Drain Pain

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No, I don’t mean a clogged kitchen sink or a shower stall that empties slowly.

I’m talking about allowing people, places and things to slowly and insidiously creep in and begin sucking the soul, energy, life force – and resources – out of us.  No matter how many years ago we learned about not being codependent, it can still happen to us. Again.

Drain Pain occurs so slowly and subtly, we may not see it happening.  Following you’ll find a list of symptoms and the remedy for each:

–          We leave our bodies – disconnect from ourselves. We’re experts at fleeing the body. We hover around ourselves doing everything except feeling what we feel and valuing ourselves. When this happens, we often feel numb, confused and afraid.  We may also feel emotional (generalized) pain. The thoughts that accompany this condition include:  I CAN’T STAND THIS ANYMORE.  IT, HE, SHE OR THEY IS OR ARE DRIVING ME INSANE.  This means it’s boundary-setting time again.

–          We complain about the same thing, behavior or person or problem for days, weeks, months or years but nobody hears us.  The cure for this means listening to ourselves.

–          We know that something’s wrong but we aren’t sure what it is (because we’re not listening to ourselves).   When we mention the problem to the Drainer(s) — the people or institutions in the first symptom above — they look at us askance and reassure us that nothing is wrong except us – who we are, how we feel and what we think is going on just isn’t occurring, they insist.  Remember the story from the first Language of Letting Go, about the scene in a movie where a wife catches her husband in his pickup truck?  He’s parked at the drive-in movie theatre all cuddled up and kissing with another woman. When the wife confronts him about having this affair, he denies it vehemently while the other woman sits there kissing his neck, arm, hand and more.  “What are you going to believe?” the infidel asks his wife.  “Me or what you think you see?”  Crazy as that sounds, it can easily describe us when we’re in codependent mode.

–          We feel tired, unfocused and somewhat like a Boxer looks (the dog, not Mohammed Ali) when it’s chasing not a tail, but the remnants of one before the vet clipped or docked it.  We’re caught up in trying to do the impossible. It’s time to assess what we can and can’t change and then put energy into assessing and solving the right problem – the real issue that’s going on.

–          We feel increasingly angry at the people, places or things in our personalized list in the first symptom above, but as soon as we feel anger we also start to feel guilt. The guilt’s not real.  It’s the codependent guilt that’s followed us around for most of our life. The guilt yammers about how there must be something wrong with us because the other person wouldn’t do that — whatever that is. We wonder what’s wrong with us for feeling this angry and then decide that the problem is us. ZZZZZT.   Wrong answer. Solution?  Look in the mirror and tell ourselves that who we are is okay.

–          Of all the signals that someone’s manipulating or lying to us, feeling cruddy and confused after our interactions with this person or institution — if they’ll stand still long enough to talk to us — ranks highest and indicates that it’s time to open our eyes, shake off the denial dust and start a self-care revival.

We may walk around confused for a while, but when the school bell rings the lessons will become more painfully clear every day.  We can’t run and we can’t hide. Well, we can but the lessons will be there when we’re out of breath from running or we crawl out from under the bed. They’re waiting for us like a school marm with her pointer pointed at us.

“See!  See!  See!” she says.

“See what?” we ask.

Whatever’s going on that hurts.

It’s not ­­­­­­our fault when other people lie, cheat, steal, use us or shoot us through the proverbial grease.  Bad behavior breaks pandemic.  It used to be one out of 12 people couldn’t be trusted.  Now in any group of ten, we’re lucky to find one trustworthy and reliable soul.  But not allowing ourselves to be victimized any more after we see what’s going on?

That responsibility belongs to us.

A few hours before writing this blog, a reader/ friend asked redundantly and semi-subtly the same question I’ve heard for years:  “What are the rules I can follow to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”

Some people offer an established platform for you to follow.  I don’t except for these three rules:  don’t hurt anyone else (physically), don’t hurt yourself and don’t allow anyone to hurt you.  Besides safety, a list of rules for self-care would be an oxymoron. It would mean giving up our power to think to someone else. Paraphrasing a quote I heard somewhere, “I go to church and do what my minister says so I don’t have to decide or think about what my morals should be.”

