Remarkably, it was a twelve-step program for co-dependents that gave me the strength to face my issues with addiction. I began learning about codependency after a terrible breakup, and found that I fit the bill for a garden-variety, run-of-the-mill, codependent. Here’s what I learned about codependents:
- Have difficulty identifying what they are feeling
- Minimize, alter, or deny how they truly feel.
- Perceive themselves as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well- being of others
- Lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
- Label others with their negative traits.
- Think they can take care of themselves without any help from others.
- Mask pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
- Express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
- Do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom they are attracted.
- Have difficulty making decisions.
- Judge what they think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
- Are embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
- Value others’ approval of their thinking, feelings, and behavior over their own.
- Do not perceive themselves as lovable or worthwhile persons.
- Seek recognition and praise to overcome feeling less than.
- Are extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
- Compromise their own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
- Put aside their own interests in order to do what others want.
- Believe people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
- Attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
- Freely offer advice and direction without being asked.
- Become resentful when others decline their help or reject their advice.
- Act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward them.
- Judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
- Avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a way to maintain distance.
- Allow addictions to people, places, and things to distract them from achieving intimacy in relationships.
- Use indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
It wasn’t until I began addressing my codependency that I was able to accept that I was using weed to mask a lot of pain that was due to living codependently. I became stronger through the program, and was gradually able to let go of my safety blanket of being a stoner.
I began to learn about boundaries, and how to identify what I’m feeling, and separating my needs from the needs and desires of those around me. I knew I was very often in a deep state of emotional unease, discomfort and anxiety – but I didn’t know it had anything to do with co-dependency. I thought that’s just how life is; I thought life is an endless stream of being/doing/behaving how I thought other people wanted me to be.
When I began standing up for my own needs and desires, and setting boundaries, my relationships began to change drastically. They became more balanced, harmonious, and healthy. This didn’t happen overnight, nor was it free of awkward moments, but it eliminated so much emotional turmoil that I was unnecessarily creating for myself.
I am still committed to living beyond codependency, and I still catch myself falling back into those familiar, unhealthy patterns listed above. But I know that I don’t need to live my life that way anymore. I get to like and dislike things and people, and I allow others the dignity to like or dislike me, or dislike something I say or do.
When I live authentically and stop playing an unnecessary role, just to win the approval of others, I get to experience more peace. And in that peace, I am able to face things like addiction and other issues.
Though I was surprised to hear that addiction is commonplace among individuals who are codependent, I didn’t realize how accurate that generalization was. It definitely applied to me.
I write this post to remind myself that codependency is an illness that, if left untreated, can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and addiction. I remind myself that boundaries, however awkward, are healthy and good for everyone involved.
I remind myself that it is possible to be addicted to the good opinions of others.
How many times do you reach for your unhealthy coping mechanisms instead of setting a boundary? Why do you think you’d rather cope with something, rather than speak up if you don’t like it? Let me know.