The First Step is . . .

. . . the hardest and the most important for a grand journey.

Honestly, I thought this was going to be pretty simple. I already know my life is unmanageable. I don’t use guilt trips or the silent treatment on my kids. I’m not the one with the chemical dependence. Then, I learned about the Karpman Dama Cycle. Click on the link to see an excellent video that explains it.

What I need is an honest dose of humility as I put the game down so I can get off the cycle.

Humility. The act of cutting away the braveness by knocking over walls that have been built to hold things together. Do you remember the story of the boy who plugged a hole in the wall of the dam with his finger? Well, my ending turned out a bit differently — the adults didn’t come out in the morning and make the necessary repairs to stop the water. In fact, the whole thing has been crumbling for many years. Finally, my dam broke.

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives were unmanageable.

In Millie McCarty’s Book Pathways to Hope and Healing, she has an activity called a Genogram. The instructions are to trace your genealogy back three generations (to your grandparents) and then fill in the blanks with character traits and habits. Think over the family stories that are passed down, and find the patterns that have traveled the generations. Take an honest look at yourself. I kind of scoffed at this the first time through her book. But, the idea of it kept coming to mind while I was working through my first step.

It was time to sit down and work through it. I did the three generations, then decided to also included my kids. Here is the raw writing.

The things I inherited from my parents that I didn’t expect are things like:

  • independence to the point of being emotionally distant
  • passive-aggressive behaviors
  • lack of trust for people, especially men
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Drama in family life that leads to codependency
  • Abuse that leads to the drama

ESH: the way to share

One of the things I’ve learned in y support group is the share Experience, Strengths, Hope. There is a purpose in sharing and its not to point blame. It is to take a look at what we can learn to move forward. When I listen to others, I am not to make a judgment. My job is to listen, period. I can think about how their experience brings me hope or understanding. Or I can thank them for being vulnerable. Without the need to take it upon myself to fix or give suggestions, I can now recognize their value as a person.

There are several times a day that I catch myself trying to come up with solutions, and I have to stop myself. Wow! I didn’t realize I played the hero this much! I also didn’t realize how freeing it was to not solve problems that aren’t mine.


When I was in high school, one of my closest friends gave me a pin that said, “My mother is my travel agent for my guilt trips”. We laughed about it. Looking back, I’m sure it hurt her feelings. At the time, I didn’t care — it was my pattern of passive-aggressiveness. I hated how demanding she was, how everything had to be done her way, on her time-table. Our fights ended with me at fault and the expectation was I would be the one to make amends.

At age 23, I ended up in a therapist’s office for the first time, feeling nervous and ashamed. because I hadn’t been able to figure things out on my own. In the course of the conversation, she suddenly asked, “Do you check?” Confused, I answered, “Yes”. My then husband looked at me, more confused. “Check what?” he asked. The therapist ignored him. “Do you count?” Again, he looked between us, confused. “Yes, doesn’t everyone?” Ignoring me, she asked, “Do you wash?” I shook my head. “Do you clean?” He suddenly had a question that made sense. “Yes, she does. Vacuums three times a day!” This was my introduction to OCD.

I am not a stranger to the silent treatment. Through my childhood I watched my grandma, aunts, and mom use it on each other. I dreaded doing something wrong that would bring it on my head while I had to figure out what I had done wrong and how to make it right. In my second marriage, it happens usually after he has been drinking and we have had a huge fight. I’ve scrambled to be a better wife, to make things right again.


This week, working through the questions that come in step one, I realize how I’ve tried to control situations. I am always trying to be the best whatever I need to be. Daughter, student, wife, mother, teacher . . . the list goes on. I’m so driven to achieve and prove my worth to others, that I’ve lost myself. I have no boundaries, I’m not able to identify neither my feelings nor my needs. A desperate need to be connected to something or someone for me to have worth has been a long standing force. Step one takes that out of my hands. It makes me face the reality that it was never my place to prove myself to anyone, and that I’m not responsible for their feelings or behaviors.

Will Smith said it beautifully. Listen to him here. I’m retiring my superhero mask.

Tradition One: Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon CoDA unity.

Step one takes away the power I pretended to have over others. This doesn’t mean I am weak, it means that I realize I have been creating an unsafe environment for my kids. I have built walls that need to come down. I am not all knowing. That is God’s job. Starting today, I remove myself from the place of a Higher Power.

Leting go of that power makes me face three questions I haven’t been honest with myself on:

  1. What do I want?
  2. What do I think?
  3. What do I feel?

I have been so focused on making temporary peace that I lost the way to true peace. Answering these three questions honestly, and allowing others to also answer them, is going to bring that true peace. Do you remember what my word for the year is? Peace! I’m finally on the right path.

Next Baby Step

Next week I move on to step two. I hope that you continue to come with me! This is a digging deep journey. I think Marc Cohn’s Dig Down Deep is my theme song for the year.

How can I support you in your journey?

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