Quotations in maroon
are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
(Copyright 1995). Quotations from columns & articles (Copyright
1996, 1997, 1998, 1999) written by Mr. Burney are noted and in blue text.
Blue text material that is not in quotes is from Robert's upcoming book Wounded
Souls Dancing in the Light (Copyright 1998) unless
otherwise noted. There are several authors quoted in excerpts from
The Dance of Wounded Souls, those are noted with copyright acknowledgment
at the end of the applicable page.
Alcoholism and Codependence
"I bring the term "milestone" up at this
point because the term "Codependent" has evolved out of a vitally important
event or milestone in this century. A milestone whose ripple effect has
been vitally important in laying the groundwork for the change that has
taken place in human consciousness.
I believe that in a hundred years historians
will look back and pinpoint this milestone as the single most important
event in the twentieth century. This milestone was the founding of Alcoholics
Anonymous in Akron, Ohio, in June of 1935.
Besides the invaluable gift of sobriety
that AA has given to millions of Alcoholics, it also started a revolution
in Spiritual consciousness.
The dramatic success and expansion of
AA facilitated the spread of a radically revolutionary idea which has traditionally,
in Western Civilization, been considered heresy. This was not a new idea
but rather a reintroduction and clarification of an old idea, coupled with
a formula for practical application of the concept into day-to-day human
This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally
Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally
communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge
the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure
that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.
This reintroduction of the revolutionary
concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include
the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according
to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship
with this Higher Power.
In other words, no one is needed as an
intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right
to impose upon you its definition of God.
The spread of Alcoholics Anonymous, and
the other Anonymous programs which sprang out of AA, is the widest and most
effective dissemination of this radical revolutionary concept that has ever
occurred in Western Civilization.
Mystics, gnostics, and certain "primitive"
peoples have, throughout recorded human history, understood the Truth in
but the "organized religions" of urban-based
civilizations have persecuted, tortured, and crucified any messengers or
groups of people who believed in a Loving, personal God or Goddess - because
it threatened the power of those organized religions' control over the masses
and therefore their very existence. This time the dissemination of the message
has been effective because: The time was right; the revolutionary concept
was camouflaged as part of a successful treatment for a fatal, incurable
disease; and it was accompanied by the Twelve Step Spiritual program.
The Twelve Step program of AA provides
a practical program for accessing Spiritual power in dealing with day-to-day
human life. A formula for integrating the Spiritual into the physical. Even
though some of the steps, as originally written, contain shaming and abusive
wording, the Twelve Step process and the ancient Spiritual principles underlining
it are invaluable tools in helping the individual being start down, and stay
on, a path aligned with Truth.
It is out of the Twelve Step Recovery
movement that our understanding of the dysfunctional nature of civilization
has evolved. It is out of the Alcoholic Recovery movement that the term "Codependent"
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney)
"The condition of Spiritual dis-ease has
been a part of the human experience for so long - for thousands of years
- that some of its symptomatic defenses have been genetically adapted by
the evolving human species. Alcoholism, I believe, is just one example of
a genetically transmitted, physical disease that is an adapted behavioral
defense against the pain of Spiritual dis-ease."
The Death of an Alcoholic
By Robert Burney M.A.
"As long as we look outside of Self -
with a capital S - to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give us
self-worth, we are setting ourselves up to be victims.
We were taught to look outside of ourselves
- to people, places, and things; to money, property, and prestige - for
fulfillment and happiness. It does not work, it is dysfunctional. We cannot
fill the hole within with anything outside of Self.
You can get all the money, property, and prestige
in the world, have everyone in the world adore you, but if you are not at
peace within, if you don't Love and accept yourself, none of it will work
to make you Truly happy."
The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
My friend Robert died the other day. He died alone in a hotel room
and his body wasn't found for two days. He weighed 125 pounds when he died.
Robert was an alcoholic who couldn't stay sober. He had been through
full thirty day (and longer) treatment programs at least 15 times. He had
been in detox fifty times easily. Drinking had destroyed his body. Robert
should have been dead years ago. In the past 3 or 4 years almost every time
he drank he ended up in intensive care. I did much of my grieving for my
friend three years ago, the last time I rescued him from his cabin on Taos
Mountain and took him to the emergency room.
Robert went to lots of meetings and tried real hard to work the
program but on one critical point he didn't have enough humility. He did
not have enough humility to accept that he was lovable.
My friend had made and lost fortunes in his life. He had been
with lots of women and had lots of possessions. He still had lots of possessions
when he died. He still had the cabin in Taos Ski Valley but he didn't have
the strength to walk up the fifty steps to the front door.
Robert used money to try to buy friendship and love. And then
he felt betrayed because he believed that people only wanted to be around
him for his money. If you were friendly to him for no apparent reason then
he would talk about giving you money because that gave you an excuse to care
about him. He just could not believe that he was worthy of love just for
who he was.
Robert was full of shame. He was full of shame because he was
raised in a dysfunctional family in a shame-based society. His Father was
a verbally/emotionally abusive perfectionist for whom nothing was ever good
enough. His mother was too terrified and shame-based to protect her son.
As a young child Robert got the message that he wasn't lovable
but that if he was successful enough and made enough money he might earn
the right to be loved. He was successful and made lots of money but it did
not work to convince him that he was good enough.
My friend had no permission from himself to receive love. When
I published my book I listed him among people who had touched my life on
the Acknowledgements Page. When he saw his name listed there he cursed me
(his generation, and mine, were taught to relate to other men that way, to
say 'I love you' by calling each other names) and cried briefly (which he
felt was very shameful) and then he drank. In his relationship with himself
Robert was too shame-based to believe that he was lovable.
