What is Codependency?
A Codependent person is an individual who put the needs of others in front of their own, often leading them to forget to take care of the most important person, themselves. They find themselves focusing so much on others, that they no longer have a life of their own.
Characteristics of a Codependent:
- Need to Control another person’s behaviour
- Caretaking for someone who can do it themselves
- Low Self Esteem & lack of self-care
- Trouble setting boundaries
- Feeling responsible for the actions of others
- People pleasing
- Feelings of resentment or anger for what you do for others
- Difficulty communicating your needs
Individuals struggling with substance misuse often stop taking care of the elements in their lives.
As loved ones, we believe we should help in any way we can. But this continued caretaking can be detrimental to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of both parties involved. We cannot take away the opportunity for our addicted loved one to face consequences. These consequences can be the factor in which an individual decides to seek change.
Some family members are still living in a state of denial as we are unable to face the true facts of our situation. It is critical for codependent individuals to move past denying the facts of our loved one’s addicted behaviors. How has their addiction impacted your life? How has it affected their own?
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step. We can then learn tools to stop the enabling of the past in hopes that it may help them find their way into recovery.
Fear & Enabling
We may believe that if we stop doing things for our loved ones that it will cause harm to them and could lead to their death. However, addiction is a progressive disease that only gets worse. People are dying from it every day, many in the comfort of their own homes. It is possible for families to enable to death, by allowing a comfortable environment to continue using. Address that your actions are negatively impacting your loved ones is a difficult thing to do, as it goes against our basic instincts of helping others. But in this situation, enabling our loved ones is not helping.
Find the difference between helping vs enabling. Helping looks like encouraging our loved ones to seek help, while enabling is doing things that our loved ones should do for themselves. Encourage your loved ones to seek help with their addiction through a trusted treatment centre like Together We Can.
How to Help Change Codependent Behavior
Our addicted loved ones may rely on us for their needs, while the addiction has taken over their ability to care for themselves. Addressing the thoughts & actions of doing things for others, what they can do for themselves, is a step in the right direction. Releasing control over our addicted loved one is the first step in our own personal recovery and can be a motivating factor for our loved ones to seek change.
When we recognize our codependent behaviors, we should not feel guilt or regret for our behaviors but use those experiences as learning opportunities. Perhaps take some time to write down some of these past experiences in which you felt like you were controlling your loved one. Analyze your results to recognize those times in which it happened, and how you may have handled that differently. Use those experiences to help guide you.
Setting Firm Boundaries
Recognize behaviours that you deem unacceptable in your life and outline the adjustments what will be made if your loved one crosses those boundaries. Get specific and outline those consequences. Get comfortable with using the word no with a period. Some feel that we have to explain ourselves, but simply accepting that you do not have to say yes each, and every time will allow you to feel confident, empowered, and energized.
Use those boundaries to create space between you and your addicted loved one. Shift the focus back onto yourself, and how you can improve your life. This does not mean you do not love the individual in your life who is struggling with substance abuse. You can love and let go. We cannot fix another person; we can only plant the seed and hope that they find their way. If giving more love, money, food, a place to stay, could fix someone’s addiction, then there would be no such thing.
If you are struggling with Codependent Behaviors, we suggest you create yourself a recovery toolkit with the following ideas.
Find Your Support System
Connect with those who really understand your situation. Reach out to support groups such as Codependents Anonymous, Al-Anon or Families Anonymous.
- Codependency Anonymous: https://codacanada.ca/
- Al-Anon: https://www.al-anon.org
- Families Anonymous: https://www.familiesanonymous.org
- Email [email protected] to sign up for the Vancouver Families Anonymous Group.
Seek Professional Help
Find someone to talk to, perhaps a counsellor or therapist that has experience in addiction and codependency.
Continue Educating Yourself
Reading online resources, blogs and books, join an educational family group on addiction.
- Codependent No More-Melody Beattie https://melodybeattie.com/books/
- Together We Can “Family Education Group” https://twcrecoverylife.org/togetherwecan/family-support/
- Little House Society “Heart of the Family” https://www.littlehousesociety.ca/core-education-program
Practice Self Care
Remind yourself that you need to put on your oxygen mask first. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Start your recovery journey in working on those codependent behaviors and take time for yourself the way you do for others. Find things that spark joy within you.
Get in touch with your own hobbies, interests, and personal growth. Connect with nature, loved ones, and most importantly yourself.