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Codependent No More, or...?

Old 05-08-2011, 05:23 PM
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Question Codependent No More, or...?

After last night's fiasco: AH dropped flowers on the front porch, called to tell me how terrible it is being homeless and unemployed, and later, called back with actual apologies. I stood firm, telling him that I was unwilling to let him back in the house without a plan to a) stay sober or b) get employment. I know it's like asking a blind man to see, but them's the breaks. I love him and would be willing to put up with a reasonable amount of imbalance* if he weren't still sabotaging his own progress whenever things get hard, but some things are dealbreakers. Drinking is one of them.

[* I do believe that A is a disease and that people deserve 2nd and 3rd chances. I'm willing to put up with some of the fallout of the disease for people whom I love, spouse, parent, and child. I'm coming at this from the perspective of someone with non-A mental illness in my family that has caused similar chronic problems.]

So I picked up my old copy of "Codependent No More" and have been reading it today, looking for wisdom. I'm coming away with some good lessons, but I keep getting caught on the definitions of codependency and how or whether they apply to me and my situation. Beattie defines a codependent as a person who has let another person's behavior define her life, and is obsessed with changing the behavior of that person. By that definition, I don't think the label applies. Yes, his behavior has affected me negatively, but I'm consciously trying to avoid obsessive, controlling behavior.

(And as I'm writing this, it's occurring to me to question why I'm preoccupied with taking or not taking on a label instead of just taking the advice. Hm. Food for thought, Flo!)

I feel like what I need is a set of guidelines for how to deal with this. Other than AH, I have no up-close experience with alcoholism. I have none in my family, and am not an A myself. But I'm having a hard time figuring out where Reasonable, Supportive Spouse ends and Beleaguered, Victimized Codependent Spouse begins. Any thoughts on this? What's reasonable?
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Old 05-08-2011, 05:39 PM
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I personally think if you were to take him back, without seeing him engaging in a program of recovery for some length of time (AA, rehab, etc.) - that would be codependent.

I personally believe that being with an alcoholic MAKES us codependent. Even if we don't live w/the person or are married to them. I engaged in rabidly codependent acts. For ex., when my ex was drunk and knocking chairs off tables on a restaurant patio, during new years a couple yrs ago, I talked the cops out of arresting him. I was therefore preventing him from experiencing the consequences of his actions. =CODEPENDENT.

If people call in sick for their As, so that they don't lose their job when they have a hangover = CODEPENDENT

Anything you do for someone , that could reasonably be done themselves WERE THEY NOT AN ALCOHOLIC=codependent

If you subvert your own needs, to try to meet the needs of someone else (and with an alcoholic, their needs can be a bottomless pit) = CODEPENDENT.

That's how I define it, anyway.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:34 PM
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I see codependence on a continuum. Some of us are more so than others based upon lots of factors. Then you add on other things like abuse, being a child of an alcoholic, etc and you are at a different place on the continuum.

I try not to get hung up on what something is defined as. More so that I see it in myself and try to address is in healthier ways. I have a pretty high tolerance for some things and other things are a deal breaker for me.

If he abused you and you tossed him out and you were negotiating taking him back, that would ring codependent alarm bells in me. On the other side of it, if it were sub zero temperatures and he were a block of ice on the doorstep, handing him a blanket wouldn't be codependent to me.

I have no experience with alcholism until now and I already see that my boundaries get eroded easily. If I don't work on that, I could easily see lots of codependency in me emerging. It is an individual assessment I think.
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:10 AM
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Only in therapy am I learning what is codependent, what is healthy and what is normal...
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
After last night's fiasco: AH dropped flowers on the front porch, called to tell me how terrible it is being homeless and unemployed, and later, called back with actual apologies.
If only it took flowers to solve all the problems on this world.

Yes it should be terrible being homeless and unemployed, but his decisions took him there. He could go to a shelter or to family or to a motel or wherever. He could get a one year SOBER chip in AA. He could do what all unemployed people do, LOOK FOR A JOB, then be responsible enough to keep it. But all that actually takes effort and honesty from his part.

A sign of codependent behavior for me is when I give something away / help, time, energy - and I get nothing back. Or what I get back is stress, resentment.
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:26 AM
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If I recall, he's the one who left, you didn't throw him out. He also took half the money in the joint account, so he's got an option to not be broke, either.

I think him being homeless, and having a hard time of it, is a good lesson on the consequences of his own choices and actions, and letting him back in would be codependent at this point.

