What is codependence and how to treat it to effectively free yourself from the toxic relationship and find a new sense of your life? Anna Krasuska talks about how alcoholism (or other addiction) affects the lives of people most strongly related to the addict with Lubomira Szawdyn.
Living with an addicted man, you cannot not experience the terrible effects of his illness. Addiction is a disease that affects the whole family. Emotional losses affect everyone and their repair requires long-term therapy – addiction recovery in South Africa.
What is codependence?
It is a total subordination of your life to other people and the resulting suffering. A co-addicted person lives the life of his addicted partner (or other close person), not his own. He adapts his behavior to him, adapts to the rhythm of drinking (or other activity), abandons his own dreams and ceases to realize himself. Such a person strongly interacts with his loved ones and considers it natural.
Is codependence only about alcoholism?
Initially, the term was used to describe people suffering from alcoholism of loved ones. It currently covers all types of addiction, including drugs, gambling, sex, etc.
Can you live with an alcoholic while not being co-addicted?
It is possible, but few who manage to keep their own limits without professional help. A co-addicted person loses his own identity. There is chaos in the family, people get lost in their emotions. The boundaries between my individual ‘I’ and ‘I’ of the partner are blurring. In such a situation, it is difficult to meet their own needs, which often the co-addicted person cannot even define.
The term ‘co-dependence’ appeared in the US in the 1970s in Minnesota drug treatment centers that initiated addiction treatment based on the ‘twelve steps’ program.
How does a co-addict behave?
Depending on the phase in which the addict is in, extreme emotions are tearing his loved ones. People who remain in the patient’s circle function like him: between euphoria and depression and anxiety. Co-dependence is a full emotional connection with another person, excessive sensitivity and concern about his moods, controlling, justifying and protecting him when he collapses important life matters. It also means taking responsibility for the functioning of the family. Co-addicted people have an exaggerated sense of guilt, are easily manipulated, have low self-esteem. Most often they deny what is happening. The alcoholic’s wife has the false belief that by controlling her husband’s drinking and sacrificing herself for him, she will save him and his family. However, this is not the case. When the husband drinks – she is afraid and acts blindly, runs away or looks for help. When he stops drinking – she is happy, helps him “cover his tracks” and compensate for the losses caused by drinking. After some time, anticipating the next string, the wife begins to control again.
Do co-addicts also require therapy?
The whole family is addicted because of addiction, which is why the whole family should be cured. Participation in therapy of all its members gives about 80% chance of getting out of addiction and repairing mutual relations. When only an addict or someone close to him / her reports for treatment, then these chances decrease by half. Family treatment usually requires more time than addiction therapy. The process of realizing the problem is longer and the motivation to change behavior is more difficult. Co-addicts often discontinue therapy because somewhere in the subconscious mind they have a coded belief that they don’t need it.
What is the therapy for co-addicts?
Therapy for families is the same as for addicts, although it is not carried out together. In addition to individual contact with the therapist, group classes are necessary. This is very important because only confrontation with others allows you to find the distance needed to make changes. The group gives the opportunity to identify with their own problem. It also gives a sense of strength, provides joy, helps to survive the most difficult moments. Sometimes it even becomes a foster family for some time.
What is the purpose of the therapy? Help for an addicted partner? Saving a relationship?
No. The goal of the therapy is to change in ourselves – realizing that we are able to manage our own lives. First, however, you need to see your problem and want to face it. A co-addicted person develops a whole system of defensive behaviors that enable them to survive in an abnormal situation. These behaviors boil down to maintaining a relatively stable situation in the family – that is, protecting the alcoholic, thereby enabling him to continue drinking. If this system is violated, that is, we begin to face the problem and do something to solve it, our whole life will crumble. The thing is to find the courage and strength to build something again. Therapy involves learning new behaviors – including “Hard love” – and consistent implementation of them. A co-addicted person must first of all take care of himself, organize his emotions and learn to separate his own life from someone else’s.
Paradoxically, this is when he too may want to change. At the beginning you will probably face rebellion and an attempt to discourage you from therapy. The addicted spouse will not accept the changes. To continue drinking with impunity, he will fight to maintain the old pattern, because every change means the need to confront the disease. The partner may try to manipulate your feelings and maliciously comment on what you do. Over time, however, his anger will probably turn into curiosity and a desire to do something also for himself. This may lead him to therapy.