From Where did Codependency Come?
Learn about Codependency and see if you or someone you know suffers from the issues it brings. Co-dependent, or co-alcoholic, was originally defined in the late 1970s and early 1980s to help families and spouses of individuals with alcohol and drug problems. Mostly in line with family systems ideas, the model addressed the family members, especially wives, who “interfered” with the recovery. It was suggested that their behavior made it less difficult for the addict to continue drinking or using drugs. The idea was that the caring behavior manifested by family members and spouses actually “enabled” the addict to continue using.
At first glance as we learn about Codependency, the emphasis on the family was certainly a welcome step. Regardless of theoretical orientation working with a substance abuser in isolation, who is in an intimate relationship, is missing a rich opportunity to recruit more players into the change agenda. Unfortunately, from the mid eighties to the present, the codependency idea has become bastardized, and with each new self-help book the symptoms of codependency mount. It is literally impossible for anyone walking the planet, with a fourth grade English reading capacity, to finish one of these books and not consider the possibility that he or she is a codependent.
What began as a term to help spouses of addicts encourage sobriety and not inadvertently make it easy to continue, the codependency movement of the 80s and 90s has thrown the baby out with the bath water: Not only is all caring manifested by the spouse of an alcoholic deemed pathological, but the very act of compromising one’s needs to aid a loved one is now deemed symptomatic of a progressive disease processes, a relationship addiction.
As I Learn about Codependency, I’ve read a fair amount of what the popular press has bequeathed upon us regarding the codependency idea. The three books I scrutinized the most were the most popular. They were Facing Codependency, by Pia Mellody, Codependency No more, by Melody Beattie and Codependency, misunderstood, Mistreated. by Anne Wilson Schaef. It is my understanding that the majority of people who consider themselves “versed” in the codependency idea, gained at least some of their knowledge from one or more of these three books.
Below is my understanding of these authors’ conceptualizations as we Learn about Codependency:
Codependency as taught at our drug rehab center, is a progressive disease brought about by child abuse, which takes the form of anything “less than nurturing.” Codependency is epidemic (maybe all of us are codependent) and defines a vast array of psychological and physical symptoms. The caring manifested by codependents is an unconscious effort to keep repressed pain at bay, and the codependent actually contributes to the addictive behavior of their loved ones by enabling. Enabling keeps the loved one addicted so the codependent can go on caring to gain a sense of self worth. Recovery from codependency requires drastic attitude and lifestyle change (Detachment) and a lifelong commitment to the 12-step regime or similar program to self check and regulate thinking patterns. We need to practice healing ourselves. So it is a process that never ends.
What is the help for codependency
It is recommended that codependents do an inventory of all “less than nurturing” experiences of childhood. Pia Mellody asks thise who want to Learn about Codependency to look at your life from birth to age 17 and identify all the people responsible for “abusing you.” No attempt should be made to make excuses for the offenders in our lives or to tell ourselves that they didn’t mean it, even if they didn’t mean it. These perpetrators include, first and foremost, our mothers and fathers, but also siblings, extended family and members of the community, such as neighbors and teachers and angry garbage men.
Mellody Beattie recommends that we grieve. The purpose of “grief work” is to “separate the abuse from the precious child (118).” This is an actual mandate for recovery, “We must purge from our bodies the childhood feeling reality we have about being abused. The only way we can connect the feeling reality to what happened is to know what happened (122).”
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