Last week in my blog I referred to codependence as a sleeper topic. I have said this before and realize I want to say a bit more about what I mean by this.

I call codependence a sleeper topic, because it does not receive the time and attention that many other topics related to addictions receive. When I look through the brochures and booklets listing sessions offered for addiction and mental health conferences, there are not many sessions on codependence, if any at all. There may be a few sessions offering information for helping families living with addictions, but the deeper issue of loss of self in someone else is seldom addressed.

I have even had someone say to me in reference to conference planning, “Oh, we did codependence last year.”

Would we say that about offering sessions on helping the substance addict to recover or on strategies for relapse prevention? - “Oh, we did that last year.”

I know that codependence remains unclearly defined and can be over-used. I also know some academic work is being done to develop assessment tools to better define codependence and thus be able to study it better.

In the meanwhile, loss of self in someone else remains an important clinical dynamic which I believe needs consistent, valued attention from each of us in these fields of mental health and addictions.

We can encourage people to “do something for your self” or “just tell them ‘no’”,  but the individual being coached to do this probably needs some deeper work within their self in order to be able to make this profound change.

Yes, this is a profound change, to be able to consider and assert self in the face of someone else’s addiction, dysfunction, or neediness.

Untreated codependence can lead to many things, including anxiety, depression, and relapse. I will write about each of these topics in my next blogs.

In the meanwhile, I will continue to help wake us up on this topic. There are some strong voices in our fields that have gone before me and sounded the alarm to wake us up to codependency. I applaud them and join them.
Barnes & Noble on the Duke of Gloucester Street, Williamsburg, VA

, 2011
I know I am not blogging very often. And I know that when I do blog, I am often writing about the importance of understanding and offering help for codependent behaviors.

I am not doing this to sell books. I am doing this because as I am out in the world talking to people and as I am at home functioning as a wife and mother, I keep seeing many of us struggle with questions about how much to help others and when to stop helping; when to step back from my involvement in someone else’s space/life and into my own world/life; when to move away from my preoccupations with others and back into attending to things I need to do for my self.

Since I last blogged, I have had two wonderful opportunities to do book signings: one at the William & Mary Bookstore/Barnes & Noble in Williamsburg, VA on the Duke of Gloucester Street and the other in Washington, DC at the American Psychological Associations annual convention. Both were powerful times with many conversations about tangles and disentangling with people talking about:

raising their children.
adult children returning home.
helping friends.
sibling problems.
workplace conflicts.
leaving job.
living with addictions.
their own recovery.
their own over-functioning.

Both the general public and professionals in our fields of mental health and addictions have been eager to talk with me, often not necessarily about Disentangle, itself, but about their own situations and stories.

These are very important questions for us each to be willing to bring into our awareness and then see what we want to do about our self and our role in entanglements. I still maintain that codependence is a sleeper topic in our fields and that ironically, it is quite a fundamental problem that feeds the more predominant problems such as anxiety, depression, and addictions.

So keep your questions and stories coming. The more we look at codependent behaviors and what we can do about them, the closer we can get to good mental health.