The one thing worse than struggling as an addict yourself, is being in a relationship with someone else who is an addict. I’ve found myself in this kind of “relationship” in the past, and more times than not, I became lost and confused because of it.
Although it took me a while, I eventually came to realize that I was in a codependent relationship—and that codependency can also become an addiction. In some ways I think that codependency might have even led to my eventual drug addiction in the first place. I thought I could try to fix the other person, but when I realized that I couldn’t, it lead me to believe there was something wrong with me. And so the drugs became a way to numb this pain.
I think of codependency as being so focused on fixing someone else that you don’t see that you are enabling them, or putting yourself in situations you can’t handle. You live in those situations for so long that you start to adapt to your surroundings and let your standards for your life and your relationship slide.
It has been hard to break free from the effects of three years of a codependent dating relationship and 24 years of living life as a codependent in various ways, from taking care of my sick mom when I was younger, to close friends, and, finally, relationships. Too many times I found myself “needing,” and all I was doing was giving.
But thankfully reality eventually smacked me in the face. There wasn’t one specific moment, but over time I noticed that the sickness of codependency had always played a role in my life. And once I realized my issues, I started going to an amazing support group called Celebrate Recovery. Through this process I started to see how much the two diseases—drug addiction and codependency—can go together. I was determined that I wouldn’t let codependency get me down, but that I would only let me it make me that much stronger.
There are four helpful things about codependency that I realized.
1. You are not in control of the other person—and you’re not supposed to be!
The addict will not be ready until they are ready and there is nothing you can do about it. Same with yourself. And once you truly know and accept that, then you can begin to heal and move on.
2. Accept that you have a problem.
With codependency, you are worried more about everyone else than yourself, so you may not even realize you are struggling with a problem, or that there is even a label for this struggle. I say this to you because I’ve been on both sides of the fence and there are many negative things that will follow you if you don’t address it. You may even think you are the only one keeping the other person alive. But, trust me, God is going to take us when he is ready, regardless. Once you accept your struggle and admit you have a problem, then can begin to heal and start moving forward. Acceptance is always the first and most important step.
3. Reach out and get help.
Please know that there is help! There are many organizations out there like Families of Addicts and Celebrate Recovery that provide amazing support groups for addicts and codependents. These kind of support groups are important because the fact is that you need support, too. Trust me, I know the first step into a meeting is the hardest step—after all we are codependents and this would be a step forward for us and not someone else—but let me tell you, it will be worth it.
4. Set boundaries for helping other people.
I’m finally realizing that I can’t help others without me being my own first priority. This may sound selfish to many people. However, when you really think about it, if you are not 100 percent, you can’t really help others. For example, while trying to help others before I was 100 percent, I fell back into negative things that they were doing, even though I knew it wasn’t good for me. There is a place for helping others, but you have to be healthy yourself, and have your boundaries established and firm. The more I do that, then the more I can help someone else.
All this being said, I don’t want my experiences to go to waste. I share this because I want my suffering to help others to know that they are not alone! There is hope!