How to get out of a codependent relationship

Four steps to making positive changes in a codependent relationship with an addict. 1. Take ownership. 2. Let go. 3. Change focus. 4. Reach out for help. More here on ending or getting out of a codependent relationship. Your questions are welcomed at the end.

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When to end a codependent relationship

You find yourself constantly sick to your stomach, walking on eggshells, worrying about the future, crying at red lights, binge eating, and screaming at your kids for absolutely no reason. You are scattered, forgetful, depressed, and contemplating moving out of the country where no one can find you.

The culprit?

A toxic relationship.

In fact, codependent controlling behaviors and addiction go hand in hand.  But now your boyfriend (or girlfriend), spouse, friend, parent, or adult child has an addiction, and their actions have pushed you over the edge. It is time to end the craziness.

Codependent relationships with addicts

When you are in a relationship with an addict it is difficult to avoid being mentally and physically affected. The constant ups and downs of addiction can cause you to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways. Eventually, you might find that you’re placing a lower priority on your own needs, while being preoccupied with the needs of your addicted loved one. This is called codependency, and this unhealthy way of love not only harms your relationships, but your quality of life.

The good news is that you have the power to make a change. Overcoming codependent relationships is possible. And as changes occur, you offer the best possible environment to encourage positive change in the addict. Most importantly, you will no longer be in a codependent relationship. You may still choose to love a person with addiction, but your behaviors toward that love will be healthy.

Four steps toward positive change in codependency

Step #1 – Take ownership.

Addiction is often called a family disease.  This is because, typically, the entire household takes on unhealthy behaviors. In fact, how parents enable and why is similar to how spouses and partners enable.  you’ve failed to set healthy boundaries, then now is the time to take a close look and decide which of your own actions are enabling the addiction. If you don’t stop your enabling behavior, then you are only making it easier for the addict to continue in their disease.

Setting healthy boundaries is called tough love. It’s making a stand against addiction and finally saying no to the madness. But there is a reason why it’s called “tough,” and it can be just as hard on the family as it is on the addict. The addict is used to getting what he or she wants. They’ve probably learned to threaten, cry, or throw tantrums until you cave in. When you set clear boundaries, they will eventually learn that tantrums no longer work.

Step #2 – Let go.

You can detach from the problems of addiction. Yes, you are in a relationship with an addict, but in order to love him or her, you do not need to stay down in their storm. You can rise above the dark clouds and serve as an example of health and happiness. Not only is it possible, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself and the addict.

Detachment is really about doing what you can to distance yourself from the troubles of addiction. This means walking away from arguments and chaos, and looking for ways to enjoy your time. Start making healthy choices for yourself. At first it might feel like you’re faking it. You might be attempting to enjoy a movie, but you can’t get your mind off of the addict. Eventually, as you keep trying, you will begin to enjoy yourself again.

Step #3 – Change your focus.

When you are in a codependent relationship, your major focus revolves around the addict. You are no longer focusing on yourself. But the only real control you have is over your own actions and behaviors. It’s time to take the microscope off of your addicted loved one and turn in back on you. What do you want? What do you need? Have you stopped taking care of yourself? Make a plan for positive change — your own change — and then start to follow through on that plan.

Step #4 – Reach out for help.

This is the most important step of all. In your situation you need all the help and support that you can get. One of the best forms of support available, for those of us involved with an addict, is a family recovery group such as Al-Anon.

In these groups, the loved ones of addicts share their experience and hope in order to gain strength and solve their common problems. What better group of people to turn to for comfort and support than those who are living with the same struggles.

After codependency, what’s next?

As you move in this new direction, you will find yourself growing more and more confident. You may find that you are not so emotionally attached to the addict anymore. You learn to allow him or her to live their own life and face their own consequences. It can help to remember that with each mistake they make, they are one step closer to realizing their need for help.

In the meantime, you are making healthy choices for yourself. You are setting a good example. You are focusing on a positive future (with or without the addict). You are getting strong, and you are no longer part of a codependent relationship.

About the author
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.
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