Pomodoros, Doppelbros, and an Addiction to Fixing

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I often wonder if people think I “like” my own posts on Facebook because there is another Jeff Key who does. The fact that I even wonder or care speaks volumes and shows how far I have to go in the codependency department. Jeff Key (the other one, I call him my “Doppelbro” because he’s also handsome like me) and I became Facebook friends somewhere along the way. I forget how it happened. There’s another Jeff Key is South Florida who is apparently a New Age musician who does weddings, too. I think I wrote to the other one, not the wedding singer (damn, this could get really confusing,) first to ask him if anyone ever contacted him about veterans issues or my other work in theatre, would he please pass them on to me. Maybe I made that story up. I am a storyteller. Anyway, I’m Facebook friends with a nice guy in Illinois named Jeff Key.

I’m reticent to say so because I’m afraid it will open the flood gate but my Doppelbro actually contacted me yesterday and suggested that I try something called the Pomodoro Technique for time management. Today is the first day and I’m still a novice but I’m hopeful about how it may prove useful. Thanks Doppelbro!

Now, that being said, please don’t let this be open season on writing to me about my blog. If we are actual friends and you feel very compelled to share something with me, do what my friends Mary Daniels and Michelle Mott did and ask if it would be okay to talk about the blog. Now, since I have a method to do so, I will (or perhaps not) budget a Pomodoro for our talk and you can fire away. Still, mostly, I do not want to talk about my blog. The blog is doing it’s job. Work on your own shit.

A man actually wrote to me on Facebook a couple of days ago and started his message with “Your checklist is not doable” and then launched into discussions of Christ and the Ten Commandments and my codependency based on my childhood and my time in the Marine Corps. “Were you highly disciplined as a child-restricted?  I know there was discipline in the Marines.”he said.  Isn’t it odd that he would ask if I was highly disciplined as a child not two weeks after posting a blog about how my parents beat my ass as a kid? I wrote back to him and said, “But you see, I made a boundary around talking about me about my blog. That’s another thing with Codependents; we get so used to people walking all over our boundaries it begins to feel normal. You’ve just proved that to me one more time. I would appreciate it if you would respect my boundaries.” To which he replied, “How is this working for you is the most important question.  Just trying to support you in helping to reach attainable and realistic goals.  Good luck with that.” Do you see what happened? I set a boundary. Someone ignored it. I pointed out that my boundary had been ignored.  His next communication was more boundary crossing, more “fixing.”

People try to “help” and “fix” because they are uncomfortable with something in themselves.  That is my broad generalization but I do believe it to be true. Do I mean that we should not try to help one another? Of course not. Some of the things I’m proudest of in this life are when I felt that I was able to help other people. But I do believe that, even in the healthiest examples of one human’s desire to help another, it is based on the essential feeling of unease we have inside ourselves. “Oh look, there’s a hungry person. I feel bad. I want to help.” What an awful world it would be if there was none of that. Indeed, in the ways that this is an awful world, it’s mostly because of the antithesis sentiment: “Oh look that person is eating. I’m hungry. It must be their fault. I reckon I’ll kill them so I won’t be hungry anymore.”

The desire to help another human being is essentially good. And the more I come to understand about codependency, the compulsive need to fixate on how I can help another person fix their problems so I don’t have to focus on my own shit can be as deadly a disease as active chemical addiction. Look, it’s almost succeeded in killing me already. Still might.

Here’s the way the rest of the conversation went with the man who wrote me on Facebook:

Me: Here’s a better question: how many places in your life that people desperately try to establish boundaries with you which you walk right over. The incessant need to fix is one of the most chronic symptoms of codependency

Me: So is passive aggression

Me: Thus the “good luck with that” comment

Him: I know, Jeff.  And I do not try to justify my behavior.  I realize that the contract with yourself are your goals.  Is it kind?  Is it realistic.  Does it work?  Are you having success.  Our contracts with ourselves have natural consequences.  I do wish you success.  I know it sounds like I have great ideas for other people’s lives, but I am actually being supportive.  We are being supported by those who do not always agree with us, whether we realize it or not.  Especially if they are willing to risk disagreeing with us.  Ours is not the only way.

Me: You still are not hearing me!

Me: I made a boundary

Me: You walked right over it

Me: I pointed that out and respectfully ask you not to do it

Me: And the very next thing you did was do it again

Me: That tells me that you either are in capable or unwilling to respect my boundaries

Me: When you go right in and started to try to psychoanalyze and fix me you started asking questions about my childhood and about Marine Corps. I will tell you something about my history, people, for my entire life I’ve disrespected my boundaries

Me: My part in that is that I have let them.

Me: Stop

Him: Sorry, Jeff.  I always say if you have any kind of relationship with me, I am going to have to be forgiven quickly and often.  Please forgive me.  Quickly.

Me: Amends accepted.

And that was no shit, I did accept his amends. And I was sorry if I had to come accro– no, wait. I’m not sorry if I have to be firm with people around my boundaries. This is the new me. Codependency has goddamn nearly killed me. I’m sick of worrying about what other people think. That’s another thing the blog is doing for me. Codependency probably predated all the other manifestations of the disease of addiction in my life. That’s the life I’m trying to save. Things are changing. They needed to change.

It has now been one month since since I made the grand and reckless proclamation that this is the last year of my life. I have had one month of launching into trying to crawl out of the whole in which I found myself. It is not easy. It is harder even than I thought.  But on a rainy afternoon in October in the year 2000, I  stood on top of a hill in Camp Pendleton, California, my Drill Instructor placed an Eagle, Globe and Anchor in my hand and in that instant it was burned into my heart. The kid I brought to that hill had already survived many battles as you are coming to learn through this blog.  I am determined never to give up. It doesn’t seem to be in my nature. Still, I intend to march forward as if this is the last year of my life. That way, if I do go out (with a bang, haha), “do or die” will still be on my lips.

In celebration of one month on this journey, today, in lieu of the action item checklist (and at the suggestion of a friend), I am going to list ten things I like about myself and ten things for which I am grateful.


1) I am stubborn as hell

2) I am a country boy to the bone and a New Yorker through and through- all at the same time

3) I have a bizarre and hilarious sense of hairlip– I mean humor! 

4) I am teachable

5) I love hard and deep

6) I’m generous

7) I genuinely care about other people

8) I am confident in my abilities

9) I have a keen ability to think through matters of the heart and mind

10) I’m a tiger in the sack


1) a relationship with God, which I do not understand

2) 17 years of sobriety

3) food to eat

4) a place to live

5) transportation that’s paid for

6) all my experiences painful and sublime

7) my family, especially my sweet mother

8) my friends, who are like family to me

9) Sydney, Willie, and Dennis

10) You, who are walking this path with me. It’s less scary with you here.

See y’all tomorrow.

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