How my compassion came from being co-dependent

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How my compassion came from being co-dependent

My younger years

For as long as I can remember, I have always been or felt compassion to other people. I always thought the best of people and wanted the best for people. I hated to see suffering and I hated conflict or confrontation of any kind, shape or form. 

I’ve been called a wimp, a jerk, a coward, gutless, yellow belly, I’ve been bullied, told to toughen up. But none of that changed me and I continued to see the nice side in everyone, even the bullies had a nice side and I would feel sorry for them when they were being bullied themselves. Ironically, most of my bullies started out as my friends, as I felt sorry for them. 

I thought I did a great job of internalizing all my pain and taking it on board, for a very long time I actually prided myself for being such a tolerant and forgiving person. 

Who was I Kidding

I internalized so much crap that I became an alcoholic and lived in that hell for 19 years, but even during my drinking years, although I did become more selfish, I never became violent or aggressive and still had compassion for people.

Thankfully I hit my rock bottom and got sober, with the help of my family, rehab and the fellowship. That was 15 and a half years ago now and my life since has been one long journey of self-rediscovery. I am like an onion and I have been peeling off the layers to get to my core, to enable me to change.

I have had aspirations all my life, haven’t we all, to be a better person, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, academically. I have never liked myself for who I am, and in recovery the more I have learned about myself, the more I have disliked. 

No matter how hard I tried to visualize a different me, use different tools from Law Of Attraction, NLP, CBT, Transcendental & Mindfulness Meditations, listened to and read countless books from countless motivational gurus, signed up to course after course and even trained and qualified as an Addiction Counsellor & CBT Therapist. All in aid to find myself and figure out just what made me tick!!

My Eureka Moment…..oh false alarm!!

I would have had periods of great enlightenment and clarity, only to be followed by massive self-doubt. When I felt good, my default brain kicked in and said “You are not worthy of Love or to feel good”, then guilt kicked in. One step forward and twenty back. Now I would at times blame my work, my family, my wife, the weather, politics, but this self-sabotage always came from me, as I preempted it by not believing that good things can and do happen to me. I would then go and do something stupid to shoot myself in the foot. This then would have consequences, a fallout, an argument, but mainly due to complacency on my behalf. I would become defensive and not see the other person’s point of view, only focusing on self-preservation. At this, I would again internalize it and after an initial outburst, become quietly codependent again.

At work, I would feel humiliated when I put trust in someone's word only to find out that they were lying to me, as I would be happy to take on board their lies as fact and accept what they were saying as gospel. Unlike my work colleagues, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt (innocent until proven guilty), whereas they are suspicious (guilty until proven innocent). When dealing with addiction, you are dealing with denial and lies. I wouldn't be as assertive, as I can empathize with the client’s own fears of being reprimanded when they did tell the truth or lie.

It was at this realization, by seeing the character defects in others, that I started to think, that co-dependency was also my problem too and maybe that was my core defect. This made me look at The Law Of Attraction again “You attract what you think and feel about” Now I had always been looking into the future and trying to change my present, and working from there, but besides doing a Step 5 (12 Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous), about 11 years ago, never really looked at my past again. I had the theory that “What is done is done and cannot be undone” and that I had dealt with all my demons, and put them to bed. Or had I.

Down to the nitty gritty

I had dealt with the behaviors, the experiences, the attitudes, of the addicted me, but not the inner me. My Core belief or default mind was very sick indeed. Initially, I started beating myself up over this, as how did I not see this before, as I am able to see it in others. This self-flagellation was only adding to the core belief or feeding it. 

I guess I was blocked and this irrational belief little monster inside of me had been there probably from before I was even born. I was born premature and my first year of life was spent in a hospital, where I clinically died twice, had a collapsed lung and pneumonia to boot. Not a great start. A lot of infants died in that ward and I remember my mother telling me years later that when a child was sick, I would watch them intensely, and when one got better, I would then relax.


I don’t remember much of my early childhood, I know that my eldest sister and I didn’t get on, but I can't remember specifics, only that I did fear her. My parents’ went through a bad patch and both my sisters were sent to boarding school, which left me an alone child. 

There were many bad arguments between my parents during those years fueled by alcohol. I remember hiding under the bed on many nights and then blaming myself for their arguments and also for my sisters being sent to boarding school. 

Compassion = Love, Codependence = Fear

It seems absurd now when I look back, but for a 7-year-old, that is how I thought and felt and that is what I internalized. It is from that time on that I am aware now, that I became co-dependent, as I was very attached to both my parents, very confused and full of fear. I thought they were going to separate and I was in a dilemma as to who I would have to choose to live with. Truth be told, I was traumatized. 

They say we are impressionable from birth to the age of 7, that we internalize everything and cannot make rational judgments. So my childhood experience, I feel definitely had a huge impact on my life, from then until now. I can see now how I have beaten myself up, how I have been a people pleaser, how I have been overly compliant, full of fear and this was all imprinted. We also lived in a country that had a lot of commodity shortages and the shops were always empty, so there was a huge sense of lack or not enough, and that affected me too. I have always been fearful of everything running out, or there never being enough of anything. So my compassion wasn’t compassion at all as that would be a loving act, my compassion was codependency and I behaved that way out of fear. 

What I needed to do next

I have spent my life, chasing my tail and trying to be a better person, when in essence I should have been nurturing my inner child first and forgiving myself for being so harsh on myself and then let go of my past with Love.

I am married now and am blessed with 2 wonderful young boys of 8 and 6. Although my life circumstances have had consequences on my life, the one thing I can take away is that I do not have to repeat history with my own sons. Had I not had the experience, then I would not have the awareness I do now.

I have no regrets and although my parents are dead now, I never blame them for anything, nor do I anyone else. Everyone has trials in their lives and it is my belief that no one is inherently bad, but just life’s trials can get in the way and everyone deals with life in their own way.

I am on a life quest to heal my inner child, as that I feel is my way forward, by going backward and just giving myself a lot of Love and forgiveness. 

Nobody alive has had a perfect life, we are all caught up in the continuity of life’s routines, habits, and cultures. We inherit and learn from our parents, who learned from theirs’ so the cycle continues. If you have had a similar experience and feel stuck, then maybe look at your own inner child too. 

We are in an age of great self-awareness, and that could just break the old patterns and cycles of life and I believe the parents of today are far better than the parent’s of yesteryear as they have a greater awareness now.

Sum Up

At the end of the day, life is too short to feck about. We spend most of our lives wondering "what if?" Who knows and you never will unless you try.

I decided last year, as part of my quest to challenge myself, come out of my comfort zone, take a risk and do something totally out of the ordinary for me. I invested in ME.

I joined the SFM programme, and you could say the rest is history. I am on a new journey in life and I am enjoying the challenge. Had I not you would not be reading this now.

If you are like me or can identify with me, then I challenge you to follow in my footsteps, click the link below and see if it is something you would like to do. 

My Mentors will guide through a FREE On-Demand Workshop, with no obligation to go any further if you do not wish to. 

Thanks for your time and God Bless

Dermot Mc Donough

How to make your first 10K online!