Hey, Codependent! It’s All Your Fault!
If you’re the family member or close personal friend of an addict, you may be blaming yourself for enabling that person’s behaviors to continue. And why not? You probably are to blame! Isn’t that what you’ve been told most of your life? The fact is that many people who need an alcohol addiction program live with or close to codependents—but you’re not to blame. You do, however, need to learn more.
How Codependents Evolve
People who are codependent take on the blame for the negative behaviors of those around them, and not just addicts. They are the mothers who hover over their children and actually do most of their school projects. They are the ones who put their own work or hobbies on the back burner if someone in the community asks for help with a fundraiser. They are the people who can never say no. Being codependent means that you place more importance on the welfare of others than on your own well-being.
If you have a codependent relationship with an alcoholic or drug addict, it means that you are rushing in to save him from himself. The converse of that is that he has no need to save himself, because you keep doing it for him. And the real truth behind this bizarre exchange of quid-pro-quo is that you really need that alcoholic to need you, because the shameful truth is that without him, you feel like you’re nothing.
How did you ever become so—so—codependent? Like many of our qualities, it germinated from childhood events or feelings. Whatever happened when you were young, you became accustomed to taking the blame or shouldering responsibility for things that were really far beyond your control.
If you think about it, the act of taking the blame in itself is a shouldering of responsibility, which for many people translates as strength. In some family cultures, assigning responsibility to the young ones equates to a badge of honor. The codependent person grows up, taking the blame for things and believing, rightly or wrongly, that doing so makes him a better, stronger person.
This assumption of responsibility does not come from any kind of vanity or any assertion that we can do things better than other people. Most often, the codependent evolves because his own needs were not met when he was young. This would be the young woman who grew up taking care of her brothers and sisters because the parents in the household failed to do so for one reason or another. This would be the young man whose paychecks as a teenager were turned over to support the family. Codependents are not just overachievers, as Melodie Beattie says in her book The New Codependency—they’re super-achievers, laden with good qualities such as loyalty, kindness, and perseverance.
Is There Recovery From Codependency?
It’s natural to feel a great deal of sadness during this time. Once you stop denying the long-ago events that contributed to your codependent behaviors, you can rightfully feeling angry about them. You may still not realize that you suffered a loss growing up, because if you never really had something, you can’t miss it: You only know that you feel incomplete if you’re not taking care of someone.
Do good things for yourself—not just every week, but every single day. Write down 25 positive things about yourself. Read some books about codependency—try Melodie Beatty’s book listed above or her initial books, Codependent No More or Beyond Codependency, or Facing Codependence by Pia Mellody.
Codependent people really spend very little time or energy on their own needs. If you’ve identified yourself as a codependent, realize that it’s time for you to step back from your loved one who is undergoing a drug or alcohol addiction program right now. Allow that person to go into healing, and give yourself some time to do the same.