Codependency is an ‘illness’ in its own right which is why education about codependency is part of Twin Rivers programme, especially as codependency is probably the biggest relapse dynamic!
Codependency was originally a description of the spouse or partner of an alcoholic. Why would someone remain in a challenging and toxic environment, what was their investment? In lay terms, the codependent had some sense of ‘usefulness’ by remaining with an active alcohol, even if the situation was abusive or violent! The twisted logic comes into play whereby the codependent believes that the alcoholic ‘needs’ them and it would be wrong to leave them. Imagine how many battered women or men go back to the same partner time and time again, what is that? Well, despite regular discomfort, not being appreciated and abuse this relationship actually offers a sense of attachment and purpose. The codependent accepts chaos as ‘normal’ and cannot imagine themselves engaged in healthier relationships.
‘Our dependency makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem. If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everybody, then you make everybody your judge’
How Do You Know If Your Codependent?
- My good feelings about who I am come from being liked by you
- My good feelings about who I am are directly connected to my receiving approval from you
- My mental attention focuses on solving your problems and relieving your pain
- My mental attention is generally focused on you and other people
- My mental attention is focused on protecting you
- My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
- My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
- My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
- My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
- Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
- Your behaviour is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
- I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
- I am not aware of what I want – I ask what you want. I am not aware – I assume
- The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
- My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
- My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
- I use ‘giving’ myself away as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
- My own social circle disappears the more I involve myself with you
- I put my personal values-morals and beliefs aside in order to connect with you
- I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
- The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours
‘Codependency is a progressive disease brought about by child abuse, which takes the form of anything “less than nurturing.” Codependency is epidemic (maybe all of us are codependent) and defines a vast array of psychological and physical symptoms. The caring manifested by codependents is an unconscious effort to keep repressed pain at bay, and the codependent contributes to the addictive behaviour of their loved ones by enabling. Enabling keeps the loved one addicted so the codependent can go on caring to gain a sense of self worth. Recovery from codependency requires drastic attitude and lifestyle change (Detachment) and a lifelong commitment to the 12-step regime’.
Robert Westermeyer Ph.D
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process