Codependence may be my Waterloo. The dysfunction so interwoven in my DNA, the fabric of my being that it will haunt me to the grave.
But when that thought discourages me, I think of Liesl.
Well, we know her as Liesl von Trapp. The actress who made Sixteen Going on Seventeen so beautiful in The Sound of Music. But her stage name was Charmian Carr. You may know her as Liesl or as the interior designer who designed the interior of the Neverland Ranch for Michael Jackson.
She was a delicate, sweet girl of twenty-one (with dimples that could hold water!) when she was cast as the eldest von Trapp child for The Sound of Music. She was a dancer and a secretary. Not an actress and not a singer.
She is my hero. A hero for not being codependent.
You see, Charmian’s mother was an alcoholic. A woman who pitted her three daughters against each other. But foremost, an alcoholic. Her daughters tried to help her escape the grip of alcohol in every way possible.
To no avail. Nothing worked.
Then they made the hardest choice of all. “Mother,” they said, “we love you, but we’ve tried everything. Now, we’re going to leave you. If you want to quit drinking, you must do it for yourself. Until you stop drinking, we will never speak to nor see you again.”
Then they walked out of her life.
Sweet, gentle Liesl walked out on the woman who gave her life. On her own mother.
And she was right.
The Sound of Music may have a happy ending but Liesl’s mother’s story does not.
She kept drinking. And drinking. And drinking.
One day, it was one drink too many.
Her esophagus split wide open and she bled out, alone, in her home. It must have been an excruciating death. One of the worst I can imagine.
Put yourself in Charmian’s shoes. Would it have killed you to know you allowed your mother to die like that?
Would the guilt have destroyed you?
That’s your codependence talking.
Charmian did the right thing. Her sisters did the right thing. They practiced NON-codependence. Yes, they let their mother die. She was, after all, an adult woman responsible for her own choices. Her death was on her own head, her blood on her own hands.
Not her daughters’.
Charmian left us, much too soon, on September 17th, 2016. The first of the on-screen von Trapp children to leave us. She said being a von Trapp made you watch yours Ps and Qs. None of the seven actors and actresses who played the children wanted to sully the name of von Trapp and, as far as I know, none of them did. There were no scandals. Well, Christopher Plummer was always a bit of a lad…but that started long before he became The Captain. And even he kicked alcohol to the curb after decades of drinking.
When codependence surrounds me and guilt drowns me, I think of Liesl. Charmian Carr. She drew a boundary. She made her mother responsible for herself.
The worst, the very worst, happened. It happened! There was no fairytale ending, because Liesl was not codependent.
Charmian Carr, Liesl, is my hero. A hero of NON–codependence.