Codependency is a term that came out of the 12 step community, originally to describe wives of men who were alcoholics. Melodie Beattie’s book “Codependent No More” chronicles shared experiences and characteristics of co-dependents. Additionally, those deemed codependent were a lot of times concurrently labeled “enablers”, meaning that they somehow allowed or condoned their partner/loved one’s addiction to happen.
"Today I will avoid making excuses
for my own or someone else's behavior. I will let consequences and responsibility fall where they belong" -Melodie Beattie The Language of Letting Go
As you might imagine, this term tends to bring up some defensiveness in the modern addiction and recovery community. Part of this defensiveness is because everyone is touched by addiction somehow. It is not an experienced reserved for wives of alcoholics anymore and perhaps, it never was.
I hear a lot of confusion about the word “co-dependent”. Definitions ranging from “I can’t live without him/her/them” to “It’s when I poured the liquor bottle down the drain”. These definitions don’t offer the level of complexity that codependency actually brings to light. Codependency is about so much more than someone else’s problem or behavior.
It’s actually about a compulsory distraction from one’s own life. We all have “easy buttons” or ways we zone out on our own lives and zone into something else. Drugs, alcohol, shopping, facebook, eating, and codependency are all easy buttons that allow us to focus on something other than ourselves. For more information on “easy buttons” see the former blog post.
Most codependent behaviors involve not being able to focus on oneself. This happens to be an easy result of being in a relationship with someone who is in active addiction. Frought with worry, anxiety, fear, and sometimes a need to control, are perfect accompaniments to the disease of addiction. Some of the classic co-dependent features include but are not limited to, not being able to identify or voice one’s own feelings, care-taking behaviors, or wanting to “save” someone.
Sound like you? Check out this extensive list from Codependents Anonymous:
The antidote to codependency is self care. Learning to tap into your own needs and set boundaries when needed. How do I do that Monica?
Therapy!!! Taking time and investing in your own well-being is the number one way to start to press those alternate easy buttons
Finding support- there are 12 step programs for folks who find themselves in relationships with those addicted to a substance or a process. Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous and Adult Children of Alcoholics are all organizations that utilize the 12 steps to support people suffering from this particular ailment.
Develop good and routine self-care. This one is comprehensive because finding support and going to therapy is part of self care. But, I mean, try things that put you in “the zone” or as the scientific community refers to it “flow state”. Painting, hiking, meditation, writing, dancing, disc golf, whatever it is that lets you forget for a while with minimal consequence to your life. Notice that last part. Because yes, drinking and shopping lets you forget probably but may have an adverse effect on your life.
Check out my favorite book for codependency by clicking below
***Disclaimer: This blog post is solely the opinion of the author. It is not a substitute for mental health services nor does it constitute a professional relationship. If you are seeking mental health services, please contact a therapist in your area. If you are experiencing and emergency, please dial 911***