Are you lying awake at night worrying about your partner or child's drug, alcohol, or gambling problem? Do you make excuses for this person, do you cover up for this person or do you lie to others - such as employers - to not let this person look bad?
Is your relationship characterised by constant fights, recriminations, apportioning of blame, verbal abuse and occasional violence? Are your attempts at control failing and you hate yourself for it? Are you angry, because you have tried everything and nothing works? Welcome to the world of the codependent.
Other symptoms of codependency
- You constantly ask yourself what you did to contribute to this situation
- You cover up your real feelings by pretending you don't care, or don't notice someone else's destructive habit
- You spend a large portion of your time thinking about this person and their habit and what you can do about it
- You have become suspicious where this person is concerned - you watch what they do, where they go and check to see that nothing is missing
- You constantly feel anxious, waiting for the next outburst or drama
- You find yourself bargaining with this person or threatening them
- You know that too much emotional energy is focused on this person, their habit and its consequences rather than on yourself and your life
- You are constantly trying to make things better, but nothing works
- You are being lied to and deceived on a constant basis, but you find yourself wanting to believe what is being said to you
- You often end up footing the bill and being out of pocket
Why do people become codependent?
People become codependent for a variety of reasons. They feel empty within themselves, often have low self-esteem, have difficulty expressing their feelings and derive a sense of worth from being able to advise and help others.
Their sense of self-worth derives from being able to help and control others - and the more out-of-control the others' lives are, the greater the challenge to fix things for someone else. When this fails, as it inevitably does, as we cannot change other people, the feelings of worthlessness, anger and isolation become almost overwhelming.
How to stop this
So must you stop loving my child or partner who has a drug, drink or gambling habit?
Of course not. But love does not mean control, says Robin Norwood in her book Women who love too much. She adds that when we take responsibility for someone else's life, they don't have to. We can care about someone, without caring for them.
Sometimes not helping, not interfering and letting someone feel the consequences of their actions, are the most helpful things we could do. Healing ourselves should become a priority and we should not let someone else's behaviour become the determining factor for our happiness.
- Nar-anon - Helpline - 0881296791 (For family and friends affected by someone's drug problem
- Nar-ateen - Helpline - 0881296791 (For teenagers with drug addicted parents)
- Tough Love - 0861 868445 (Support group for parents of drug addicts)
- Al-Anon - 0861 252666
- Codependents anonymous 0825684806
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2012)