When you’re in a relationship with an active addict, you live in a world filled with unpredictability, hurt, fear and sadness. At times it may seem like the addict is ruining your life, yet you can’t seem to leave or to stop hoping things will get better. You may believe with all your heart that if only she would get sober, everything would be OK. Your whole life revolves around the addict. Truthfully, whether or not the addict gets sober isn’t your biggest problem. The real issue is that you have developed a problem of your own. It’s called codependency.
Codependency is a pattern of behavior in which you tend to get lost in your relationship with an addict. The addict is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and in a way you are addicted to her. The addicted person could be your significant other or your parent, child, sibling or friend. Whoever she is, she is consuming your life and energy. You spend so much time preoccupied with what she is doing or obsessed with trying to find her or to make sense of things she does or says. You struggle to control her behavior and you can barely focus on your own life. You feel an exaggerated sense of responsibility to take care of other people, and you may tend to confuse love and pity. You probably do more than your share most of the time and feel hurt that others don’t recognize or appreciate your efforts.recovere
Learning to Take Care of You
Once you have figured out that you have a problem with codependency, how do you get better? The heart of the problem isn’t really the person in your life struggling with drug or alcohol use. It’s that you have a damaged, unhealthy relationship with yourself. You rarely think about yourself and your own needs or goals. Your pattern is to focus completely on others and to try to make someone or something outside yourself bigger and more important than you are. Healing from codependency requires you to develop an awareness of your role in your unhealthy relationships. You are not just a helpless victim in your relationships with addicts. Chances are some of your behavior is making it easier for the addict to stay addicted, and maybe on some level, part of you wants her to stay addicted, because as long as she is addicted, it means you are needed. One of the most important things you need to learn is to love and value yourself. Low self-esteem is a contributing factor to remaining dependent, needy and other-focused. Think about all the effort and energy you have put into taking care of the addict, and use the same amount of energy on taking care of yourself and making a plan for your own life.
Help for Codependents
The journey of recovery from codependency starts with a single step, and a good place to start is Al-Anon. Al-Anon offers many types of meetings, and by attending these meetings you will quickly learn that you are not alone. You will learn to recognize things you have been doing that may actually prolong the addiction, such as enabling and failing to set boundaries. There may be meetings in your area for specialized support groups such as Adult Children of Alcoholics or Codependents Anonymous. Some people prefer one-on-one counseling. You may feel safer sorting out your feelings in private with the help of a therapist. Keeping a journal is a good way to get in touch with your feelings and your behaviors. Pay attention to the emotional turmoil you are experiencing. Make a note of times when you are giving love and not getting it back. Is this really what you want in your life? Only you can decide.
Progress Not Perfection
A common slogan in recovery communities is “progress not perfection.” As you recover from codependence, it’s important to understand that old habits won’t go away instantly and neither will feelings of low self-esteem or insecurity. Like many other problems with addiction recovery, getting started is often the hardest part. But if you commit to working on yourself, you will start to see small amounts of progress, and in time you will see more and more.