A Codependent Explains Codependency

In 2014, I went to my first ever Codependents Anonymous (CoDA) meeting. Before stepping into the room, I didn’t even know what the word codependent meant. All I knew is that I had 1. just graduated an IOP program at an eating disorder facility 2.was no longer in high school and 3. had a summer full of free (and dangerously so) time to myself. I googled support groups I could attend and found myself at the Self-Help and Recovery Exchange in Culver City, California. I began to attend meetings more frequently and started reading the book Facing Codependency per my therapist’s recommendation.

I very quickly learned what a dangerous game codependency was. The official definition is “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction” but I didn’t have a partner at the time. That certainly meant that none of this applied to me, right? WRONG.

Although the word codependency was originally used for spouses of alcoholics (then called co-alcoholics), research has shown that symptoms of codependency are much more prevalent in the general population. There is a long list of symptoms associated with codependency, though you do not need to have all to qualify as codependent.

Often times, this population suffers from poor or low self esteem. They feel as if they are not good enough and compare themselves to others, fostering feelings of worthlessness and low value. Their people-pleasing qualities leads them to have poor boundaries as it is difficult to say “no” to people and leaves them feeling drained of their own means. They feel responsible for the feelings of others and fear letting other people down, even putting other people’s needs before their own. So much so, that they become the care-takers of their family and loved ones. They very often forget to practice self-care, or avoid it purposely because it harbors guilt as they believe it is a selfish act.

The codependency causes a lot of stress and anxiety and in many, it manifests in obsessions over other people’s problems. They spend their time thinking about “what ifs” and “if onlys” in order to soothe the pain that comes with the dysfunctional relationships they have (and often time lose due to their codependency).

I knew the aforementioned feelings and qualities all too well. Most of my life had been built and centered around other peoples validation and acceptance. I had molded myself to be a “yes” person, always fearing letting people down if I dared say “no”. The emotional recovery has not been an easy one, as it is an introspective journey that is a lot more complex than a simple screw tightening but I hope that shedding light on the qualities that have suffocated my being as well as fueled my disorder will bring about the growth that comes with recovery.

Something that helped me (and continues to do so) were the “Three A’s”. In CoDA, these are often mentioned as the basic guideline for recovery from codependency. These are:

  • Awareness- In order to reverse destructive habits and thoughts, you first must be aware of what they are.
  • Acceptance- Before you even begin to change, you have to accept what is. As they say “What you resist, persists.”
  • Action- awareness and acceptance must be accompanied by action in order to grow. Though this step involves taking risks and maybe trying something new, in the end it allows for you to learn more about your strengths and build a positive self esteem.

The process of recovery does not happen overnight or even in a matter of years, it is a lifelong journey.

For more information on codependency and meetings in your area, these are helpful links to free and low cost resources: