Codependence

There is a saying that when a codependent experiences a near miss, another person’s life flashes before their eyes!  Codependence is a term frequently associated with drug and alcohol issues.  The codependent is the person who becomes so emotionally tied to the addicted person that they, too, become ill.  The illness is an abandonment of the self to focus on the other.  Codependency comes from a need to control or “save” another person from their problem and the consequences of that problem.  The codependent often cannot understand or see the unavailability of the other in a relationship, no matter how hard they try to connect in a healthy way.

Codependence can also develop when living with a person with a serious illness, especially mental illness.  It can show itself when one’s mood or sense of happiness depends on the mental state or behavior of another person.  It shows itself when boundaries are blurred to the point that one’s whole focus is on preventing another person from taking a drink or feeling their own emotions.  There may be a sense that it is wrong to go on with one’s own life when another is troubled. 

Staying in our own business instead of becoming codependent does not mean abandonment or not caring or helping another who is in need.  It does not mean that we will not feel any range of emotions from fear to sadness to anger at the behaviors of another, especially when those behaviors affect the family. 

Healthy detachment looks like accepting the truth that we cannot control another person by intimidation, correction, surveillance or doing their work for them.  Healthy detachment looks like turning over an impossible situation to our Higher Power, expressing support for the other, and setting and keeping boundaries for our own safety and peace of mind, without guilt.  Sometimes the detachment begins with refusal to engage in arguments.  CODA (C0-dependents Anonymous) has meetings to help get into a healthy mindset.  Start with coda.org.