Okay I'm Codependent, Now What?

Codependency 12 Step Recovery

Are you wondering if you are codependent or just good natured?

Codependency is rooted in a helpful nature. Figuring out if your behavior is helpful or hurtful depends on the severity. If you are trying to help or fix others at your own expense, it's codependency.

The alcoholic gets addicted to the substance and the codependent gets addicted to the alcoholic. But you can struggle with codependency even when there is no addiction.

What is Codependency?

Codependency is a pattern of behavior that starts in childhood. There are lots of symptoms and one size does not fit all. These traits impact relationships, boundaries, self-care and especially how you feel about yourself. If you think this applies to you, read my blog  Are you Codependent?

Signs of codependency

Signs of codependency

Some codepemdents struggle with people pleasing while others are more focused on exerting control. Trying to control people, places and things are done as an attempt to feel safe, not because you're a bad person.

Codependency shows up in families with addiction, depression, mental illness, domestic violence, trauma, anxiety, poor parenting and abuse.  

Melody Beattie, the author of Codependent No More defines codependency as

"Someone who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."

Common Characteristics of Codependency:

  • Getting into relationships with addicts or people with lots of problems

  • Excessively helping others - at your own expense

  • Difficulty identifying and asking for what you need

  • A tendency to be overly responsible and not accept help

  • Low self-esteem or feeling superior and judgmental

  • A tendency to hide feelings of anger and disappointment to avoid rejection

  • A pattern of trying to control people, places of things

There are a lot of great books and articles on codependency, but where do you start? Here are some tips to get you on the right track.

1) Redirect Your Focus

When you focus too much on others you lose sight of yourself. You stop taking care of yourself. This creates a destructive cycle of self-neglect that is the hallmark of codependency.

Focusing on helping others is a lovely trait - at first. Eventually, it becomes too much and you wipe yourself out. That can be the turning point. When you are sick and tired of being sick and tired you get more willing to change.  

Redirect your desire to help towards taking care of yourself. Figure out what you need. This can be uncomfortable because you're not used to it. With practice you’ll start to realize how much better it feels to let your needs count. That's the beginning of self-care!

As you begin to change this pattern, you'll focus less on pleasing others and more on yourself. You can still choose to give but it will no longer be your only option. 

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2) Practice Being Yourself

When codependency is an issue, being honest about what you need and want is scary. You might be afraid of angering someone or not getting disapproval. The simplest way to start speaking up with people you feel safest with.

If someone asks you where you want to go for dinner or what movie to go to - volunteer your opinion. Baby steps count as you gain confidence.

It's okay to say what you mean. That doesn't mean others will always agree or like it. If friends and family are used to your people pleasing they’ll need time to adjust. Give it time, when we are codependent, others get to use it!

If they don't accept you having needs, it may be time to adjust your expectations. Maybe they're great for hanging out but not much for deeper connection and emotional support.

3) Start to Set Boundaries

As people pleasers, saying yes and offering help happens without a second thought. This leads to feeling resentful and asking yourself, where's mine?

Next time someone asks you for a favor, try these out.

  • Let me think about that.

  • I'll get back to you tomorrow.

  • I'm not able to do that - sorry!

  • Oh I wish I could! Thanks so much for asking.

Saying no is the biggest challenge for codependents because your self-worth is wrapped up in helping and being the hero. The role of being the hero is addictive for the codependent because you've have found a way to matter. Read my blog on 5 Guidelines You Need To Set Healthy Boundaries for more on boundaries.

What would it be like to put yourself first for a change? How would that change your relationships?

4) Act as If

Whenever you're practicing a new skill, it's uncomfortable. In 12 step programs "act as if" is a popular slogan. It means act like everything's okay - even if you’re scared to death.

This doesn't mean denying your feelings. Instead, you’re practicing a new attitude that focuses on the positive. You might feel guilty taking care of yourself at first, especially if helping others has defined how you see yourself.

Progress Takes Time

Recovering from codependency takes practice. Every day provides opportunities to speak up, set a boundary or validate yourself. Letting go of perfectionism is an important part of the recovery process. You will learn more from your mistakes than your successes. We can’t learn any other way! Dissect what didn't work and learn from it. 

In moderation, giving to others is a tremendous gift - however, when giving is a choice not an obligation it will be a gift to you and everyone in your life. 

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