What Is Codependency?

What Is Codependency?

What Is Codependency?

 

Ok, ok, just what is codependency? It’s a question I hear a lot.

Codependency is essentially defined as an unhealthy attachment to a person. It’s a “dependency” on another in a way that’s not really very healthy.

It is a term that came out from the recovery movement years ago, where counselors began to notice that on the opposite end of an alcoholic or addict was a partner or family member that had certain “characteristics” that weren’t all that healthy. 

And, as such, the addict and the partner were “co” dependent upon each other in an unusually unhealthy dance.

codependency recoveryCodependency is a state of “dis-ease” that many experts believe stem from some sort of childhood abuse or neglect. Or maybe from living in a family where addiction or mental health issues were present in one or both parents.  

The dysfunctional personality traits a codependent person displays as an adult may likely have been formed while growing up in an atmosphere that did not have appropriate emotional boundaries.

For me, that meant growing up in a home with an alcoholic father and a mother suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorder. 

What is Codependency? The textbook definition:

“Excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one with an illness or addiction who requires support” or “a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.”

On a broader scale, codependency is something that affects everyone on the planet to a degree.

⇒ It is the programming that’s gone into the subconscious mind over the course of a lifetime. 

⇒ It’s the code that’s been written under the radar.

⇒ Or, for the biblical perspective, it’s that carnal nature gone wild, having lost sight of God’s perspective of us.

Whether it’s Jack and Jill, who live in the suburbs with two kids and careers that rock or Mike and Mary, who are the classic narcissist/victim combo, or Jane and Veronica, the alcoholic and the enabler, codependency characteristics exist in people and relationships across the board. 

Why? Because at the core, codependency is an unhealthy attachment or separation from the true self. 

It’s you disconnected from YOU at your core and God.

It’s an absence or a lack of self-love, which affects the way we interact with ourselves and the world. In other words, it’s you being even just the slightest bit “dependent” upon another person for you level of happiness or peace.

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, over-givers, energy vampires. 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.

codependency recoveryIf 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 have codependent characteristics, 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.

What is Codependency in 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 characteristics, when the “high” goes away, the “crazy” comes out.

Codependent people may obsess and pretty much drive their partner away.  Sometimes this occurs quickly and sometimes partners’ last years in this awful cycle.  For the codependent person, 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 may 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 and reconnect with God.  It’s a journey I’m still walking. I still ask myself once in a while, “Ok, what is codependency for me? How is it still affecting me?” And, I take it from there, asking for clarification. 

Wounded souls everywhere

The way I see it, there are a lot of wounded souls walking around and many of them are looking at others to soothe and heal the pain, but the truth is that we must be the ones to recognize our wounds and then take the necessary steps to begin a journey of healing and growth. Others can play a role, but it is NOT their role to “fix” us.

Psychotherapists talk about digging through layers to get to our childhood days and address the root issues there. Priests talk about original sin and encourage people to ask for forgiveness there. Shamans talk about journeying back to find the original prints (even if it’s in a former life) and healing it there.

As you can see, there are various ways to look at the roots of codependency, but most point us in the direction of going back and contending with something from our past in order to get free.

So, moving forward I want you to start thinking about your relationship issues and contemplating how your present issues probably don’t have much to do with your partner or object of dependency.

No. They’re simply a “pawn” in your life that trigger things in you that you have the opportunity to heal or work on. That boyfriend or husband that is driving you crazy or hurting you over and over is in your life for a reason and it’s not necessarily about him; it’s more about you and your life journey. Your spiritual journey.

We’ll get more into the spiritual views regarding codependency in another post. For now I just want you to begin to digest this truth:

“You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.”  Brene Brown

I don’t know about you, but hustling for our worthiness gets extremely tiring.

What is Codependency Recovery?

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

I am a firm advocate of mindfulness meditation, prayer, and a personal relationship with your Higher Power for codependency recovery. There’s no magic pill, dear ones. Healing and recovery takes time, discipline, consistency, an inner journey, and patience. 

Take some time to learn about codependency. Read, watch videos, share, talk with others, etc. This is your recovery journey, and my hope is that you define yourself less by coda characteristics, and more from the TRUTH of who you really are at your core. Here’s a link to a page I’ve devoted to Codependency Recovery Resources. There you’ll find wonderful books, videos, and links to coaches and counselors who can help you.

CODEPENDENCY RECOVERY RESOURCES

 

“For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal.” God

The CRAFT Method For Surviving Loved One’s Addiction

The CRAFT Method For Surviving Loved One’s Addiction

A CRAFTY Method For Survival

 

“He’s missed his last three doses at the methadone clinic – two because he said he was broke and this morning because he couldn’t get his butt out of bed. We have such a busy day with the kids and I need his help. How can I help him get out of bed and help me?”

This post is geared more toward those who have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction.

I understand that it’s not an easy position to be in. In fact, I know it can be heart-wrenching.

You want to rescue them. Fix them. Or maybe you want to leave them, fed-all-the-way-up!

But rather than talk about them, let’s talk about you. Let’s talk about us.

Now, you might be thinking:

“I know I have some issues, but my biggest concern is my partner (loved one). How can I help them? I’m really concerned about their drinking/ drugging/way they treat me, etc.”

