Co-dependency - Part 2

April 18, 2016 Length: 38:11

Fr. Christophe continues his series on co-dependency by describing the causes and effects of this 'mother of addictions.'

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In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Again, we will begin this podcast with our prayers to the Mother of God known as the Inexhaustible Cup. For those who are members or inquirers or listeners who are interested, I am reading from the Akathist prayers to the Mother of God, the Inexhaustible Cup, and I am reading the first prayer as an introduction to our podcast today. The first prayer is located at the very, very end of the Akathist prayers.

O our most gracious Queen, our hope, the Mother of God, shelter of orphans and intercessor of travelers, strangers, and pilgrims, helper of those in need, protectress of the embittered, see our distress. See our affliction. From all sides we are assailed by temptations, and there is no one to protect us. Do thou thyself help us, for we are weak. Feed us, for we are strangers and pilgrims. Guide us, for we are lost. Heal us and save us, for we are without hope. For we know no other help but thee, no other intercessor, no gracious consoler but thee, O Mother of all who suffer and are weighed down. Look upon us, living in sin and bitterness, and cover us with thy honorable omophorion, that we may be delivered from every evil that assails us, especially from drunkenness and all manner of addictions, so that we may always glorify thy most holy name. Amen.

I’d like to welcome all of you to this podcast, Healing Addictions: The Orthodox Method of Treatment, and I am going to follow up on my last podcast and the discussion of the illness of co-dependency. As I briefly discussed in the last session, the illness of co-dependency is a relationship illness. It has more to do with the effects of addictions over the generations. It’s passed down, and it principally comes within our upbringing. Children are afflicted because we are all, even though we may not be born from a principal addiction, per se, in the next generation, our parents, we are all afflicted because we’re born in a world of sin. We have all fallen and fallen short, and these effects, from the Orthodox perspective, the effects of sin itself, is death, for we know that sin produces death, and it’s these effects and the removal of our sins which is what Christ came and suffered on the cross and rose from the dead for. We are all called to enter into a certain level of suffering, the effects of sin, and then we are called to imitate the Lord High God in forgiving those that have trespassed against us.

What we know about the illness of co-dependency is that it is primarily transmitted and it’s received by our upbringing because what we all have to face at some point is that we need to let go and grow up emotionally and spiritually and forgive our parents, and often our siblings and anyone in authority that has followed from them, because without forgiveness we are held bound by all sorts of patterns that are related to the consequences of sin and patterns of dysfunction, which is what co-dependency and this illness about, afflict children. And we are all in a process of, hopefully, removing these kinds of effects in our lives.

So I spoke about different characteristics to look for regarding this illness of co-dependency, which is, as I said, a relationship illness. It affects the way in which we have either received or learned to pray as a young child our relationship with God himself. It affects our relationships with authority figures and others, because without forgiveness, we’re left with too many of the effects. And then we also do not and have not experienced forgiveness for our own sins, so we inherit all sorts of patterns of dysfunction. I’m going to try to isolate again or speak about what these principal characteristics that this illness is about, because often, as I’ve mentioned, co-dependency is not recognized, diagnosed, nor treated. If it affects all of our most important relationships, it’s certainly an illness that everyone needs to consider in terms of what it looks like and in how it’s treated.

So I’m going to speak now and briefly go over the laundry list of ACA—I told all of our listeners that, aside from the methods of treatment which I am going to introduce more and more during this podcast, from the 12-Step perspective there is a wonderful fellowship called ACA Red Book that stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics, or dysfunctional households. And it has a Red Book, and it has a laundry list, and I have found in my work in the treatment of co-dependency that this laundry list is a wonderful way of putting a face to this illness.

So I ask anyone listening to consider: Can you identify with this laundry list? Have these characteristics been an issue in your life? Have they affected your ability to communicate and to be in communion with those around you? If so, then you can consider that you may want to join the 12-Step fellowship of ACA, and in that regard, we are actually sponsoring a meeting, sponsored by the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup, ACA Red Book, and it is for members only, and we have a wonderful group that is working on this particular illness and its treatment from the 12-Step perspective, but we are all predominantly Orthodox Christians that are participating. So we have a lot in common, and many people are advancing, and they’re being released by the grace of God from certain patterns that we all have to address that come from our ancestral background.

