As a person who has lived most of my adult life as a co-dependent, I must say that it’s one of the most difficult things a person can go through. For myself, being co-dependent can be frustrating because, there’s a constant need for having someone around even if you don’t need their help.
Most co-dependent people are often seen as unable to do anything for their selves. However, this was not the case with me. In my life, I was co-dependent in a way that I felt the need to have bad friends and bad relationships. This is not because I enjoy negativity but, it’s more to do with wanting anyone in my life and around me so that I wasn’t alone but, I needed nothing from them.
The second type of co-dependency is a person who truly cannot function without depending on someone else. This is not just financial but also mentally, physically, sexually and spiritually. There comes a point where the person cannot be alone, cannot preform tasks without someone there to tell them they are doing it right, they constantly feel the need to talk to someone about everything and their lives are diminished.
Recently, I did something I have never done and that is to remove bad people from my life. The reason this was done is because I’m no longer needing to depend on someone else to make me happy. I’m in a good marriage and I have only 2 good friends and I’m okay with that. Letting go when you are co-dependent is extremely hard to do. For me, it took many years and I had to just do it. I know that sounds crazy to a co-dependent person but, sometimes “cold turkey” is the best way to go.
If you’re in a co-dependent relationship, keep in mind that some partners play off of that and enjoy knowing that they can do anything and everything they want and you won’t leave because, you don’t want to be alone. This is very common in semi-abusive and full-abusive relationships. If you have a loving partner, you will find it harder to do much of anything when your partner is not around and thus will develop “Separation Anxiety Disorder” and yes I know what you’re thinking “Only kids and animals go through that”, that’s a myth, there are many adults who can also suffer from S.A.D.
You may also find that in a co-dependent friendship that you’re giving more than you’re getting. It’s often the case that people often “over do it” when it comes to pleasing the other person and no I’m not talking about sexual. In this case, I’m referring to the acts like being a “Yes man” and saying yes to everything they want you to do because, you fear losing the friendship if you don’t. Keep in mind: A real friend will not abandon the friendship if you abandon the codependency.
RECOVERING FROM CODEPENDENCY
- Abstinence. Abstinence or sobriety is necessary to recover from codependency. The goal is to bring your attention back to yourself, to have an internal, rather than external, “locus of control.” This means that your actions are primarily motivated by your values, needs, and feelings, not someone else’s. You learn to meet those needs in healthy ways.Perfect abstinence or sobriety isn’t necessary for progress, and it’s impossible with respect to codependency with people. You need and depend upon others and therefore give and compromise in relationships. Instead of abstinence, you learn to detach and not control, people-please, or obsess about others. You become more self-directed and autonomous.
If you’re involved with an abuser or addict or grew up as the child of one, you may be afraid to displease your partner, and it can require great courage to break that pattern of conceding our power to someone else.
- Awareness. It’s said that denial is the hallmark of addiction. This is true whether you’re an alcoholic or in love with one. Not only do codependents deny their own addiction – whether to a drug, activity, or person – they deny their feelings, and especially their needs, particularly emotional needs for nurturing and real intimacy.You may have grown up in a family where you weren’t nurtured, your opinions and feelings weren’t respected, and your emotional needs weren’t adequately met. Over time, rather than risk rejection or criticism, you learned to ignore your needs and feelings and believed that you were wrong. Some decided to become self-sufficient or find comfort in sex, food, drugs, or work.
All this leads to low self-esteem. To reverse these destructive habits, you first must become aware of them. The most damaging obstacle to self-esteem is negative self-talk. Most people aren’t aware of their internal voices that push and criticize them — their “Pusher,” “Perfectionist,” and “Critic.”1
- Acceptance.Healing essentially involves self-acceptance. This is not only a step, but a life-long journey. People come to therapy to change themselves, not realizing that the work is about accepting themselves. Ironically, before you can change, you have to accept the situation. As they say, “What you resist, persists.”In recovery, more about yourself is revealed that requires acceptance, and life itself presents limitations and losses to accept. This is maturity. Accepting reality opens the doors of possibility. Change then happens. New ideas and energy emerge that previously stagnated from self-blame and fighting reality. For example, when you feel sad, lonely, or guilty, instead of making yourself feel worse, you have self-compassion, soothe yourself, and take steps to feel better.
Self-acceptance means that you don’t have to please everyone for fear that they won’t like you. You honor your needs and unpleasant feelings and are forgiving of yourself and others. This goodwill toward yourself allows you to be self-reflective without being self-critical. Your self-esteem and confidence grow, and consequently, you don’t allow others to abuse you or tell you what to do. Instead of manipulating, you become more authentic and assertive, and are capable of greater intimacy.
- Action.Insight without action only gets you so far. In order to grow, self-awareness and self-acceptance must be accompanied by new behavior. This involves taking risks and venturing outside your comfort one. It may involve speaking up, trying something new, going somewhere alone, or setting a boundary. It also means setting internal boundaries by keeping commitments to yourself, or saying “no” to your Critic or other old habits you want to change. Instead of expecting others to meet all your needs and make you happy, you learn to take actions to meet them, and do things that give you fulfillment and satisfaction in your life.Each time you try out new behavior or take a risk, you learn something new about yourself and your feelings and needs. You’re creating a stronger sense of yourself, as well as self-confidence and self-esteem. This builds upon itself in a positive feedback loop vs. the downward spiral of codependency, which creates more fear, depression, and low self-esteem.
Words are actions. They have power and reflect your self-esteem. Becoming assertive is a learning process and is perhaps the most powerful tool in recovery. Assertiveness requires that you know yourself and risk making that public. It entails setting limits. This is respecting and honoring yourself. You get to be the author of your life – what you’ll do and not do and how people will treat you.2