About Codependendency and Recovery from Addictions: 

Addictions and Codependency are family and relationship issues as well as a primary illness for the addict.  Modern treatment methods address the entire family and relationship structure. 

Ironically, codependency isn't about other people - it's about the relationship with the self.  Codependents often believe that if the addict in their life sobered up their problems would go away. 

Countless addict / alcoholics find their relationships end or change radically when they get clean and sober. The family / relationship dynamic was predicated on the addict being "the sick one." As the addict gets well they may find their partners and family members have no idea how to adjust to the changes.

Enabling codependents may subvert the addict's recovery so the unhealthy relationship dynamics can be preserved. 

Addicted codependents who hid behind another's more dramatic problem may leave the relationship rather than give up their own using. Addicted codependents often progress in their own addictions more rapidly when their partner enters recovery. (Since the change in the relationship is stressful.)

Codependents in denial cannot adjust to the relationship changes that occur when their partner begins recovery. They may move on to other addictive relationships so they can cling to their own dysfunctional patterns.  (The controlling codependent is often lost without someone to blame, fix and control.)  How many times have you heard of people who leave one alcoholic only to enter a relationship with another one? 

All people involved in the addictive cycle need a solid recovery program if relationships are to be preserved and they are to lead happy, fulfilling lives.  

Codependency Recovery:

Recovery from Codependency is deep work based on shifting our relationship with ourselves. We may have to let go If the people in our lives are unwilling to work through their issues.  "Firing" the people we were codependent with may be a part of that, but remember - codependency is about us, not them!  Recovery from codependency involves learning to take responsibility for our own actions, feelings behavior, issues and lives.

Codependents have as much difficulty accepting their powerlessness over people and events as alcoholics / addicts have regarding their powerlessness over their drug of choice. (Many treatment modalities approach codependency as an addiction to control and / or caretaking.)   Ongoing therapy and a twelve step program (CODA meetings) are highly advised. Melody Beattie's Codependent No More is recommended reading, as is her book The Language of Letting Go.  

Letting go of the need to control people, places and events is difficult, but will ultimately set us free of our self-defeating patterns, shame and fear. The investment in caretaking / control take a lot of our energy - letting that go frees our energy for more productive uses.  



Characteristics of Codependency

Symptoms of Codependency:

(Codependents often use language like "you make me feel ______", or "I was made to feel like____") 

Are you codependent?

Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More developed this check list:

Characteristics of Codependency

Following is a commonly used list of characteristics of codependency.

  1. My good feelings about who I am stem from being liked by you
  2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you
  3. Your struggle affects my serenity. My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain
  4. My mental attention is focused on you
  5. My mental attention is focused on protecting you
  6. My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way
  7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems
  8. My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain
  9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side. My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests
  10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  11. Your behaviour is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me
  12. I am not aware of how I feel. I am aware of how you feel.
  13. I am not aware of what I want - I ask what you want. I am not aware - I assume
  14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you
  15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do
  16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do
  17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship
  18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you
  19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you
  20. I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own
  21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours

    What is Codependency?

    These patterns and characteristics are offered as a tool to aid in self evaluation. They may be particularly helpful to newcomers as they begin to understand codependency and may aid those who have been in recovery a while determining what traits still need attention and transformation.

    Denial Patterns:

    Low Self Esteem Patterns:

    Compliance Patterns:

    Control Patterns:

    Characteristics of Codependent People

    1. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This in turn enabled us not to look too closely at our faults.
    2. We "stuff" our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts too much.
    3. We are isolated from and afraid of people and authority figures.
    4. We have become approval seekers and have lost our identity in the process.
    5. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
    6. We live from the viewpoint of victims and are attacked by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
    7. We judge ourselves harshly and have a low sense of self esteem.
    8. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment. We will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order to not experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with people who were never there emotionally for us.
    9. We experience guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
    10. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can pity and rescue.
    11. We have either become chemically dependent, married one or both, or found another compulsive personality, such a workaholic to fulfill our own compulsive needs.
    12. We have become addicted to excitement.
    13. We are reactors in life rather than actors.

    Signs and Symptoms of Codependency

    Codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling, and behaving toward ourselves and others that can cause pain. Codependent behaviors or habits are self-destructive.

    We frequently react to people who are destroying themselves; we react by learning to destroy ourselves. These habits can lead us into, or keep us in, destructive relationships that don't work. These behaviors can sabotage relationships that may otherwise have worked. These behaviors can prevent us from finding peace and happiness with the most important person in our lives... ourselves. These behaviors belong to the only person we can change.. ourselves. These are our problems.

    The following are characteristics of codependent persons: (We started to do these things out of necessity to protect ourselves and meet our needs.)


