What is Codependency?
Codependency can be described as the set of thoughts, feelings and behaviors that can be somewhat encompassed as “unhealthy caretaking.” It is the effect on the object of the care that is unhealthy, as well as on the codependent individual.
The origin of the concept of “co-dependency” came out of the awareness of addiction treatment professionals and the 12-community that the persons close to the addict often get as emotionally and mentally ill as much as the addict . The prefix “co” literally means two or together. Therefore, if we break it down, we have two dependencies; the addict is dependent on the substance and the co-dependent is dependent on the addict. This does not mean necessarily mean financial dependence; it rather is dependence as in a fixation on that individual’s behavior.
As stated, codependency is characterized by a set of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The codependent’s behaviors are often characterized as enabling, or doing for the addict what the addict should do for themselves, i.e., making excuses for the addict, minimizing their addiction, supporting them in their addiction by paying their bills or calling them out of work. The codependent truly believes they are doing what is in the best interest of their addicted loved one and that their role is to “save” this addict at any cost financially, emotionally or mentally. They have difficulty setting appropriate boundaries and limits in fear of losing the addict. They become so consumed with this fixation that they begin to neglect themselves and what is important to them. The relationship becomes progressively more dysfunctional and self-destructive for the codependent because they are trying to control the addiction, which is impossible. They become increasingly frustrated with their inability to coerce or change the addict’s thinking and behavior which eventually creates disharmony, bitterness and resentments. Often the codependent will try to use guilt as a way to control or manipulate the addict to get clean and sober, which does not work. All of this serves to perpetuate the illusion for the codependent that they have some control over the addiction, which of course they do not. Letting go of that belief is a difficult one because the idea of being powerless over another’s addiction is painful and frightening. It means it is out of their hands, which is terrifying. So it imperative that the codependent seek some type of support, education and counseling to understand these behaviors and develop healthy coping strategies.