So here’s the laundry list. Number one: We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures. Number two: We became approval-seekers and lost our identity in the process. Three: We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism. Four: We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick abandonment needs. Five: We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships. Six: We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it’s easier to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.  Seven: We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

Eight: We become addicted to excitement. Nine: We confuse love and pity, and tend to love people we can pity and rescue. Ten: We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express feelings, because it hurts so much: denial. Eleven: We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem. Twelve: We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment, and will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us. Thirteen: Alcoholism is a family disease. We become para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of the disease even though we did not pick up the drink. And fourteen: Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

These characteristics are a guide to help us to address whether some of these patterns that are described pertain to us, because they deeply affect our ability to be in harmony with those around us. So from the Orthodox perspective, while that is a good look at this list of co-dependency, I do believe that we can just address the issue, as I’ve mentioned, of ancestral sin, because I think to a certain degree, whether you’re going to qualify and participate and treat this type of illness, which is related to addictions and their effects over many generations in our ancestral families, we also can come from the Orthodox perspective and realize that sin itself, which we have been born into and our parents and theirs and those before them have been born in sin, and without proper removal and treatment, the effects compound. They get worse, and each generation suffers almost even more because of the lack of repentance and treatment and the removal of our sins.

So to a certain degree we are all called to take a look at how we’re going to treat ourselves and how we’re going to heal. We’ve got to take stock of where we came from in our families, and often people come, live in a state of denial and survive, but there’s a time when the Lord himself wants to address sin and remove it and to help us heal. So we’re going to need to look at what we did inherit, and some of these patterns, unfortunately, all parents are involved in because of their own sin which is untreated. And children, generally, feel way too much responsible, often, for some of the conflict within a marriage that is suffering. Since children are the fruit of the marriage, that is what they experience. Parents often are way too demanding. They expect perfectionism.

While we are called to imitate the Lord, only the Lord is perfect, and often pride and arrogance for years goes unchecked in families. So there are high expectations to be perfect, and often that looks like submitting and learning the rules that parents expect of what is right and wrong, and what’s unfortunate is that there’s not enough parents leading by example. If this is the case, which is for the most of us, there’s a whole level of hypocrisy which children experience as they learn what they need to to interact with parents as their authority as they’re growing up.

And this kind of hypocrisy, untreated, produces great problems, because, along with a lack of humility, there tends to be an overbearing tendency of telling children what to do while parents themselves are not acting the part. They’re not living an example. They are not under authority themselves, often. They are not involved enough in the methods of treatment which we must attend to within the holy Orthodox Church. And be able to communicate the same level of love and grace and prayer which they receive, we pray, through a spiritual father or mother, and if they haven’t had this, then, again, parents are doing the best they can on one level, but they’re often transmitting way too much of the effects of sin, their own sins, upon their children.

So all children, on some level, are abused by the fact that we are born into a sinful world. Some of the other issues that take place is that, again, parents expect and try to control their children too much. Without proper help, children are actually afflicted with multitudes of fears. They’re overly criticized or rejected or even abandoned. All of these effects of sin and the effects which I have read in the laundry list, patterns and tendencies, they all produce and fuel this illness we call co-dependency, because we grow up and without treatment and healing and the removal of sin and these effects, we then enter into our own relationships and these unmet needs and patterns which are dysfunctional go right into our marriage.

One of the leading ways in which the sacrament of marriage is disrupted and even ends up in a divorce is often because of an enormous amount of dysfunction which children themselves have not dealt with and forgiven their parents for and been released from the effects, and it goes right into a marriage and it often disrupts the entire movement of grace of a husband and wife being under the care and authority of the Lord himself sacramentally; and learn to forgive one another and to forgive those that came before them. In fact, marriage will bring out the lack of forgiveness in the past. It is a call on the part of Almighty God to enter in to healing and treatment and to enter into what he desires, which is the removal of sin through forgiveness.