I do agree with Babyblue, whether an action is codependent or not has a lot to do with a lot of factors specific to the situation, and a lot of the individual's reasons.

Example: My parents will be sleeping overnight at my apartment the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, because they're too cheap to get a hotel, and they don't want to deal with the bugs while camping. I don't have a good relationship with my parents, I really am not comfortable with them staying overnight in my apartment.
If the facts stopped there, that's a very codependent thing to do.
Add to that, we're going to an airshow the next day, I really want my two little brothers to go with me, and having my parents and my little brothers spend the night at my apartment is the only way that will happen, so it's a decision I made so that I can also get what I want. I will be staying in my bed, and everyone else will sleep in sleeping bags on the floor (my parents are bringing them), unless my little brothers want to sleep in my lumpy sofabed. Plus I'm curious to see what my kitten will do, with all these additional people sleeping over.
With those facts in place, it's no longer codependent. It's a compromise.
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:19 PM
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anvil =

normal people don't come to recovery websites.

they don't need it - they don't think about it -
they have nothing in their lives that even sparks a curiousity however idle.

somebody gave me a frige magnet one time that said -

"this is not a test.
this is life.
were it an actual test,
you would have been given better instructions."
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Old 05-09-2011, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
But I'm having a hard time figuring out where Reasonable, Supportive Spouse ends and Beleaguered, Victimized Codependent Spouse begins. Any thoughts on this? What's reasonable?
This is tough because there really aren't any hard and fast guidelines I'm aware of. I "joined" this little family of people with alcoholic spouses in the year 2000, and still sometimes don't know where supportive and beleaguered meet either.

That said, after years in Alanon I've come to the point where more often than not I know it by feel. I can just tell, but I can't really tell anybody else how I know other than to say I know. However, without years in Alanon I wouldn't know at all. This site helps too.

You might start with what you are already doing-- hold him to reasonable and normal standards you would hold anybody else to, and never, ever do anything for him that a regular person can do for themselves. If he sinks, he sinks, and he'll drag you down with him if you let him. If he swims he swims.

Now on to the good stuff-- you are doing great with the boundary setting piece which is sometimes very hard for people. You have one around the circumstances under which he may come home, and you are holding fast. Keep doing that and there may be a chance. Stop doing it and you permanently lose credibility and he knows he won't have to change.

Good luck with all of this.

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Old 05-09-2011, 07:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyranoak View Post
You might start with what you are already doing-- hold him to reasonable and normal standards you would hold anybody else to, and never, ever do anything for him that a regular person can do for themselves. If he sinks, he sinks, and he'll drag you down with him if you let him. If he swims he swims.
Exactly. I saw my therapist tonight and she advised two things: 1) Be patient, and 2) Hold firm on your boundaries. Talk about a tightrope. I posed this question to her too (reasonable vs. codependent), and she said she felt like I was in a good place and would let me know if I wasn't. If I thought he was bull****ting me or that he was using me I wouldn't even be asking these questions, but because I feel like he's trying (and struggling, and fumbling) I'm just not quite ready to let go yet. I feel comfortable with that risk at this point. That could change.

So yeah, I feel pretty confident right now. I know that I'm going to be okay no matter what happens -- I've risen to the occasion once when becoming a single parent with my son, and despite the discovery of alcoholism and the fallout from that, I'm still stable and the only depression or unease I've felt is directly related to my wild pregnancy hormones. I'm strong, I'm pragmatic, and I feel like I have reasonable expectations, and while I'd like to have my husband by my side I will not fall apart if he can't pull himself together and learn how to live in recovery.

He's working with his therapist now to pull together some plans for short- and long-term recovery. He also admitted realizing that as long as he's trying to recover alone that he's setting himself up for failure. Baby steps?
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Old 05-09-2011, 08:02 PM
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Yes, baby steps. Good for you for acknowledging them. Sometimes I think I get so focused on what the RAH is NOT doing that I forget to see what he is doing...

