When I first started working on my Master's Degree, I read a book that changed my whole outlook on loving an addict: Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I had never realized that I was codependent....Suddenly there was a name for what I was experiencing and how Lenaya's behaviors were impacting me.
Beattie defined different types of codependency:
“An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules-rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
“Those self-defeating, learned behaviors or character defects that result in a diminished capacity to initiate or to participate in loving relationships.”
“Codependency means that I’m a caretaker.”
“Codependency means I’m up to my elbows in alcoholics.”
“Codependency is knowing all your relationships will either go on and on the same way (painfully) or end up the same way (disastrously). Or both.”
“One fairly common denominator was having a relationship, personally or professionally, with troubled, needy, or dependent people. The second was unwritten silent rules the PROHIBIT discussion about problems; open expression of feelings; direct, honest communication; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable, or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one’s self; playing and having fun; and rocking the family canoe through growth or change.”
“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”
I most closely related with the last definition in all my attempts to change Lenaya. I felt this intense responsibility to fix her.
Beattie also described who are affected by codependency:
“Many groups of people have it: adult children of alcoholics, people in relationships with emotionally or mentally disturbed persons; people in relationships with chronically ill people; parents of children with behavior problems; people in relationships with irresponsible people, professionals- nurses, social workers, and others in helping occupations. Even recovering alcoholics and addicts noticed they were codependent and perhaps had been long before becoming chemically dependent.”
She is quick to point out that being codependent doesn't mean that we are bad or inferior. We learn coping or survival skills to deal with our challenges. What has become our way of coping in extremely difficult conditions, sometimes turn into the problem. I came to understand that nothing I did would change Lenaya unless she wanted to change, and I had to learn to accept that. The only person I can change is me, and that is certainly hard enough. I relearn that over and over again with my children, my spouse and my clients.