What is Codependency?

August 16, 2017
Johann Kassim

Codependency is an addiction to others. It is a relationship addiction. In the beginning, it was used only in reference to loved ones of alcoholics or drug addicts. But, today, anyone with toxic relationships, will suffer from codependency. Usually, beneath every addiction lies an untreated codependency.

And underneath codependency lies childhood trauma. For more information, click here. Trauma could also have a continuous presence in the lives of codependents. Read here for how trauma and addiction can coexist within the same person.

Codependency can manifest in different ways. It's interesting to see that religion has also been the target for codependence. Do take a look at our article on religious codependency.

Characteristics of the codependent.

Codependents use their relationship with others to define who they are. If their partner or a significant person in their life is happy, then, they are happy. If the person is sad, they're sad. Their entire life and existence depends on the other person's well-being. Also, their esteem is dependent on approval from other people. They have no inner sense of self. Hence, they have no self esteem. Other people define who they are and control their level of well-being.

Having safe and secure boundaries help to create balanced and healthy relationships. We are able to to honestly say what we feel as well as hear what others have to say. When done well, these relationships form the backbone of a secure individual. The relationship does not take away from each member, what they need. But, codependents will either isolate or have toxic relationships. In their isolation, they wall themselves up from other people out of fear and shame. And in their toxic relationships, they can mete out as well as suffer abuse from others. This is because they have no boundaries whatsoever.

Human beings were meant to have honest, fulfilling relationships with others. They were not meant to wear masks for various people. Or wear different hats for different occasions. Who you see should be who you get. Codependents suffer from inauthenticity. They don't know how to be real with others. Unless challenged, they will continue to use these masks to relate with others. Even to the point that they lose connection with who they really are. We've written an article on masks. Click here to find out more about the various masks we wear as codependents.

Codependents will either be excessively needy in their relationships. Or that they will be too self-efficacious to the point of not needing anyone. This dissonance between needing everything to needing nothing creates discord. Their inability to relate their actual needs in relationships, makes it toxic. As they do not know what they really need in a relationship, they are stuck with the pain of codependency. This pain causes many codependents to seek a remedy in active addiction.

Relationships shake codependents up a great deal. They find it very hard to find their personal space in relationships. They are either lost in the relationship or disconnected from it due to life. This balance is hard to achieve because they cannot be themselves in relationships. They either use the relationship to fulfil a gap in their lives. Or, they isolate just to recover from having been overwhelmed by the presence of others. For codependents, the balance between life and relationships are all or nothing. There is no balance. The key for codependence recovery is to find balance and sanity in relationships.

Codependency Treatment and Hope for the Recovering Codependent.

In addiction treatment, codependency can only be treated if we treat the addiction. Hence, a certain amount of time in abstinence is suggested. Only with abstinence, will the addict feel the pain of codependency. Once these issues appear, only then can they be processed. But, once processed and accepted, much healing can happen. It's in this healing, that addicts and codependents will be able to evolve to new heights. Recovery from codependency will bring the following:

A renewed sense of self through actually having an inner sense of self esteem. This means that others will no longer define who you are, but you will find meaning in your own definition of self.

The recovering codependent will know how to handle relationships. How to get the space they need to be themselves. They will form healthy boundaries with others. They will know how to be vulnerable in relationships, while at the same time, keep out bad influences. Their boundaries will not be walled, but porous according to their own sense of worth. This sense of worth increases the longer they are in recovery from codependency.

Recovering codependents can also look forward to reclaiming their authenticity. They will finally know who they are. Their sense of identity will no longer be relative to social interactions. But, it will be a constant feature of who they are. This enduring self will grow as they keep growing in recovery. They may experience a loss of self through shame, at times. But, all this is part of a process of rebuilding and identification.

In all this, the recovering codependent will be less needy. They will know when to reach out for help and when to depend on themselves. This will create balance in their lives. Their relationships will no longer have the power to own them. They will own their relationships by owning their own behaviours. Responsibility will replace the sense of victimisation.

Healing from Codependency.

The first step to heal from codependency is to let go of the addiction. As mentioned before, the addiction has been a coping mechanism for the codependent.Seek treatment from addiction, and you will be able to address your codependency issues. Without which, those issues will fester and rot.

Bottom line is how much do you want recovery from an unmanageable life? Will you be able to take any lengths to get better? Seek us out and we will be able to help you on your journey to recovery. For more information, call us. We're always ready to help you.

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