The term codependency was first used to describe the way family members reacted around people suffering from substance abuse problems. Generally speaking, codependency is the result of an unhealthy relationship. People suffering from codependency feel they need to be needed, and they are obsessed with helping people. They suffer from the delusion that they can save people. Codependency can be an addiction in itself, and is just as detrimental as drug abuse or alcoholism.
Codependency can take on many different forms. Let’s look at a few examples of codependency:
Enabling – an addiction present in the family and one family member ignores it. The codependent person may call in sick for the addict or lie to others about the seriousness of their loved one’s drug problem. Some codependents will even prevent their loved one from going to treatment to get the help they need.
Messiah complex – this codependent person sees the addiction and feels they are the only one who can help them. This kind of person tells people what to do and feels the need to fix others. The messiah complex codependent tries to change others even when there is nothing wrong with them. They may create chaos just so they can feel they are a necessary part of another person’s life.
Similar to any addiction, codependency is caused by feelings of low self-esteem, emptiness and not feeling a part of. Codependents use other people to fill them up inside and make them feel complete. Like drug addicts, codependent people can be in a state of denial for a long period of time. They may use the excuse that they are not codependent; they just love the person they feel they are “saving” their loved one.
Codependents also have the tendency to blame others, and not take responsibility for their own problems. I’m sure you can see why this kind of relationship is very common in addicted families. The person suffering from the addiction is an easy scapegoat for any problems the codependent person may have, or for any family dynamics issues that may be present. The codependent family member may even be the reason the drug addict cannot recover. If the sick person got better than the codependent person feels they wouldn’t be needed anymore.
The most effective methods for treating codependency are in building self-esteem and self-worth. There are a variety of effective techniques that are beneficial for regaining self Esteem. The general idea is to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, which puts positive energy out into the universe. When it comes to recovery, many codependent relationships are brought to a halt when the person suffering from the drug addiction goes into treatment and gets sober. This can be painful for the codependent person, but it is obviously for the best. Hopefully, the codependent person will find healthier ways to feel complete. They should try to find activities that are free of needy people, and avoid putting themselves in situations where they have the potential to take on the role of a parent or care taker.
There are a number of support groups available for individuals suffering from codependency. Click on the link in the top navigation to find a Coda 12 step meeting in your area. Connecting with other people who understand what you are going through is crucial for codependency recovery.
Take this short quiz to see if you are being of service and helping others, or if you need others to feel whole:
When someone you love tells you they don’t want help, do you feel offended or hurt?
When someone you care about tells you about a problem they’re having at work or with their relationship and they don’t ask for advice, do you try to help them anyway?
When you look at the relationships in your life, are most of them with people who need you in some way?
Do you remind people in your life of where they would be without you?
Is your self-worth determined by how much a loved one depends on you?
Recently, has anyone raised their voice at you or argued with you to get you to stop trying to help them?
Have you given money to someone recently who has a drug abuse problem, but they said the money was for rent, food, bills, etc.?
Are you dishonest or do you find yourself making excuses for the people who need you in your life?
If your loved one is suffering from an addiction problem, do you have a problem with confronting them?
If you answered yes to 3 or more of these questions, then you may have a problem with codependency.