Healing codependency takes time to develop roots just like plants. Codependency doesn't exist only in families where there is substance use disorder. This unhealthy conditioning can occur in any family, love or work relationship. It is almost always present, however, in families, or relationships, where substance or alcohol use is a problem.
It's natural to want to help, but helping loved ones who are unwilling to help themselves makes for enmeshed relationships. They become a merry-go-round of dysfunction.
Letting go is really tough. Abuse, manipulation, and promises that things will improve can keep you stuck for a long time. Getting free entails a series of baby steps that will help you finally to take charge of your own life and begin to heal. Hope is a big part of the process.
Hope and the experience of others are the voice that assures us that we can grow in a positive manner. What do those baby steps look like?
In the first set of baby steps, we:
- Acknowledge that codependency and enabling is an illness and needs to be treated as such and we are willing to address this illness.
- Become responsible for our own behaviors, but not what loved ones do. This means we get honest with ourselves and others about what's really happening and know that we are a part of this unhealthy system.
- Accept responsibility for the consequences we have created, such as allowing children to live in an unhealthy family system or enabling a child or spouse by buying drugs and/or alcohol.
- Acknowledge the feelings such as anger, hurt, frustration, loneliness, and sadness related to getting free, and our own issues about wanting to control others and make them well.
- Understand that we are not to blame, and we stop blaming ourselves. Blame does nothing but continue the problem. Blaming is unhealthy whether we blame the addict, ourselves, or others.
- Also understand that we will still have our trials and tribulations, even in recovery, for life will continue to give us problems as well as joy.
In the next set of baby steps, we:
- Detach with love. This means that while we may still love someone causing harm of one sort or another, we cannot be a part of coping with it any longer. Detaching means to allow other people (say the substance user in your life) to continue on her journey, even as it is unhealthy, while allowing ourselves to do our own healing and to grow no matter what is happening around us.
- Don’t rescue, make excuses, lie, or cover up the mess that a loved one has made. This is the other person's problem and his/her/their responsibility to do something about it.
- Tell friends and relatives what is happening without guilt or shame. There is no blame only, solution
- Ask others for help as we go about our healthy journey. Perhaps friends and loved ones can keep us company, can help babysit or get groceries. Or more importantly, they can offer love and acceptance.
- Find relief in the everyday actions of getting healthy, like being responsible for our own needs, not those of others.
- Might decide that an act of forgiveness is necessary, but forgiveness is not necessary to lead a healthy life.
In the last set of baby steps, we:
- Resist the desire to jump back in and enable the addict. As codependents, we may be easily sucked back into the chaos, and in fact, we may actually enjoy chaos, and we acknowledge that chaos is unhealthy.
- Might have healthy guilt for letting go, we can apologize, make amends, but not allow ourselves to get back into problematic behavior. We also make amends to ourselves for taking on too much in the past.
- Focus on hope that tomorrow will be a better day even if things look pretty bleak right now.
- Keep striving for healing through our recovery practices with self-help groups like Al Anon, Codependents Anonymous, counseling, and other professional help.
- Find acceptance of life in all that it gives and all that it takes from us.
- Use all the coping skills related to codependency healing.
The most important thing in our hope for healing is to not get overwhelmed, get back into chaotic, addictive behaviors, or stay in codependency. We have hope and this hope gets us through our days.
If you need help with substance use disorder in your family, or codependency, check out Recovery Guidance for a free resource to locate professional help near you.