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Cutting Back on Codependency

When you have a friend or family member in treatment for substance abuse, you begin to learn the lingo. Words like addiction, recovery, enabling, and codependency are just a few of the terms you hear that are personal for you now. You may be aware that you are a codependent, or maybe you just suspect that your behaviors put you in that category. If so, what can you do about it?

Your goal will be to work on your codependency, to develop a healthy sense of yourself. You need to know that how much you’re worth does not depend on that person’s, or any person’s, success or failure. You’ve heard the old phrase that if you love something you have to let it go. In the case of codependency, that phrase applies to you. You can’t take care of someone until you can step back and let them fail or succeed on their own. Let’s rephrase that: You can’t take care of someone. You have to let them fail or succeed on their own.

So here’s some work for you:

  1. Learn to value yourself.  You do have a lot to give, but you cannot really give it to that person until you learn to value who you are.  During the time that the person you care about is going through treatment for substance abuse, make it a point to do good things for yourself—go to a spa or treat yourself to new shoes; whatever you would like someone to do for you, do it for yourself.  
  2.  Attend 12-step meetings. You can choose Ala-non or Nar-Anon, or you can even contact Co-Dependents Anonymous, but no matter which groups you choose you will learn to trust your instincts. Learning other people’s stories will help you validate your own competence, your own knowledge and worth.
  3. Let go. You cannot control the behaviors, actions, or feelings of the person who’s using. It might cause you pain to think that the person will suffer consequences because you are not going to step in and save him or her, but what you are really doing is setting the boundaries for both of you.
  4. Start a new job or hobby. This is a good time to turn your focus to something else in your life. Paint your bedroom, take a cooking class, learn how to make candles, or start sending out resumes for that new job you’ve been hoping to find.  You can’t put your life on hold while the other person is working on recovery. This is your life, and you have to live it!
  5. Start a movement class. For some people this can be as simple as going to a gym. For others it will mean taking a dance class. Yoga, zumba, tai chi—in any kind of a class like that, you will re-learn how to move your body. And as your body remembers how to move, so will your spirit.
  6. Meditate about your self-esteem. There are good books that will help you focus on boosting your own self-esteem; the trick is choosing the one that’s right for you. Ask your loved one’s substance abuse treatment counselor if they know of a good book, or visit your local bookstore and browse the self-help section. Even your local library will have some. A good one available for less than ten bucks on Amazon is Believing in Myself: Self Esteem Daily Meditations by Earnie Larsen.

It would be interesting to see statistics about codependents. We have all kinds of facts about who at what age uses which drugs. There aren’t any numbers on how many addicts have a codependent person in their circle of family and friends. It would be a good bet, however, that almost every single person who has sought treatment for substance abuse has had a codependent hovering in the background. While the person you love seeks treatment, you can learn how to cut back on your codependent behaviors—and be a better partner than you ever thought possible.

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