How To Start Recovering From Codependent Relationships
If you struggle with people pleasing or setting boundaries, relationships can become lop-sided. This basically means that the codependent person ends up doing all the heavy lifting. You give until it hurts.
But since it's only hurting you, you might think it's not that bad. You want to be liked more than you want to risk being honest. People pleasing triggers a negative cycle of self-neglect that is the hallmark of codependency.
Codependency is a complex issue, like a tree with many branches. Though there are several definitions out there, here’s a simple version. Codependency happens when you lose yourself by focusing on others at your own expense. Seeking approval becomes more important than self-care.
If you relate to codependency you have trouble:
Saying no or expressing a different opinion
Sitting still or "do nothing"
Putting your needs first
Feeling like your worth comes from giving or helping
Getting trapped by a mountain of obligations
Admitting hurt or angry feelings
Detaching from other people's problems
Struggling secretly with resentment and feeling invisible
Why You Don't Think You Need Recovery
Codependency creates a deep sense of loneliness because you can't be yourself. You're so busy doing for others that your life is never really your own.
In order to get help and start recovery, you have to "hit bottom" much like the alcoholic. Unfortunately, it's harder if you're a codependent person, to see your behavior as a problem. You don't think you need help because you're not the one drinking.
You think that you have all the answers - and let's face it, when people keep coming to you for help, it proves your point. That's one of the reasons why it takes a lot for codependents to stop. You think that others can't survive without your help.
Starting the Recovery Process
Pain is the greatest motivator for instigating change. You don't seek change because you think you should. You seek change because you're tired of hurting. There comes a point when you're ready to do something different.
Where do you start?
Here are 10 tasks for starting you on the path of codependency recovery.
1. You start putting yourself first.
No longer are you willing to sacrifice yourself for everyone else. Putting yourself last creates a mountain of resentment that goes unexpressed. Not ignoring your needs has to stop.
Instead of asking what they want, speak up about what YOU want. Include your two cents because you count!
2. You say what you mean without saying it mean.
Not expressing your feelings creates passive aggressive behavior. By not admitting that you're upset, it comes out later in sarcastic or hurtful comments.
When the pain of staying silent becomes too much, that pain propels you to speak up. To learn how, read my blog Can We Talk Without Losing It.
3. You can admit that you don't know it all.
Admitting that you don’t know it all is actually the good news! You can take a deep breath because you don't always have to be right. Trying to solve every problem creates unnecessary stress and wipes you out in the process.
4. You don't have to give advice.
This one can feel like torture but you can be supportive without giving advice. Instead, validate what's being said to show that you get it. Most people want to feel understood. Giving advice can sometimes irritate people if they need to be heard.
5. You can stay on your side of the street.
In the process get your energy back. Knowing how to let go of what's not your business is part of detachment. That's when you can let someone else make their own choices without trying to control the outcome. If they are a functioning adult, let them deal with it.
If you need to let go but can’t, click here to read 10 Ways to Let Go of Someone You Love.
6. You don't always say yes!
This makes you more honest in relationships. Always saying yes is getting old. Instead, you realize that saying no is an important boundary. You're finally willing to take a risk. No one ever died from saying no!
7. You can ask for what you need.
Sometimes you actually get it! Part of the codependent struggle centers around doing everything yourself and not asking for help.
Your super-power is juggling many balls in the air but none of them are yours! Recovery is about moderation. You can still give but not when it hurts you.
8. You stop obsessing about things that are not in your control.
Practice being in the moment by bringing the focus back to you. As a result, you're less stressed and more grounded. When your energy is focused on others, you lose touch with what you need.
9. You don't care as much what others think.
You start to realize how much time has been wasted on worrying, caring for, and helping others. Your identity gets wrapped up in doing rather than being yourself.
Letting go of what others think means that you're no longer thinking about them. Redirect your thoughts towards something you want to achieve!
10. You can begin to let go of what others are doing.
By letting go of what others do your serenity comes back! Trying to fix, advise or control other people's behavior - especially if there's an addiction distracts you from solving your own problems. Once you let go of what isn't yours, other person has the opportunity to take care of themselves.
Whenever you try changing a behavior, being patient helps. Codependency is like a tree with deep roots. Target one specific behavior at a time and getting additional support makes the process easier.
I always recommend Alanon if you're struggling with codependency. It's a 12 step program that teaches valuable relationship skills that can greatly improve most situations.
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