I get it. You wonder how you can help your loved one get help.  What can you do for THEM? And, what can you do for YOU, to keep from going insane with worry or anger?

I wish there was one magical answer I could give that would make you do a happy dance. Like, “Oh, wow, that’s what I need to do? Thanks. I’m on it!”

See, there’s things you CAN do to help your loved one and there’s things you CAN’T do. 

  • You can get yourself a good therapist to process with.
  • You can join a support group like Al-Anon, Nar-anon, or Codependents Anonymous.
  • You can begin educating yourself about addiction in general.  This might not cause your loved one to call up that treatment center you’ve told him about ten times, but it will begin to help you see things in a new perspective.

Do you know that a majority of folks who abuse alcohol and drugs end up stopping their drug use on their own? 

In fact, some say around 87 percent.

Yes, that statistic was shocking to me at first, but then I started thinking about some of my friends who used to party like a boss, but at some point, they just stopped.  Maybe they’d just had enough or found themselves suffering negative consequences that caused them to call it quits.  Or maybe they had an “aha” moment, realizing that late nights and hangovers weren’t all that fun anymore.

The Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT)

Now I’m going to introduce you to a WONDERFUL approach to addiction recovery and codependency.  It’s called CRAFT for short, and it stands for “Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Therapy”.

The biggest reason CRAFT has my attention is that it’s been shown to have EXCEPTIONAL success at getting addicted loved ones to reduce their drug use AND increases their motivation to actually reach out for help via treatment.

Did you get that?

  • It helps loved one’s drink/drug less.
  • It gives them initiative to get treatment.

But that’s not all.

It brings the whole family into the picture, helping family members learn how to better communicate with the addicted person, foster positive change in their loved one, and practice better self-care. It’s based on kindness and compassion, rather than nagging and confrontation.

It’s a win-win approach for everyone!

CRAFT has proven to be effective. In fact, the founders reported that when loved ones of addicts attended several therapy sessions with a professional that used the CRAFT method, 2/3 of the treatment resistant loved ones ended up agreeing to go to treatment.

Read that again: 2 out of 3 who did NOT want to attend treatment before ended up agreeing to go when their loved one went to several sessions utilizing the CRAFT strategy.

Also, the majority of loved ones reported being more emotionally stable, less anxious, and less depressed, whether their loved one went to treatment or not.

That’s pretty powerful!

It works so well because it focuses on the “why” of substance abuse and introduces motivation for change.

Now, I’m not going to get into the depth of the CRAFT Method here. I encourage you to take some time to check out the following resources associated with this:

EXCELLENT BOOK ALERT: 

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

Also, check out this online 20-minute guide for partners of loved ones with addiction:

The 20-Minute Guide

Really, check that 20-minute guide out and get the book.  Live out what they teach you. Yes, it’s going to take time and effort on your part, but the outcome is better than the emotional hell you’re living in now, right?  And even if your partner doesn’t reach out for help or gets worse, you’ll have learned a bunch of tools that will help you stay sane and maybe even feel some peace and joy!

Understanding addiction

I understand that you want to know how to help your loved one. That’s awesome.

Your mission to learn more about addiction can be valuable. 

I know your loved one is not a bad person, though their behavior may be sketchy or downright awful at times.  Drugs have a way of causing someone to act in ways that they wouldn’t normally act.

But understand that your loved one is drinking or taking drugs because they get something out of it.  It’s somehow rewarding for them or there’s some sort of payoff.

Think of a time when you did something you didn’t really want to do because you got something good out of it. 

I can think of a time where I lied about how much money I made to someone I was dating, because the “payoff” was that I figured this person would think more highly of me. Their perceived approval of me reinforced my lie and it motivated me to continue on with lying, until my conscience caused me to stop such behavior.

I know a person who smokes pot because she feels less anxious when she does. That’s her motivator for doing it, as well as her reward.  I know another person who works out every day at the gym. It’s become a habit because she’s motivated to repeat that action because her payoff is feeling better about herself when she exercises.

Your loved one is on the same type of track.  They are getting something out of repeatedly drinking or drugging, such as:

  • Feeling less anxiety
  • Not feeling emotional pain (temporarily numbing)
  • Not having to feel withdrawal symptoms
  • Feeling a part of a group
  • Feeling funnier, and thus, more liked
  • Being more productive
  • Feeling more relaxed

This is helpful for you to understand, because when you can learn the “whys” of your loved one’s addiction, you can relax a little more.  You’re not freaking out as much over the behavior, because you get it. You might not agree with it, but you’re putting yourself in their shoes for a moment, and this can help reduce YOUR anxiety.

This understanding is a great step toward learning techniques where you can become a major influencer in their life in constructive ways.

Now I didn’t say you’ll “change” them. I said you’ll become an influencer, helping them feel more motivated to change, because it’s them that’s going to have to do the changing themselves; you’re not their savior.

This also helps you take things less personal. When your husband comes home from the softball game pretty drunk (again), you’re less likely to feel angry and disappointed when you understand why he drinks to excess while playing ball with his buddies.  Maybe he’s insecure, anxious, and depressed, and alcohol is his liquid courage to play ball with a group of guys where he desperately wants to feel like he fits in.  Sure, it’s not a great solution, and you don’t necessarily have to keep putting up with it, but to him, his payoff is “fun with the guys feeling like I fit”.

