Co-Dependents Anonymous

Have you ever been in a relationship that you knew was not healthy? Perhaps you were abusing drugs or alcohol and sharing your life with someone who was doing the same. When you decided to seek treatment for your drug problems, you found that you couldn’t stop sharing your life with this person, resulting in your own relapse. Maybe you did leave this person, only to replace him or her with someone else who abused drugs. Perhaps your new partner wasn’t abusing drugs at all, but they were overly demanding or abusive in other ways. For some individuals, finding and maintaining a healthy relationship is one of the most difficult quests they have ever faced. Co-Dependents Anonymous is a support group that welcomes individuals who share this particular trait, offering guidance and support to improve the lives of their members.

What Is Codependency?

co-dependencyAccording to Psych Central, the term codependency refers to a set of characteristics and behaviors that come from the dysfunction of relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean that one must have experienced some kind of child abuse when they were growing up. If an individual was raised in a household, albeit loving and kind, that contained an ill parent, there is a good chance that he or she is codependent. Codependency can also be the result of significant dysfunction, such as abuse or feelings of inadequacy.

There are several characteristics that can determine whether someone is codependent, although many people do not exhibit all of them. They include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • An attitude toward always pleasing others
  • Control issues
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Fear of rejection
  • A strong sense of denial that any of these characteristics apply or exist at all

One of the most profound issues concerning codependency, however, is the issue of boundaries. Have you ever been accused of not honoring another person’s boundaries – that invisible line between what is yours and what is someone else’s?  It is easy to see some boundaries. If an individual places their money in their wallet, there is a line in our collective imagination that we know we shouldn’t cross. We should not go into that person’s wallet and take their money. That is stealing. An honest person doesn’t cross that line. Even if the person sets bills on the counter and leaves the room, many of us know that taking that money and putting in our pocket “crosses the line.” That “line” is a boundary that establishes decent societal behavior. But what about other boundaries? Perhaps those they aren’t as easy to see.

Some boundaries revolve around our emotions. Someone who is codependent may experience other people’s emotions too intensely. They may feel as though their friend’s feelings are their fault. The codependent person may feel responsible for whatever transpired to cause their friends feelings and try to remedy the situation. If their friend says they will be fine and they don’t need any help, the codependent person may force themselves onto their friend anyway, even if their friend has told them explicitly that they don’t want or need assistance.

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Another symptom of codependency is having a problem becoming intimate with others. Intimacy means the ability to truly know another person or let others know you. It’s not about sexual closeness, but rather the emotional closeness that has nothing to do with physical attraction. One can intimate with a platonic friend, sharing all of the details of life with that person. One can be intimate with one’s family members as well. Individuals who suffer from codependency issues find it difficult to develop and create these relationships because of a fear of rejection or being judged for their own perceived inadequacies. This fear of rejection – of not being accepted – is indicative of a codependent personality as well, because these individuals need others approval in order to like themselves.

Isn’t Codependency Just a Personality Trait?

questioningLiving in a codependent world can be stressful and disheartening. Certainly, codependence is marked by personality traits; however aspects of this type of behavior can be treated effectively. Some individuals seek individual or family counseling in order to remedy the condition, while others seek help in a 12-step support group setting. In some cases, individuals have found comfort by healing hurt surrounding life events that may have developed into codependency.

For instance, an individual who developed codependency from growing up with a severely ill member of the family may feel regret because they resent having spent their childhood as a caregiver rather than as a carefree child. Part of the healing process may then be to first acknowledge any guilt and shame for those feelings before they can be eliminated from one’s life. It then might be necessary to embrace the resentment and emotional damage those experiences caused and grieve for the loss of one’s childhood. Once the grieving process has been allowed to happen, the individual can embrace a new outlook on his or her life that does not include guilt or resentment.

How Does a 12-Step Program Help?

The 12 steps of the Co-Dependents Anonymous program are based on the original 12 steps created by Alcoholics Anonymous. Since both codependency and alcoholism share behavioral aspects, the theory is that both can be controlled with the right support and self-awareness. The steps are similar to those of Alcoholics Anonymous but have been modified to meet the needs of individuals with codependency issues.

For instance:

  • Admitting powerlessness over one’s codependency and that one’s life has become unmanageable because of it
  • Believing that a greater power can restore sanity
  • Making a decision to turn one’s life over to that greater power
  • Creating a moral inventory of one’s self
  • Admitting each item of that inventory to one’s greater power and another human being
  • Being ready to have these defects removed
  • Asking for one’s higher power to remove the defects
  • Making a list of others wronged
  • Making amends for wrongdoing to the person wronged whenever safe or possible
  • Continuing to acknowledge to one’s self when one is wrong
  • Continuing to seek assistance from one’s greater power through conscious recognition and the strength to carry out the will of one’s greater power
  • Carrying the message of one’s spiritual awakening to others who are also codependent and to apply the principles in one’s daily life

Many of the steps in any 12-step program, such as those used in Co-Dependents Anonymous, refer to God or a higher power. These organizations are not religious in nature, per se, but they do depend upon a certain level of spirituality, regardless of one’s personal religious views.

It is possible to find and nurture the close, intimate relationships we, as humans, crave in a healthy and satisfying way.

If you are, or someone you love is, suffering from codependency issues, there is help available in many forms.

We understand that it can seem overwhelming when facing such profound issues. When you contact us for help finding the right treatment program for you and your family, you will be met with the experience, compassion and knowledge that you deserve. In many instances, Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings may complement your treatment plan.