Self-care doesn’t mean doing what someone else tells us to do unless we’ve consulted a professional, such as a doctor and we’re following a protocol.  Even then, we need to be certain we trust and feel good about what someone else is telling us to do.  One of the most important behaviors we learn about self-care means we don’t give control of our will and life to anyone except our Higher Power, and we get to decide who and what that Higher Power is.

We learn to listen to and trust ourselves.

Who’s doing what to us that we don’t like?  Who’s proposing an agenda that doesn’t set right in our gut?  What institution or person ignores us when we ask for what we rightfully have coming?

When the soul-sucking, energy-draining sycophants or abusers come around draining us, shake the dust out of our head, remove our rose-colored glasses, stop making excuses for them and let go of any outdated decisions about people, places or things. Because we could trust someone ten years ago doesn’t mean we can trust them today.  People, places and things change. Instead we ask ourselves how that person or institution treats us now and how it feels to be around them.

While staying or leaving isn’t the solution, running from trouble or going around it can sometimes be the most loving thing we can do. That includes not engaging in relationships that rob our energy and leave us feeling drained, empty, used and confused.

We can set that boundary, say no or tell that person, place or thing whatever we want to say.

Getting rid of the drainers may challenge us at first.  It’s similar to removing a tic from that Boxer.  We have to pry it (the Drainer) loose. The tic may try to dig in deeper but c’mon. We’re smarter than that tic.

Instead of us feeling drained, flush it down the drain. Stretch.  Breathe.  We’ve got the keys to let ourselves out of the prison that believing lies creates. Shake off that case of the codependent crazies. It’s not us; it’s them.

When we feel cluttered, confused or crazy — remove the drain pain from our life.

From the desk of Melody Beattie

September 17, 2012


  1. Diana

    September 19, 2012

    You wrote “We complain about the same thing, behavior or person or problem for days, weeks, months or years but nobody hears us. The cure for this means listening to ourselves.” a big AMEN to this and the “Crazy Making”

    I lost my ability to trust my gut. It is unbelievable the power we hand over. I know that with each time we “start over” there is a lesson and like you said before we may not always know what the lesson is and just when we THINK we know what the lesson is, it turns out to be something completely different. The lesson I have learned from this last relationship is after all was said and done he WAS in fact lying and my gut WAS right all along. As absurd as the example is in the Language of letting go, I’m telling you I never actually witnessed him with another woman like she did however I may as well have as I was so deep in denial that is a perfect example of what it’s like. I am writing this at 3am, the relationship has been over for some time however I STILL tried to hang on. I have been ruminating over and over all of the lies and how I really thought something was wrong with me. I almost WANTED to think that had something wrong with my brain than to believe that I was tangled up in the web of codependency. I think in my case, I had lost so much over the past 2 years, my home, our pets, my job, our stability etc he was the only person I had left who stuck by me through all of that. We had never lived together but he was providing gifts for my kid’s for Christmas and Birthdays buying us groceries school supplies he kept my car running… I honestly believe The gifts were out of guilt or control or his need to be needed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for everything he did but he could get really ugly I allowed him to speak to and treat me with disrespect because I was not on my feet. There were so many trips that he would take out of state, my gut was SCREAMING at me I really struggled with myself, my values, morals and integrity but I kept giving him another chance. I have been clean and sober for almost 4 years he recently lost his job and when I heard about that I felt like I should do or say something because he had always made sure that my kids and I had food and now he had the rug pulled out from under him. I found myself starting to get sucked back into the vortex, he was dealing with his job loss by returning to the bars he was drunk almost every night and I started to worry I even caught myself lecturing him about the dangers of alcohol! I still had that damn urge to “Fix it” I was angry because I had come so far with my codependency. I realize how codependency is very similar to an addiction if we are not careful, we can get sucked back in before we even know what hit us. When someone has you questioning your gut over and over again you can really lose yourself in the crazy making. The lesson I have learned after all of the wreckage has cleared is I CAN trust my gut and I will continue to trust my gut, It wont always be easy but deep down, that little voice inside of us knows what is best for us. ~Diana

