Religion and Codependency

November 15, 2016
Solace Sabah

When God Interferes with Recovery – Religion & Codependency

What do all the sentences below have in common?

·       “I must say a decade of the rosary before I get well.”

·       “I must go to church every Sunday or else I’ll roast in Hell.”

·       “I’m only worthy because of what God did for me or who he is.”

·       “I’m not worthy of love because of my sins.”

·       “If it is not written in our holy book, it’s not the truth.”

·       “Other people are pagans.”

·       “I must hate pagans.”

·       “I can’t choose how I eat because of my religion.”

·       “God only loves me if I pray at a certain time and he keeps track how many times I do so in a day.”

·       “I can’t cut my hair or donate blood because of my faith.”

·       “The pastor/priest/imam/rabbi is never at fault. Everything he says is truth, even if it insults me.”

They are negative messages, that are lived out by many who practice religions to the point of self-sacrifice. If religion were harmless to recovery, why is it that the sicker one gets, the more religious they become? What is in fact at the core of the problem? It is possible that there is something that has not been resolved and that is religious codependence. This is indeed when god interferes with recovery, especially when the notion of god is dependent on certain abusive sentiments rather than as a loving and caring personal power.

Factors for religious codependence:

Below are a number of reasons why people become codependent on their religions, which has the potential of endangering their recoveries:

i) Following or pleasing a religious addict: Religious addiction is a phenomena when people use their connection with God as a drug to wipe out the reality of their own lives. Many hide in prayer, fasting, mortification, excessive scriptural reading and obsession. Such people would be bestowed with virtuous conduct by their respective religious communities. Yet, such virtue at the expense of one’s well-being is cause for this illness of religious codependence. For when the religion is threatened, it seems as though they are threatened, for these people are the religions they practice rather than someone who so happens to practice a particular faith. Following such a person or being that person yourself can be the reason for religious codependence because it’s about undermining one’s own vitality for the vitality of the religion.

ii) Pleasing a codependent God: This is a belief that God’s very nature, whether he is happy or not; can be swayed by personal behavior. For instance, “God is very angry should you sin;” or “God is very happy when you did that good thing for a friend.” The reality that every action is watched and dictated by a divine spy who has the power of annihilation and is ever-watchful at every minute activity would stress anyone out. It is a magnification of trying to please one’s boss at all times whilst having him/her watch over you 24/7. Hence, this belief leads to the insanity of religious codependence as life would be taken over by the fear of “not being good enough”, which evidently will make life not worth the living.

iii) Not personalizing religion to fulfill recovery needs/goals: It’s about time that religion works for you rather than the other way round. Most people usually inherit religion rather than choose it for themselves. This leaves them with no personal voice in the very thing that should be most vocalized. As robots of an unwanted inheritance, most people would cowardly follow the religion and fear repercussions for criticizing or questioning it, leading to religious codependence.

iv) Religion as a mask for character flaws: Perfectionism, arrogance, self-seeking, selfishness, vindictiveness, resentment, and malice can house themselves comfortably in an unquestionable system such as religion. Many religious leaders could be actual psychopaths, but are very rarely challenged due to their religious garb. Religion gives license to its adherents to practice non-spiritual behaviors such as being resentful and bigoted towards the rest of the world because the focus is taken away from spiritual processes and focused towards theology. Hence, one may not know the extent of one’s own character flaws because it is hidden behind the mask of religious codependency.

Freedom in Recovery

Is it possible to be religious and free? Yes, it is. Many are practicing religions, but have clear boundaries based on inherent spiritual values of what they deem is right versus what is wrong. The problem is and is not the religion. Religions predispose people to codependence due to its theology, dogma, and organizational structure. Yet, once people can make the decision to be fruitful, honest, loving, and caring over the demands of their respective religions, their practice of religion, may in fact, ennoble them to be better human beings.

Freedom in recovery is to recognize that codependence lurks in religion and to have proper and appropriate boundaries when dealing with this question. For a time, that may mean not having any religion until one has found a voice to contain one’s own spirit whilst undergoing a program of codependence rehabilitation such as can be worked in CODA (Codependents Anonymous).

Freedom is about unconditional love towards self. It means the ability to accept nurture and care from the world, others, and oneself without any reservation. Unconditional love is pre-fixed with the morpheme “un”, which means that there are “no conditions” to self-love and care. There are no reservations that can be defended by religious demands such as “God loves you ONLY if…” These “only if(s) manifest themselves through dogma, scripture, and indoctrination, which need to be removed for fulfilling recoveries.

If religion and being in a religious environment is driving you crazy, it is best to leave such a place and stop relating to people therein. That may seem difficult, overwhelming, and daunting. Yet, beneath the pain of addiction, is a codependency that is in need of healing. Without tending to that need, it is just a matter of time for the addiction to re-assert itself as a coping mechanism out of the pain, which that environment will generate for the sufferer. It is essential to put recovery, health, and well-being above anything; even if it means dismissing God! Nothing can be above putting recovery as a priority for it is a gateway to living for life!

Statistics taken from: http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S0101-60832007000700013&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en suggest a corollary between mental and physical sickness and increased religiosity.

Taken from: http://www.spiritualabuse.com/?page_id=50

Taken from: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/06/28/when-personality-flaws-hide-behind-religion/

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