The word – codependency – has been around for approximately 40 years. The term originally applied to spouses of alcoholics, first called co-alcoholics, the term was later expanded to include pretty much anyone who had grown up in a dysfunctional home.
Here are a few of the Tip Offs
- Chaos Addicts with Low self-esteem
- People Pleasers with Top Marks in Chaos Management
- Caretakers of impossible Situations
- Poor or Non Existent Personal Boundaries
- Poor Communication Skills that allow Dysfunction Chaos to Continue
- Denial Issues that Keep Relationships Going Well past the “Best by Date”
Codependency is likely the hardest behavior to describe with definite terms. A typical codependent usually has many positive characteristics and is a “giver” of the first order and displays only the highest and finest qualities of character.
Codependency with alcoholics or other types of addicts is too much for most of us to handle alone.
Who is a codependent?
It is said that about 6% of the North American population has alcoholic tendencies and that each one of those folks affects at least 10 other people. Add to that the other addictions of drugs (street or prescription) food, gambling/sex/crime (and other adrenalin addictions), it becomes obvious that we are all very likely affected and therefore codependent in some way with another person’s addictive behavior.
Typical occupations for codependents include nursing, counseling and other helping professions.
Living with Someone with an Addiction
If you are living with someone with an addiction then this is the right page for you. It is so absurd to think that someone could actually think more of a drink, bet, smoke, snort, needle, crime, or outside sex than they do of you their partner that you begin to doubt your own sanity.
Codependency is an addiction in itself as folks are addicted to the potential in others. A codependent tries to force the potential they think the other person has with all their might!
Also codependents hide many smaller – or perhaps more socially acceptable – addictions of their own, behind a more obvious addiction in their “loved one”
The History of Children of Alcoholics and Addiction
If this is part of the history of children of alcoholics and addiction in your life it is almost predestined that you will become involved with an addict of some description.
Cycle of Codependency
The cycle of Codependency with alcoholics or any other type of addict requires three main people/groups of people:
- The Enablers:
- those who allow /excuse/ finance/ bailout the alcoholic/addict.
- The Persecutors:
- those who stir up the pot in order to put the alcoholic/addict on the defense and look for a way out of the pain.
- The Victims:
- those who wallow in the excuse that someone is abusing/picking on/insulting/not recognizing their good qualities.
Both the alcoholic/addict, the enablers, the persecutors and the victims occupy all these roles at various times and to varying degrees – the fact that all persons switch roles is why this is called – Codependency with alcoholics.
Blame and Denial
Spouses that hide their own addictions behind another’s more obvious behaviors are very hard to diagnose and suffer greatly from blame and denial.
- A Who Dun it? … a true short story about Blame and Denial
- I have served with a 12 step program as an outreach coordinator in a mid sized city for 4 years. Part of these duties were to organize and maintain a 24/7 call line for emergency call from the community. One day I received a call to assist a person in trouble with their drinking. When I and another volunteer arrived at the scene there were five very drunk people at a residence. I was unsure as to who had the problem because they all looked in the same problematic condition. So I asked “Who has the problem”? Immediately all four people pointed at the fifth, who upon further discussion was only being used as the scapegoat of the day!
Blaming others for any set of consequences usually constitutes Denial.
Denial keeps all addicts in their addictions.
A typical way that a person with codependency issues will react in any situation is to blame the addicted person in their life for all their woes, Blaming others for any set of consequences usually constitutes Denial
The Rewards of Codependency
Codependency is usually looked at as an abusive situation and it truly is often extremely abusive. Why then, would someone, especially a spouse or lover, ( a child usually has no options) ever stay in this situation?
Well, a politically correct answer to this question is quite often given. But it has been my experience that the spouse also has addictions of their own that hide very well behind the major addiction of the offending party.
Codependency is primarily a unrecognized addiction to chemicals produced by the codependents own body.
- The body of a codependent produces adrenaline and endorphins constantly in the moment to moment chaos of their lives.
- These are known as ‘Fight or Flight’ drugs. The constant ‘fight or flight’ feeling is what makes codependency so predictable.
