The love/hate relationship with codependency
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The love/hate relationship with codependency

Codependency is something you hear a lot about in 12 step programs and groups for loved ones of alcoholics/addicts

There’s books (Melodie Beatty’s Codependent No More being one of them) written about the subject. How to define codependency, how to determine if you’re codependent, how to “fix” it. It’s been my experience that it’s never truly “fixed”. As they say in Alanon – Progress, not Perfection. It’s important to keep getting better – just know that there’s no finish line associated with that. It helps take some of the pressure off.

I recently re-read CNM (Codependent No More) and highlighted the crap out of it. There were so many golden nuggets of fantastic insight. Even though my copy is from 1987! One of the first things that stood out to me was about reacting. Codependents “they overreact. They underreact. But rarely do they ACT”. I found that to be particularly painful.

I saw so much of myself in those few sentences. There were days I didn’t know what shirt to wear and needed to know someone else’s opinion before choosing. (OK – choosing is a strong word – let’s get real – I picked the one they said I should wear! – EVEN if I thought it was ugly or it was uncomfortable!)

Do you find yourself looking to others to help you?

If you’re not confident in yourself, your choices, abilities, skills, and the like, you will constantly be looking for outside validation. That backfires on most of us. We become so entwined with ‘what other people think’ – we lose ourselves and have a damn hard time finding our way back.

Have you looked in the mirror and thought – “Who AM I?”

We all have different personas (think of them as masks) – You have your mom persona, your wife persona, your career/job persona, etc. You’ve learned to act certain ways in different situations. When you’re married to an addict, you’ve learned that chaos is the norm. Maybe you’ve learned to be the victim. Maybe you’ve learned to yell or manipulate to get the things you need. Perhaps you’ve even become someone else during the marriage as an effect this disease brings. Are you happy with the person looking back at you from that mirror?

There’s a checklist in the CNM book – but if you follow my blog, you’re probably codependent. We control, we martyr, we are the dependable ones – the superheros. But really – we’re just as, if not sicker than they are. They have the alcohol/drugs to blame their behavior on. We are like this without the assistance of substances.

That’s why I titled this “The love/hate relationship with codependency”. It’s all about loving them, hating them, and wanting to love ourselves while hating ourselves too. Parts of us bickering when really we just want to be loved, and to love someone else – a reciprocal relationship. When you’re married to an addict, pretty much everything is one-sided. Especially when they’re actively using.

So what do you DO about it?

You work on YOU love! I know, you’re thinking – how can I do that when I have to take care of all the things??? You don’t. I can assure you that the dishes and laundry will still be there after you take some time for yourself. If you’re not sure what Self Care looks like for you – click here – and get a copy of Self Care 101.

Start small. Maybe set the alarm 5 minutes earlier so you can enjoy a few sips of coffee in peace and quiet before the morning madness begins. Or read a few pages in a book that YOU want to read. (I can suggest a few if you don’t know where to start!). Get still and ask yourself what do you need, how you want to FEEL and make a plan for how can you make that happen.

Take your power back.

When we own our stories, and start taking responsibility for OUR part (not that he shouldn’t but remember- you can’t control him!) and unpacking our shit, that’s when the magic happens. You can find anything you’d want to know on the internet – so you can find out how to get started, you can find out how to implement it. It’s the follow through and maintenance that’s difficult. That’s where your support system comes in. A 12 step fellowship, a counselor, a friend, or a coach (like me!) can help you. You don’t have to be a victim of codependency.   It’s really a lose-lose battle.

Your turn:

Do you see codependent behaviors in yourself? How do you address it? What types of support do you find helpful? Leave a comment below!

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Erin Hill is a writer, speaker, and healer. She resides on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband and children, who are her greatest teachers. She is currently working on her first book.

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