Monthly Archives: September 2012

Addicted to an Addict? 5 Warning Signs of Codependency

This is an excellent article explaining the pitfalls of loving someone who is addicted to anything.

By David Sack, M.D.

People can become addicted to any number of substances or behaviors, including drugs, gambling, sex and food, but can you become addicted to another person? In some sense, yes – it’s called codependency, and it can be extremely damaging to both individuals.

Codependency can arise in any type of relationship, but we most commonly think of the addict and their highly enmeshed spouse or partner. By denying the existence of a problem, trying to control the addict’s drug use or rescuing them from the consequences of their actions, the partner enables the addiction. The partner feels needed and the addict feels justified in maintaining their drug habit. It’s a win- win that actually ends up being lose-lose.

Where do we learn codependent behaviors? Most people learn them from their role models growing up, especially if they were raised in an addicted or dysfunctional home. For example, children of alcoholics are up to four times more likely to become addicts themselves, and about half go on to marry an addict and duplicate the addict/codependent model they saw in their parents. Others may suffer traumatic experiences early in life, which contribute to low self-esteem, a fear of abandonment and other codependent traits.

Since enmeshment is the only way they know how to be in a relationship, few people recognize their own codependent patterns, instead labeling themselves selfless or “too nice.” All they know is that they have a pattern of unstable, one-sided and in some cases abusive relationships. Here are a few additional signs that you may be in a codependent relationship:

#1 Taking Responsibility for Others

People who struggle with codependency feel a heightened sense of responsibility for the thoughts, needs and decisions of others, as well as their ultimate satisfaction in life. Often in a controlling or manipulative way, they try to solve other people’s problems and offer unsolicited advice, doing far more than their share to ensure the individual’s happiness.

Although their efforts may at first seem noble, they are in fact driven by the codependent’s need to feel needed. Serving others, often to the exclusion of their own needs and desires, is the only way they feel valued and loved. All of this self-sacrifice leads to anger and resentment, which often manifests in other mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, sex and relationship addictions, and substance abuse, as well as physical health problems.

#2 Putting Someone Else’s Feelings Above Your Own

Codependent individuals have little sense of self. To sustain some sort of interpersonal connection, they focus on how their partner feels, how they think and what they believe rather than paying attention to their own feelings, values and beliefs. They become consumed by the other person and lose themselves in the process.

#3 Going to Extremes to Hold Onto a Relationship

A codependent relationship is based on fear. Fears of abandonment, being alone or being rejected lead to an extreme need for acceptance and approval, which in turn leads to desperate attempts to please others. The codependent partner resents the addict for being sick, yet fears getting well could mean losing their identity as the addict’s caretaker. As a result, they accept blame where it properly falls elsewhere, change their clothing and appearance to please others, give up friends or hobbies, and go to other extremes to maintain the status quo.

#4 Difficulty Recognizing and Communicating Emotions

There is a sharp disconnect between who the codependent partner is and who they think they are. Because their identity is so wrapped up in another person, their emotions mirror the addict’s. If the addict is having a good day, so is the codependent partner. Without the addict’s influence, the codependent has difficulty making decisions and recognizing and asserting their own wishes. In some cases, they choose to be in a relationship with the addict out of pity or a belief they can “fix” them, mistaking those feelings for love.

#5 Inability to Set and Maintain Personal Boundaries

In the absence of healthy role models, codependent individuals struggle to set personal boundaries that protect them from harm. They say yes when they mean no and take charge of situations that others are capable of handling. Doing so supplies a false sense of self-confidence even as they fail to protect themselves from victimization.

Just as an addict needs treatment to stop depending on drugs, the codependent partner can benefit from counseling, support groups (such as Co-Dependents Anonymous) and other interventions to stop depending on the neediness of others. For codependents, recovery is less about their relationship with an addict and more about restoring a healthy sense of self. It’s about learning to love and care for oneself rather than trying to fix someone else.

Confessions of a Control Freak

Confessions of a Control Freak

(This is a repost from November 20th, 2010)

OK, I’m not proud of what I’m about to admit. I’m a control freak. I’ve gotten much better in my old age, as I’ve realized many things just aren’t worth the energy I used to put into them – especially when they turned out the way they were supposed to, regardless of how I tried to manipulate them. Or if they did turn out my way, I could see later that I’d have been better off to let things be the way they were.

But occasionally I’m still reminded of lessons I need to learn in this realm. For instance, I’m a creature of habit. I’ve learned what works for me in my daily routine to keep my attitude positive and my spiritual program active. The morning part of that involves walking around the lake or working out, while listening to spiritual audiobooks or podcasts on my ipod, then meditating for some time before getting around for work.