    • Melody

      September 27, 2012

      Hi Diana. The truth is, codependency is a normal reaction to crazy and manipulative situations; it’s a way for us to survive until we get stronger and find (or remember) a better way. The longer I study the subject (codependency), the more similar I see it is to grief. If it had its roots in our childhood, no wonder we couldn’t find healthier options — we were little people fighting to save our souls and lives. And stuck in a stage of grief. Then those “stuck” grief reactions turn into learned relationship behaviors that ultimately turn on us. Bottom line: I beileve we all do abuot the best we can. It sounds llike the lights are switched on for you, and you’re doing what you need to take good care of yourself. Congratulations — I’m just sorry it has to involve a loss. And that’s what ending a relationship is. Please stay in touch and let us know how you’re doing or check in at the Grief Club at MelodyBeattie.net. All my sites are free and I send out absolute no emails and do not push sales of anything. My sites are intended to be safe places to “come as you are, be as you are, and be who you’re becoming at your own pace — not someone else’s.” It’s my way of giving back to my readers for their loyalty over the years. Best, Melody Beattie

  2. Karin

    September 20, 2012

    Hi Melody, Thank you for writing another awesome and much-needed blog. As Diana said, I say a loud “Amen” to all of it. I first read “Codependent No More” in 2000 and it started me on my road to recovery….breaking out of denial and confronting the extreme amount of drain pain in my life. I can honestly say that after 12 years of recovery I am doing so much better but I do have to monitor my responses and relationships every day. I still have the tendency to allow others to drain me. Like Diana said, I see it as an addiction and I take it seriously. It was a life-threatening situation for me for a number of years and I don’t ever want to live my life immersed in drain pain again. It’s a very real and dangerous emotional sickness. Thank you so much for providing powerful reminders and confirmations through your blogs. They are always timely and it means so much to know I’m not alone in my goal of living healthy and free every day. God Bless You….I send you a big hug! Karin

    • Melody

      September 27, 2012

      Thanks Karin. Congratulations for taking what we call “codependency” so seriously. It’s sneaky, insidious and if we’re not aware, can steal our entire life. We’re all meant to be here and each have the opportunity to create the best life we can — some of us (like me) needed new information, though, to do that. When I wrote Codependent No More, I thought there were maybe only 900 of us at most. That book, written almost thirty years ago, continues to be a “backlist bestseller.” There are people joining our ranks (in recovery and awareness) daily. Whether we like the word “codependency” or not, taking care of ourselves can make all the difference in the world in our quality of life and ability to function. There’s an online 12-Step group with people actualy working the steps on codependency at the grief club site at MelodyBeattie.net. I say that because sometimes it can be difficult to find people really working the steps on codependency or Al-Anon type issues. It takes courage to realize that while it’s not our fault, self-care and healing our lives was, is, and continues to be our responsibility. Best, and I hope to hear from you again. Melody Beattie

  3. Roxanne

    September 20, 2012

    “I don’t need to ‘rise above’….I don’t need to ‘lay down,’ either. Just step away.”

    Let the train pass by…my blood on the tracks makes no difference to anyone but me.

    • Melody

      September 27, 2012

      Some years back, someone told me these words of advice: Go around trouble whenever you can. While there are many things we must endure, go through, or experience — there are (as you say) many disastrous situations that we can just plain learn to avoid. So to your post I say, Amen. Best, Melody Beattie (I know the blog didn’t contain any new revelations, but sometimes a reminder of the basics can be as helpful as learning something new — at least that’s how it is for me. What I wonder is, why am I so prone to forgeting or not doing that which I know makes me feel better? That’s a rhetorical question, no requiring an answer — as I believe it’s part of being a flawed but typcal human being — which is what I am.