It’s not personal. He’s not “over-drinking” because of you. Understanding his underlying issues can help you begin to address those things, rather than screaming “I’m so sick and tired of you coming home drunk!”

Again, if your loved one is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, you don’t have to continue struggling.  Please check the book out that I mentioned earlier, as that can help you further.

Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change

Prayer:

“God, I’m trusting that You will continue to help me understand better this thing called addiction. I know it’s not of You and I know my partner’s been hijacked by it, so I’m calling on You to help them get out from under it.  Sound Your alarm and wake them up! I’m calling on the universe to cause a major shift in their life and help me to learn how to best support them in a loving and compassionate way. Lead me in what I should say and do moment by moment, day by day, even if that means taking some time apart.”

 

Madly In Love Or Just Mad?

Madly In Love Or Just Mad?

Madly In Love or Just Mad?

 

“We used to be madly in love, but now we’re just mad all the time. Crazy, right?”

Falling in love is beautiful, isn’t it?  I can say for myself the process of falling in love makes me feel like I can do anything!

There are reasons why falling in love can be so amazing. See, when you fall in love, there really is a chemical high that occurs. It is euphoric. There are chemicals that get released in your brain that cause you to feel “love drunk”, like dopamine, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and adrenaline.

For a great video that goes more into detail on this, see “The Science of Love”.

Researchers conclude that falling in love is much like the sensation of feeling addicted to drugs with the release of such brain chemicals. This falling in love can create a healthy attachment, which is great!

But this “high” does not last forever.  Healthy relationships can continue to function well after the “high” ends, as the attachment is healthy.  However, for a codependent or love addict, when the “high” goes away, the “crazy” tends to come out. 

When you fall in love with someone, the two of you spend so much time together and it’s so wonderful! You constantly think about one another and are floating through your days on Cloud 9.

But eventually, you both need to eat, sleep, work, and so on, so you take the “hyper-focus” off of yourselves and get back to reality, so-to-speak.

But for the codependent, this can be very challenging. So, when George wants to stop after work to see his buddy, Mark, Codependent Camelia can go a little cray-cray and take it personal.

You’re going to see Mark? But what about me? How dare you skip time with me?

Someone with codependent characteristics can be quite busy obsessing and can very well drive their partner away. They can also drive them to drink or drug.  There may be constant texting or calling, or perhaps even showing up at the partner’s work or home, quite often without notice.

Someone who attracts the alcoholic or drug addict is privy to not noticing the addictive behavior at first, or making excuses for the person, or (and this is a big one) he or she thinks down the road, “Oh, I’ll be able to change them.” 

For the person struggling with codependency, 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.

They may seem to have it together on the outside, but on the inside, they are most assuredly not. They may be anxious, scared, resentful, depressed, and more. Their mind is racing. Their energy is scattered. Spiritually, they’ll usually be pretty empty. There’s a void inside that causes pathological loneliness.

They’ve lost connection with their true self.

They’ve lost connection with God.

Over time, as codependency progresses, they will hardly be able to function, their thoughts will become more 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. Their dreams 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.

Maybe this is where you find yourself or perhaps you know a loved one who struggles.  It’s actually quite a common occurrence to some degree in many relationships. After all, everyone is on this journey to learn valuable lessons about themselves and life in general and it’s through relationships that we have the opportunity to learn the most valuable lessons.

From codependency to toxicity

A healthy relationship is one in which two independent people team up and grow both individually and as a couple. Notice the word, INDEPENDENT. It means that even though they’re in a relationship, the two partners will still express their individuality.

This goes for parent/children relationships too.  Mother (or father) and child are two independent people, each growing independently, expressing themselves independently – or so it should be.

As stated earlier, codependent relationships tend to look pretty good from the outside. We see two individuals who seem to have good chemistry, but the foundation of their relationship might not be what we think it is.

Sometimes, they are completely unaware of the fact that their relationship relies on a set of needs that are satisfied in a dysfunctional manner. Since they’re clueless, they can’t do anything to change their relationship because, as I said before, everything looks alright from the outside. You can’t change something or work on an issue that you’re not aware of.

I want some “Me” Time

The mirage disappears when one of the partners starts to feel the adverse effects of codependency. Maybe she feels the need to have some “me time,” but can’t because her partner is right there next to her. Or maybe he will get upset if such a request is made.

Perhaps one partner decides to start a new project, but can’t because that might make his soul mate feel upset, frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc.

For me, it was the emotional pain that just kept growing. Sure, my lover was my drug, but as with any drug, the feelings of intoxication are only temporary. Then, the crash comes, and you need more of that drug. Then, your tolerance increases, so your neediness grows, and bet and believe the other person is feeling it too (and probably retreating). I call this the “Pursue and Retreat” cycle.

It’s a maddening cycle.

Not only did I feel the adverse effects of this codependency, but it affected others. Namely, my partner and my children, as I was not as emotionally available for them as I could have been. It got to the point that I knew I had to leave the relationship to begin my healing journey, because my emotional mayhem was hurting both of us and I just couldn’t get it together.

What do you get out of being codependent?

Leaving aside the obvious negative effects of codependency, another problem is that most people don’t even realize that their relationship is toxic. That’s because there are so many benefits that result from putting so many responsibilities onto your partner’s shoulders.

