I hope you can draw from this story of my relationship with coffee as inspiration toward utilizing your own dependency or codependency as the fuel toward empowerment that it can be.
When a friend expressed concern over the possibility of becoming dependent on crystals—that they might come to have power over her, my immediate response was,
“Anyone or anything we consistently give our power to will eventually have power over us.”
When crystals are used consistently in lieu of someone’s personal growth, that person will come to depend on them, and they could well end up having power over that person. But if we work with them to facilitate our personal growth, they can help us to come into our own power.
Interestingly enough, my relationship with coffee was the example that came to mind in my effort to explain the dynamics of power. During the course of our conversation I realized that many of the principles I learned through my relationships with coffee and crystals are applicable to anyone seeking to reclaim or redeem their power from any dependency or codependency.
As a young adult I drank a lot of coffee. It came to be my antidote for lack of sleep, the social excuse to get together with other mothers, and a beverage with which to warm my starving heart when I was making choices that didn’t nurture me.
The day that we ran out of coffee was the day I realized that coffee had come to have power over me. By noon, I had a splitting headache and it was due to —you guessed it— caffeine withdrawal. Coffee had established control over me and I was angry about it. Since I regarded anything having control over me as a fate worse than death, I blamed coffee for my dependency and made the decision to give it up. Fortunately coffee did not take the breakup personally—which made it easier for me to focus on my contribution to the dependency.
I had developed a love-hate relationship with coffee. I loved what it did for me, and the benefits were real. The problem was that the more heavily I relied on coffee, the more power I gave it. As long as drinking coffee was my idea, I loved it, but I hated the idea of having to drink coffee to avoid a headache.
During my trial separation from coffee I reevaluated my existence. Without coffee it was clear that I had been spreading myself much too thin; I was tired and it didn’t feel very good to be me. Why had I been trying to be super-everything—super-mom, super-wife, super-friend, basically super-everything except super-caretaker for myself?
In exploring my motivation for trying to be super-everything, some hidden value issues came to light. I had been constantly trying to prove my value to others and it was running me into the ground. I had unknowingly been abusing myself and had become dependent on coffee to keep up the unhealthy pace. Once coffee was out of the picture I could see the cycle for what it was and only then could I see how I was neglecting my own care.
As I embraced the need to take care of myself, regularly scheduling a sitter for my three children became a priority. My kids were great but being a full-time caregiver is draining and I wasn’t particularly fond of who I turned into when depleted. During those two hours I would do whatever my heart desired: not errands and not even getting together with friends, but something purely selfish—something healthy and rejuvenating for me. Sometimes I would just sit by a lake and read for a couple of hours. I came to realize that I was a better mother, friend, and wife when I took care of myself. Not only was I benefiting from those two hours every other week, but so was everyone I touched because I was becoming more thoughtful and more loving.
Taking this time for myself helped me to see my life with greater clarity; my motivations changed and subsequently so did my choices regarding how I desired to live.
I had learned to:
- Better care for myself.
- Have better boundaries.
- Say “no” out of love.
- And most significantly, I had learned the importance of taking time to tend to my heart.
Tending to my heart led to pursuing and developing new interests, which in turn led to new friendships. Not only was I much more cognizant of the choices I was making, but tending to my heart taught me to be equally mindful of the motivations for my choices.
Our power lies in our capacity to love and be loved. And our capacity to love and be loved is directly related to our capacity to love ourselves. When we care for, value and honor ourselves, we are engaging in an act of love as great as when we care for, value and honor another person.
One of my discoveries as I withdrew from my dependent relationship was that any such relationship diminishes both parties. Not only had I not been honoring myself, but I also had not been honoring coffee. I had not accepted coffee for what it was. I had been using and abusing it as well as myself in my unconscious attempts to feel valuable and connected. These realizations were truly humbling. I redeemed my power by taking back responsibility for my own care and value. My care should never have been coffee’s job, and my value should never have needed proving. What revelations!
I have emerged from my healing journey without the need for coffee and without the need to be everything to everyone that coffee was fueling. I have also emerged with a greater understanding of the positive impact that my capacity to love myself provides. When my desire to care for myself, or any desire for that matter, also considers everyone’s best interests, we all benefit; and no one and no thing gets used or abused in the process. That is true power in action. In valuing myself I became a more sincere everything rather than a super everything and it feels so much better.
Eventually coffee and I reconciled. I had grown so much while we were apart. Fortunately coffee didn’t hold a grudge and we have created a new relationship based on honor, respect and pure desire. It is so liberating to no longer be dependent. When I find us squeezing in extra visits, I don’t beat myself up; I just mindfully let it warm me while I reevaluate my existence. I enjoy a cup of half-decaf / half-regular most mornings. It is no longer a substitute for sleep, an excuse to get together with friends, or the only way to warm my heart. I don’t drink it on the run or take it to go. I create time for us because I enjoy it. Coffee has become part of the ritual with which I begin my day. That may change as I change, but for now, it works for me.