As long as I keep this routine most days, my life is relatively stable, regardless of what is happening around me. I can remember to stay on the spiritual side of my psyche and allow things to be what they are, only stepping in after meditating and waiting for a sign from my Senior Partner that it might be wise to act.

Yesterday, my ipod shot craps. That throws this whole routine off! How can I get my spiritual input without my audiobooks? I’m one of those wierdos who really does enjoy working out, but I have to admit the ipod makes it much more interesting & seem alot quicker. This has happend 2 other times before, and I was smart enough to buy the protection plan so I have been able to replace the ipods each time without paying for them. But it takes several days to weeks for the replacement process.

In the past, I’ve panicked and gotten all out of sorts because my routine to stay calm was sidetracked! Didn’t those people at the replacement center understand how important that ipod is to me?! I can’t wait too weeks!

Talk about an oxymoron! I had become so dependent on this routine, exactly as I had designed it, that I forgot that the source of the calm is within me (and my Senior Partner) – not in that stupid ipod!

So I’m happy to relay that this time, I handled it differently. I calmly called the replacement center and made arrangements for that to happen, then I went out for my daily walk around the lake. Instead of needing to get the external reminders that I am a spiritual being having a human experience, I went inside and did a walking meditation. The 1 1/2 hours went just as quickly as it always does, and I arrived home refreshed and relaxed. I actually learned a lesson! Guess old dogs can learn new tricks. 🙂

Letting Go

This has always been one of my favorite poems. I had forgotten until today that it was written by one of my favorite authors & heroines, Louise Hay. If you don’t know about Louise, read YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE. She’s an amazing woman who has learned to face and reframe her life, and has taught millions of others to do the same. She also founded Hay House Publishing, which has grown to be the largest publisher of spiritual material in the world. She did this in her early 60’s. She’s now in her 80’s. (At the age of 62, this gives me hope that I have more to give!)

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off, it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another, it is to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

To “let go” is not to be protective, it is to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.

To “let go” is not to nag, scold or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less and love more.
-Louise Hay

I Love You Enough To . . .

I love you enough to become so serene and at peace that I don’t “need” you.

Needing you is different than loving you. Needing is confining, while loving is freeing.

We each have everything we need to live fully – no one else can give it to us. So if I “need” you, it means that I am not taking care of myself, and it really has nothing to do with you.

My strength and serenity come from within and not “out there somewhere.”

-from I LOVE YOU ENOUGH . . . TO LET YOU GO by Tim McGregor

Acts of Kindness

This article is reprinted from My Spring 2008 Newsletter:

One of my favorite authors is Dr. Wayne Dyer. I’ve heard of this study before, and he was
recently on the Ellen Show, where he mentioned it. (I have not verified the study but I take Dr. Dyer at his word). I find it fascinating, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Dr. Dyer speaks of a scientific study that was done several years ago, where they found that the serotonin
level went up significantly when a person was the recipient of a kind deed. (Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects our emotional states, and many of the antidepressants used currently are designed to stimulate its production in the brain).

In addition, the study found that the serotonin level of the person who performed the deed also went up at the same rate. But what I find most interesting, is that the serotonin level of people who witnessed the event also experienced a rise in their serotonin level to the same extent.

While I’m not saying those on an antidepressant should quit using it and simply try to be nicer to others, I do think this speaks volumes about our society that is so dependent on pills and other methods for our quick fixes.

I have used a gratitude list/journal for years to help myself get out of a funky mood, or to quit obsessing about something that I can’t do anything about. I write down all the things I can think of for which I’m grateful at that moment. (It sometimes includes things as simple as “my internet is working!!”)

Then I notice that feeling of gratitude or joy, and where I feel it in my body—and just allow myself to feel it for a few moments, before I move on to the next thing on my list.

When I can, I also do something kind for someone first thing in the morning, especially when my day is especially frustrating or depressing. It doesn’t have to be anything big. I send an email to someone who I know is ill or lonely—just to say “Hi, I’m thinking of you.” Or I pick up trash while I’m on my morning walk, or help an elderly person take their groceries to their car, etc.

We all know how good it feels to do something for someone else just because we want to. People are put in our paths every day who could use a hand. I challenge you to be more aware—maybe even look for the opportunity to do something for someone. Become an instrument of kindness, and see how much better you feel!

Be kind to the unkind because kindness is your nature. –The Tao (as interpreted by Dr. Wayne Dyer)