For example, you don’t have to wake up in the morning and go to work if your partner takes care of all your material needs. Or you don’t have to invest in personal projects because your partner provides you with all the validation that you need, and the list goes on.

Since each person is different in his own way, no one knows for sure why some choose to invest in codependent relationships. There are hundreds of reasons and benefits that can convince an individual to form a dysfunctional bond with his/her partner.

However, from a purely rational and functional perspective, no one should trade freedom in exchange for emotional, material, or social benefits. There’s simply too much to lose and too little to gain.

Like all psychological issues, codependent relationships involve some benefits which perpetuate the same dysfunctional patterns. But what happens if, for some reason, the two partners decide to break up? 

Usually, that’s the moment when all emotional hell breaks loose. That’s when they realize how much they needed each other, and this newly gained insight is a harsh wake-up call that can lead to all sorts of problems. Keep in mind that most breakups involve pain, but for the codependent, it’s an excruciating pain and withdrawal that goes outside of the normal pain associated with a break up.

Some end up feeling quite depressed and hauntingly alone and may try to numb their feelings with alcohol, drugs or other dysfunctional coping strategies. Others feel worried and anxious about their future – a future in which they’ll have to fend for themselves. Some threaten suicide (and some try). Some beg their partners to come back, even if those partners were abusive. Some just live in pure misery with pathological loneliness eating away at their soul. 

Because they haven’t developed a set of skills that allow them to handle certain situations, they might encounter all sorts of difficulties regarding emotional, financial or social needs. But instead of figuring out healthy strategies to cope with these new problems that life throws down their path, many rush to start a new relationship so that they won’t have to face their problems alone.

I remember multiple times my partner and I breaking up and I’d be in complete emotional upheaval. I was in withdrawal, feeling excruciatingly alone and terrified. It was absolutely insane looking back, but that’s what was going on.

We would break up, be in agony, and within a day or two we’d be rationalizing everything, promising we’d both change, and get back together. The problem is that neither one of us really got down and dirty and did the inner work that needed to be done. We weren’t “awake” so-to-speak. We simply swept things under the rug and put a Band-Aid on some pretty big wounds.

Understand that those that will not take time in between relationships to work on themselves tend to have a nose for partners who are just as dysfunctional as them in some fashion.

Maybe this new partner feels lonely, and he will do anything to be with someone.

Like be a doormat.

Or perhaps she is a controlling person who’s willing to offer certain “benefits” (emotional, financial, social, etc.) in exchange for obedience.

Or maybe he’s an addict, full of anger and unresolved issues, and unconsciously just wants someone to take care of him.

Keep in mind that these are just a few examples. We can’t know for sure why two people choose to be in a codependent relationship, unless we get a clear picture of the dynamics between them.

Think about a time when you fell in love. Can you see where perhaps you became dependent on your partner to meet your emotional needs? Or vice versa? Are you always trying to re-create that feeling of falling in love with new people? 

Are you seeing yourself struggling with some codependent characteristics?

Ross Rosenberg talks about a relationship scale. Think of a scale when it comes to codependency and relationships in general. It may look something like this:

           Codependent                                 Healthy                                        Narcissist

           -5         -4        -3         -2         -1         0         1           2          3          4          5

Now 0 represents a really healthy relationship.

That’s what we are all wanting to move towards.  The negatives represent the codependency side of the scale and the positives represent the more selfish or narcissistic side. Learning this from Rosenburg helped me a lot when I was really trying to understand my issues.

When I was really an emotional mess after my divorce and jumping right into a relationship, I was probably at -5. Completely addicted to my partner and not even a little bit aware of what was going on under the surface. However, as time went on and I began to learn about codependency and get some help, I started to grow. I started moving toward the right –toward a healthier relationship with myself, and as a result, God and others.

Let me point out that many people attract someone on the opposite side of the scale. When I was at that -5, I attracted someone who was probably at +4; a recovering addict who still had quite a bit of inner work and healing to do. We both had individual work to do to attempt to take a toxic relationship and make it healthy.

Turns out the relationship didn’t go as planned. Speaking for myself, I could not do the work I needed to do for my own healing and growth while in that relationship. I had to be single.

Thankfully, after a period of “doing the work”, I was far more emotionally mature when I decided to start dating again. Was I cured? No, but I was closer to that “0” on the scale and committed to keep growing. Due to the work I’d done, my next relationship I attracted someone much healthier and committed to “doing the work”.

What a difference it makes when you partner up with someone who is closer to that 0….the healthy relationship center!

Does that mean we don’t have issues or arguments? Not at all. We do, but we are committed to looking at our own “stuff”, rather than just project, point fingers, or operate solely from a wounded place.

Now, take a few minutes and answer these questions:

  • Where do you think you are on Ross Rosenberg’s scale?
  • If you’re in a relationship, where do you think your partner is?
  • What are you doing consistently that you feel is helping you move closer to that “O” mark?
  • What CAN you do to increase momentum or get going toward such a goal?

Attention or approval can become like a drug

Someone struggling with drug addiction craves that next “hit” to feel that euphoric feeling they’ve come to love.

In the case of codependency, attention or approval can become that “hit” that you NEED in order to feel good about yourself. But hitting that “approval bong” gets old….fast.