- It is predictable that the codependent will stay in life threatening and abusive situations well beyond reason as they crave their own drugs.
- In fact, codependents will often behave in ways that actually instigate bad experiences to get a new supply of these drugs.
These fight or flight drugs are produced by the body in both the honeymoon phases and the abusive phases. They are especially produced in high volumes during the life threatening phases.
Codependency Recovery Tools
- 12 Step Meetings – Regular attendance at 12 step meetings
is the best way for a recovering individual to see first hand how the recovery program works and to benefit from the combined experience of many other recovering individuals.
- Telephone contact – with another recovering member of your codependency 12 step program between meetings is a great way to avoid the isolation that is common with many codependents.
- Sponsorship – all members may benefit by utilizing a member with more positive experiences under their belt as a sponsor. Seasoned members become sponsors to share what they have learned in their recovery journey and to keep their recovery.
- Anonymity – members identities and personal sharings are protected and held in confidence to create a safe place for all to recover.
- Service – to other recovering codependents helps recovery goals stay in the forefront. Service is done by taking part in the regular responsibilities workings of the 12 step group. Set up chairs, clean up the room or lead a meeting are a few ways all members may contribute.
- 12 Step Literature – is an important part of every members program. Reading the approved literature will assist a recovering individual to learn more about the recovery program and its various workings.
- Writing and Journaling – will allow a recovering individual to clear up old feelings and maintain a personal recovery plan.
If you are living with or affected by an extreme addict, they can be quite childlike and irrational. In this case you will likely need some ignoring skills to assist you in coping with the attacks. Here are a few examples:
Wow! – a simple statement like “Wow” can diffuse an attack quite nicely without the other person losing their dignity.
Oh Really! – is another way to diffuse an irrational attack “without buying into” anything.
Yikes! – This is my personal favorite! It seems to work best for me in situations that could become confrontational.
Why do you Ask? – answering an abusive question with a question can often diffuse things without taking on some sort of dredged up guilt an addict is so capable of doing on short notice.
If these do not work well or if you blow it and get into the fracas, it is often good to gain perspective by simply leaving the room for a minute. A short trip to the bathroom may be a good enough break while other situations may require you to protect yourself by leaving the situation for a longer period, particularly if there are previous instances of violence of other abuses.
“This Too Shall Pass”
Remembering this Al Anon based slogan is a wonderful way to add some perspective to an uneasy situation.
The Dean of Addictionz
Working the Solution with Multiple and Addicts of all types
- 36 Years Personal Recovery Experience in several Self Help Programs
- Addiction Recovery Outreach Trustee, NW Region Webmaster, Newsletter Editor and contributer for various Recovery Associations Publications
- Published in several major recovery publications: AA Grapevine, Al-Anon Forum, Overeaters Anonymous “Voices of Recovery” and “Lifeline”, Gamblers Anonymous “Bulletin” &”Toastmaster” Magazine
- This AddictionZ.com website is featured in Melody Beattie’s current “Codependent no More Workbook”
- Over 45 years successful contracting business experience working with over 2000 employees and Penitentery halfway house temporary staff.
- Sponsoring many recovering multiple addicts with long term good results
- Recovery weekend workshop leader in Western Canada & US Pacific NW
- Author “You Can’t Unscrew Somebody Workbook” for relationship makeovers
- Author “Sex Inventory Workbook” for sex issues
- Author “Drunk Driving Workbook” for safety
- Author “Breaking The Cycle of Gambling Addiction” arrest the money drain!
- Author “Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Overeating” get healthy!
Here is a thought!
Why don’t you book your sober recovery style vacation with us in beautiful downtown Victoria BC Canada at our Gingerbread Cottage Bed and Breakfast. Over the years we have had lots of therapists, recovering addicts and health professionals stay at our idyllic B&B steps from the Salish Sea. Oh and we have gourmet breakfasts too! Vanessa makes a fantastic Austrian Apple Strudel! see more on our B&B website…
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Have a great One Day at a Time! Dean