I can’t take this anymore. I’d rather die than live like this. If he/she doesn’t quit I’m leaving. Have any of these comments come out of your mouth? I know exactly how you feel. I’m a recovering codependent. And if you have been tolerating, covering up for or making excuses for a loved one with an addiction, you could very well be codependent too.
Let me ask you, have you bailed your loved one out of a mess they got themselves into through irresponsible behavior? Have you covered a debt for someone you care about even when it caused you financial distress? Have you accepted the blame for someone else’s failures when deep down you knew that it wasn’t your fault?
If any of the above apply to you, “Hello codependent!” What is a codependent relationship? Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is psychologically dependent in an unhealthy way on someone who is addicted to a drug or self-destructive behavior, such as chronic gambling.
If you aren’t codependent I’ll bet you know someone who is. There is a lot of dysfunction in the world and a lot of enablers that feel it is our duty to help those who quite clearly, cannot help themselves. The problem is that we need to deal with our own stuff before we can help someone else. As Jesus said in Matthew 7:5, “Get the plank out of your own eye before you try to get the speck out of your brother's eye.” I know that until I stepped back, looked at the mess my life was in, and took responsibility for my part in it, nothing changed. You can cry and pray until you are blue in the face but only the truth will set you free. And freedom for you can lead to freedom for those that you love.
By the grace of God, my alcoholic husband has been sober for over twelve years. People said it would never happen and for a long time, I didn’t believe it was possible myself. My husband drank 1.5 liters of vodka and Jack Daniels every day. One of each! He was well on his way to dying from alcohol abuse. And my knocking myself out trying to HELP him was actually doing quite the opposite. It took the threat of a divorce to pull me out of my pit of denial.
I ran to Al-anon for help and I would suggest a 12 Step Program to anyone that finds themselves in the position of the addict or codependent. The first of the twelve steps is admitting that you are powerless over your issue and that your life has become unmanageable. For the alcoholic it’s booze, for the drug addict it’s their drug of choice, easy to point fingers at. It’s a bit harder for the codependent because our addiction is wrapped in the package of the helper. We are doing what we do because we care. Take it from me; our addiction is just a debilitating.
Shannon Martin, a licensed therapist with expertise on the subject, addresses this facet of codependent behavior in this excerpt from her blog post, “What is Codependency?”: Focusing on other people is a way to feel needed and to avoid or distract ourselves from our own pain. We become so focused on others that we lose ourselves in the process. Many codependents describe feeling addicted to another person; the relationship has an obsessive quality that’s hard to quit even when you know it’s unhealthy. Your self-worth and identity are based on this relationship. You might ask yourself, “Who am I and what would I do without my spouse (or child or parent)?” This relationship gives you a sense of purpose without which, you’re not sure who you are. And your loved one needs you and depends on you to do things for them. You’re both dependent on each other in an unhealthy way (this the “co” in codependent). For more help visit Shannon’s website.
Shannon also points out that growing up in a chaotic or dysfunctional home can lead to codependency. I am a testament to that fact. I became a controlling and manipulative person out of self-preservation. You can’t fix what you won’t admit is broken. As long as I was convinced that the only reason my world was rotating on its axis was because I was holding it together, I was destined to a life of misery. It sounds crazy to the codependent, but the quickest road to freedom is paved by giving up the control that you strive so hard to maintain. Your false sense of control is the albatross around your neck.
Why are so many codependent people control freaks? For many of us, it is because our dysfunctional upbringings and feelings of abandonment foster the false narrative that we are the only ones capable of looking out for ourselves. If we don’t do it, no one else will. And that includes God. We come to believe that as long as we are in the driver's seat, we will be okay. The crazy thing is, we continue to feed ourselves that lie when our entire world is turned upside down and our lives are unraveling at the seams. We are stuck in a catch 22 from hell. So what is a person to do to get free from the vicious cycle?
We would all like to think that we are in complete control of our lives. God does give us free rein to live them as we please. But I’m here to tell you that surrendering my life over to God’s care was what brought me out of my destructive cycle. Now I’m experiencing true peace and joy. It doesn’t mean that I don’t face trials. It doesn’t mean that bad things don’t happen to me anymore. But, when adversity comes I am much better equipped to handle it. I don’t feel the need to have a full-blown pity party accompanied by a meltdown. I’m able to pull up my big girl panties and forge on. Once I get through my troubles I can look back and see how much better things went. When I handle my problems by leaning on the Holy Spirit for guidance, life just keeps getting better. I’m still a work in progress but things that would have rattled me to the core, even five years ago, feel more like a bump in the road. I don’t need to carry the world on my shoulders anymore and it is a great feeling.
I am a walking, talking billboard for what God can do to improve your life when you invite Him into your heart, mind, and soul and stay the heck out of His way. When you listen for the promptings from the Holy Spirit and act accordingly you will shine like the cheerful and peaceful person you were meant to be. Life is so good with God in charge.
If you’d like to transform your life into the peaceful and joyful one that you deserve I’m here to help. Schedule a free 30-minute strategy session at catyson.com and let’s chat.
God bless, Charisse