Essentially, attention seeking is you focusing on the “outer” things (people) in order to feel worthy. It’s you valuing the opinion or approval of others over your own.  It’s you having a meltdown when others don’t approve of you or give you attention. It’s you basing your decisions on what others think, oftentimes sacrificing your own views, ambitions, and dreams.

If you can relate to any of these, know that there’s hope for making change.

Prayer:

“God, give me the strength and humility to see and own my “stuff”.  Then, help me box it all up and give it to You, because I know that You know what to do with it.”

 

Thought Awareness And Reframing Exercise

Thought Awareness And Reframing Exercise

Thought Awareness and Reframing

 

Part of emotional healing requires us to revisit past memories, perhaps even feeling some of the negative feelings associated with such.

Today, let me show you a quick technique that has helped me get in the habit of becoming more of an observer of underlying scripts that are running my life show (thoughts and belief patterns). Those oftentimes irrational thoughts that are freaking me out.

This exercise will just take a few minutes. Find a quiet spot and get comfortable. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your mind and body.

Now, assuming you’ve got some codependent relating going on in your life, I want you to contemplate the idea of cutting ties with someone in your life who you experience a lot of anxiety with. Could be your partner, spouse, child, parent, friend, etc.

See yourself sitting down with that person, letting them know that you’re choosing to cut ties due to A, B, and C. (No reciprocating, emotional abuse, no efforts at getting sober or clean, etc.)

Now, pay attention to what your mind is thinking and how your body is feeling.  Do you feel some anxiety arise? Do you envision this person getting mad and yelling at you? Is your heart beating faster? Are you freaking out inside? Or are you calm? Relieved?

How is the thought of cutting ties affecting you?

Are you afraid you won’t be able to make it on your own? Do you think life will be meaningless once that person is gone? Do you feel insecure?

However you’re feeling, see if you can think about a time you were feeling this before – maybe in childhood.

Whatever passes through your mind, make an effort to remain with that thought or memory. Explore it, dissect it, bring it out into the open. Also, pay attention to what’s going on in your body. Are you sweating? Heart racing? Stay with this for just a minute or two, making sure you’re breathing slowly and deeply.

Now, we could take this right into an Inner Child Healing, which you can it you choose.   For now, pick up a pen and paper, and write down everything that passes through your head when you contemplate the idea of breaking up with a friend or life partner. Or, from the memory or memories that arise.

For example, let’s say being single and alone terrifies you. Once you discover the thoughts and/or memories that seem to fuel these feelings, you can then focus on reframing them. You can do this by finding an alternative, more rational thought to replace the old one.

For example:

  • If he leaves me, I’ll never be able to make it on my own” can be replaced with something like,
  • If he leaves me, it may be difficult for me to make it on my own, but I’ll find a way. I’ll work hard at it. I’ll be alright. I choose to trust God and life to have my back.”

     

  • Or, “I will feel like a bad person if I end this toxic relationship. I will break his heart.” can be replaced with,
  • “I am a good person, worthy of a healthy relationship, and this relationship is not healthy. This may hurt him, but he is not willing to do anything to heal himself or this relationship, so ending it is a healthy option.”

It’s about balancing your perspective and avoiding catastrophic interpretations like: “It’s horrible…”, “It’s terrible…”, “It’s impossible…”, “I’ll never make it…”, etc.

If the root of your codependent tendencies is a painful memory from your childhood, (Dad left, Mom checked out, Uncle hit me, etc.) you can still use reframing as a way of reducing the tension associated with that memory. Remember your Inner Child. Take time to be with your Inner Child around these thoughts and feelings. As an Adult, go to him/her and comfort them.

Remember to use your current mind, the mind of an adult who can see things from different perspectives. (Your Adult Self) Regardless of the event or events that may have fueled codependent tendencies, always remember that you’re a grown-up who can deal with childhood-related issues. You are smarter, stronger and wiser than you were during your first years.

Take your paper and keep it handy. You may have to refer to it down the road, to remind yourself of your truth and reality.     

You’ll see that once you become more of an observer, and bring insecure or irrational thoughts out into the open, you’ll be more able to process and work through them from the viewpoint of Emotionally Healed Adult.  

You can use this technique whenever you’re feeling some insecurity or fear rise within you. Or, you feel you have to cut ties with someone because they continue to give you crumbs or just aren’t emotionally healthy enough to provide a safe space for a relationship or friendship.

Prayer:

“God, help me heal and let go of any past experiences that cause me to think or act in ways that hurt me and others. Help me to realize truly that the past is over and the present is what matters. I declare that I am worthy to have a loving and healthy relationship with my partner and others. I commit to doing “the work” necessary to continue to expose any darkness or wounds, heal at a deeper level, and love myself and others at a deeper level.”

 

 

Codependency Recovery Is Important

Codependency Recovery Is Important

 Codependency Recovery is Important

 

I commend you on your patience and persistence to continue to explore your issues and get familiar with the main triggers of your codependent tendencies. And, progressing in your codependency recovery, begin to implement a set of healthy boundaries to protect your mental and emotional integrity 

You’re doing great, but you may not out of the woods yet.codependency recovery

Now that you’ve regaining some control over your life, (regardless of what others are or aren’t doing) and you’re feeling better emotionally, how can you maintain this sense of well-being in codependency recovery?

