by Jennifer Zmurchyk – Prairie Sky Wellness
In 2016 I embarked on a massive journey towards self improvement and growth. The problem with doing something like this was the ‘onion’ effect. What was the onion effect in regards to my personal growth? Well I peeled back one layer and thought I was finished, only to discover there was yet another layer under the one I just removed, then another, and another, and another etc.
My onion was massive, there were so many layers and I am quite sure there are likely still more for me to peel away. Self work and holding up that mirror to myself was not the easiest thing to do, and it took a lot of hard work and courage to bring up and heal all of those old wounds that I had inside.
One of the things I stumbled upon and discovered about myself in 2018 was something called ‘codependency addiction’. At the time, I had never heard of the term or even had a clue as to what it was. But I had it…a raging full out case of codependency addiction when it came to relationships, and I never even knew it.
What is codependency?
There are many signs that someone may have a problem with codependency addiction – here are a few key indicators:
- Feelings of low self esteem or feeling unlovable and relying on the other person in the relationship to feel loved and validated rather than having love for self
- People pleasing and the inability to say no to a relationship partner and sacrificing personal needs to make the other happy at the expense of self
- An inability to set boundaries with others and allowing disrespectful or abusive treatment from others (see my article here about setting healthy boundaries)
- Doing anything possible to hang onto a relationship even if it is toxic or abusive because of a fear of being alone
- Feeling guilty when asserting oneself with a partner and often apologizing for it even when the reason for the assertion is justified
- Turning to drugs or alcohol to minimize the pain being experienced in the relationship; people who are codependent often develop drug and alcohol addictions or have mental health issues coinciding with the codependency which stems from psychological and emotional trauma
- Extreme fear of abandonment or rejection
- Turning a blind eye when the other person in the relationship is acting in destructive ways
- High likelihood that if one partner is codependent, the other partner in the relationship has narcissistic tendencies or is an actual clinical narcissist
What causes codependency?
Unfortunately like so many other psychological issues, codependency addiction often begins with emotional trauma experienced in childhood. My own problems with codependency came from being raised in a dysfunctional home where both parents were highly narcissistic and I often felt rejected, abandoned, unsafe, unloved, and unwanted. Unfortunately these types of dysfunctions in families are often passed down from generation to generation and parents like mine did not possess the tools to properly parent, because it was not modeled for them by their own parents. The good news is that because I recognized my own codependency issues and toxic family patterns I was able to end the generational cycle by consciously parenting my own kids so the toxic pattern did not continue. In essence I broke the so-called ‘generational curse’ of dysfunction in my family.
Are you codependent?
Here is a questionnaire found on mentalhealthamerica.net to help determine if you may have codependency addiction:
1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?
Tools for healing codependency
Like so many things in our lives that cause us harm, codependency is deeply rooted psychologically and is not a simple task to heal from. Often, because of the serious emotional trauma experienced that lead to issues with codependency it is difficult to even begin healing from it. Co-Dependents Anonymous is a great resource for help and there may be chapters and meetings in your area to help with support. Getting counselling from a qualified therapist and cultivating a practice of self love are also great tools (see my article here on practicing self love). The most important thing however is acknowledging that there is an issue. From my own experience, healing from codependency was a very tough thing to do as it involved me needing to go back to extremely painful experiences in my childhood and facing them in order to heal. However the great thing about this is that when I was able to take those ugly things out of the dark, finally look at them, and bring light to these very difficult issues I was able to heal and therefore I don’t need to deal with them again. With healing comes freedom, and the hard work is definitely worth it.