What Is Codependency? You may have heard the term thrown around quite a bit, but what does it really mean? Some people use it to refer to needy people who can’t stand to be alone. Some use it to describe enabling family members. Or family members who can’t seem to stay out of your business, even after you’ve gotten your life back together. Codependency is frequently used as a blanket term that covers a variety of behaviors and situations. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines codependency as: A psychological condition or relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (as an addiction to alcohol or heroin) Broadly: Dependence on the needs of or control by another. While not all codependent relationships revolve around addiction, the two frequently go hand in hand. Codependent relationships may be between romantic partners, parents and their children or grandchildren, siblings and even friends. Some people who struggle with codependency bring these traits into all their relationships, even work-related or casual relationships. What Are Traits Of Codependency? Traits of codependency encompass a wide array of thoughts, feelings, actions and behavior patterns and habits. It can be expressed in different ways. Two people who are codependent can behave wildly different from one another. Some people are more outwardly controlling, dominating and aggressive. Others are busy sacrificing, putting their needs last and not expressing their feelings. This list of traits is a thorough look into the many ways codependency manifests itself. How Codependency Can Lead Someone In Early Recovery To Relapse Because codependency and addiction often go together, you may have already experienced codependence in one form or another. If you had parents who were addicts or alcoholics, experienced or witnessed abuse or did not get your needs met early on, codependent relationships may already be part of your story. Codependency can rob you of your voice and lead you to make decisions that are not in your best interests. Codependent relationships in recovery Maybe you were already in a relationship before getting into recovery, or perhaps you found a relationship in early recovery. Either way, this can be a “slippery slope.” This is because early recovery relationships are often built on a shaky foundation of codependency and low self-esteem. If your romantic partner is using, you are at risk of relapse. If you have gotten into a relationship with someone who is angry or controlling, the stress not only makes life a nightmare, but also puts you at risk for turning to substances as a way to cope. If you have latched on to a relationship and made it your whole world, which is common, what will you do when it falls apart? Relationships with healthy boundaries that are built on mutual respect don’t endanger our recovery. They don’t provoke anxiety and fear. They don’t demand all of our time and attention, and they leave us plenty of room to grow. Codependent relationships cause us to stagnate in our recovery and isolate us from those who would offer support. Family And Codependency Of course, codependency is not limited to romantic relationships. Codependent family relationships can be detrimental to your recovery, too. Sometimes, as much as family members worry and wish their children/siblings/parents would get clean and sober, the codependent part of them simply doesn’t know what to do when their loved one gets into recovery. They were so accustomed to playing the role of caretaker that they may even sabotage recovery efforts because they feel threatened and worry that they will no longer be needed. This sounds a little extreme, but it does happen. If you have family members, including your parents or children who use, it is important not to allow codependency to drag you into unsafe situations. Ways Codependency Can Derail Your Recovery Lack Of Self-Care This is unfortunately common. In codependent relationships, whether they be with a partner, family or friends, you put yourself last. You don’t attend to your recovery, you put yourself on the back burner. You may not be eating or sleeping properly, or you may be taking on everyone else’s problems, instead of focusing on your own. All-Consuming Relationships You’ve found “the one” and now nothing else matters. You stopped going to meetings and hanging out with the girls. You are calling your sponsor less, and you have set aside your own hobbies and interests to pursue all of his. His friends are now your friends, and you spend nearly every waking moment obsessing on your relationship to the exclusion of everything else, including your recovery. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Growing Resentments Codependency breeds resentment. When you don’t speak your truth, when you don’t ask for what you need, when you don’t stand up for yourself, you end up getting taken advantage of, feeling unappreciated, or finding yourself in situations that make you miserable. This leads to resentment, and resentments, when unaddressed, can lead to relapse. End Up Isolated Codependent people may crave closeness and intimacy, but have trouble achieving it. As a result, they push people away when they get too close. This happens in all their relationships. Everything may be going fine, and then something triggers the behavior. You may physically distance yourself by avoiding calls and isolating. Or, you may behave in ways that put people off so that they will stay away. When you are in recovery, you need support. Healing From Codependency The first step is recognizing the behavior. It’s not always easy to acknowledge, but once you do, you can take action. Get lots of support, counseling and work on building up your self-esteem. Practice saying no and speaking your mind, even when it feels uncomfortable. Distance yourself from people who are not respecting you. Enlist the help of other women who have been there. Get Help From A Women’s Treatment Center At Wayside House, we understand the unique needs of women with addictions. We offer a residential treatment program for women 18 and over, and provide treatment for addiction with a focus on building self-esteem and life skills. Contact Wayside House today at 561-278-0055.