    Codependents may:

    1. Think and feel responsible for other people---for other people's feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
    2. Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
    3. Feel compelled - almost forced - to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
    4. Feel angry when their help isn't effective.
    5. Anticipate other people's needs.
    6. Wonder why others don't do the same for them.
    7. Don't really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
    8. Not knowing what they want and need, or if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important.
    9. Try to please others instead of themselves.
    10. Find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others rather than injustices done to themselves.
    11. Feel safest when giving.
    12. Feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
    13. Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
    14. Find themselves attracted to needy people.
    15. Find needy people attracted to them.
    16. Feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don't have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
    17. Abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else.
    18. Overcommit themselves.
    19. Feel harried and pressured.
    20. Believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them.
    21. Blame others for the spot the codependents are in.
    22. Say other people make the codependents feel the way they do.
    23. Believe other people are making them crazy.
    24. Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used.
    25. Find other people become impatient or angry with them for all of the preceding characteristics.

    Low Self Worth

    Codependents tend to:

    1. Come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families.
    2. Deny their family was troubled, repressed or dysfunctional.
    3. Blame themselves for everything.
    4. Pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel, look, act, and behave.
    5. Get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indigent when others blame and criticize the codependents -- something codependents regularly do to themselves.
    6. Reject compliments or praise.
    7. Get depressed from a lack of compliments and praise (stroke deprivation).
    8. Feel different from the rest of the world.
    9. Think they're not quite good enough.
    10. Feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.
    11. Fear rejection.
    12. Take things personally.
    13. Have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse,neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.
    14. Feel like victims.
    15. Tell themselves they can't do anything right.
    16. Be afraid of making mistakes.
    17. Wonder why they have a tough time making decisions.
    18. Have a lot of "shoulds".
    19. Feel a lot of guilt.
    20. Feel ashamed of who they are.
    21. Think their lives are not worth living.
    22. Try to help other people live their lives instead.
    23. Get artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.
    24. Get strong feelings of low self-worth - embarrassment, failure, etc...from other people's failures and problems.
    25. Wish good things would happen to them.
    26. Believe good things never will happen.
    27. Believe they don't deserve good things and happiness.
    28. Wish others would like and love them.
    29. Believe other people couldn't possibly like and love them.
    30. Try to prove they're good enough for other people.
    31. Settle for being needed.


    Many Codependents:

    1. Push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness because of fear and guilt.
    2. Become afraid to let themselves be who they are.
    3. Appear rigid and controlled.


    Codependents tend to:

    1. Feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
    2. Worry about the silliest things.
    3. Think and talk a lot about other people.
    4. Lose sleep over problems or other people's behavior.
    5. Worry.
    6. Never Find answers.
    7. Check on people.
    8. Try to catch people in acts of misbehavior.
    9. Feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems.
    10. Abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.
    11. Focus all their energy on other people and problems.
    12. Wonder why they never have any energy.
    13. Wonder why they can't get things done.


    Many codependents:

    1. Have lived through events and with people that were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment.
    2. Become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
    3. Don't see or deal with their fear of loss of control.
    4. Think they know best how things should turn out and how people should behave.
    5. Try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.
    6. Eventually fail in their efforts or provoke people's anger.
    7. Get frustrated and angry.
    8. Feel controlled by events and people.


    Codependents tend to:

    1. Ignore problems or pretend they aren't happening.
    2. Pretend circumstances aren't as bad as they are.
    3. Tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.
    4. Stay busy so they don't have to think about things.
    5. Get confused.
    6. Get depressed or sick.
    7. Go to doctors and get tranquilizers.
    8. Become workaholics.
    9. Spend money compulsively.
    10. Overeat.
    11. Pretend those things aren't happening either.
    12. Watch problems get worse.
    13. Believe lies.
    14. Lie to themselves.
    15. Wonder why they feel like they're going crazy.


    Many codependents:

    1. Don't feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.
    2. Look for happiness outside themselves.
    3. Latch onto whoever or whatever they think can provide happiness.
    4. Feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think proves their happiness.
    5. Didn't feel love and approval from their parents.
    6. Don't love themselves.
    7. Believe other people can't or don't love them.
    8. Desperately seek love and approval.
    9. Often seek love from people incapable of loving.
    10. Believe other people are never there for them.
    11. Equate love with pain.
    12. Feel they need people more than they want them.
    13. Try to prove they're good enough to be loved.
    14. Don't take time to see if other people are good for them.
    15. Worry whether other people love or like them.
    16. Don't take time to figure out if they love or like other people.
    17. Center their lives around other people.
    18. Look for relationships to provide all their good feelings.
    19. Lost interest in their own lives when they love.
    20. Worry other people will leave them.
    21. Don't believe they can take care of themselves.
    22. Stay in relationships that don't work.
    23. Tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.
    24. Feel trapped in relationships.
    25. Wonder if they will ever find love.