As you probably know from your own experience, codependency characteristics don’t just magically disappear and are gone forever.

How I wish!

It’s more like a roller coaster ride. Up one week and down the next. You may think you’re trigger free, but I encourage you to be on the lookout regularly for any sign that indicates the presence of codependency infiltrating your relationships.

In other words, become consciously aware of what’s going on in your relationships.

Otherwise, you risk falling back into some old, dysfunctional habits.    

Codependency Recovery Is Necessary

 

The topic of codependency recovery is huge.  Google it and there are MANY tips and tricks to eliminating codependency. 

I have mixed reviews about whether or not “curing” codependency is possible. Yes, I do believe anything is possible when you mix the right ingredients. However, from working with people and from my own experience, I see codependency recovery in terms of progress, rather than seeking a “cure” or perfection.

There’s one thing I know for sure: I fully believe that we can learn how to have better and more fulfilling relationships all around – with ourselves, with others, and with God.

Now, your recovery from codependency will depend on various factors and quite honestly, your effort.

Generally speaking, if you decide to take a stand against your codependent tendencies, you have several options. You can:

1. If you’re in a relationship, team up with your partner, and through collective effort, you work toward healing yourselves emotionally and therefore, reshaping the entire relationship. You work toward transforming it into a healthy and functional one.

Now, when I say “work”, I’m hoping that you in your codependency recovery, you are working on emotional healing recovery on various levels. One being working with a good therapist over a period of time. And, outside of therapy, building a strong support network via friends, support group, etc. and a deeper spiritual connection with God.

I can speak for my partner and I that working with a counselor individually and as a couple has helped us a lot. We still have triggers or old wounds that are in need of a deeper healing, and we’re not afraid or ashamed to reach out for help from an expert in the field when we need.

2. If you’re single, you’ll do the same thing as far as “doing the inner healing work”, but you won’t have a partner to “practice” with. But you can surely practice with family and friends. You work on you. You take the time single to discover who you are without a partner. Become more confident. Look to yourself and God for your worth and level of happiness.

This way, you’ll be better prepared emotionally when you do meet that special someone.

At the same time, if you choose to remain single, you’ll still be able to practice with friends, family members, and so on. Codependency marks all kinds of relationships – not just intimate ones.

3. If you’re in a relationship with someone who could care less about “doing the healing work”, then you can still embark on your own codependency recovery journey. Your partner may come on board at some point and work with you. Or, your partner may not have a host of emotional issues to work on. Either way, you focus on you and let your partner deal with their side of the street. Down the road, as you progress in your recovery and healing, you’ll be able to better determine how to address the relationship and/or your partner.

The reality is that plenty of relationships don’t work out because one or both partners aren’t willing to “do the work”. I see this with those who are in a relationship with someone struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. They want to begin working through their dependency issues, but the partner wants no part of it, making it quite challenging to experience relational transformation.

That can lead them to a place where they choose to deal with codependency all by themselves.

Of course, you can always give your relationship a second chance, but if things don’t improve over a certain amount of time, you may be better off making the break and focusing on bettering your life solo in for a while.

When in doubt, consider discussing how your codependency recovery might look with a trained therapist.

The Stages of Codependency Recovery

I tend to break codependency recovery into four stages.  Here is a general overview:

  1. ACCEPT AND BE WILLING – Stage 1 involves honestly looking at your life and accepting the reality that you’re in need of some emotional healing. You honestly look at your relationships. Your lack of self-worth. Your separation or disconnect from yourself and/or God. In this stage, you’re making an intent to begin a new journey in your life, willing to look at your past, and do the inner healing work to create a better future marked with better, more fulfilling relationships with you, others, and God.

     

  2. CREATE A BLUEPRINT FOR HEALING – Stage 2 involves a lot of learning. You begin to learn about codependency characteristics, identify yours, and begin to lay a blueprint for growth and healing. Just as the contractor will draw up a blueprint as to what kind of home they want to create, you’re drawing up a blueprint as to what kind of life you want, including what kinds of relationships you truly want.

    This stage is full of education, so you’ve got to put some time into learning about things like attachment trauma, God’s plan for relationships, how you’ve become dis-connected with yourself and God, the human condition, toxic shame, inner child healing, and more. 

    3. BUILD A STRONG FOUNDATION. Stage 3 is when you really start digging so you can build a strong foundation for healing, preferably under the guidance of a therapist. You’re learning quite a bit about codependency recovery and here’s where you get to start putting what you’re learning into practice. You’re learning a lot about self-care here, including setting boundaries, identifying wants and needs, and cutting ties with those toxic people. As you learn to really tap into what you want and need, you get to begin practicing your boundaries here, refusing to enable or people please any longer. You’re becoming stronger.

    4. BUILD BETTER RELATIONSHIPS. Stage 4 involves you building new, healthy relationships.  It’s time to venture out and seek out those who have a healthy relationship with themselves (over those who are selfish, emotionally unavailable, narcissists, or in active addiction).

Those that will treat you as if you are worthy…. (BECAUSE YOU ARE) You may find new friendships in plenty of places. Join a gym, take a class, go to a support group, etc. If you feel overwhelmed, just focus on one new friendship or strengthen a current healthy relationship.

Now, it takes effort to strengthen a relationship. Invest in those people who can and will reciprocate time and energy. Those that value you and love you unconditionally. Those that essentially have a healthy relationship with themselves.

