Photo by AJ

 

HOW DO I RECOVER?

by Alison Johnson, PsyD
Managing Director

 

The journey to recovery starts with recognizing the problem (go to “Am I Codependent?”).  It starts with the realization that the problem is neither the other person, nor the relationship.  It begins when you realize that the problem is actually the relationship you have with yourself.

Codependency is a form of dependency.  Dependency manifests itself as a reliance on other substances or processes (e.g. gambling or sex addiction).  But, dependency can also manifest itself as reliance on other people.  A person who is dependent on another relies on the other person to meet all their needs for safety, security, happiness self-esteem and approval.  Pretty soon, the codependent person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions revolve around that other person.  As a consequence, the dependency on the other person leads the codependent to abandon their relationship with themselves.  It is like the person who gets up in the morning and asks the person laying next to them how they feel, in order to get a read on how their own day is going to go!

Recovery involves reversing the dependency process.

  • Instead of being distracted by focusing on another person, the codependent learns to face their own issues and problems straight on. 

  • Instead of blaming another person, the codependent learns to take personal responsibility for making changes in their life.

  • Instead of the relationship resembling more of a hostage situation, healthy relationships replace dependent ones. 

  • Instead of lying and manipulating in order to try and control another person, the codependent learns how to recognize and ask for their needs.

  • Instead of relying on one person for all of their needs, the codependent replaces dependency on one person with a system of support and autonomy.

  • Instead of fearing that a person might leave or stop caring, the codependent feels free to be more authentic and honest instead of people pleasing and manipulative.


The recovery process involves some core changes in behavior:

1.         Abstinence.  This is harder to define because the codependent is dealing with behaviors rather than substances.  However, abstinence for codependency usually involves a daily goal to focus on yourself instead of the other person.  It involves a daily reprieve from people pleasing, manipulation, and obsessing about other people.  Stating your needs directly and being true to yourself is the goal of abstinence. 


2.         Awareness.  The codependent needs to be aware of their motives and values.  For example, consider the wife who is allowing her husband to drink alcoholically because she would rather live with an alcoholic than nobody.  However, this same wife could be seen making disparaging remarks about her husband and remarking on what a wonderful person she is to put up with him.  Awareness of feelings must be accompanied with honesty. Too often the codependent will “sacrifice” something, but in reality they are afraid of the other person’s anger or rejection.

3.         Acceptance.  Acceptance of yourself and others is key to the healing process.  The codependent is often looking to change someone else’s behavior.  The reality is that they are avoiding looking at themselves.  That is because they only know how to be self-critical and judgmental.  However, what if the key to looking at oneself involved self-compassion and self-care. How much easier would it be to approach personal change from such a perspective.

  

4.         Taking Action.  Thinking about change, without taking action, is tantamount to fantasy.  Recovery involves taking risks to behave in different ways.  This might include being more assertive, speaking up, avoiding negative self-talk, learning new skills, setting boundaries and limits with others – particularly saying “no” instead of “yes”, when you don’t mean yes!  Eventually these new behaviors help you feel better about yourself, develop self-esteem, and help you avoid getting back into the codependent loop of depending on others and losing your true self.

Good luck with the process.  Remember that there is plenty of support.  Many people have discovered a new way of living that allows them to be free of dependency on others.  With freedom comes a new happiness and a life based on honesty, integrity, intimacy and the congruence of your values, thoughts, feelings and actions.


For more information read “The Recovery Patterns of Codependence”.

 

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