Recognizing codependency has been a problematic part of your life is important, but recognition without action won’t free you from the cycle of codependency with a loved one. Right now, while the person you care about is in transitional living and you’re considering what comes next, it may be a helpful time to examine what codependency has done to your life and how to begin to reverse its harmful effects. Today, let’s look at how codependency can start, what keeps some people in codependent relationships, and what steps are necessary to break free from it.
Codependency is defined as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another person, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.” While codependency can begin with a desire to help a loved one, it can quickly grow into a demanding role of caretaking and clean-up of consequences created by the substance user. Breaking free of codependency involves setting new personal goals, reestablishing one’s identity as an individual, seeking outside help, and in many cases, creating new boundaries with the loved one or disconnecting from that person altogether.
Codependency can begin with a desire to help someone else.
Some people are raised to do what’s within their reach to help another person, and this kind of belief system is how a sober person can begin to see their relationship with someone with a substance use disorder. They want to help and do the right thing, and there’s something commendable about being a support system for someone who needs it. The choice to protect the user from consequences may feel ultimately more important than anything else and begin to drive the decision-making of the sober partner.
Codependency may be shaped by your own unrealistic expectations.
Thinking you have the power to protect, save, or spare a substance user from their own behavior is a form of “magic thinking.” When they resist treatment, your actions to attempt to control their substance use increase to compensate for their efforts they’re not making. This means the work you’re doing on their so-called sobriety plans is the only work being done, and they’re free to continue using drugs and alcohol endlessly.
Relationships without balance never thrive.
In a caretaker role with a loved one, there is no balance, and your relationship will be sustained in a way it’s most obviously defined. It’s unrealistic to expect the substance user to switch roles. Instead, as substance use grows, and consequences spiral out of control, your role as caretaker will keep you cleaning up messes indefinitely.
Timing of ending a codependent relationship is important.
As you know, changing the nature of any relationship while both people are present is tremendously difficult, with a lot of emotions coming from both people. It’s helpful to look for natural breaks from the presence of a loved one, such as a period of time spent in transitional or sober living. Having the alone time can help you plan your next move to change the dynamics in the relationship.
Recovering your own identity demands time and attention.
When a codependent relationship has lasted for years, at the sacrifice of your own sense of self, recovering your identity won’t happen overnight. It can involve a great deal of time and numerous approaches to reassess your skills, renew your past interests, explore what new goals you’d like to set for yourself, and research the resources available to you to restore productivity and peace to both your personal and professional life.
Breaking free from codependency requires a new set of “rules” for yourself.
One of the threats of ending a codependent relationship but retaining the old way of thinking is the chance you will simply enter a new codependent relationship unwittingly. That’s why it’s essential to create new guidelines for yourself on how you engage with others socially in order to ensure you recognize what healthy, balanced relationships look like. This may be creating a rule of distance from your loved one and their social connections or disconnecting from them completely.
We are ready to help your family begin its journey to recovery. Please call anytime at (877) 373-9898 .