I received a call a couple of months ago from a friend. He was concerned about my nephew and wanted to let me know. It was over 3 1/2 years ago when my nephew came to me with no where else to go. He was unemployed and wanted a place to crash for a few weeks to get his feet back under him. Scared, confused about what to do, hungry, and without a place to go, I took him in. Three years later he was still unemployed, confused, and scared. The only thing different was he had a roof over his head and food in his belly. Three years, and he was fighting the same things, and I was getting worn out by moods that went up and down, pleasantries one day, frustrations the next, and never quite knowing what to expect on a daily basis. Looking back, I was walking on eggshells for much of the time my nephew lived here. It was easy for me to let a lot of things go, as I understood the struggles of living with mental illness.
I have been told over and over by my therapist that I am a rescuer, and she is absolutely right. I take care of people for a living – a perfect job for a codependent. I had a girlfriend many years ago who was a drug addict. I didn’t know it until she she started diverting drugs from the hospital where we both worked. I found out when she turned herself in and went into inpatient treatment to get clean.
I had attended a personal growth seminar only months before we got involved. It was through that personal work that I finally understood just how codependent I was and how it was affecting the relationships in my life. Knowing that I was new to understanding how codependency affected me, I knew I would want some support to keep me from falling into my old behaviors. I started therapy and became actively involved in a 12 step program for people like me. It was hard work being brutally honest with myself and understanding how my helping her, hindered both her growth AND mine. That first year of recovery was a year I like to refer to as “Mr Toad’s Wild Ride”.
It is no mistake that I went into nursing. I am hard wired to be a caretaker. It is my challenge in life to balance helping of others and taking care of myself while doing so. It is important that I recognize when I am no longer being of service to myself or the individual I started “helping out”.
With my nephew, as time went on and there was no progress being made on his part, I began to get frustrated and no longer felt peace in my own home. My friends and my doctor kept telling me it was time to let go. Instead, I did what I do best, I hung on thinking – “One more month. In one more month things will be different and once again there will be harmony in the household.” Maybe you have heard the saying – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.” Well that’s where I was, stressed, and on the brink of unraveling when my brother died unexpectedly. It’s no wonder my life spun out of control.
During my time of healing, I FINALLY realized that there was nothing I could do to change my nephew and his moving forward with his life – it was out of my hands. I was no longer being of help, I was actually hindering him. For him, and for me the best thing I could do was to let go.
In May my nephew moved out and into a place in Sacramento. I have not seen or heard from him since. I trust that his higher power is watching over him and helping him to find his way. Although we had our periods of struggle, we shared many good times together, and we became closer than we had ever been before, and for that, I will always be grateful.