Across the United States, an estimated 40 million people exhibit codependent behavior. Most of the people in this group are women, who are at a higher risk of entering a pattern of codependency. However, this condition does not discriminate. Anyone can be codependent, no matter their gender, age or sexuality. Millions of people continue to suffer from the effects of this behavioral pattern on a daily basis. Codependency recovery programs have become more popular and more accessible, allowing people to find the support and help they need in working through codependent patterns.
In spite of its prevalence, there is hope for this type of recovery. In this article, we’ll be reviewing the definition and overall causes of codependency, leading to a brief guide about codependency recovery, its success rates, and tips for overcoming these behaviors.
What is Codependency?
Many people hold a common misconception about what the term “codependency” means. Contrary to popular belief, this term shouldn’t be used as a layman’s term for a relationship where one partner is particularly needy or overly nurturing. Psychologically speaking, codependency is a dysfunctional behavioral pattern that can become highly dangerous for the people involved. This includes both of the partners in a relationship as well as their loved ones.
A codependent relationship occurs when one of the partners acts as an enabler for the other, often dedicating their entire self-worth and life choices towards satisfying their partner’s needs and desires.
One could say that in every relationship, partners usually make sacrifices and gladly go the extra mile to make the other person happy. However, in a codependent relationship, this exchange is entirely one-sided, and it happens to an unhealthy degree of devotion. It often worsens to the point where the relationship– as well as the individuals involved– cannot function properly without caring for (or being cared for) the other person.
Is It Possible to Recover from Codependency?
Because codependency is often not thought of as a physical “addiction”, there’s a common misunderstanding that codependency recovery does not exist… or, in the same way, that codependency recovery doesn’t “work”. To combat this idea, let’s review the definition of addiction and the relationship between codependency and substance addiction.
There are several accepted definitions of addiction, which means narrowing it down into one strict meaning is impossible. However, most recovery experts will agree that addiction can be seen as a psychological inability to stop doing something harmful, such as abusing substances or other dangerous behavior.
How does this correlate with codependency? It should be known that people dealing with substance abuse are almost always linked to codependent relationships. As their addiction worsens, their friends and family are more likely to develop codependent behavior as they try to help them. Even if this supposed help likely isn’t beneficial for either of them in the long-term. In fact, the term codependency was originally used to apply solely to family members or lovers of alcoholics or addicts. The term has since evolved to include a general relationship behavior that is unhealthy with codependent patterns.
As you can see, addiction and codependency are often two branches of the same tree. Like most other dangerous behaviors, codependency is not a dead end. There are several methods that can be taken that have successfully helped individuals fight this behavior and leave their codependent relationships behind.
How to Find Help for Codependency Recovery
Codependency recovery, while it is possible and often successful, can be an emotionally difficult and long process. Luckily, there are treatment centers and support groups available that can help navigate people through their recovery process.
Treatment centers that deal with codependency recovery are often the same treatment centers that help people suffering from addiction. Therefore, one of the most important steps towards recovery for the people in the relationship engaging in substance abuse is seeking out sobriety.
This can often result to be a good portion of the battle, however, it’s not the only step. Codependency recovery involves unlearning many behaviors and thought patterns that enable the partners in the relationship.
This is something that can best be achieved through the help of medical professionals and support from those dealing with the same opinions and feelings. An international support group called Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) has been formed for this purpose, with a twelve-step program helping victims across the world.
Tips for Recovering from Codependency
Codependency is not necessarily anyone’s fault. However, taking responsibility and making the effort to start recovery is essential, not only for the people in the relationship but for their family and friends as well.
Here are some important tips for beginning codependency recovery:
- Cultivate a positive attitude about yourself: It’s important to know your worth does not lie in how useful or giving you are to other people. You, too, deserve love and kindness just as you are.
- Prioritize your needs: Other people’s needs do not constantly deserve your effort and attention. It’s okay to focus on your own well-being sometimes.
- Have fun with your friendships: Put some of your extra energy into doing fun activities with the platonic relationships in your life. Relearn to have positive, lighthearted experiences with people other than your codependent partner.
- Understand that some things are out of your control: Often, one of the most important things to learn is that you can’t fix everything, and some things just aren’t meant to be.
- Recovery: It works if you work it. The amount of commitment, care, time, and energy you put into any recovery process is what you will get out of it. By joining support groups, asking for help, setting healthy boundaries, and stepping into yourself, you can recover from codependency.
Healthy Relationships Post-Addiction Recovery
Many people in codependent relationships have suffered from these toxic behaviors their entire life. Often, this behavioral pattern can stem from childhood or adolescence trauma, learned from adults with inappropriate or abusive relationships.
Regardless, every single person suffering has the chance and self-ability to recover. This includes those who are suffering from substance abuse and those who are acting as caregivers.
As a result of recovery, they can improve their mental health and learn to set healthy boundaries with the people in their lives. One thing is for sure: a healthy relationship is always better for everyone involved than a damaged relationship dealing with codependency.