Hold firm to your position above. Be strong - you will need strength. This is a long process.
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Old 05-10-2011, 05:50 AM
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If I thought he was bull****ting me or that he was using me I wouldn't even be asking these questions, but because I feel like he's trying (and struggling, and fumbling) I'm just not quite ready to let go yet.
florence, how is doing nothing around the house for four days while you were away working, drinking, lying to you, sabataging his job by being consistently late, lying to his employer about a sick child not even in his cared, and stealing half of the family money trying?

it appears like NOT trying actually.

and the apologies and the flowers? if you think about it, YOU paid for those flowers.

now, with things so tight financially, would you spend money on flowers for yourself right now?

it is a selfish, manipulative act on his part. part of the game.

i suppose we could say he's trying...yes...he's trying to manipulate you and trying to get back into the cozy nest that you provide.

think about it. do you need flowers or a pint of milk and a loaf of bread? i doubt very much he was thinking of you when he bought them...he was thinking of himself.

also, are you sure a plan for recovery is a suitable boundary? he's already been to rehab and AA. why not let him get some serious sober time under his belt? a plan for recovery will quickly fall away once he's back in the nest. believe me, i'm talking from experience. mine would say anything to get back cozy in my bed.

one thing that really helped me break the cycle was to remind myself "stop giving him a soft place to land". i felt so sorry for mine, all dirty and couch-surfing but i'll share, as soon as i let him back in my door, he quickly reverted to his lying, controlling, selfish ways.
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Old 05-10-2011, 06:38 AM
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With all due respect, I am comfortable taking that risk today. I'm not on SR to find out whether I should leave my AH, I'm on SR to find out how to cope with my half of things and to figure out what kind of expectations are reasonable at this point in the recovery process.

I'm borrowing Cy's advice:
[QUOTE]You might start with what you are already doing-- hold him to reasonable and normal standards you would hold anybody else to, and never, ever do anything for him that a regular person can do for themselves. If he sinks, he sinks, and he'll drag you down with him if you let him. If he swims he swims. [QUOTE]

I do think he's trying, and I know this is a long, ongoing process. If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, I will rest easier knowing I did my best. Either way, he's not going to drown me.
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Old 05-10-2011, 07:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, I will rest easier knowing I did my best.
This. Yes.
I did so many things for my XABF, gave him so much money, and time, and energy... And while it would be nice to have that money, time, and energy back to spend on me and my recovery, I don't regret that I spent it on him, because it allowed me to walk away with a clear conscience, knowing that I did everything in my power, and that I could leave with no regrets.

If I had rushed this, I would have ended up back with him, and leaving again would have been more difficult.

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Old 05-10-2011, 09:00 AM
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Aw, dang it. I just had a long thingie typed out and lost it.

We've got a treatment team (thank God for good insurance right now) in place that thinks we're on the right track even with his lapse this weekend. There are a lot of mitigating details that I just can't fit in here right now, but I'm still interested in hearing what people think is reasonable to do for/with/to/nearby the addict while they're fumbling through recovery.
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Old 05-10-2011, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by anvilhead View Post
I kept my temper, asked him to leave, told him I would call the police if he did not, and got his house key. He left mostly without incident. Within 30 minutes of leaving he emptied half the bank account

I do think he's trying, and I know this is a long, ongoing process.

florence, i'm curious....has he returned any money to the household account? you talk about this "trying" thing and i wonder what that looks like to you?

is he seizing the day? shouldering his responsibilities? going about repairing the damage from his years of selfish self abuse? looking for work? doing everything he can to be a productive member of society? demonstrating thru his actions that he is fully committed to making wholesale changes in his approach to life? cuz that's what recovery looks like.....half measures availed us nothing, anything short of full tilt will amount to nothing.
Sorry, I'm not interested in being convinced that I'm a dumb biddy being used here. I appreciate what you're saying and I'm fully willing to believe that you could be seeing things I am not, but I'm bristling at the assertion that I don't know my own mind and circumstances.
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Old 05-10-2011, 12:31 PM
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I wonder if your defensiveness at anvilhead, who I have found in 3 yrs on this forum consistently gives VERY GOOD advice, could be coming from a place of uncertainty about your situation?

I only propose that because I can relate to it. Many times in the last 3 yrs of being off and on with my exabf, people told me things I really did not want to hear and obviously must not have been ready to hear, because despite their good advice, I continually went back for more abuse, pain, trauma, dischord with my exabf. I must've believed his vaporous, empty promises about 10 times.

Until and unless an alcoholic HAS BEEN working a solid program of recovery--rehab, AA, therapy (all or any 1 of these)--there's not much hope, frankly. I got tired of looking at words instead of actions, and the insanity that results when the A in your life's actions completely contradict the words.

If I could do things over again, I would not have gotten back with my ex without seeing him in a program of recovery for at LEAST a month. Probably several months.

