codependent couple

The Sick Cycle of Codependency


Sober Recovery Expert Author

codependent couple

“If you didn’t scream at me all the time, I would quit using!”

“You let me oversleep and now I’m late again! I will probably get fired because of you!”

A codependent is always reaching to fix something, stretching to accommodate a loved one despite their wrongdoings.

“It’s your fault I cheated on you! You don’t look as good as you did when I met you. You caused this.”

Do any of these outlandish statements sound familiar? It doesn’t really matter what the exact words are. What matters is that somehow it’s your fault someone is using, drinking, not working, overworking, cheating sexually, or not having sex with you at all. These messages are, at the very least, verbally abusive and often times physically and emotionally abusive. The list goes on and on. It’s always up to you to fix things, and you try to do so with all your heart and soul.

Who are Codependents?

Codependents are people that sign themselves up for being reliable. They can be relied on to cover things up, smooth things over, make excuses and take the blame for someone else’s poor behavior and choices. Often times, codependents are understanding individuals—to the detriment of themselves and their addicted loved one.

From calling in sick for the addict so he or she doesn’t have to talk to their boss to explaining to their children that daddy’s just under a lot of stress and he’ll stop drinking tomorrow, a codependent always ends up compromising themselves in a way to make someone else feel better. Too many times this happens to the point of failure for them. Illness, depression, financial loss and other outcomes that no one else suffers more from than the codependent.

Common Traits

There are many definitions of this term and for me personally, is this, “Abandoning myself, my wants and my needs in order to control another person into giving me myself, my wants and my needs.” Here are some other traits:

  • Ignore problems or pretend they do not exist

  • Try to control people with guilt, threats, manipulation and advice-giving

  • Blame themselves for everything wrong in their lives and relationships

  • Find themselves attracted to needy people and find needy people attracted to them

  • Gauge their words and feelings carefully to achieve a desired effect

  • Have been shamed for feeling angry, sad, or any other valid feeling

How to Move Beyond Codependency

Being honest with yourself is the very first step in any process of recovery. Codependents have no worse critic than themselves and even the best plan has its setbacks. Remember this as you take the first steps in self-care, and allow the same forgiveness to yourself as you so often do for others.

One Al-Anon member said this once in a meeting that truly resonated with me: “It is not detaching from the person whom we care about, but from the agony of involvement.” Now detachment doesn’t mean leaving or abandoning anyone, it just means to take a step back and let things happen without you doing anything.

A codependent is always reaching to fix something, stretching to accommodate another and moving quickly to cover up the last problem. It isn’t easy, but Robin Norwood, author of Women Who Love Too Much, suggests responding with the phrase “Oh” in a given situation. In this statement, you are acknowledging the person without committing to anything.

Changing the way we interact with others can be a long and difficult process, but you don’t have to do it by yourself. If you’re comfortable, you may find help through a family member or trusted friend. Joining a sober community, such as the SoberRecovery forum, is also a good way to be able to discuss your situation with others anonymously. Meanwhile, a professional can help you go through the muck of emotions you have and finally teach you how to love yourself for all that you are. Here’s our list of counseling and therapy centers.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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