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