Melody Beattie: Instead of powerlessness over alcohol, the powerless is over how hard we have been on ourselves. How we haven't loved or trusted ourselves or spoken up for ourselves. It often happens as an epiphany or moment of clarity where you realize you're pointing the finger at someone else or you're ready to finally start taking care of yourself.
My own moment happened when I had been married for a year but we hadn't been able to take a honeymoon or even a trip yet. One day my husband said he wanted to go to Vegas by himself and asked if it was okay with me. I felt hurt and betrayed but I devalued those feelings and said to my husband, who was a recovering alcoholic, "It's okay but promise me you won't drink."
Martha Rosenberg: In the Codependent No More Workbook you write that what makes an act codependent is not the act itself but the emotions behind it. Can you give an example?
Melody Beattie: I gave three years of my life to take care of my dying mother who had Alzheimer's disease. Being there for her every need for three years might have looked codependent on the surface but it wasn't because it was what I wanted to do. Despite the rocky road we had together, I wanted her to know what it felt like to be really loved. And our time together at the end of her life closed the circle for us. I am now writing a screenplay based on how we were able to heal in the end.
Martha Rosenberg: In the introduction of the Codependent No More Workbook, you mention that it can be helpful to Double Winners. That's a new term in recovery.
Melody Beattie: Ten years into my alcohol sobriety I was a counselor and I had been assigned to work with spouses of alcoholics. No one really knew what to do with them and they were not held in high regard. Meanwhile, I complained so vociferously to my neighbor about my husband's drinking she suggested I go to counseling and I said, like millions before me, "I'm not the one doing anything wrong." Well I finally ended up at an Alanon meeting and I was quick to tell them I wasn't "like them"-- that I was an alcoholic. "So, you're a double winner," said the leader of the group which was the first time I heard the term.
Martha Rosenberg : What other changes have you seen in the codependent recovery movement?
Melody Beattie: Well, 20 years ago codependents didn't have the option of treating their codependence with all the psychoactive drugs available and advertised today. People with real psychiatric diseases may need them but it's really easy for recovery people to self-medicate emotions away. Codependents say their emotions are dulled or delayed on these drugs -- and it's like they're in a different time zone altogether.