November 21, 2011

The above article discusses codependency as a learned behavior; what is learned can be unlearned. Many people have heard of codependency as it relates to those who live with individuals addicted to things such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling. However, codependency can occur in any type of relationship, even those relationships which do not involve someone else’s addictions. Codependency, which I choose to speak of as loss of self in someone else, can occur in a variety of relationships including our relationships with our partners, our children, our aging parents, our friends, and our co-workers, and its origins can come from a number of possible sources that include but are not limited to living with addictions, chronic illness, abuse, neglect, perfectionism, and rigidity.

In Disentangle: When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else, the central theme is codependent relationships. It offers practical tips on how to get emotional freedom from such relationships and to rediscover your true sense of self. The process is not easy, but you can do it. I have worked with many individuals over the years who felt trapped by such relationships and yet many have benefited by this recovery process. As you begin this disentangling process, I have found it useful to understand it in terms of these ten Basics:

It’s about the experience of losing your Self

It’s about unhealthy attachments

It’s about finding you

It’s about getting balance

It’s about intervening on your behalf

It’s about spiritual growth

It’s a process without rules or sequence

It’s a process that takes time

Every day ain’t great

Don’t go this alone

In future blogs, I will delve into each of these Basics and cover many other aspects of this disentangling process including specific ideas for change. However, for now, an understanding of the Basics is a good foundation for learning and growth.
November 18, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in and presenting at the Carolinas Conference on Addiction and Recovery in Morganton, NC. Thanks to Jim Van Hecke and all those who work with him to offer this 13th Annual Conference. Much good work is being done there in the Carolinas in treating addictions.

My presentation was “When You’ve Lost Your Self in Someone Else: Working with the Dynamics of Codependence.” This is a topic familiar and close to my heart. It is also a topic which does not get as much attention at an addictions conference as most other topics. I am always glad for conference organizers who do recognize the importance of treating codependence in order to treat addictions, and I am always glad for the participants who choose to come to my session for they, too, are acknowledging its importance.

With all of this in mind, as I prepared for my session, I decided to write the following on my flip chart for participants to read as we started:

I do not believe codependence is an old topic. I believe it remains a new topic with much we do not yet understand and accept about it and the ways it affects our lives and the lives of others.

I have reached this statement of belief after having studied this topic both personally and professionally, written Disentangle and done numerous workshops and retreats on the topic, and examined the current professional literature on codependence.

Codependence does remain a step-child topic in our fields of addictions and mental health. But it is, in fact, as very real constellation of behaviors which can profoundly affect our lives. I was recently having a casual conversation with a colleague on this topic who said, “Codependence is every where.”

I am not trying to sell books. I simply see that our loss of self in others depletes us, frustrates us, and can leave us stuck in bad feelings and emotions. I believe it is good to know a way out of this.

More blogs will follow offering further information on this topic and ideas to help us free our self.