Codependency is now considered to be one of a long list of addictions. The co-dependent person is addicted to helping. Codependency is a self-gratifying behavior which leads to the abnormal need to help others, wanted or not. The co-dependent will set themselves up for failure, and disappointment by getting involved in a dysfunctional situation, believing that they can fix it. Codependent people typically come from dysfunctional families, have low self-esteem and sense of self. Codependency is found within any dysfunctional environment. It is often said, “misery loves company.” The codependent is addicted to being miserable under the guise of helping the addict . Codependent behaviors are very similar to those with other addictions. One common behavior is that most of us know what will happen if we confront an addict about their addiction, which is going to erupt into argumentative behavior, and denial. The same will happen if the “fixer” is told that they are co-dependent or are enabling the addict.
Codependency: A New Addiction
For codependents, denial is easy, because being helpful is something we are supposed to do. However, people suffering from codependency will do these things to the extremes, as a way to feel good, to feel worthwhile. The common signs of codependency include obsession with helping or fixing others, being needy as with relationships, constantly seeking approval. Those who are codependent are often found in the helping fields, such as healthcare. It is believed, most nurse burnout is actually from being codependent. Like other addictions, codependency affects the entire family, as well as friends. There is treatment available; however, the co-dependent person needs to recognize that there is a problem and that they need help. Most people truly do not understand the concept of codependency, and those in denial, like the addict, have hit rock bottom. Rock bottom may be as with the parent, who is finally tired of being tired. They may be tired of bailing out their son/daughter/spouse from financial problems, due to DUI’s, etc. They finally realize, even though not understanding why nothing they do is changing the situation that they are trying to fix. Maybe they are tired of being broke because of constantly helping the addict to pay the bills, which is their responsibility. The road to recovery is long, and often hard. Drug rehabilitation treatment centers, at some point, will often ask loved ones and even a significant other, to participate in family therapy. Codependency is an illness for which there is treatment.
The codependent person can begin become a healthy person with help, once they realize there is a problem. Many do not know where to begin to get help. However, therapy may begin with a therapist simply because of the effects from dealing with substance abuse or addiction in the home. Therapists who treat addictions have the knowledge and resources available to aid the codependent person. Mental Health Centers are often a good source to begin therapy, and possibly 12 step programs for addictions as well as the addiction of codependency. There are local rehab centers, self-help groups, as well as neighborhood 12 step programs which can provide therapy or have information available for those seeking help. ALANON is a self-help group for adults, and Teens who have a friend or family member suffering from a chemical addiction, or addictions such as gambling. ALANON focuses on the theme, the addict’s addiction is not your problem. AA has open meetings for anyone to attend. Sitting in on an AA meeting, listening to personal stories, can be an extremely enlightening experience for the codependent person. The group 12-Step Programs, for codependency, are great for educating the co-dependent about drug, alcohol and other addictions. The co-dependent will also learn what codependency is, and how it is affecting their life.
Through these programs and individual therapy, the codependent person will learn to focus on self, one’s own needs, and how to put their needs first. Codependency recovery takes a lot of commitment, and work to change the addictive behaviors to productive and healthy behaviors. Part of the treatment is not to ostracize anyone for helping others, it is to teach the “fixer” to realize where helping begins, where it should end, and most of all when helping becomes self-destructive, and an unhealthy behavior. The codependent most importantly will learn to care for self, rather than try to change the entire world. Eventually, the day will come, when the codependent person can say, without feelings of guilt, “It’s Not My Problem.”