"Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.” Jane Middelton-Moz
“We need to accept that in the end it is not our parents or God who have abandoned us; we have abandoned ourselves.” Philip Oliver-Diaz and Patricia 0′Germa
"When the family energy is focused on the problem of the adult rather than on the needs of the children, the results for the children are the state of not knowing they come first, the state of believing that they have to fix the situation, and the state of believing that life is about surviving instead of enjoying and that the meaning of life is to get through the struggle of life." Cathleen Brooks
Codependency--the addiction of power--begins in childhood. Over 34 million Americans grow up in an alcoholic home. Add to those the millions who grew up with families dominated by an adult with another addiction: power, control, money, work, sex, food, etc. All addictions do the same to the families of the addict.
The children learn to discount their own feelings; they learn to be the parent to the addict's child; they learn not to trust; they learn to be ashamed. But, most of all, they learn they are not important. Any good feelings from the parents come from dwelling on the obsessions of the adults--bound together in the whirlwind of addiction.
"Addicts (which include almost everyone on some level) really want others to believe that they do not have a problem."
Anyone who has lived in a family that didn't make each family member feel safe, loved and valuable can benefit from learning from ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) materials. The family may not have had alcoholism but some other dysfunction.
One of the first major voices in the field of codependency is Melody Beattie. Her first book in 1992 was titled Codependency: No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. Several years later I read that she said a better title would have been Codependency: Not So Much. All of her books or articles give clear direction and are very interesting as she uses her personal experiences as examples.
I believe very strongly that codependency helps to create and foster addiction as well as addiction creates and fosters codependency. This is a family system experience. The addiction/codependency relationship needs each other to complete the cycle.
Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems--"the soul selects her own society--then shuts the door". The power in a relationship is divided or debated from that first glance. The people that we meet and with whom we instantly feel comfortable are those with whom we share the power.
Unfortunately what many call "excitement" is the game of control. In A Course of Miracles, we learn that our two main feelings are love or fear. If we aren't offering love, we are trapped in our fear.
In case that we want to deceive ourselves about our "loving" motives, the test is that if you are coming in the name of love, there will be no resistance. The resistance from the other person is a reflection of our fear and proves that we are trying to control.
If we are in a tug of war with someone, we can let go of our end of the rope. With the freed energy from letting go, we can then join the "enemy" to find a better way of relating to each other. Sometimes, when you let go of your end of the rope, the other person never reconnects because controlling you was his/her only interest in you.
We are probably all codependent at one time or another. It is only harmful when it is the basic pattern of relationship choice. It happens sometimes that another person gets more of our attention than we are giving to ourselves. But the codependent uses concern to gain power over others in the classic position of "top-dog". Codependency is a pattern of loving someone excessively in order to control the other person.
Healthy relationships have shared power. The main reason for conflict in relationships is power and how it is shared. Shared power in relationships is the only ingredient in relationships that determines how healthy the union is. Unfortunately, when a person decides to give up his/her addiction, if he/she is part of a couple, the other partner will also have to change. Without the addiction to feed the addict's sense of reality, the recovering person is awakened to the reality of the power balance in the relationship.
The addict is addicted to the idea that he/she is "controlling" the addiction ("I can quit any time I want to."). The codependent is addicted to the belief that he/she is "controlling" the addict (by telling them when to drink/use--how to drink/use--how much to drink/use, etc.). The reality is that the addiction is in control and is controlling both partners.
We must move in our recovery from one addiction to another for two major reasons: first, we have not recognized and treated the underlying addictive process, and second, we have not accurately isolated and focused upon the specific addictions. Anne Wilson Schaef
Finding my recovery tribe has been hard. Having belonged to several different 12 step recovery groups, I have not found a place where I can talk about my dual diagnosis--alcoholism and depression. Yet 50% of those in the rooms have both--addiction and mental illness. I believe most of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Sad, but true. Mental illness is a taboo topic at addiction recovery meetings. How can we recover if we can’t be honest?
Addiction is complex and recovery and/or treatment needs to be complex. Each person needs help with social, mental, physical, emotional, employment, legal, relationship, and spiritual issues. Just going to a 12 step program doesn’t help a recovering person with all these issues. Having a 12 step home group as a foundation for recovery provides peer support, framework for positive life change, and disciplined accountability needed to stop addiction. But additional help is needed.
Every one of our courses includes links to online support groups arranged according to type of support offered. Much of what is labeled “relapse” is really untreated mental illness. Having a home group plus adding online support communities is a strong recovery plan. Our mission is to bring new ideas, resources, and online sites together in one place so each member can locate the resources each needs.
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Frequently Asked Questions
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Created byKathy Berman