So we have all sorts of patterns, and children basically have losses, and they have been afflicted and abused by the effects of sin. They’re left broken-hearted and grief-stricken and empty and alone and afraid. The ACA fellowship is an introduction and a calling for people to recognize what has happened in their past, address characteristics, patterns of dysfunction—the laundry list are examples—and it is a wonderful fellowship because it is a call to forgive one’s parents. While we all have to have a chance to allow the grief and the bitterness and resentment at times to surface, the whole fellowship is based on the principle that God himself must become our loving Parent, and while we are addressing the effects of sin, our parents’ and others’ and ours, we are called to forgive and to grow up emotionally, and this fellowship offers us both the support of others, but primary tools—the Steps—and participating in the fellowship in order for the action of the Holy Spirit to be at work to bring about this healing for all those who participate.

From the Orthodox perspective, we are all called to forgive. And we must be attentive and recognize where we may have not learned fundamentally to pray as children, because there was a whole level of conflict and issues that have been unaddressed over the years. We must be committed by the methods of treatment within the holy Orthodox Church to rebuild and to allow the Lord to release us but for us to grow up. And while we’re called to leave our parents emotionally and spiritually, it is because we may, if you’re involved in the sacrament, cleave [to] and become one flesh with your spouse. And in order for that marriage to truly be sacramental, we will engage in and need to submit ourselves, not only to one another in a state of humility and learn to practice being committed to forgiving one another daily, forgiving those that trespassed against us, but we will not be able to have the sacrament fundamentally produce the fruit we are called to without the action of the Holy Spirit.

So from our perspective, which is Orthodox, we focus on the call to forgive and be involved in that all day and all the time, because it is the Lord himself whom we can learn to rely on as we release and confess our sins and through fasting, confession, and prayer, and participating in the sacraments under the spiritual care of our spiritual father—we are going to grow up emotionally and depend on the Lord where it is we might still be dependent and where many of these unmet needs as children have not been met. The Lord wants to redeem all of the sufferings of our past and compensate for it, but literally redeem it.

He desires to conquer the effects of sin which are these losses and these grievances, by our coming to terms, entering into a process by which we forgive and experience our own grief, and by relying on his precious body and blood, properly prepared by holy confession, we are going to have all of our own sufferings redeemed. And we will go from experiencing a sense of loss and abandonment and rejection which he suffered during his passion and the cross, and by his body and blood which we continue to avail ourselves [of], we, our own suffering, will be redeemed, and our own suffering will bring value because we are going to get restored to our relationship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And while this suffering is required, it needs to be redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

So we are called to address resentment and fears and any number of other sins in our lives, because God the Father is calling us by name and wants us to enter into his body, the Church, in a fuller way today and to grow up emotionally and spiritually and learn maybe and receive from him that which our father and mother and other authorities were not able to give us. But it will not be without entering into and being whole-heartedly committed to the commandments of the Lord himself to forgive them, to forgive one another, and to forgive ourselves.

We thank God for this calling, and in this most precious time of Lent as we approach and get closer and closer to the cross of the Lord and the passion, we may be entering into the removal and the grievances and the effects of our own sins and the sins of our forefathers, and we need not despair, for within the holy Orthodox Church we are given everything that we need if we become open to the Holy Spirit’s call to forgive at a deeper level and go to our holy Orthodox Church, as Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) teaches in the primary principles of Orthodox psychotherapy. Go to the spiritual hospital. Go to church with our ailments and with our sufferings.

We no longer in our co-dependency often can just be acting and looking good and denying our sins and acting as if everything is okay while principally our hearts are suffering and many of our sins are unconfessed and we are not humbly walking before the Lord and one another to receive healing enough, nor know how, often. Our Church is the spiritual hospital. The clergy are the therapists of the Church. We pray that we all clergy will submit ourselves to our own inner healing and be involved in holy confession as much as those that we encourage to come to confession, because without that living example, we will reenact a whole level of hypocrisy which often many Orthodox have already come from. We all are being asked to submit ourselves to the Lord and to one another, in a whole new way, I do believe.

