“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.” –Joshua Graham
According to CODA there is no precise definition to determine if you’re “codependent.“ Those who are codependents have, or have had, trouble maintaining healthy and nurturing relationships with both self and others. Underneath are types of long-standing destructive patterns of living. Some of these characteristic behaviors and attitudes deal with patterns around: denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control, and avoidance issues.
Melody Beattie states a person does not need to be part of 12 Step meetings to benefit from the codependency workbook she created. People who attend other support groups, and those who do legitimate caretaking like counselors, nurses, people caring for ill family members, etc. can benefit from a look inside codependent characteristics and patterns to help take care of themselves in these situations.
There’s a careful distinction here. A person does not have to be acting out of codependent characteristics in order to care for others genuinely. My son required constant caregiving to survive. I gave from my heart and would do it over again. I didn’t know I had addictions or was codependent until after he died. Through recovery work, I became aware. Awareness is the first step in recovering from anything! Now, I know I was codependent before he was even born. It does not mean I would sacrifice any of his care – now I would come from a healthier place inside myself as I provided that care to him.
In my recovery, I’ve come to recognize part of why I did what I did was an addiction and highlighted areas of my codependency. I needed to be needed because I did not know how to care for myself emotionally. My low self-esteem was bolstered through the care I gave. He needed such intense care it fed and hid my need to control, because I felt such a lack of control in my own life. It also fueled the over-responsibility I had because I was always trying to please others, and seek love I wasn’t giving to myself. I was denying my self hatred, shame, and unworthiness that was underneath it all. Recovery also led me to awareness that fear and “monkey mind” are likely the longest addictions I’ve had. This unearthed many codependent behaviors and attitudes that presented in my life.
Addiction is not just to alcohol or narcotics. Fear, panic, eating disorders, sex addictions, gambling, or shopping—the list goes on of possible addictions. Webster defines codependency as, “emotional or psychological reliance on.”
The thing with addiction and codependency—it’s never isolated, and is so intertwined. Relationships are always involved, including the relationship with ourselves!
Without fail, something deeper inside us is going on. What’s at this deeper level? What started from surviving trauma of some kind? What destructive patterns are at the root of these issues? Our addictions and codependent patterns tell us about a need we have that we are not getting satisfied in a healthy way. It sneaks up on us. It pervades everything.
It’s precisely why we need a path to recovery, so we can become more aware and discover ourselves. To seek support and learn how to meet these legitimate needs we have in healthy, sustainable ways. 12 Step is one of the many examples of a recovery path. Choose any path you want— but, please, have one. Even if you can’t feel it inside yourself yet, please know you are valuable as you are right now, and you truly do matter.
Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.