Thursday, June 7, 2007

Are You Codependent?

Three people, one of whom was a codependent, were in line to be executed at the guillotine. The first person stuck his head in the hole, the rope was cut, and the blade fell, only to stop an inch above the person's neck. The executioners saw it as a sign from God and so decided to let the person go. The next person put his head in the hole, the rope was cut, and again, the blade stopped an inch above the person's neck. That person, too, was released.As the codependent walked up for his turn at the guillotine, he turned to the executioner and said: "You know, I think I know how to fix that."

Recently I took an addictions class. It was really quite interesting and one of th biggest things I took away from it was the idea of codependency. Codependency is a condition that results in a dysfunctional relationship between the codependent and other people. A codependent is addicted to helping someone. They need to be needed. This addiction is sometimes so strong, the codependent will cause the other person to continue to be needy. This behavior is known as enabling. The enabler may purposefully overlook someone abusing a child, will call in sick for someone suffering from addiction, will put roadblocks to prevent their child from becoming independent, or even keep a sick family member from getting the treatment that would make them well.

Usually, in order for an addict to sucessfully live their life and maintain their addiction, they need a codependent (or enabler) to keep them functioning. As an example; an alcoholic's wife or husband may clean up their addict spouse's messes, call in sick, lie to the neighbors, buy alcohol for them, and generally rescue them from the natural consequences of their addictions. This rescuing enables the addict to keep up their addicted lifestyle and perversely gives power and purpose to the codependent. Often when a couple comes in wanting help with a long term addiction, both the addict and the codependent both need serious counseling. The addict must be weaned off the substance and the spouse must be weaned off their enabling behaviors.

Codependency and enabling apply more then just to addictions. In relationships sometimes one person enables the other person to abuse them. Or in churches the church body enables their pastor (or a church bully) to commit ungodly behavior with immunity. Also counselor can become codependent as well. Some argue that everyone is codependent and perhaps this is true to some extent as we all sometimes enable others. But true codependency is not just an occasional thing, it is a constant way of being.

Codependency Test: Take this test to find out if you're helping people who need or needing people to help:
1. Do you feel demeaned, hurt or offended when someone you love tells you they don't need your help?
2. In the last year, has anyone resorted to arguing, begging or raising their voice to get you to stop trying to help them?
3. If you had plenty of money and your child, sibling or parent had an addiction to drinking, spending, gambling or drugs, and they asked you for money to help with their necessary expenses (food, rent, clothes, bills), would you give them the money?
4. When someone shares a life or relationship problem with you, but doesn't ask for help, do you offer help or advice, anyway?
5. When you survey your relationships, do you find yourself surrounded by mostly people who need you?
6. Do you ever find yourself making excuses for the needy people in your life?
7. If someone you love has a substance abuse, emotional, spending or gambling problem, do you avoid confronting them?
8. Do you measure your self-esteem by how much someone depends on you?
9. Do you ever remind people where they would be without you?

A. If you answered 'yes' to any of the above, read an article on codependency and monitor yourself for the next 3 months to verify your answers.
B. If you answered 'yes' to 3 or more of the above, you may have a codependency problem. Read the rest of this article, get a trusted friend who is independent of you to keep you accountable, and read a couple books on the subject of codependence.
C. If you answered 'yes' to 5 or more of the above, do 'A' & 'B' above and ask your friend to attend an alanon, narconon or codependents anonymous meeting with you. Personal counseling (which is almost always helpful anyway) might be useful to you.

In the interest of posterity, when I took the test, I answered yes to one and there were two other ones that I was kind of iffy on (more of a "sometimes" answer I guess).

May Light increase!

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