  4. Smerk

    September 24, 2012

    The 12 steps don’t prevent us from encountering the energy vampires by any stretch of the imagination, but they do provide prophylactic protection from us catching an STD (SustainedTraumaDrama) when we bump uglies with these situations. Public service message: Always keep a spare boundary in your wallet, it may leave a telltale ring, but better safe than sorry ;}

    • Melody

      September 27, 2012

      A spare one, two, or ten (boundary). Thanks for the public service reminder. Those steps are a Stairway to Heaven and they’re free for anyone to walk up to get out of any pit we find ourselves in. The best thing about them is that when people make the smallest effort to work them, they pay back one hundred-fold in positive results. Best, Melody Beattie

  5. Rhetta W.

    October 1, 2012

    Hi Melody! You are my “all time favorite recovery author” and I love reading your blog!! You are amazing the way you make yourself so vulnerable and your example to me has been life changing!! I am struggling “Big Time” with my alco-
    holic mother!!!!! She is 78 yrs. old and she has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders but in the past couple of yrs. all that has changed dramatically!!! Now, she is very negative and she says things frequently that cause me to feel SHAME!!!!! If I don’t feel shame, I feel hurt because her comments are usually mean!!!!

    A little bit of history before I close…. When I was 5 1/2 yrs. old, my mother got divorced from my natural father. ONE yr. later, she met another man and they started seeing each other!! Only one problem, he was married and had 5 children. So, for the next TEN yrs., he and my mom had an affair. The first EIGHT yrs. of the affair, she never told us where she was going or who she was with!! She always left us with a babysitter.

    I have been in my own Recovery for Co-dependency issues since 1994……. I have forgiven her for “emotionally abandonning”us and we have a good relationship today. The problem is she has gotten really mean over the past several yrs. and I do not know what to do about it!!! It has almost Killed Me!!!!!!!!!!!!

    HELP???? What do I do??

    Desperate in MS

    • Melody

      October 1, 2012

      I’m sorry you’re going through this with your mom — especially because it sounds like you had worked through your issues with her and worked “things” out — as much as possible. It sucks that our parents are human beings sometimes, but it really sucks when they’re mean human beings. I don’t know how much you know about dementia and Alzheimers (Alzheiemr’s Disease is just one form of dementia; it can be one of many diseases that fall into the category of “dementia”) — but one out of every two people who hit approximately age 80 will have it. Now all these figures are ballparks — and I’m not a doctor and can’t diagnose nor can I give (or would I try to give) medical advice but I can share my experience. I was so used to my mother being manipulative and deceiving that I responded to her getting Alzheimer’s Disease similar to the way people respond to an alcoholic — by denying the symptoms; by going back and forth between thinking she had a problem, and then something would happen and I’d think, “No she doesn’t — she’s the same as she always was.” It was tough — and my mother was smart and had the doctors conned. (All to her detriment, in the end.) By the time I knew she was ill and needed intervention because she was being neglected and abused by the people she had given power of attorney (over her life to), her Alzheimer’s was full-blown and it cost a lot of money, work and time to get her out of harm’s way and set her up in a safe situation. However, my problem was the opposite of yours. When my mom got Alzheimer’s, she forgot how much she thoroughly disliked everyone and got nice — even loving and nurturing at times — for the first time in my life. She could still have her moments but I made a decision that I was going to give my mother the experience of being and feeling unconditionally loved before she left this earth. She knew she was dying. LIkely she even knew what she had, she was that smart. What she didn’t know was that she was living in filth and being starved to death. All that changed and she had a great (in ways) last few years.

