What The Heck is Codependency?


“I do NOT need a support group!”

Sure, I was an emotional basket case, but a support group where everyone sat around week after week complaining about their miserable lives?

This was me, trying to be happy, but I’m a bad faker.

No thanks.

Or so I thought. Actually, the first time I heard about codependency and a support group to match, I had no idea what the term meant. I just knew that the person telling me about it knew I could use some help. I mean,

I was falling apart on every level.

Come to find out later that support groups aren’t really as awful as I thought they were. After my own stint going to Nar-Anon and Codependents Anonymous, I learned a great deal about myself and the world.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is essentially defined as an unhealthy attachment to a person. It is a term that came out from the recovery movement years ago. It is a state of “dis-ease” that many experts believe stem from some sort of childhood abuse or neglect. The dysfunctional personality a codependent person displays as an adult was actually formed while growing up in an atmosphere that did not have appropriate emotional boundaries.

Basically, a codependent person is acting out an addiction. He/she is trying desperately to soothe a deep wound that formed during childhood.  Just as a drug addict tries to fill that void with drugs, a person suffering with codependency tries to fill that void with love and approval.  They NEEEEEEEEEED love and acceptance from another to feel good about themselves. Their self-worth is found in external dependencies, like people, money, looks, etc.) and not the internal.

People pleasers, energy leeches. You get the idea.

You can be codependent on a partner, parents, friends, or even you children.   How do I know?  I’ve been right there on the front lines and I assure you it can destroy a relationship quickly or cause a relationship much dysfunction and heartache.

How codependency affects people

According to a leading codependency expert, Pia Mellody, a codependent person cannot do five things:

  1. Cannot experience the appropriate levels of self-esteem.
  2. Cannot set appropriate boundaries.
  3. Cannot own their own reality and has lost a sense of self (disassociation)
  4. Cannot deal with adult dependency issues regarding needing and wanting
  5. Cannot experience reality and emotions is moderation or healthy ways. May explode or not feel at all.

If you can identify with these characteristics, I want to assure you that there is hope for those struggling with codependency.  As with any “issue” it can be your downfall or it can be a new beginning.  Any problem or addiction can be a doorway to self-discovery and healing.

Codependency causes you to look outside for fulfillment

If you are codependent, you have spent much energy trying to use something outside of yourself to fill a deep-seated wound or void. This wound could be shame, guilt, anger, feelings of abandonment, and so much more.

You feel empty, confused, very alone, and afraid.  Over time you have discovered that “people” make you feel better.  Their attention and love soothes your wound.  A codependent mother bases her life around her children in an unhealthy way. She bases her whole identity in being a mother and loses herself in the process.

A codependent lover is addicted to her partner and approval is CRUCIAL or he/she will end up in a downward spiral fast.  One negative look or word can cause so much drama in a codependent relationship. At the same time, a codependent person may not even be happy in the relationship; she may feel trapped in an abusive, controlling relationship, unable to break free.

She is powerless to change things up or get out.

Codependency and relationships

When you fall in love, there really is a chemical high that occurs. It is euphoric.  If this is healthy, it creates a healthy attachment, which is good.  But this high does not last forever as we all know.  Healthy relationships can continue to function well after the high ends, as the attachment is healthy.  For someone with codependency, when the “high” goes away, the “crazy” comes out.

Codependents obsess and pretty much drive their partner away.  Sometimes this occurs quickly and sometimes partners’ last years in this awful cycle.  For the codependent, there is a serious fear of abandonment, jealousy, the constant need for attention (which if you don’t get can send you into a tailspin), a victim mentality, control, manipulation, stalking, and more.

Codependent people may seem very together on the outside, but on the inside they are most assuredly not.  Over time, as the disease progresses, they will hardly be able to function, their thoughts will be negative, they will typically not have any friends, and their sense of purpose will fade. 

They will isolate and wrap their whole life around one person and as they do, their needs go out the window. They don’t know how to take care of themselves because they are desperately trying to take care of everyone else.

I’ve been there. Lived through it all and now I write and speak about it. My recovery involved a lot of inner work; a journey back to “me” and learning how to really love myself.  It’s a journey I’m still walking…

There is help for you if you feel like you have codependency traits.  Many people have found hope and freedom through 12 step recovery groups, support groups, therapy, and more.

Take some time to learn about codependency. Read, watch videos, share, talk with others, etc.

There is help for codependency.


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