It’s been a while since I ranted & raved about codependence here in this space. A program friend of mine has recently realized that he’s got some work to do in this department so it’s been on my mind lately. He’s already looked at his issues there a little, and I had a good book to loan him. Ha. I have more than a few books on the subject :)If you’re not familiar with the term and are wondering what the heck this codependence thing is, there are a lot of ways to describe it. Some people call it the Disease without the substance addiction piece. Some people call it being addicted to or dependent on people instead of a substance. I tend to think of it as the ways of thinking, communicating, and behaving that we learn by being around people with the Disease (or people who are codependent themselves).A lot of us with the Disease have codependence issues, and many of us end up going to the rooms of Al-Anon or ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) to sort them out. If doing the 12-steps for our addiction is college, then working on our codependence is like graduate study. A lot people suggest not working on codependence until we’ve completed our steps. And yeah, there’s a point to be made there, but it isn’t that we have to wait to work on this--it’s to finish your steps!In my mind, the definitive book on the subject is still Melody Beattie’s “Codependent No More”--especially if you haven’t done any step work or have never been to a 12-step room. For those of us who have finished our steps (or are working on them), it’s still a great book. A short sample: “Communication is not mystical. The words we speak reflect who we are: what we think, judge, feel, value, honor, love, hate, fear, desire, hope for, believe in, and commit to. If we think we’re inappropriate to life our communication will reflect this: We will judge others as having all the answers; feel angry, hurt, scared, guilty, needy, and controlled by other people. We will desire to control others, value pleasing others at any cost, and fear disapproval and abandonment. We will hope for everything but believe we deserve and will get nothing unless we force things to happen, and remain committed to being responsible for other people’s feelings and behavior. We’re congested with negative feelings and thoughts.“No wonder we have communication problems.”--from Chapter 17, ‘Communication’I first read ‘Co- No More’ when I was at the very beginning of my Recovery journey. In fact, it’s no stretch to say that this book WAS the start of my Recovery journey. It was as I got into it, attempted to start putting the ideas in Beattie’s book into practice that I discovered I was putting the cart before the horse; I had to deal with my addiction first before I could address these issues.A number of people who have the Disease in their life (friends who are addicts, parents who are alcoholics, etc.) have found a lot of help from this book. Many of them find their way into the rooms of Al-Anon so that they can get help putting these ideas into practice. As it is with those of us who learn how to deal with life without getting loaded, people who suffer from codependence need to learn a whole other way of dealing with life, themselves, with others. The ways we learn to be in the world don’t happen by accident. We adapt to our situations. If we’ve learned to function in a codependent way, it’s because it is what we had to learn to do in order to survive. Making the change, learning to do something different, is difficult, difficult stuff. A lot of times, we can’t find the willingness to follow through on it unless we’ve reached some kind of bottom and admitted to ourselves that we can’t do it the same old way anymore.We can learn a different way. Like our Disease, codependence is something we must continue to work on, but change is possible. If we want it. If we work for it.
read more: “Still Codependent, Too”