      I’m sharing this story only because I’m wondering if there’s a possibility that your mother could be suffering from one of the many diseases that qualify as a “neurological disorder” in the dementia category. Although we’re having an onslaught of early onset Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States, we now have more elderly people than we ever did before and AD is pandemic among the elderly. We’re keeping elderly people alive longer and more are having a miserable and prolonged end to their lives. This process is taking its toll on the family similar to alcoholism and the way it creates pain and dysfunction in the family.

      Your mother is also facing old age — which isn’t easy to do with grace. I know I’m making excuses for her, but if she’s sick, it’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. Things that don’t make sense always do, once we get all the pieces.

      Was your mother ever mean before like she is now? Is she exhibiting any other symptoms or changes of behavior? Sometimes fear and guilt manifest as anger. I don’t know. LIke I said, I’m not a doctor. Some elderly people are docile, loving, kind and go through their last years with dignity and grace. Some get mean as snakes. And some get very sick and need help.

      I wish you strength and wisdom in sorting this out to gain an understanding of what’s happening and figuring out how best to take care of yourself — and if your mother needs help, to figure out what part you want and need to play in her care.

      I cannot tell you what to do, but I can reiterate this: not being codepenent doesn’t mean following a set of rules. It doesn’t mean we’re no longer giving, loving, nurturing and kind although many of us need to back off from giving for a while until we sort out what’s going on inside us – because codependency truly is an inside job. Two people can do exactly the same behaviors and one is behaving codependently and the other is not. That’s because it’s not what we do as much as why and how we do it that matters. Under any circumstances, you do not need to let yourself be abused — and how to deal with that is a challenge when we deal with elderly people.

      I would suggest going to some of the National Alzheimer’s sites; studying the information; looking honestly at the situation with your mom over the past years — and then making the best decision you can about what’s going on and why it’s happening. I don’t know what kind of relationship you have with your mom, and if you can talk openly to her about what’s going on and ask her why she’s being mean to you. In some relationships that’s out of the question; in others, it’s not.

      But get peaceful. Deal with your feelings. Take guided actions. And I know you will find the answers you’re seeking.

      Melody Beattie

  6. Heidi

    October 3, 2012

    Hi Melody,
    I love your thought about self care and how WE get to be the one with the answers for ourselves. It’s kind of scary when you have trust issues with yourself, but with practice it seems to get easier, and my oh my does it feel better. :) I have the language of letting go on my bedside with the scriptures and read from it daily. I am grateful I came across your book. It has been a blessing to me. (I am the elementary ed teacher that wrote a comment a while back, and I think that is really cool that some older classes read from it.) I think I will do the same with my kids when they are a lil older. It’s just such good relationship/life/coping information. I’m sure I’ll be back by again soon. 😉

  7. Melody Beattie

    October 3, 2012

    Hi Heidi. Thanks for taking the time to comment and your kind words. I’m glad my work helped, but writing that book was as much a “gift” to me as it’s been to anyone else. Besides — you’re the one doing the work. I’m always leary of therapists and “gurus” who want us to turn our “life and will” over to them. Empowerment is what helped me (and still does). You’re right — it is scary to trust ourselves, but the reality is that most people don’t have a clue what they should do next in their lives (well some have a clue) — but most of life is an experiment, so how could anyone else know what’s best for us to do? When we’re “tuned up” we instinctively know what to do next — and when to do it. Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to comment. We’ll see you again one of these days. Best, Melody

