Codependency is a dysfunctional quality of a relationship someone may have with a person suffering from an addiction. However, codependent relationship patterns can exist where no addiction as such is in evidence.
The common factor is making one’s own well-being overly dependent on how the other person is. To some extent, this is understandable with addiction because, given its consuming nature, they are losing that person. As the addicted person fears losing control over their drug use or behaviour, so the significant other feel a parallel loss of control over the relationship. Beset by fear, anger and despair, they tune in anxiously to the addicted person’s moods in hopes of somehow averting what they most fear.
The antecedents of codependency can often be found in a dysfunctional family of origin where, as a child, the person may have had to caretake or placate a parent to have had any hope of getting even a semblance of what they needed. They may now assume too much responsibility for their partner’s well-being. They may either deny or avoid challenging self-destructive behaviour for fear of the reaction. They may instead try to manoeuvre the other person into healthier ways, frequently bending themselves out of shape in the process as they suppress their own personality, thoughts, interests and feelings. Sometimes they put up with abuse.
Ultimately, each person wants the other to be the way that feels right for them. The addicted individual wants to dispense with the challenges of the relationship and cling to addiction despite the accumulating harm, while the codependent person wants to prevent the painful loss this means. Two people or family members can become locked in a debilitating dance of fear, denial, avoidance and control. The tune might be titled “If only the other…”
The process of recovery begins with a change of focus by first answering the question “How am I?” rather than the usual, “How is the other person?” They can then identify when and how they characteristically reduce or distort themselves, to what purpose and to what extent. They will learn to recognise the signs and discover ways to reclaim themselves, perhaps through becoming more assertive, clarifying boundaries, risking rejection or punishment and feelings of loss of control. They will learn where they rely on false hope and find ways to let go.
In codependent relationships, communication is invariably poor. Much goes unsaid or denied to avoid the potential discomfort of dealing with things in a real way. Or conversely, dialogue may descend into slanging matches of blame, with the goal being to come out on top rather than achieving a resolution. Inter-personal group therapy and sessions conducted by skilled systemic mental health therapists help to reset the basis for healthy, respectful and productive communication. Real adult relationship requires honesty, openness and letting go.
Recovery from a codependent relationship may mean ending it, although that is not inevitable. For the relationship to survive and thrive, the shared goal must be healthy interdependence, which means being able to be together but as separate, self-directing (adult) individuals. As each person takes responsibility for themselves, the relationship can move on from being stuck in a mutually unsatisfying and stressful struggle to a rewarding joint venture based on acceptance.
At Clinic Les Alpes, we understand that codependency and substance abuse is a difficult issue to deal with, and therefore our staff are trained to provide personalized care and support in order to help you break free from their patterns of codependent behaviour. We offer a range of recovery therapies and interventions in our luxury rehab treatment centre in Switzerland to manage your low self-esteem and realize your own worth.