Thursday April 17th 2014

Codependency recovery: How to stop being codependent

Being codependent in marriage: the price we pay

My life was consumed by my husband, Dean. My every thought seemed to revolve around him.

What is he doing?

Where is he at?

Who is he with?

Is he using again?

Why doesn’t he answer the phone?

The hours at work were torture, because I had to focus on my work, but my mind was constantly distracted with worry. The pit of my stomach had a permanent knot. My smile was fake, and I had become a seasoned actress.

My friends and co-workers had no idea that I was living a double life. There was the me that everyone saw – the me who was confident, successful, and had life all figured out. They didn’t know the real me – the me who was chronically scared, suffered from low self-esteem, and was a complete basket case. I had learned to keep my real life secret. God forbid anyone would discover the truth – that Dean was addicted to crack cocaine and prescription pain pills!  And I was deep into codependency addiction.

Help for codependency enablers

I didn’t realize at the time, that it was the secrets that were keeping me stuck. I had created my own prison of lies, and as time went by, it became harder and harder to be honest (not only with my friends, co-workers, and family – but with myself). I needed help, but I didn’t know how to break my viscous cycle and reach out for that help.  It wasn’t until I asked myself, “Am I a codependent person?” that things started to look up.

Al-Anon for codependency

After hearing many times that Al-Anon was the place for families to turn, I finally gave it a try. But it wasn’t what I had expected. I wanted it to be a place where I could vent all of the terrible things my husband had done. I wanted a room full of people to validate that I was the perfect wife, and that he was the cause of all of my problems. But instead, the focus was on my own challenges – my own choices – and not on his.

After leaving that meeting, I didn’t expect to return. They obviously didn’t understand my situation. I was doing everything within my power to help Dean get clean. I was responsible, dedicated, hard-working, a good mother to our son – I didn’t have any problems! But I was also in denial. I was denying my own part in the addiction. I was an enabler, and as the following week went by I caught myself doing some of the enabling things they spoke about at that meeting.

I decided to go back once more. This time I opened up to the ideas. After all, nothing else was helping. I still had a wall built up, but it was starting to chip away. I listened to the stories of other people who were now finding happiness in their lives (even in the midst of an active addict). I found that hopeful. If there was a way that I could feel good again – I wanted to find it. So I kept going back.

Al-Anon taught me how to fix a codependent relationship.  Eventually, my focus shifted. I started setting my own goals, and making choices for myself. It was when I learned to let go and focus on my own life that positive changes started to happen, not only for me, but for my husband as well. The results were life-changing.

How can I stop being codependent?

How do you stop being codependent? The first step is acceptance – acceptance of the fact that you have challenges of your own – that you need help too. Most of us who love an addict are playing a part in the addiction. In our attempts at helping, we tend to take on an enabling role. By getting educated (through family recovery groups such as Al-Anon) we can learn to stop the negative patterns, learn to set healthy boundaries, and learn to enjoy life again.

Photo credit: Gabriela Camerotti

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About Lisa Espich

Lisa Espich is the author of the multi award-winning book, Soaring Above Co-Addiction: Helping your loved one get clean, while creating the life of your dreams. For additional articles, resources, and a free preview chapter of Soaring Above Co-Addiction visit her website. Her book is available at bookstores everywhere and at Twin Feather Publishing.