Originally Posted by Florence View Post
Sorry, I'm not interested in being convinced that I'm a dumb biddy being used here. I appreciate what you're saying and I'm fully willing to believe that you could be seeing things I am not, but I'm bristling at the assertion that I don't know my own mind and circumstances.
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Old 05-10-2011, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by anvilhead View Post

i think a hallmark of codependency is how LARGE we allow the "other" to become in our lives. it's like "they" become this huge filter that every moment of our day runs thru......every thought, action, thought OF action, even our feelings first run thru the sieve of THEM.
Yes, that's exactly how I see it. I recently told my counselor that I feel like if we are both balloons in a room, his balloon takes up almost the whole room, squishing me down into a corner. It's partly his big personality, his (what I believe to be) narcissism, and it's a lot of my own pull willingness to take some of the air out of my own balloon, or not walking out the door in the room.

Good one, Anvilhead.
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Old 05-10-2011, 12:48 PM
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It seems that trauma defines a lot of the advice that's given on SR -- and it's clear why -- but my trauma isn't yours or vice versa. My time on SR is supplemental to the work I do in a therapeutic modality, so.
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Old 05-10-2011, 01:45 PM
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Until and unless an alcoholic HAS BEEN working a solid program of recovery--rehab, AA, therapy (all or any 1 of these)--there's not much hope, frankly. I got tired of looking at words instead of actions, and the insanity that results when the A in your life's actions completely contradict the words.

If I could do things over again, I would not have gotten back with my ex without seeing him in a program of recovery for at LEAST a month. Probably several months.
Yeah, like I said I've got some mental illness in the family that is informing how I'm dealing with this -- it's an imperfect match but gives me some insight, re: not a moral failure, etc. I really freaked out on Saturday night but it appears that this was actually a lapse. I guess that's yet to be seen. He returned the money to the account in full and is working with his therapist, working on getting a sponsor that is actually available for more than phone calls (his last one was unavailable most of the time). It was illustrative to me to see just how quickly the booze affected everything about him -- like a switch had been hit -- and how quickly his regular demeanor returned as the booze left his system. I'm still reeling over how alcohol affects an alcoholic, you know? I've been around recreational users, even heavy users, enough and it doesn't even compare.

What I'm wrestling with is how much time to give this. Like I said, I'm cool with being patient and supportive within reason. He hid his alcoholism so well that I had no indication until last Fall that alcoholism was a factor in his life, even after we'd been together for 7 years. He'd always held a job, never been arrested, no DUI, no abuse, and if I had to describe him over that time it would be "Stagnant". It was annoying but not unlivable. The chaos has been introduced SINCE that time in rehab, starting in September 2010, when his anxiety attacks came on after the booze was removed from his system. He had to quit his last job as a chef because he was required to use booze to cook at work all day long, and his new job was barely a step above fast food. As someone who just got out of a miserable, soul-sucking job, I get it -- but we still needed that money. Anyway, it's like he reverts back to the booze when the anxiety attacks come on full force (hence my emphasis on the need for meds and therapy when I talk about it). He knows he has a problem, and he's actively battling that problem in recovery, but he lacks the skills and structure to prevent these lapses.

So I don't know, it's not clear cut, and I guess I had this picture in my mind of what alcoholism looks like, and it's uber-dramatic with DUIs and arrests and abuse and blah, and I also had this picture in my mind of what the spouse looks/feels like, and I'm not experiencing that either. And I know "recovery" isn't "lapse/relapse" free for all addicts. My confusion and defensiveness -- and I apologize for getting snippy -- is because the "he's a loser! worthless!" advice doesn't apply, and because the codependency literature doesn't speak to me. There's a lot of What Not To Do advice out there, but not a lot of guidelines on what *to* do, and I find that incredibly frustrating.
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Old 05-10-2011, 01:50 PM
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Keep in mind some therapists don't understand addiction.

The therapist who was treating both me and my bf, told me things would be better if he just lived with me.

NOPE. He would still spend a couple nights a week at his place and guess what he did there? Go to the bars and get wasted.

My therapist basically encouraged him to make me his higher power, and I did not realize that until I had some distance and a few al-anon meetings under my belt.

Originally Posted by Florence View Post
It seems that trauma defines a lot of the advice that's given on SR -- and it's clear why -- but my trauma isn't yours or vice versa. My time on SR is supplemental to the work I do in a therapeutic modality, so.
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