is a chronic, progressive primary illness that stems from
negative childhood experiences and results in a self-defeating
personality and lifestyle which forces affected persons to live
feeling as though they were an alien in their own life.
THAT LATER FOSTER CO-DEPENDENCY INCLUDE:
- Homes that were disrupted by alcoholism, drug or food addiction,
or compulsive behaviors such as workaholism, religious rigidity,
gambling, etc., which prevented the parents for being fully available
- Families that were physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive
- Emotionally repressed, rigid, or chaotic families where member's
emotional needs were not recognized or met.
- Families disrupted by chronic physical or mental illness.
If left untreated, Co-Dependency
seriously interferes with intimate relationships, prevents healthy
self-acceptance, deeply decreases one's quality of life, and often
promotes stress-related physical illnesses.
Classically, Co-Dependency creates pathological longing
in the affected person who, in a treadmill fashion, seeks one
route after another searching for freedom from within. This freedom,
once experienced, exchanges the future Co-Dependent economy of
hope without a means to the concrete understanding of Psycho-Spiritual
SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS
OF CO-DEPENDENCY ARE AS FOLLOWS:
- Feels overly responsible for others.
- Is terrified of abandonment or rejection.
- Has difficulty in relationships and with intimacy, control,
- Sacrifices personal needs in search of approval by others.
- Is preoccupied with or addicted to primary love relationships.
- Has a chronic sense of feeling guilty or of being inadequate.
- Experiences confusion about personal boundaries, feelings,
- Dreads loosing control and is frightened by angry people and
- Fears impending disaster even when things are going well.
- Has hideously low self-esteem, regardless of success.
- Judges oneself brutally and harshly.
- Feels shame when either praised or criticized.
THE A B C'S OF CO-DEPENDENCY
- PART ONE
THE PROBLEMS OF THE ADULT
Adapted from CION, Inc.
As Adult Children, we have several characteristics
in common as a result of having been brought up in a Co-Dependent
- We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
- We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
- We are frightened by angry people and personal criticism.
- We either became alcoholics and/or drug abusers, married them--or
both--or we found another compulsive personality to live out or
pair up with such as a workaholic, food addict, etc. to fulfill
our abandonment needs.
- We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted
by that weakness in our love, friendship and career relationships.
- We have an over-developed sense of responsibility and it is
easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves.
This enables us not to look too closely at our faults or our responsibilities
- We feel deep shame and fear when we stand up for ourselves
instead of giving in to others.
- We became addicted to the sensation of excitement and/or crisis.
- We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people
we can "pity" and "rescue".
- We have "stuffed" our feelings from our traumatic
childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings
because it hurts too much. This includes our positive feelings
such as joy and happiness. Being out of touch with our feelings
is one of our basic denials.
- We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
- We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment
and will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order not
to experience painful abandonment feelings. We developed this
fear from living with sick people who were never there emotionally
- Addiction is a Family Disease and we became Co-Dependent and
took on the characteristics of that disease (alcoholism, drug
addiction, food addiction, workaholism) even though we did not
necessarily pick up the disease.
- Co-Dependents are reactors rather than actors in their own
lives. (Adult children react to situations rather than initiate
active participation in life.)
- We approach life as something needed to be controlled instead
- We are rose-colored "hope-addicts".
- We have two main positions regarding victims: Marry one, or,
- We resent people or are jealous of them when they act spontaneously
happy or are esteeming themselves.
- We will shame ourselves or others in order to stay in "control"
playing the "I'm so bad" or "You're so bad"
- We attempt to make people, places and things responsible for
our situations and relationships and don't know how to stop in
any sane way.
- We become relationship-addicted and then half-hate who and
what we are addicted to.
- We yearn, with all our hearts, to be the truly loving beings
that we are beneath our painful disease.
- We know there is something beautiful in the universe called
L O V E. We do not know what love is and this scares our
- We resist authority even when we need it the most.
- We have suicidal fantasies for relief and then tell ourselves
we are either sick or crazy.
- We are secretly embarrassed about ourselves, inside and out,
physically and emotionally.
THE A B C'S OF CO-DEPENDENCY
- PART TWO
YOUR PROCESS TO A WHOLE
Adapted from CION, Inc.
By attending Al-Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics,
Naranon and Experiential therapy groups on a regular basis, we
learn that Adult Children/Co-Dependents are not alone, that we
can learn new thinking and become whole-living beings. We can
learn to grow new attitudes, realize and change old, hurtful patterns
and habits to healthy, positive lifestyles and experiences, step
by step--ONE DAY AT A TIME.
- You--and only you--must want to change the patterns of your
life and recognize that such change is possible. Re-learning is
difficult, painful, even frightening but many people have been
successful at developing positive, new lives for themselves. YOU
- Co-Dependency and addictions like alcoholism, food-addiction,
workaholism religious rigidity, etc., are three-fold diseases:
mental, physical and spiritual. Realizing that our parents (or
parent figure) were victims of this disease that they passed on
to us is the beginning of the process of recovery.
- We learn the 4-C's of Co-Dependency: We didn't cause it, We
can't control it, We can't cure it, We can learn to cope with
- We learn to focus on ourselves and to be honest with ourselves.