  8. Patricia

    October 5, 2012

    Thank you, Melody, for your work has changed my life and helped me grow by leaps and bounds. This website and its postings are another tool that I am leaning on quite frequently. For the past year I have utilized your daily meditations in The Language of Letting Go, along with Al-Anon meetings to help teach myself to LOVE myself. I have just exited a 5 year relationship with an emotionally and verbally abusive, narcissistic workaholic who I was engaged to marry. I was living with him and his three wonderful children. His ex-wife died while he and I were dating and the kids came to live with us. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so CRAZY all the time. What was wrong with me?? I had a handsome, successful man who wanted to marry me and 3 adoring step-kids that I loved raising, and I was healthy and had great friends. What I couldn’t grab onto but have now come to know is the subtle manipulation and controlling character that I had invited into my life, and the fallout from a relationship of this kind. My codependency led me into the role and purpose of, “I was going to “save” the kids” – they had lost their mom and their father was aloof, so I could be the hero. Over the course of 5 years, he was able to chisel away at my self-worth and degrade me to the position of nanny. The abuse I experienced was a subtle and intellectual cluster f*&%$ and smartly choreographed. I stayed years longer than I should have, but wanted to stay with the kids. I am so grateful to have found your grief site. The loss and guilt I have felt from leaving the kids has been greater than anything I could have imagined. In the end I had to save my own life by leaving him (and them); I was starving from neglect and was invisible in his world. A wise fellow member of Al-Anon said once in a meeting that, “the kids also have their own higher power, and they will be alright”. This freed me. I also have found out from you what self love really means, and it helps bring me back to center every time. Thank you for your support.

  9. The other

    October 29, 2012

    Hi everyone. I have a question/concern about co-dependancy and frankly how some of Melody’s writings are being taken. The words in your books open doors for so many and help people realize gods miracle of life as intended. But here is my situation. I became a prescription drug abuser (and then hard drugs) as I ran from the pressures of my marriage and my financial/career life. It all crashed down over about 3 years. I never cheated, but i killed the trust of our marriage. I’ve been 100% sober, changed my entire life, to be the husband she needed and the best father possible. I have been that person for over two years. Held accountable fully. She knows my every move. But it has destroyed her having to. She still doesn’t believe me, yet has no evidence. Only pain of history. She is now divorcing me and reads your book as guidance. She hasn’t talked to a counselor, wont do marriage counseling, etc. This is destroying our family. She is using your book as “the only option I have” and is leaving. Against her values, even what she says are her wishes. She says she can’t keep going and doesn’t know what else to do. I know the past kills her, but how does divorce become the option because she doesn’t know any others? Isnt it possible that maybe I am honest and trustworthy and she just can’t escape the past? But she tried to do it by ignoring the past. She never addressed it or dealt with it. Do you advocate divorce from an ex addict in all cases? I truly want to see her happy again, and if that’s not with me I’m OK with that. But I can’t stand to see her run from the marriage and 3 young kids just to start over. I hate to watch her run from the old issues instead of getting help for them. I’m OK with divorce but not as the first option. Can you help her? Do you believe once an addict/liar always so? Or can people change no matter how remote the chance? I have years ago but we never dealt with our past. I waited for her to be able to forget. And now she sees divorce as the option to being co-dependant, and the only available. Running away to avoid the pain of trying to forget can’t be healthy. Can it? Help our family please? Not to stop divorce necessarily, but with the right educated decision. Thank you.

    • Melody

      October 29, 2012

      Hi. I’m glad you found me and wrote to me, and I want you to know that your family situation is more than understandable — it’s common and present in almost one hundred percent of cases where the non-drinking spouse (or non-using) doesn’t seek help via Al-Anon or another twelve-step program. I want you to know, also, that I’m also a recovering addict. My addictions were my primary problem until I was sober and found my life wasn’t working until I dealt with the codependency underneath. I now believe that about 99 and 9/10 of all recovering people have severe codependency issues underneath. While many of the behaviors we label “codependent” are common and normal behaviors, there’s a range, or spectrum — and it’s when these “normal” behaviors start hurting us and others that it becomes a problem we need to address (by “we” I’m referring to people recovering from alcoholism or addictions). So — what I’m saying that while I believe your wife needs to heal from her codependency issues (and I’m not a therapist here, not acting in that capacity online, and am not giving meical or life advice I am, in the capacity of “friend” giving my opinion based on research, experience, and years of being immersed in the problem and the solution in other people’s lives and my own.