    Poor Communication

    Codependents frequently:

    1. Blame.
    2. Threaten.
    3. Coerce.
    4. Beg.
    5. Bribe.
    6. Advise.
    7. Don't say what they mean.
    8. Don't mean what they say.
    9. Don't know what they mean.
    10. Don't take themselves seriously.
    11. Think other people don't take the codependents seriously.
    12. Take themselves too seriously.
    13. Ask for what they want and need indirectly - sighing, for example.
    14. Find it difficult to get to the point.
    15. Aren't sure what the point is.
    16. Gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.
    17. Try to say what they think will please people.
    18. Try to say what they think will provoke people.
    19. Try to say what they hop will make people do what they want them to do.
    20. Eliminate the word NO from their vocabulary.
    21. Talk too much.
    22. Talk about other people.
    23. Avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts.
    24. Say everything is their fault.
    25. Say nothing is their fault.
    26. Believe their opinions don't matter.
    27. Want to express their opinions until they know other people's opinions.
    28. Lie to protect and cover up for people they love.
    29. Have a difficult time asserting their rights.
    30. Have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately.
    31. Think most of what they have to say is unimportant.
    32. Begin to talk in Cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways.
    33. Apologize for bothering people.

    Weak Boundaries

    Codependents frequently:

    1. Say they won't tolerate certain behaviors from other people.
    2. Gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they would never do.
    3. Let others hurt them.
    4. Keep letting others hurt them.
    5. Wonder why they hurt so badly.
    6. Complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.
    7. Finally get angry.
    8. Become totally intolerant.

    Lack of Trust


    1. Don't trust themselves.
    2. Don't trust their feelings.
    3. Don't trust their decisions.
    4. Don't trust other people.
    5. Try to trust untrustworthy people.
    6. Think God has abandoned them.
    7. Lose faith and trust in God.


    Many Codependents:

    1. Feel very scared, hurt, and angry.
    2. Live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.
    3. Are afraid of their own anger.
    4. Are frightened of other people's anger.
    5. Think people will go away if anger enters the picture.
    6. Feel controlled by other people's anger.
    7. Repress their angry feelings.
    8. Think other people make them feel angry.
    9. Are afraid to make other people feel anger.
    10. Cry a lot, get depressed, overact, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.
    11. Punish other people for making the codependents angry.
    12. Have been shamed for feeling angry.
    13. Place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry.
    14. Feel increasing amounts of anger, resentment, and bitterness.
    15. Feel safer with their anger than hurt feelings.
    16. Wonder if they'll ever not be angry.

    Sex Problems

    Some codependents:

    1. Are caretakers in the bedroom.
    2. Have sex when they don't want to.
    3. Have sex when they'd rather be held, nurtured, and loved.
    4. Try to have sex when they're angry or hurt.
    5. Refuse to enjoy sex because they're so angry at their partner.
    6. Are afraid of losing control.
    7. Have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.
    8. Withdraw emotionally from their partner.
    9. Feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.
    10. Don't talk about it.
    11. Force themselves to have sex, anyway.
    12. Reduce sex to a technical act.
    13. Wonder why they don't enjoy sex.
    14. Lose interest in sex.
    15. Make up reasons to abstain.
    16. Wish their sex partner would die, go away, or sense the codependent's feelings.
    17. Have strong sexual fantasies about other people.
    18. Consider or have an extramarital affair.


    Codependents tend to:

    1. Be extremely responsible.
    2. Be extremely irresponsible.
    3. Become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don't require sacrifice.
    4. Find it difficult to feel close to people.
    5. Find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.
    6. Have an overall passive response to codependency - crying, hurt, helplessness.
    7. Have an overall aggressive response to codependency - violence, anger, dominance.
    8. Combine passive and aggressive responses.
    9. Vacillate in decisions and emotions.
    10. Laugh when they feel like crying.
    11. Stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.
    12. Be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.
    13. Be confused about the nature of the problem.
    14. Cover up, lie, and protect the problem.
    15. Not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn't bad enough, or they aren't important enough.
    16. Wonder why the problem doesn't go away.


    In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:

    1. Feel lethargic.
    2. Feel depressed.
    3. Become withdrawn and isolated.
    4. Experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure.
    5. Abuse or neglect their children and other responsibilities.
    6. Feel hopeless.
    7. Begin to plan their escape from a relationship they feel trapped in.
    8. Think about suicide.
    9. Become violent.
    10. Become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill.
    11. Experience an eating disorder (over - or under eating).
    12. Become addicted to alcohol or other drugs.