- We learn to non-attach with love and to give ourselves and
- We learn the meanings of the 12 Step slogans and use them
in our daily lives: "One Day At A Time", "Live
and Let Live", "Easy Does It", "Let Go and
Let God", and "Keep It Simple". Learning and using
these slogans helps us to begin to live in a sane and a more peaceful
way without the stress of constant conflict and crisis.
- We learn to feel our own feelings, to accept them, discharge
them and to talk about them.
- We learn the 12-Steps and how to work them, learning to accept
the disease of Co-Dependency, realizing that our lives have become
unmanageable and that we are powerless over our disease without
- We learn what our true defects are--not the faults, weaknesses,
and "personality" flaws others have labeled us with--and,
once admitted, we learn to change our attitudes, turning our reactions
into choices, We learn how to live,
- We learn we do not have to remain in a state of crisis in
order to "feel alive".
- We learn to believe in ourselves.
- We learn to love ourselves and others in a healthy, respectful
and nurturing way.
- We learn how to communicate, to talk to each other for pleasure
and information. We learn we do not need to develop a "crisis"
situation in order to communicate.
- We learn we are not alone. We learn how to share our experiences
and relate to the experiences of others. We learn how to get rid
of the "secrets".
- We learn that our anger will not "kill" us or anyone
- We learn how to keep our "ships" afloat--our friend"ships",
partner"ships", companion"ships", and others.
We learn not to accuse and shame each other: "The only reason
I did this was because you did that" and so forth.
- We re-learn the Serenity Prayer and apply it to our daily
God, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change
the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know
PROFILE OF A CO-DEPENDENT
ADAPTED FROM CION, INC.
1. Co-dependent caretakers have usually grown up
with a strong parental injunction that tells them: "Don't
be selfish." Consequently, they go through life masking their
self concern. They turn all their attention to the concerns of
others and largely ignore their own emotional needs. They live
in the constant fear of being indited on the charge of selfishness."
2. Co-dependent caretakers are usually lonely and
emotionally undernourished. They operate in an emotional trade
deficit. They give enormous amounts of compassion to others and
never get enough emotional nurturing in return. They may have
many acquaintances but few intimate, nourishing relationships.
3. Co-dependent caretakers are subject to depression
as a result of their "Stroke deprivation". Stroke deprivation
results largely from the Co-dependent's unwillingness to receive
compliments or care from anyone else. They are afraid to accept
care from others for fear it would jeopardize their role in life.
4. Co-dependent caretakers are predictable, steady,
useful and safe. They are sensitive to the needs of others. They
are also boring! They are not particularly enjoyable because they
only smile and rarely laugh. (A spontaneous, raucous, belly laugh
is of great therapeutic value.)
5. Co-dependent caretakers have much difficulty remembering
names, even the moment after an introduction. They are so preoccupied
with their own self-consciousness ("How am I doing?")
that they can't pay attention to others.
6. Co-dependent caretakers wear sweatshirts with
a message on front and back. On the front we see the slogan: "How
am I doing?" On the back we read: "I'll try harder!"
All emotional transactions of the Co-dependent are designed to
7. Co-dependent caretakers are usually very harried.
They over-commit their time and over-promise themselves. They
are usually running late because they cannot break away from a
"commitment"--and they are all crucial, commitments--for
fear of encountering disapproval.
8. Co-dependent caretakers are afraid of their own
anger as well as the anger of others. They avoid conflict at all
costs and direct all their anger toward themselves where it is
safely converted into depression.
9. Co-dependent caretakers are only able to exercise
assertiveness when they are attacking social injustice or acting
as advocates for their clients. They rarely assert themselves
in direct self-interest.
10. Co-dependent caretakers are almost paralyzed
when it comes to asking for what they need emotionally. They would
much rather withdraw or pout than ask for nurturing.
JUST FOR TODAY
JUST FOR TODAY I will
try to live through the day only, not tackling my whole life problem at once. I can do things for twenty-four hours that would appall me if I had to keep them up for a life-time.
JUST FOR TODAY I shall
be happy. This assumes that happiness comes from within; it is
not a matter of externals and accidental circumstances. I shall
be happy therefore in spite of them.
JUST FOR TODAY I will
take care of my body. I will exercise my mind. I will read something
useful and something spiritual.
JUST FOR TODAY I will
try to go out of my way to be kind to someone I meet. I will be
courteous. I will refrain from criticism. I will in no way try
to change others.
JUST FOR TODAY I will
do something for someone else without expecting to be repaid.
I will also try to do two things I know should be done but I have
been putting off.
There are two days in every week about which we should
not worry. One is YESTERDAY with its mistakes and cares,
its faults and blunders, aches and pains. Yesterday has passed
forever beyond our control, and all the money in the world can
not bring it back.
TOMORROW with it's possible
adversities, burdens, large promise and poor performance. Tomorrow
is also beyond our immediate control. Tomorrow's sun will rise,
either in splendor or behind a mask of clouds, but it will rise.
Until it does, we have no stake in tomorrow, for it is as yet
This leaves one day -- TODAY. Any person can
fight the battle of one day. It is when you and I add the burdens
of those two awful eternities, yesterday and tomorrow that we
It is not the experience of today that drives individuals
mad. It is the remorse or bitterness of something that happened
yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.LET US THEREFORE, LIVE BUT ONE DAY AT A TIME.