Codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individuals ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. In a word, codependency means being addicted to another person or to a relationship.
“Codependency is not about a relationship with an addict, it is the absence of relationship with self.”
Addicted to an Addict
For our purposes, codependency means someone has an unhealthy, addictive, relationship with an addict or alcoholic. That relationship is unhealthy because the relationship is often one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.
That makes sense because addicts or alcoholics in active addiction can’t engage in a two-sided, healthy relationship. We are typically very selfish. So, someone who is “addicted” to an addict is every bit an addict themselves.
Putting our faith (or security, or trust) in an addict is the same as an alcoholic putting his trust in a bottle of liquor. It may work out okay from time to time, but in the long run it leads only to heart-break.
Codependency is not like a virus that we catch from shaking someone’s hand. It is taught to us.
The scary part is that we also teach it to our children!
We shouldn’t be surprised when a daughter grows up and marries an alcoholic just like her daddy. Her role models were a drunk and a codependent.
She may grow up with low self-esteem and look for anything outside of herself to make her feel better. She may find it hard to “be herself”. She may experiment with alcohol or drugs trying to make herself feel better. She may become addicted herself. She also may develop other bad habits…
- Indiscriminate Sexual Activity
Like many family problems, these unhealthy cycles CAN last for generations.
Characteristics of Codependent People
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others;
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to love people they can pity and rescue;
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time;
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts;
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment;
- An extreme need for approval and recognition;
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves;
- A compelling need to control others;
- Lack of trust in self and/or others;
- Fear of being abandoned or alone;
- Difficulty identifying feelings;
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change;
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries;
- Chronic anger;
- Poor communications;
- Difficulty making decisions.
Treatment includes education, group therapy, individual counseling sessions, and experiential groups. The point is to identify self-defeating behavior patterns and learn to replace them with healthy alternatives.
When we love someone it’s sometimes hard to do what’s really best for them. Especially when withholding the addictive attention we have been disguising as love.
If you are struggling with codependency, have some hope. You can learn to build fulfilling and positive relationships. Because of the nature of codependency, most people need some help changing their patterns. Don’t wait, start working toward a healthier you today!