But our Church is a hospital. We need to go for treatment, and when we do we are going to enter into the fulness of the faith which is the sacraments of the Church. We’re going to see an entire redemption and transformation of not only the removal of our sins but their effects. And we’ll be in a position, by the grace of God, to then be able to take better care of the children, if we’re married and have them, that we’re responsible for and to, because otherwise the whole cycle and the tendency for this illness of co-dependency continues on in its destruction. And it actually puts people in the position where they’re more prone to be addicted, and that is why I think this illness needs lots of attention. And I’m going to continue these podcasts and offer insight in this illness, because I do believe, as I’ve mentioned in the last, that it may be the mother of all addictions. It fuels all the addictions, and by treating it we find ourselves in a position where we do not necessarily end up repeating cycles of turning to substances and created things to fill our souls and bodies and end up with more destruction.

We are called and we are asked to commit ourselves to forgiveness. So let me end this podcast, and I will be discussing specifically, I believe in the next podcast or very, very soon, stages of forgiveness, because if we really understand what forgiveness requires and the stages of grief that we are called to enter into with the action of the Holy Spirit to help us to forgive, we are going to experience the fruit of the Holy Spirit as we have been intended. And I’m going to be discussing this further, but for now the word is that we must consider these effects, sin in general, and address them in order for these effects not to continue to have the power that they often have.

And we are not by our confession and by learning more about this process of healing, we must also address the influence of the enemy who seeks the destruction of mankind and principally attacks children, which includes you and me. And it is essential that we attend to our souls first and bring healing to our souls, because without it we continue to be vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one who [does] not want us to grow up emotionally, restore a life of holiness primarily by rebuilding a life of prayer, becoming child-like and learning to live and walk humbly and obediently unto the Lord and to depend upon him as we leave the grievances of our forefathers and forgive those that have trespassed against us.

So from the word of the Lord, the holy Scripture, I ask you to consider Matthew 5:43:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say to you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.

And in many ways, praying for one’s enemies begins at home. We must deal with these grievances from the past and the grievances in our relationships, because otherwise we sadly become enemies unto one another, and many of us need to forgive our parents and authority figures and others at a deeper level, because our enemies are those family members that we have not forgiven principally. So the call is for all of us to consider this great and holy commandment. And our saints, they have imitated all of the methods of healing in the Orthodox Church and become sanctified, and we rely both on the holy word but also on the lives of the saints in the holy Orthodox Church, because by reading and imitating and living their example that they have set before us we are going to avail ourselves [of] the Holy Spirit for this forgiveness. And I principally have mentioned already our need to consider St. Silouan the Athonite. So I’m going to end this podcast by quoting him, and ask all of you to consider his word and his example.

The Lord is love, and he commanded us to love one another and to love our enemies, and the Holy Spirit instructs us in this love. Many holy martyrs come to know the Lord and his help in the time of their sufferings. Many monks strive much and endure valiantly for the Lord’s sake; they, too, have come to know the Lord and contend against their passions and pray for the whole universe. The grace of God teaches them to love their enemies, since the man who has no love for his enemies cannot come to know the Lord who died on the cross for his enemies and gave us an example in himself with the commandment to love our enemies.

The soul that has not come to know the Holy Spirit does not understand how it is possible to love our enemies and will not accept this commandment, but the Lord has pity on all and he who would be with the Lord must love his enemies. The man to whom the Lord is known through the Holy Spirit becomes like unto the Lord. As St. John the Divine said: We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, and we shall behold his glory.

I ask all of you that are considering the treatment of co-dependency to principally look and gaze upon the icon of the Inexhaustible Cup. And she offers us the chalice with a Child within it, and principally calls us to become child-like and to even consider that often our enemies and those that we are really needing to forgive and address are the hurts of our past, the traumas upon our souls and bodies which came by the hands and as a result of the effects of addictions and sin over the generations. And we are meant to imitate Christ himself. But to come to the chalice and to enter into this process of forgiveness. And we are needing to forgive especially those who, when they were in authority as parents, abused that authority, because they themselves had not received enough treatment or forgiveness.

We pray for our forefathers. We enter into a process of forgiving, so that we can grow up in the Lord and go from being too dependent or co-dependent, dependent often inappropriately, too much upon others and created things, in order to enter into the intimacy and the love of God himself and be restored and be healed by his precious blood. And as we approach this cross, the cross which put an end to sin and death, let us enter in to this call for forgiveness and rely on him, he who desires for all of us to forgive our enemies, those around us and ourselves, by the grace of God.

My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O Christ our God. Glory to thee, O blessed Trinity. Amen.