      It’s also crucial that you understand that at NO point in my writings do I ever advocate divorce as a first, second, or third option. My writings never tell people what to do. In fact, I say that people who don’t deal with their issues will get a divorce and then remarry the same person — playing out the same issues all over again — unless and untill they get help for themselves. I also say that staying or leaving isn’t the issue; learning to take care of ourselves, and what that means, is the issue — by tha I mean dealing with recovering from the pain our own codepenent issues causes is the problem. Leaving isn’t the solution; dealing with ourselves is. If your wife is telling you I said or write that people need to leave the relationship, she has grossly misinterpreted my writing. In fact, in the book’s first chapter I describe a marriage where the husband got sober but the wife didn’t go to Al-Anon and she was absolutely miserable until she understood that to stop hurting, she needed to address her pain by dealing with her codependency — and not by leaving.

      I do not believe in, and in my 18 books have never, told people what to do. Instead, I empower them to think for themselves, make their own decisions, and learn to trust themselves. I give only three rules: do not hurt anyone else (physically); do not allow them to harm you; and do not do harm to yourself.

      I cannot help you wife. You cannot help your wife. (You can recommend that she seek help for yourself, but my own rule of thumb is “say something three times and then let it go, or you’re into controlling.”)

      As a friend — not a therapist or doctor — I would sugest that you read Codependent No More — not for your wife, but for yourself (although many people start by reading the book “for someone else” and ultimately end up seeing themselves in the pages.

      I’m sorry this is happening to you, your wife, and your marriage. Chemical dependency, alcoholism, addiction — whatever word you use to describe it — is an awful disease. It destroys people and families. The good news is that there’s help and hope for anyone who has this disease. THe best way for you to help your wife is not to control her, but to begin understanding what it means to care for yourself and let go of what you cannot change. It sucks — I know — but we can’t change other people. And again, I reiterate that at no point in any of my writings to I EVER tell people to seek divorce as the cure or answer to codependency; I say the opposite. I don’t believe in divorce, and certainly not as a first option. It’s a huge loss, to end a marriage and it’s a decision that should only be made as a last resort, or in cases of domestic violence where staying puts someone in harm’s way. That does not sound like the case in your marriage.

      I don’t know if you wife has attended Al-Anon and worked the steps or not; it’s not my business because she’s not asking me for help — you are. And we can’t seek help for another; each person needs to recognize and seek help for his or herself.

      My guess is that you’re in a huge grieving process right now; and my educated guess is that your wife is too. So often when we’re in a marriage tormented by addiction we don’t feel safe enough to feel our feelings until the other person gets clean and sober — and then all the emotions come rolling out — years of anger, rage, sorrow, grief. I’ve also (in the past) seen that many women do their grieving while they’re int he mariage, so by the time they leave they’ve already grieved the ending of the relationship.

      I cannot possibly give advice to you or your wife though — not based on one email. I’m just writing about what I think is most likely the case. When I give talks I often use the line (as a true joke), “My mom went to Al-Anon long enough to learn it wasn’t her fault.” So many people with codependency issues don’t want to address them. They look at the other person and think, “I’m the good one. I didn’t use drugs or drink. Why should I have to get help?” So they don’t — and their pain doesn’t stop until they do (get help).

      I hope this email helped clarify some issues. I hope (when you’re ready), you look at your codependency issues too — or at least acknowledge the possibility that they exist. I don’t know where you live, but in many states they have mixed groups for “double-winners” — people both codependent and chemically dependent. Someone I know well went to her first Al-Anon meeting, madder than a nest of hornets about having to be there. She had dealt with her drinking and addictions. Then she married someone she thought was sober — but he wasn’t. He was still using and lying about it. Now, she had to go to another group, for another big life problem. She walked in the door of the meeting and a perky woman approached her. “Welcome to Al-Anon,” the woman said. “I’m not an ‘Al-Anon,” my friend said. “I’m an addict.” The perky woman got even perkier. “Oh,” she said. “You’re a double-winner. Welcome.”