These four steps are a road map where you can learn about codependency and work toward codependency recovery or emotional healing. It will take time and effort to really do the work, so make that commitment and just keep moving forward. If you need help, please reach out. You don’t have to go at this alone!

 

Learn To Set & Keep Boundaries: Part 2

What You Want and Need Matters, So Set Those Boundaries!

 

The reason why some people end up struggling with relating in a codependent way is that they don’t understand the importance or don’t know how to set and keep boundaries. Sadly, they usually come to realize this when codependency has already infiltrated in their relationship.

But you know what? All’s not lost because, even though it may be a bit harder to achieve, the habit of setting and keeping boundaries can be implemented even after you’ve already spent a significant amount of time with someone setting poor boundary examples.

But why are boundaries so effective? Why is it so important for us to set clear rules and limits in our social interactions? What are the benefits that result?

Just like a country needs borders to protect itself from possible invaders, your personal self – and by this I mean the REAL YOU – needs to have a clear set of limits that will prevent any disturbing influences (uh hum…people) that may come from the outside. Living with the assumption that people are inherently good and know well enough to stay on their side of the street might be a bit naive.

Look, we’re not living in utopia. Sure, you might find people who provide you with unconditional love and support; those that respect you for who you are.

Or, you might encounter all kinds of individuals who want to take advantage of your good nature and spend time with you only to satisfy their selfish needs and desires. (Narcissists are abundant, I must say.)

But, not just narcissists. But how about those that are just plain selfish? Emotionally unavailable? The person struggling with alcoholism or addiction? Those that are swimming in emotionally pain and won’t let anyone get too close, yet they do want plenty of their desires met. (Sex, cooking, cleaning, at their beck and call, etc.)

Those that just don’t want to emotionally connect because they have no idea how?

Of course, I’m not saying we should act all ‘paranoid’ and build a huge fence between us and the outside world. All we need are a few limits here and there, so we can protect ourselves from allowing those in that can’t or won’t respect our boundaries.  

Boundaries Put You In Your Power

Setting and keeping boundaries helps you gain control over your life. When you no longer allow others to do what they want with you; when you no longer put yourself second; when you finally manage to implement a strategy that helps you avoid unpleasant situations, you’ll gain a wonderful sense of peace and fulfillment.

A person who’s in tune and in control will not feel the need to engage in codependent relationships. When you’re in sync with your wants and needs, and God’s perspective of you, you’ll throw people-pleasing characteristics out the door.

Having control and being IN YOUR POWER means you can invest in a relationship because you want to, not because you need attention or affection to feel good about yourself. Remember, we feel good about our “selves” because we’ve been created in God’s image. We are God’s beloved.

We gain our self-worth based on our relationship with God; not others.

As mentioned before, personal boundaries serve as an effective strategy in separating your own identity from that of others. By doing this, you’ll be able to maintain your authenticity and originality. You’ll be more apt to “be real”, rather than living in the shadow of others.

Your boundaries will grant you access to your inner ‘reservoir’ of creativity and originality. As for relationships, you will be able to forge a strong connection with someone special, without feeling the need to make that person the center of your universe.

(A good way to know if you’re making someone else the center of your universe is if you find yourself saying, “But I did everything for you! I was always there for you! I gave you everything!”)

Well, what you might have done was make that person your god.

But let’s not get off track.

Now, your clearly-defined limits give you the possibility to grow individually and as a couple or friendship at the same time. You’re growing. They’re growing. Individually and together, and that can be beautiful.

“I’m Not Depending On You For My Level Of Happiness”

Lastly, a set of personal boundaries is a great way of expressing your self-respect and self-confidence. By establishing clear limits in your social interactions, you let others know that you’re the kind of person who cherishes and respects yourself enough not to depend on their approval and validation.

It’s like a ‘declaration of independence’ through which you announce to the whole world that you can make it on your own. That you’re taking full responsibility for your level of happiness and fulfillment in life.

And, if they can’t honor that, and get in step with your boundaries, then you’re alright to cut ties or keep time with them at a bare minimum, as in the case of say, family members.

As you can see, boundaries give you the opportunity to bypass codependent relationships where you would be little more than an ‘extension’ of your that other person’s life.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why a set of clear boundaries is worth all the time and effort in this world. Next, we’re going to focus on building your assertive attitude, which will aid you in implementing your personal boundaries.

Now, stick with me. This post is long, but necessary.

Before moving on, take a moment to think about your relationships.

  • How are you doing when it comes to boundaries?
  • Are you letting people walk over you?
  • Are you lying a lot so you don’t have to deal with conflict that might come up if you were to speak your truth?
  • Are you staying in a toxic relationship, putting up with some crumbs because you’re afraid to set boundaries?

Let’s move on and look at how assertiveness is a key ingredient in learning how to set firm boundaries.

Assertiveness – The Key to Setting Boundaries

If the process of setting appropriate boundaries is your journey, assertiveness is the ship that takes you safely to your desired destination. It is one secret behind healthy human interactions and the kind of tool that everyone can benefit from.

Assertiveness is an attitude or behavior that allows you to express your needs, desires, opinions, beliefs, etc. in a transparent manner. By transparent, I mean real, truthful.

