Diane Jellen

sealed envelope

Dear BFF:
I’ve been meaning to email you but decided to send a letter in-stead. I know, this is old-fashioned of me, but I wanted to dwell in the past for a moment. Everything moves so fast now, even the language we use. There are new terms introduced every day, and the memes spread rapidly due to our social media culture. It’s hard to keep up.

LOL, and that old standard TGIF, appear everywhere. I would have never predicted abbreviations could dominate our writ-ten conversations, would you? Who would have thought TBT (Throwback Thursday) would flood the internet with pictures from the past? TBT is so popular there is even a Throwback Thursday Etiquette Guide. When I looked a few weeks ago, Instagram’s #throwbackthursday page had 33,744,262 posts. Many of the photos are predictable: baby pictures, birthday cel-ebrations, sporting events, graduations, weddings, and family reunions. Still, thirty-three million? OMG.

I do enjoy seeing all my Facebook friends’ images from years past. For some, TBT may be an attempt to hold on to these happy moments. For others, it could be
a futile effort to revisit yesterday in order to change today. In this gigahertz age of instant in-formation, I think many of us would prefer to step back to a less de-
manding tempo of time. Because codependents are programmed to fix, please, and perform at the speed of light, slowing down is a challenging process. ICYMI (in case you missed it), we caregivers work at frenzied speeds because our poor self-image has conditioned us to meet the needs of others. Being a martyr strokes our self-approval. Not enough, however, for us to photograph this role we play. I would be thrilled to post pictures from the past but I worry someone would see this as a waste of precious time. Time when I should be proving my worth by being productive.

OMG, my codependency is showing. Again.

Besides, what would I post? My past is littered with reminders of my husband’s alcoholism and my enabling. I could never post the embarrassing pictures from our New Year’s Eve par-ties. Or the family vacation when my ex fell asleep at the picnic table while playing pinochle. We all laughed when I took the beer bottle out of his hand and led him to the chaise lounge to sleep it off.

Over the years, however, those laughs turned to disappoint-ment and tears. When I started attending Al-Anon meetings, I realized how I enabled his addictive behavior to continue. This is why my photos from the past are not TBT material. I would not want others to LOL at my dysfunctional family. No FBF
(Flashback Fridays) for me either. Revisiting days gone by is just too painful.

The upside of looking at the past, however, is that it can bring awareness. It allows us to look at our lack of boundaries and skewed activities. With a clearer understanding of our short-comings, we can learn from the past and resolve to improve our future. We can start anew.

BTW, this is one of the reasons I designated January as Na-tional Codependency Awareness Month (NCAM). January is the first month of a fresh New Year and promises new begin-nings, resolutions, and optimistic options to make our lives more manageable. Habitually, we codependents are left hoping the New Year will be different. No more addictive behavior from our loved ones, right? This time I really mean it. I promise I’ll stop drinking. I promise I won’t use anymore.

LOL. If you are like me, you’ve fallen for this line over and over again. I propose a better way to bring in the New Year.

Please join me in making 2016 the year you decide to respect yourself. Let’s start by taking a group selfie. Together, we can step out of the shadows of shame and into the light of self-understanding. Just as the addict struggles with the drug of choice, we must acknowledge that our obsession to control has blurred our vision of who we are. We need to admit we too have a problem: we are always trying to solve others’ problems while our own circle of life if spinning off the axle.

Denials’ job is to keep us out of focus with the truth. Starting 2016 with NCAM means giving denial the boot. With self-deception exposed, we can uncover the real motive be-hind our actions. Be aware, denial will refuse to go away quietly. Seeking the truth about ourselves requires discipline. There Be aware, denial will refuse to go away quietly. Seeking the truth about ourselves requires discipline.

There will be days when we feel lazy and sabotage ourselves. We may slip back into old patterns of behavior, or not take the time to read a self-help book. It will take a dose of healthy self-respect to make the decision to go to a 12-step meet-ing. Giving notice and firing denial puts the burden of responsiveness on us. We have to walk and work the steps and embrace good judg-ment if we want to change our way of life.

Unlike social media abbreviations, 12-step slogans are not cute or trendy. They are life-changing mantras that work. But it is up to each of us to put them into practice.

There are thirty-one days in January. Let’s make each one of those days count. Use the NCAM calendar at www.dianejellen. com to focus on your needs ODAT (one day at a time). This is not a selfish goal—it is a survival method worthy of your efforts.

Little by little, day by day, you can begin to change. You will see your own worth, and begin to like yourself. It’s a slog, to be honest. I know because I’ve been doing it for years now. But it’s worth the effort. Because I am worth it. And so are you.

One, two, three, say cheese. It’s selfie time. This is us, work-ing on ourselves. This is the photo everyone should see of us. Not just on TBT or FBF, but every day.

Your BFF

Diane Jellen has worked at several treatment facilities in PA, FL, and the School District of Palm Beach County Alternative Education Department. Diane is the award-winning author of My Resurrected Heart: A Codependent’s Journey to Healing, available at www.dianejellen.com.