The first step

The first step toward healing, I've found is admitting that I have no power over the things in my life that would and could destroy me. In my case, my mother is a compulsive hoarder and was therefore a mentally ill mother. My childhood was less than ideal. But the first step toward healing is for me to admit that I am powerless over my mother's actions, her disorder, and her mental illness.

Yes, my mother has problems. Admitting that there is a problem is simple, but admitting and accepting that I cannot change her or fix her problems is very difficult. Part of this is because she took joy in blaming me for her problems. When life was not good in her eyes, she projected blame onto me. I heard the message loud and clear repeatedly throughout my childhood:

I should have put you up for adoption. If I had, this would be better/different/fixed.


For many years into my adulthood, I believed that to be true. I believed that single parenting was too tough for her and that housework didn't get done because after working all day in the office, running me to activities, she was too tired and overwhelmed to do things in the house. I was too demanding. I believed that if she lived without me, her home would look different.

I was 23 when a family member revealed to me for the first time that her "chronic disorganization" had plagued her since her college years. It was the first time I was allowed a glimpse of truth. But it was only a glimpse.

The messages of my childhood were that I was too blame for her messy house. If her life had been different, if my father had married her, if she had aborted me or given me up for adoption, well...her whole life would have been better. Her life would have been manageable. I was--at best--an inconvenience. Most of the time, I felt I was a very heavy burden.

I wish that I could really pinpoint when I began to believe these things. Although I have some very early memories, I can't recall when I started to feel that I was the problem. I remember praying to have a different life, a life away from her, as early as age five or six. I prayed every night for some outcome to be different--that she had put me up for adoption and that I was in a "normal" family, that my father had married her creating a "normal" family, or that my father would just take me.

It's amazing to me how I, as a child of codependency learned these messages and believed them to be true. And it's even more amazing to me that these ideas stick so well that even now as an adult when I've learned that they are not true, I cannot convince the child lost within me that what I believed all these years is simply nothing but a lie. It just isn't the truth at all.

The first step is admitting that I can never change her problem or her; she is beyond my control and I did not cause her problem. The second part of that is admitting that I am powerless on my own to learn new, healthy habits for my own life. The life I had been leading was chaotic and marred, but I know that there is something better out there.

"For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need." --Philippians 4:13 (NLT)


Daddy, I realize that I cannot change my mother, her mental illness, and her past hurts. I also realize that I am not responsible for them either. I give her up to you, knowing that only YOU hold the power to heal. I pray that you would heal her just as you are healing me. Daddy, I also ask you to take control of my life--admittedly chaotic and destructive. I cannot be healthy on my own because I learned so many broken patterns and lies. But I know that you alone are Truth. You hold healing in the palm of your hand. Keep me there, protecting me from the past, from lies, and especially from myself. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Step ONE: We admitted that we were powerless over our parent's hoarding and behaviors, and that OUR own lives had also become unmanageable.

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