By Alter Sage
Co-dependency is a serious addiction requiring specialised relationship counselling. Co-dependency is twofold. Firstly, it is the natural, behavioural reaction that is appropriated by one person in a relationship when the other person is involved in some kind of addictive behaviour. However in the other instance, some co-dependants are not involved in any kind of co-dependent relationship yet display the traits in their everyday life.
When the dependency reaches a serious level, a co dependent can place themselves in circumstances which are high risk for them and can cause them to lose control over their lives. They do what their disease tells them to do: to indulge in their addiction to another person. Those suffering from co-dependency can be both or just one person in the relationship. Treating co-dependency with relationship counselling is possible and often successful.
Co-dependency usually (although not always) involves some other addictive process such as drugs, gambling or eating disorders in one or both parties. When a person is invested in a cycle of compulsive and addictive behaviour, their ‘using’ affects those around them, especially those involved in close relationships with them, whether it is family, a spouse or a friend.
What happens to a co-dependent?
The stress and emotional pain of addictive behaviour has a severe impact on those witnessing the decline. Soon the co-dependent begins to ‘look after’ the addict as they feel the addict will be safer, which brings about relief for the person witnessing their addiction. Soon, this becomes severe co-dependency and an issue of control.
The family members begin to display traits of co-dependency as they realise that the addict will die if not helped and their need to control the addict becomes even greater. The relationship becomes strained because of the lying and deceit.
Family and friends begin to respond to the addict’s every need with attempts to save the addict by lending money, cleaning up after them, lying to others to help the addict cover up their addiction, constant checking up on the person and trying to control every outcome, basing their entire existence on the other person and keeping the pain at bay.
Co-dependency and the addiction to the other person begins to break down individual boundaries: their identity begins to fade as personal beliefs and their goals change to make everyone else happy, forgetting their own wellbeing.
What are the characteristics of co-dependency?
There are many characteristics of a co-dependent; however some are more distinguishable than others. A co-dependent will need approval and seek it constantly, whilst having a bad understanding of who they are. They search for people in need: “victim” roles to play mother to, and obviously the compromising of their own wellbeing for others.
Treatment for co-dependency is a gradual process. When a person is co-dependent and literally ‘addicted’ to another person or relationship, the recovery process is complex. Unlike drugs where a person can abstain completely, a co-dependent will need to be amongst people (their very addiction) to learn to re-integrate into society. In severe cases, in-patient treatment may be needed in a rehabilitation centre providing relationship counselling for treating co-dependence.
The first step in finding recovery from co-dependency is to withdraw from whichever relationship is addictive. The relationship need not be terminated, but abstinence is needed for a time. Therapy and relationship counselling are extremely beneficial to those suffering from co-dependency. Once the co-dependent is unable to rely on other people to affirm them and give them a purpose, they are able to begin therapy and counselling which is of huge benefit. Individual and group therapy is highly successful in the treatment of co-dependency. Rehabilitation clients such as drug addicts and alcoholics are often co-dependent and rehabilitation centres frequently treat patients for co-dependency as well as their other addictions.
A co-dependent has neglected their needs to focus on others over a significant period of time. Once in a recovery programme, a co-dependent needs to be self loving and nurturing through relationship counselling needs to look after themselves spiritually, emotionally and physically. With hardwork, determination, and accompanied by therapy and a healthy lifestyle, they can arrest their addiction and return to normal life again.