Codependency is a huge issue for people in recovery from compulsive sexual behavior. While much discussion in the past has centered around how the spouse or partner of an addict is codependent (in that they put up with behaviors and do other things that subtly enable the addiction to continue), my observation is that most addicts are codependent as well. In fact, my colleague Mark Laaser contends that he has yet to meet a married sex addict who is not codependent!
Codependency is sometimes misunderstood, and frequently means different things to different people. I like the way wikipedia describes it: A “codependent” is loosely defined as someone who exhibits too much, and often inappropriate, caring for persons who depend on him or her. A “codependent” is one side of a relationship between mutually needy people. The dependent, or obviously needy party(s) may have emotional, physical, financial difficulties, or addictions they seemingly are unable to surmount. The “codependent” party exhibits behaviour which controls, makes excuses for, pities, and takes other actions to perpetuate the obviously needy party’s condition, because of their desire to be needed and fear of doing anything that would change the relationship.
I would highlight the concept of fear. Codependency arises out of insecurity and neediness, and renders us incapable of being fully honest (confronting someone might cause them to dislike or leave us, and we can’t bear that thought). It also keeps us in perpetual rescuer mode — we fear what might happen to the person if we don’t help them out.
Melody Beattie, who wrote one of the early popular books about this subject (Codependent No More), also wrote a great devotional book to help people in recovery from codependency (The Language of Letting Go). I love this book, and recommend it to just about all the people I work with. Here is an extended quote from today’s (October 11) meditation:
How easy it is to blame our problems on others. “Look at what he’s doing.” . . . “Look how long I’ve waited.” . . . “Why doesn’t she call?” . . . “If only he’d change then I’d be happy.” . . .
Often, our accusations are justified. We probably are feeling hurt and frustrated. In those moments, we may begin to believe that the solution to our pain and frustration is getting the other person to do what we want, or having the outcome we desire. But these self-defeating illusions put the power and control of our life in other people’s hands. We call this codependency.
The solution to our pain and frustration, however valid is to acknowledge our own feelings. We feel the anger, the grief; then we let go of the feelings and find peace – within ourselves. We know our happiness isn’t controlled by another person, even though we may have convinced ourselves it is. We call this acceptance.
Then we decide that although we’d like our situation to be different, maybe our life is happening this way for a reason. Maybe there is a higher purpose and plan in play, one that’s better than we could have orchestrated. We call this faith.
Then we decide what we need to do, what is within our power to do to take care of ourselves. That’s called recovery.