What Is It?
It’s learned behaviors that result from adapting to the dysfunction of addiction in a family. These learned behaviors, attitudes and feelings, make life painful and unmanageable, and if left unchanged, they can follow us into all of our relationships.
Are you co-dependent?
If you were to ask yourself these questions about your family, what would be
the truthful answers?
- Do my feelings about who I am come from being liked by you?
- Do my good feelings about who I am come from receiving approval from you?
- Is my mental attention focused on pleasing you?
- Is my mental attention focused on protecting you?
- Is my self-esteem bolstered by solving your problems or relieving your pain?
Characteristics of Co-Dependency
- Obsession — Just as the chemically dependent family member is obsessed with drinking and drugging, we as co-dependents become obsessed with their drinking and drugging. Are they going to come home tonight? Are they going to kill themselves or somebody else? Are we going to pay the bills this week if they don’t go to work?
- Denial — It’s often not conscious denying the extent of the problem…it’s just coping, survival behavior. We think we’re loving our addict by bailing them out of jail, paying their bills, making excuses for them. This lying and protecting is often to protect our own views of ourselves. We’re embarrassed. We avoid people, just like our addict.
- Unexplained mood swings — If our addict is feeling good today, we’re feeling good. If our loved one is having a difficult time, we’re having a difficult time. We follow their mood swings so our lives are dependent on their feelings day-to-day.
- Irrational behavior — We as co-dependents often act as irrationally as the addict in our lives — taking away their money or car keys, following them into places that are not safe. We act in ways we would never act if it weren’t for the chemical.
- Violence — We may strike out at a loved one in a way that would never happen if the chemical weren’t involved. It’s irrational…we’re not the one using…yet it still happens.
- Self-hate — We experience the same loss of self-esteem as the addict. We lose ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. It can lead to depression, anxiety, even thoughts of suicide, so it’s critical we address co-dependency issues before they cause irreparable harm.
- Displaced feelings — We avoid our real feelings. We push them down and they come out inappropriately — we get angry at the kids, coworkers, the dog…but we don’t get angry at the disease.
- Covering up feelings — We substitute compulsive activities like work, eating, cleaning, exercise, staying on the internet for hours…not dealing with the real world around us.