How Codependency Is Contagious


Two weeks ago, my very codependent mother came over for a socially distant afternoon visit. She’s negative, bossy, and controlling. She constantly worries about everyone else’s business, and her behaviors are highly contagious. Now, I have to fight off every instinct to pick up this sickness again.

Why She’s More Contagious Than Covid

People who had Chicken Pox are at risk for Shingles later in life because the virus lives on in the body, waiting to pounce. The same is true about people who live with addiction. Behaviors and family roles are ingrained in our psyche from years before.

I’m the only person in my family who embraces recovery, so they’re still functioning in their dysfunctional roles. They’re all codependent in different ways. It’s like they’re all stuck on a merry-go-round. Each person pulls on their bar to make the ride lean their way. But they’re all pulling in different directions, so they’re always spinning. Three years ago, I finally got sick of the ride and jumped off.

This week’s drama de jour is, of course, my brother Ricky. Three months ago, he was arrested. My Mom moved him into her house, so she could help him get back on his feet. Last Thursday, Ricky quit his job. My mom is furious and is once again going to tell him everything he needs to do to solve his problems. She’s also terrified that my dad will yell at Ricky for being so irresponsible. She can’t leave them alone because what if one of them says something the other one will never forgive?

It’s maddening and exactly why I moved out of town.

But the worst part is every fiber in my being wants to do the very thing my mom is doing that’s driving me so crazy!!!

I want to tell her what she should do and be the mediator between Ricky and my parents. But I don’t.

Progress, Not Perfection

To be honest, my Mom’s visit showed me two important things.

  1. I have a very clear picture of why I’m in recovery and how I no longer wish to behave.
  2. I have made a lot of progress. Detaching this time around was easier than it was last time.

During the visit with my Mom, I pulled out these recovery tools, I:

  • Didn’t tell her what I would do or what she should do.
  • Didn’t smooth over ruffled feathers or play the peacemaker.
  • Did sincerely empathize with how scared she might be.
  • When I felt uncomfortable, I politely changed the subject.
  • Looked up #detachment posts on Instagram.
  • Read my Al-anon books and journalled A LOT.
  • Kept quiet, but not in an angry, punitive way. I didn’t feed fruitless conversations.

Healing From The Virus

It’s not like I broke out in a new case of codependency, but I am highly triggered. My mom pushed all of my buttons and the drama is swirling. I need to take some time to detox. Here’s my plan to rejuvenate:

  1. Focus on what I can change. I bought myself a new workout outfit and some of my favorite health foods.
  2. I need to quiet my mind, but I don’t need quiet time for my obsessive thoughts to run wild. I will either pick up a few extra Al-Anon meetings this week or schedule some times to talk with my accountability partners.
  3. I’m going to recognize and name my feelings. This situation with Ricky is heartbreaking. He has a disease and it tears our family apart. The sickness is so permeable that I limit my time with my only living family. This is a loss I must grieve.
  4. I’m going spend some time ignoring my feelings. My feelings are important, but if I overfed them, they will grow into gigantic monsters. I’ve lost years of my life worrying about Ricky. I have to keep the focus on me. I only have one life to live and it’s mine.

Above all, I’ll be spending lots of time journaling, walking, and resting. Journaling is my number 1 go to. I write out prayers to my Higher Power. Sometimes I write on top of what I’ve already written so that my true feelings are protected by layers of scribbles. It gets the thoughts out of my heart and head.