There is an ongoing argument about relationships related to substances use disorder. Can helping someone actually be hurting? Co-dependency can make understanding the dynamic difficult. Co-Dependency means being enmeshed with other people, often in unhealthy ways. How do you tell?
1. Are You Enabling Someone In Your Life?
This one is pretty easy to identify. Is there someone in your life you’re trying to help but it’s gotten dysfunctional and you may be perpetuating the problem? For example, I had a coworker once who I liked very much. I knew he had a problem with alcohol and I knew as he started calling in sick more and more that problem was progressing but I still covered for him for months telling our boss he was really sick. In the end maybe if he’d lost his job or had to be accountable for why he was really late he may have gotten help sooner. My trying to help him actually hurt him.
2. Are You A Victim?
Do you find that sometimes in the process of trying to help someone or ‘save someone’ you end up feeling victimized in the process? Don’t continue to help people who don’t want your help. Another good example comes from my friend Jess. Jess is constantly trying to manage her boyfriend, who has a gambling addiction. It never works well and usually she ends up in tears when things inevitably go wrong. The worst part is that she feels victimized by the end of the process, every time. But by going along with this dysfunctional behavior she’s setting herself up to be hurt.
3 . People Pleasers Come Hither
Co-dependents come in all forms but I know many who are people pleasers. This is all well and good for a while until the pleaser realizes his or her own needs are not being met, at which point they can become quite angry. My friend’s sister is a people pleaser and always does what her family wants her to do, even when it means her life becomes totally inconvenient. For example, she’ll agree to pick up their parents from the airport on a night when she has to get her kids home, cook dinner and meet with the PTA. She ends up running around like a chicken with her head cut off to get everything done while being late to all the important things in her life. She never complains but she has constant headaches and backaches. Seems to me the stress is unavoidable, even if you don’t talk about it.
4. Identify Your Relationships
Listen to your instincts. This is hard. If there are things that make you uncomfortable about some of the relationships in your life, identify them. Think about whether you’re dominating someone, or they’re dominating you. Are your needs in the relationship being met? Are you often resentful at someone because they don’t reciprocate the kind of care and attention you give them? Lay it out for yourself and get real clear on with who and how you’re co dependent.
5. Set boundaries
This is it folks. The holy grail of recovery. Learn how to set boundaries with people that keep you, and them, safe. Boundaries. They work if you work them.