Many experts consider assertive communication to be the most efficient and non-threatening communication style.

As we all know, good communication is one of the cornerstones of solid relationships. Without consistent communication, our partner will be ‘forced’ to guess, and that can lead to all sorts of misunderstandings and ‘cracks’ that has the potential to bring down the entire structure of the relationship.

In the absence of assertive communication, codependency can easily corrupt your relationship, because wants and needs will go unsaid. This can lead to anxiety, depression, abuse, and so on.

If you don’t speak up and speak your truth, you may continue to feel abandoned, be enmeshed, or deplete yourself fixing and care-taking the other.

So how do we learn to communicate in an assertive manner? Well, assertiveness often comes down to two basic rules.

  1. Begin your sentence with “In my opinion…” or “Personally…”

Let your partner know that what you’re about to say is merely a subjective opinion, not a universal truth. This way, he or she won’t feel threatened or offended by your different views. Let them know that while you know that it’s alright for you to have your own set of beliefs.

  1. Use kind words to express your opinion or needs.

    Regardless of how different or shocking your views, ideas, or needs might be, you can always make it easier for the other person to understand and accept them by using kind and non-offensive words. Avoid words like: “stupid”, “useless”, “dumb”, Also, use a kind and calm tone, paying attention to your non-verbal language too.

But assertiveness is not a bulletproof strategy. Sometimes, no matter how much we try to act nice and ‘diplomatic’, our partner will simply not accept our views or may balk at our needs. We may try to be assertive and set our boundaries, stating our wants and needs, and our partner may throw a fit or simply refuse to pay attention to it. Some even laugh at the thought of their partner standing up for themselves!

They may even try to choke our freedom by using manipulation and emotional blackmail. That’s the moment when you may need to make some important decisions regarding your future.  You may even have to cut ties.

Now Set Those Boundaries!

Since the process of setting and maintaining boundaries can sometimes be a challenging one, I’ve come up with a step-by-step approach that will allow you to implement this habit gradually in your daily life.

1 Know your values

First and foremost, you need to know your personal values. Depending on these values, you can then decide what is and isn’t acceptable for you. It might be helpful to pick up a pen and paper and write down your values and/or belief system.

  • What is important to you?
  • What do you believe is good and right?
  • What do you want and need?

Typically, your personal boundaries should naturally result from your values. You can call this an awareness exercise because it helps you become conscious of your identity and what you want and need. (and deserve)

2 Prioritize your needs and desires

Before you start setting your personal boundaries, make sure that your needs come first. Remember, the most important person in your life is YOU. This means that your needs and desires should be a priority. Your needs matter!

If you don’t find the courage to put yourself first, and you settle for second best, you’ll be the perfect candidate for codependent relationships. You’ll be lacking in self-love, and not living authentically. You’ll be wearing that mask that you think you like, but you really don’t.

I’ll say it again: What you want and need matters, so put yourself first.

Follow the same instructions they teach you when flying on an airplane: “Put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others.”

3 Express your needs and desires

Now that you’re becoming more aware of your values, needs, and desires, it’s time to share this newly gained insight with your partner. This is a perfect opportunity to practice assertive communication. If they don’t know, they can’t make any changes.

Using your words, you basically convert your thoughts into something real, something for which you are responsible.

For me, I had to get very honest with myself. What was important to me? What do I want and need in a partner? In a relationship? In life in general?  I made a list of things I wanted and needed for me. I made a list of things I wanted and needed in a partner. 

It wasn’t always easy to discuss my wants, needs, and boundaries. In fact, when I first started, I would be a wreck with anxiety. But I was determined to learn how to communicate my needs and boundaries in a healthy manner, so I practiced over and over.

These things matter, dear one, and my hope is that you’ll do the same, and then share openly and honestly with those in your life that need to hear your heart.

Persevere, dear one

Setting and keeping solid boundaries involves perseverance. You might not make it today, you might not make it tomorrow, but someday, you’ll finally have a reliable set of personal boundaries that will keep you safer from relating in a codependent way. Be patient with yourself as you progress in your codependency recovery journey. 

If you’re struggling with setting and keeping boundaries, and you’ve tried everything you know to do, you may need some professional help.  Spending time in therapy with the intent of learning how to set boundaries can prove quite valuable. I always encourage people to find a great therapist and have handy for the times in life where you want or need some support.

It’s worth the investment!

Attending a support group can help too. Consider Codependents Anonymous, or if you’re on the opposite end of someone struggling with alcoholism or addiction, consider Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

You are worthy. You are valuable. You deserve respect.  As you grow, you will better be able to draw those lines in the sand and not allow others to try to take those truths away from you.

Remember, this inner healing work that you’re doing is important. To you, and to God, because God wants us emotionally whole so we can add more authentic value to humanity. Life is sacred. Relationships are sacred. Keep doing the work, dear on.

See it all as an opportunity to grow closer to God, to yourself, and Divine Love.

“Creating personal boundaries may cause some relationships to crumble….Think through the scenarios that may unfold, and prepare to meet them. Once you decide to create personal boundaries and become separate, it’s difficult to turn back. You’ll also need the support of other trusted friends who recognize your need for boundaries and who will support you when conflict arise.”  Barry K Weinhold

Prayer:

“God, thank you for giving me the courage to stand up and speak my truth.”