      My friend didn’t feel like a double-winner; she felt like a double loser — at first — until she realized she was truly home and that her codependency issues were the obstacle to her feeling “happy, joyous and free.”

      I know this response has been somewhat all over the place, but I hope it answers some of your questions and addresses your needs. Your wife is more than welcome to participate on any of my websites — but again, you cannot change other people. It’s all we can do to change ourselves.

      Melody Beattie

  10. Ruth

    January 31, 2013

    Right on!! All of this hits home! Some relationships just SUCK….the life right out of living……….

    I grew up in a household where you went to “church” if the doors were open……….I’ve been struggling with this concept my whole life………when some of those same people would slap you across the face when they left the pew……..EXACTLY …go to church, sit in the pew and let someone else – the name on the building say ” you must be a decent human being because you’re here” ….make sure I’m seen here in the pew!!

    Boundries and using the word NO more often…..not letting someone elses agenda lead me down the drain ……..

  11. Ruth

    January 31, 2013

    All of this hits home!! I was raised in a ” go to church everytime the doors are open” family……….sitting in the pew makes you more God like……with out regard to how you act outside of those doors……..I’ve struggled with this my whole life……..I’m so much closer to my higher power when I’m alone……at peace of stuggling…….and I know he fills me………..with hope and peace and love………You can’t get that from a wooden pew……..
    I’m working the steps…….CoDependancy …….I know – am awakened to – the relationships that SUCK …….the life right out of living ……….the vague jabs at my spirit …….feeling exhausted …….and the overwhelming need to pause………..get off the hamster wheel…….

    Thank you so much Melonie ……….your work is SO healing!!

  12. Meg

    March 4, 2013

    Dear Melody, Praise God for you!! I have found you once again :) You are my angel in the rain. I first stumbled across your book “Co-Dependant No More” Years back and wondered if I could ever live without it, then after a few years I lent it out to someone and felt okay without it. The reason why I needed this book was due to my fathers henious mistreatment of me and now as a 38 yr old after yet another painful event that took place just this last Christmas, I have found myself regressed majorly and back to needing to read your beautiful kind book again. How Annoying to be back in this situation again, but how blessed to have refound you again. Just reading your words and seeing your picture in China made me cry cry cry with joy at finally feeling understood by another human once again. Oh to be affirmed and understood in a world where not much of this can. Thankyou once again. Meg xx You are such a beautiful person and I do believe the butterflies of this world are often the most damaged. PS please feel free to email me.

  13. Sheila

    April 4, 2013

    Well, it appears that I have found the right place to land!
    I’m stuck.
    It’s been so long since I felt in control of the journey I’m (supposed) to be on. IIlness, family, career, and stress have brought me to a place where I hardly recognize myself anymore. I have reverted to the form of a sponge and have such a hard time not becoming enmeshed in everyone else’s mood, problem, disaster, emergency…and I’m lost in the shuffle and last on the list, unless of course I allow myself to ‘disappear’ and disengage. I’ve never felt so lonely for so long or as sad for no particular reason except that I feel so completely lost and can’t find myself anywhere.
    I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.

  14. Tana

    April 9, 2013

    Thank you Melody for all your writing! Pointing me toward answers so I don’t feel crazy or lost! A question came up as I read “Drain your pain”, I am having a lot of pain come up, tears, failure, sadness, when my 11 year old talks to me and yells at me! How do you get a boundary with a child who thinks he knows more than you? I discipline him and then he says I am “mean”! I explain that is my job, but then I falll apart! Lots of past issues with my Mom who is Bi-polar and Co-dep and tried to commit suicide twice when I was a young child. Love your books and now your blog! Bless u!

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    “I’m not going to go work at the Goodwill,” a man insisted one day. “That’s where I draw  the line with this service thing.” “I don’t think anybody said you have to,” I replied. It’s not just service that counts. It’s service  with a smile. Do what feels right to ...


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