Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 3)

This is the final week of Seeking Balance in Our Codependency. You can break the cycle of codependency by following these tips.

Establish rational boundaries as a consequence.  For example, “While I want to give you the money you are asking for, I have no way of knowing how this may enable you to ruin your life through your addiction.  Not giving you money is hard for me, but I believe it is best for you.”  “When you say those horrible things to me and threaten me in that way, I have to take it seriously.  You can no longer live here until you can control yourself more appropriately.”  Discontinue support of unhealthy behavior of others.  Read and learn about healthy boundaries. Those boundaries can be firm, yet still communicated in a loving, caring manner. 

Resist falling into other codependent roles.  A codependent may shift from one role to another, so it is helpful to see in yourself the role of Rescuer, Caretaker, or People Pleaser, and be watchful that you don’t slip into another role such as the Helpless Victim or even the Intimidator.  Seek to understand that you may be responsible to another person, but you are not responsible for her or her choices in life – or the consequences of her choices.  This can help you maintain your own emotional balance, even when the addict does not want you to leave the codependent role.

Hold onto truth.  Our hurt, disappointment, fears, and anger can all lead to compromising on truth.  It may be truth about our own codependency, including our imbalanced need for approval, attention, or control.  Or it could be truth about the failure of our codependency to make us happy or even feel safe.  Other truths include facing the hurt our codependency has caused others as well as ourselves.  Finally, we need to hold onto the reality that we are imbalanced and not living according to our own values and knowledge about what is right. Truth can help us clarify our vision so that we can live more balanced through growing in our application of truth, which can help us experience more freedom each and every day.

Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018

Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 2)

This is a continuation of Seeking Balance in Our Codependency. Follow these tips to conquer codependency.

Overcome your denial.   Deal with the llama in the room – it is next to the elephant you have been ignoring.  Overcome avoidance so that you deal directly with the problem, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist.  It is o.k. that this will involve facing anxiety and even anguish, but it is a necessary step to finding your freedom.  The truth will set you free.  You have a problem yourself that needs attention so that your interaction with the addict can be healthier.

Embrace a healthy self-concept and self-esteem.  Accept yourself.  It is O.K. that you do not feel o.k. and feel unworthy of love – even as the addict feels unworthy. Accept that you have an inner critic, but you do not have to listen to that particular voice in your head. Instead, embrace the truth that you are loved – even by God as you understand Him to be, who is bigger than all of your problems.  Build on the strengths and abilities you have, not on your mistakes. 

Hold onto your personal sense of power.  You have the power of choice.  You do not have to follow compulsive, codependent tendencies.  Become responsible in the use of this power, which includes how you interact with the addict in your life.  The respect and dignity you show her will be a model for her, respecting that she has the power of choice as well.

Hold the person accountable for his own actions.  You can speak the truth in a loving way, but assertively hold onto the truth.  One way is by letting him know the negative consequences of his behavior. For example, “When you lie about where you are going and disappear for hours, I feel extremely anxious, and my mind races about all the possible tragic things that could be happening to you.”  You do not have to bail him out of the natural consequences for his behavior, which has teaching value.  This even includes jail.   

Continue reading next week for three more tips on seeking balance in our codependency.

Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018     

Seeking Balance in Our Codependency (Part 1)

Codependency often begins with a positive recognition of the value of love and the desire to help another human soul who is struggling in some way.  It can start as healthy self-sacrifice to care for that person, but soon turns into a compulsive pattern which results in helping that person destroy his life through addictions or a variety of unhealthy, selfish behaviors.  The codependent becomes unconsciously dependent on pleasing the addict.

Codependency is a deception, often fueled with manipulation by the addict playing the victim role.  Misunderstanding the “disease” concept of addiction can also increase our conflicts in addressing codependency.  We may feel sorry for the addict’s disease, feeding her victim role, while increasing the addict’s sense of powerlessness over her problem.  We try to come to the rescue, taking responsibility for the addict’s unhealthy ways, which enables the addiction to continue.

Codependency is not only with those who struggle with addictions to substances such as drugs or alcohol.  It also involves those caught in the traps of habitual gambling, sex addictions (including pornography), spend-a-holic tendencies, excessive video game use, anger and rage problems, etc.  Enabling each of these behaviors through our actions puts us squarely in the category of a codependent. Our own identity, self-worth, and feelings of safety become wrapped up in another person’s life and we lose a stable sense of our authentic self.  We find ourselves over-reacting to others, but out of touch with ourselves. 

Codependency occurs when we value our relationship with someone to the point where we can be manipulated to give that person the power to influence our decisions, which compromise healthy boundaries and enable him to continue some unhealthy behavior.  Our delusion in part involves thinking we are helping through our efforts, such as giving money, giving a ride, or even providing life’s necessities such as free room and board – to “help” the other person.  We trust a person who is not truthful with us about what he is doing with the money he is saving because of our contributions.  We have an overdependence on another person’s approval, whether a child, spouse, friend, or parent.

Continue reading next week to get tips on seeking balance in our codependency. Written initially for the Hammonton Gazette, March 2018