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Monday, August 29, 2016

Uncovering Codependency

uncovering codependency What is Codependency? 
If you (or someone you know) has been involved with substance abuse, there is a good chance that you have heard of the term “codependency.” Like many other Twelve Step terms and treatment buzzwords, codependency is a term that is often thrown around, yet when asked to define it you’ll get hundreds of different answers. So what is codependency? There is no one universal definition, but the Merriam-Webster Medical 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 addiction to alcohol or heroin)” And “Broadly: dependence on the needs of or control by another”

What Does Codependency Look Like?
These two definitions give us a basic outline about what codependency is (or at least how it is defined in the medical field), but what does codependency look like in real life? Well, there are several patterns that are often present in codependent relationships or systems. The key aspect of a codependent relationship is that there are helper(s) and then there is the individual suffering from some sort of pathological disorder.  The helpers in the relationship often maintain a caretaker role in family that goes above and beyond the normal loving, caring and nurturing.

It is important to understand that loving and caring for a family member who is sick is not codependency. Codependency occurs when this caring and love becomes maladaptive and becomes detrimental to members of the family. Once the relationship of codependency is established, several other things occur.

First, the caretaker in the relationship often assumes a martyr and victim role. They will often make sure that the other individuals needs are taken care of ahead of their own, while at the same time making it known that their needs aren’t being met.

Second, the relationship becomes beneficial for the individuals involved in the relationship. One person has their needs being constantly met by another person, while the other person feels that they are needed in order for that person to be functional. Finally, the dynamic of a “50/50 relationship” becomes skewed, with one member often being far more emotionally invested in the relationship than the other person. This creates a relationship where one individual is constantly giving, while the other is constantly receiving. This may be practical in the initial stages of codependency, but as the relationship progresses, it often causes resentment in either one or all of the individuals in the codependent system.

Misconceptions about Codependency
There are several misconceptions about codependency. The first misconception is that codependency only occurs between two people. Codependency can often be viewed in a family system context, meaning that codependency often involves every member of the family or social system. Individuals in the family or system may contribute to the codependent relationship in different ways, but when it is present in the family everyone is affected.

A second major misconception about codependency is that it only occurs in individuals that are affected by substance abuse. This is false as you often see individuals being “caretakers” in other relationships, especially when a family member or friend is suffering from depression, psychotic disorders, or personality disorders. Finally, codependency is not one sided. The individuals who are often being taken care of in the codependent relationship are either caretakers of others, or have been in the past. This dynamic often allows them to both exploit the others caring (while sick) and foster understanding (when treatment is sought).

Treatment of Codependency 
So what is to be done if you or someone you know is currently struggling with codependency? Fortunately there are several options, depending on the severity of the codependent relationship. If you believe the problem is relatively minor and can be worked through without the help of professionals, there are several self-help books such as Codependent No More and Codependence Anonymous which offer both insight and help on how to overcome codependency. Additionally, self-help groups such as Al-Anon, Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), and Families Anonymous can introduce you to others who are working through codependency.

If you believe the problem is more severe, therapy with a psychologist or counselor that is trained in family therapy can often be extremely helpful in understanding complex relationships, detangling the codependency, and teaching how create more functional relationships. Due to a greater understanding of codependency over the past decade, many treatment centers are now trained in treating this problem.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Value of Consequences

the value of consequences in addiction recovery Life’s consequences can be valuable teachers. You learn lessons from consequences in childhood and this continues throughout our lives. When an incident or event occurs that causes pain, you are likely to avoid repeating the same behaviors that led to that pain occurring. In the case of addiction, consequences can be vital to the addict seeking recovery.

Often times it will take an addict experiencing the same mistakes and pain over and over again to be compelled to make a change. As a family member, this can be a stressful process to watch. Parents have a natural tendency to want to keep their children from experiencing pain and this doesn’t change much when they become adults. Most parents would certainly agree!

As the consequences from active addiction become more serious, it can become more and more challenging for a parent to refrain from bailing their adult children out of trouble. However, keeping an addict from experiencing the consequences of his or her actions can lead them to a dangerous state where they are less likely to initiate change in their own lives. As this destructive pattern continues, the addict learns that there is no real reason cease the destructive behavior associated with their using because they have had no real challenges to face as a result of that behavior.

It is recommended that parents or loved ones of addicts seek their own support, such as Al-Anon, while dealing with a family member in active addiction. Learning the difference between supporting someone’s recovery versus supporting their disease is an important distinction that must be made in order to keep from the dangerous consequences that can result from enabling the addict. Often times it takes years for family members, especially parents, to realize they have been enabling their loved one after all. Many recovering addicts today say that their change for the better occurred when their families stopped “bailing them out” and they were forced to face their problems associated with their using head on.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dating in Early Addiction Recovery

dating early addiction recovery
It is no question that human beings are going to want to seek out and engage in romantic relationships. We were designed to be in relation with one another! The suggestion to stay out of a relationship for at least one year of sobriety is often discussed, but rarely ever followed! Here are a few reasons why you may want to reconsider this suggestion:

First, your first year in recovery is going to be filled with highs and lows; many describe this time as an emotional rollercoaster. In recovery, we have to learn new methods of coping, and that often takes some hard work and practice! For a person who has just begun to reestablish their self-esteem and confidence, engaging in a romantic relationship can really challenge this. It is risky to add an additional and significant life change such as this as you are much more susceptible to relapse if things go south in the relationship.

In addition, engaging in a relationship diverts our focus from ourselves to someone else. During this important time of self-growth, discovery, and development, being in a relationship can really take away from this crucial process. You may find yourself distracted from your meetings, stepwork, or other aspects of your “recovery routine” because you are more focused on your partner’s.

Don’t worry, though! The goal is certainly not to discourage recovering addicts to ever be in a relationship. Rather, it is to allow yourself ample time to engage fully in your recovery process, improve self-esteem and self-worth, and take the needed time and space for discovering who you are without the use of drugs and alcohol before starting to date. Many find that their hobbies and interests are quite different when they are not using. Recovering addicts will often report that what was appealing about a partner when they had a few months sober to a few years is extremely different. It is worth it to take the time to find yourself before you begin looking to find someone else!