When I think of codependency my brain conjures up all kinds of ideas of what that could mean. Is a codependent person someone who depends on others for their survival? Is it someone who has an addiction. The answer to both questions would be yes, in a roundabout way. But it is so much more than that. One thing is for certain, codependency is an unhealthy way of life.
What is a codependent?
According to the book Codependent No More – How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, a codependent person is someone who is “tortured by other people’s behavior.” They are the caretakers, the ones who give and give until there’s nothing left to give.
How does someone become codependent?
Codependents don’t wake up one day and say “I think I’ll become a codependent person today.” They usually come by it as an adult child of someone who has a chemical dependency. They learn as a child the unwritten rules that usually develop in the immediate family. Rules that set the pace for future relationships.
The unwritten rules
The unwritten rules of codependent families prohibit discussion of the problem(s), with each other or with anyone else. You are not allowed to express your feelings or have honest communication regarding the subject. Codependents are not allowed to have fun or enjoy themselves or do anything else that might “rock the boat.” In our case, we learned not to do anything that might draw attention to ourselves.
The codependent person tends to be attracted to those with a chemical dependency or others who are troubled, needy, or dependent people. Speaking from a personal standpoint, I always felt like I could “fix” whatever was causing them to do such horrible things to themselves and others. I was very wrong. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want it.
Just to be clear, chemical dependent people are not the only type that a codependent person may be attracted to. They may also be someone who has mental issues, a troubled family life as a child, behavioral issues, etc.
Loss of Faith
Not only does the codependent person lose faith in their partner, they also lose faith in themselves, and more importantly, in God. They tend to harbor resentment towards their partners and God for if they truly loved them, how could they let them suffer this way?
Suffering and misery become the “norm”
A codependent person feels everything while the chemically dependent person numbs their feelings. The only relief for the codependent is releasing their anger. Suffering is done in the shadows of the person with the addiction. People are more concerned with the “sick” person than what that person is doing to others around them.
Characteristics of someone who is codependent
There are many characteristics of a codependent person. Below are just a few:
- Caretaker – always trying to please everyone but themselves;
- Low Self-Worth – blame and/or pick on themselves for everything, unable to accept compliments;
- Obsessed – focusing on other people and their problems, worrier;
- Denial – ignoring or pretending the problem doesn’t exist or that it is as bad as it truly is;
- Dependency – they stay in relationships that don’t work;
- Poor Communicators – can never say “no”, avoid talking about themselves, their feelings and are apologetic for bothering people;
- Weak Boundaries – they continually allow others to hurt them.
In order to break free from the unhealthy lifestyle of codependency your first have to recognize that you are codependent. You also have to want to be free from the hurt and free from the stress. Once you’ve made that decision, there are many places you can turn to for help.
You could start by reading this book for some more information about codependency. You could also contact a therapist near you to schedule an appointment. Or, if you feel uncomfortable with face-to-face therapy, you could go here and sign up for Online Therapy. Perhaps your local clergyman could offer you some advice. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. You simply need to make that first, very important step.
*The content in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have.
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