I believe that the great majority of Alcoholics are born with
a genetic, hereditary predisposition that is physiological. Environment does
not cause Alcoholism. Robert was not an Alcoholic because he was shame-based
- it was because of his shame that he could not stay sober. He had a blustery,
'hail-fellow-well-met', in your face kind of ego-strength that was very fragile.
As soon as he got sober his ego defenses would fracture and the shame underneath
would cause him to sabotage his sobriety.
That doesn't mean that people who can stay sober don't have shame.
Some of us just have more ego defenses that buries the shame deeper. That
is good news in early sobriety because it helps one to stay sober. It can
be bad news later on because it can cause us to resist growth and to not
have the humility to be teachable The reason that I am alive today is because
I was able to go to treatment for Codependence in my fifth year of recovery
while working as a therapist in a treatment center. I had sworn that I would
kill myself before I drank again and the feelings which were surfacing had
me close to it when I went to Sierra Tucson. That was where I met Robert.
What killed my friend were the grave emotional and mental disorders
caused by growing up with parents who did not love themselves in a dysfunctional
family in an emotionally-dishonest, Spiritually-hostile, shame-based society.
What killed Robert was his Codependence. His relationship with himself was
full of self-hatred and shame and he couldn't stay sober long enough to
get to the point where he could deal with his childhood issues.
Robert was born with a genetic predisposition to have a fatal
disease, Alcoholism. His childhood inflicted a second fatal disease on him.
My friend Robert was one more of the many Alcoholics to die of Codependence.
Grave Emotional and Mental Disorders
By Robert Burney M.A.
"We are all carrying around repressed
pain, terror, shame, and rage energy from our childhoods, whether it was
twenty years ago or fifty years ago. We have this grief energy within us
even if we came from a relatively healthy family, because this society is
emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional.
When someone "pushes your buttons," he/she is
activating that stored, pressurized grief energy. She/he is gouging the old
wounds, and all of the newer wounds that are piled on top of those original
wounds by our repeating behavior patterns."
The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney
When I first got into recovery one of the things that I was told was that
'all I had to change was everything'. I had no idea what that meant back
then. Now I know that it means that I needed to change my attitudes, beliefs,
and definitions about myself and everything in my life. I needed to start
surrendering my way of seeing things, of doing life.
One of the first surrenders that I had to make was to let go of
doing things 'my way.' (I used to sit in bars and get tears in my eyes over
Frank Sinatra's recording because I was also doing it 'My way.') I had to
start listening to those weird people who were telling me that I could live
without alcohol. Then I had to start letting go of my belief that life was
impossible without drugs and alcohol.
Every time I go through a surrender in my recovery I am letting
go of some of the ego definitions that have defined my relationship with
myself and life. I have to let go of the attitudes and beliefs that I adapted
because of the emotional trauma that I suffered as a child (which are still
buried in my subconscious until I became willing to look at them.)
There is an old AA saying that, 'AA doesn't open up the gates
of heaven and let us in it opens up the gates of hell and lets us out.' What
we are let out into is life. The only way that I had known how to deal with
life up to that time was to drink and use. The Twelve Steps are a formula
for learning how to deal with life in a Spiritual way, and they saved my
Unfortunately, the Twelve Steps as practiced in AA are not always
enough. Not because the Twelve Step process is not enough - but because
the way it is practiced in AA leaves out a vitally important level of healing.
That is the level of healing the emotional wounds. We can deal with our grave
emotional and mental disorders by having the capacity to be honest with ourselves.
That includes being emotionally honest with ourselves. And the only way to
achieve emotional honesty is by releasing the grief energy that we are carrying
around - the pain, terror, shame, and rage from our childhoods.
Until we deal with our emotional wounds, we do not have the ability
to be emotionally honest in the moment. Until we change our relationship
with our own emotions it is impossible to be comfortable in our own skins.
Emotional energy manifests in the body. Our attitudes, definitions,
and beliefs (subconscious and conscious) dictate our perspective of life
and our expectations of ourselves, others, and life. Those perspectives and
expectations set us up to react emotionally to life events. If we have not
dealt with the old wounds then we will live life in reaction - overreacting
(or underreacting to keep from overreacting) - when our 'buttons are pushed.'
Our fear of our own reactions determines the quality of our relationships.
Until we go back and heal our childhood emotional wounds we cannot successfully
change the old tapes
we cannot achieve a healthy, emotionally
honest relationship with ourselves and others.
Grave emotional and mental disorders is AA language for Codependence.
Codependence is all about having a dysfunctional relationship with self:
with our own bodies, minds, emotions, and spirits; with our own gender and
sexuality; with being human. Because we have dysfunctional relationships internally
we have dysfunctional relationships externally. Because we cannot be emotionally
honest with ourselves we aren't really being totally honest with anyone ever.
Bill Wilson would have loved to have had the tools we have available
to us today. He would have run to an ACA or CoDA meeting because that is
where he could have found the roots of the depression which tormented him.
Codependence Recovery is ninth step work, making amends to ourselves
and others by changing the attitudes and behaviors that have caused us to
hurt ourselves and others. And we cannot make those amends without owning
the feelings. We are powerless to substantially change the behavior patterns
in our most intimate relationships without doing the grief work.
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Me Home Page
Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
by Robert Burney
is copyright 1995. Material on Joy2MeU
web sites (except where otherwise noted)
is copyright 1996 thru 2015 by Robert Burney
PO Box 98 Fallbrook CA 92088.
(The articles "Grave Emotional and
Mental Disorders" & "The Death of an Alcoholic" by Robert Burney originally
appeared in Recovery Today a monthly newsletter of the LCDC training School
which are distributed throughout the state of Texas.)