would be there for us and that no-one could understand our pain. Recovery is a return from this isolation.
Identifying with others’ experiences at meetings is the key to breaking down the barriers of our ‘terminal uniqueness’. The ACA Fellowship provides a safe place where we can learn to trust ourselves and others - an important foundation for healthy relationships.
Many of us experienced shaming abuse as children often for just being ourselves. This painful, toxic shame and the fear of that shame may have kept us in emotional isolation. Fellowship brings this shame out of hiding and starts to heal it as we allow others to see who we truly are – unique and precious creations. As this happens we begin to be more at ease with ourselves and others and are able to express our thoughts and feelings more spontaneously.
The illusion of separateness and uniqueness disappear. As we heal we move from spiritual and emotional isolation to connectedness.
Questions & Thoughts for Reflection
Do I drive people away or make it difficult for people to get to know me? How?
Do I avoid others in order to feel safe? How do I do that?
Which of my patterns or beliefs cause me to isolate?
What parts of my recovery program help me to come out of isolation?
Do I stay without social activities for extended periods of time?
Does being with others exhaust me – even if I like them?
Do I have a hard time playing or having fun with others?
Do I use feeling superior or inferior to set myself apart from others?
Am I mainly attracted to unavailable people?
Do I prefer being alone to questioning the choices that keep me alone?
I open myself to receive love – and when I do, I can love others
I enjoy and appreciate the people in my life
I am a good friend and I have good friends
As my self-love increases, I receive love from others with greater ease.
I can be close to another person without losing myself.
I know a new sense of belonging. The feelings of emptiness and loneliness will disappear
I know a new love and acceptance of myself and others.
I learn that it is possible for me to mend to become more loving, intimate and supportive.