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Breaking the Bondage of Codependency

Today I sat on the ground of a concrete carport and tried my best to console a friend who was hurting.

I got a phone call and immediately jumped to run to her side, thinking I had everything she needed to feel better.

I thought I knew the words to say to help her to snap out of it. I’m a fixer, as I’ve told you before. And I like to think I’ve mastered it.

When I got there I found her on the ground sobbing uncontrollably. I hugged her and just let her do what she needed to do for a while.

As she started to talk, I realized I was wrong.

I don’t have this “mastered” or figured out.

You see, my sweet friend has been in an abusive relationship for years.

I’ve only just recently found out the extent of it, since the relationship has ended.

This is very much a codependent, manipulative relationship, and even though it may have physically ended, it’s still so, so strong.

I thought going in that I knew exactly what to say, because I have been in her shoes.

I’ve been the ball of sobbing mess on the floor, not sure where to go next or how to take another breath, and not sure if I even wanted to.

I like to feel like because I have been there, and fought these battles, that I have the magic touch to helping everyone else come out of it. But I don’t. And no one else does for that matter.

All of the things she was saying were lies she has been told and has continued to think about herself and the people around her. She’s gotten to a place where she believes them and in turn beats herself up over it.

I tried my best to comfort her by telling her these things were only relevant because he still has power over her and her emotions. I told her he was a piece of garbage (being honest here) and he didn’t deserve the time she was spending sick over him.

Her response made me think for a second though.

“If he is such a terrible person, why isn’t he reaping what he is sowing.”

At first I didn’t know what to say, but it didn’t take long for me to remember asking the same question to myself years ago.

And I knew the answer.

I didn’t want to say it, with her already being upset. But I did anyway.

“Because he has and will continue to manipulate people into fighting his battles for him.”

With codependency, you bear the burdens for that other person.

You take it on, so they don’t have to.

You make excuses for them and their actions, and justify it in your own mind.

After so long of being told something isn’t what it actually is, you start to believe it yourself.

For years she has carried his weight and is now realizing he didn’t, doesn’t, and probably will never care at all.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

But it has to be done.

And once you’ve gotten that down, the hard work starts.

You read books, go to meetings, go to therapy, maybe take medication, pray without ceasing, on top of everything you’re already doing.

Until you have gotten your own mental health in check, you can’t worry about someone else’s.

What she is worried about are his problems. Not hers anymore.

In my own situation I realized that I was in a downward spiral, and not only because of my husband, but because I had become so codependent that I was taking on everything he should have been carrying for himself.

I told myself, “I am going to work on me and my issues, and if he follows suit, great.”

Thankfully he did, but it wasn’t until he realized he didn’t have that power over me anymore and couldn’t manipulate my feelings, that he realized he was in the wrong and sought help for himself.

This isn’t the case for everyone, or even a small percentage of people maybe, so I’m not trying to give you false hope.

You can’t get yourself help for someone else. You have to get the help for yourself, because you acknowledge it and want it. If the other party follows along and gets their own help, maybe there is hope for a future.

But if not, you are good.

You’ve come out on top, because you recognize the signs of gaslighting and manipulation.

You can call them out when you see the red flags.

You can set boundaries without fear or guilt.

I don’t have all of the answers for you. Only my experience.

If you’re in a codependent, toxic, or abusive relationship my very first opinion is to detach.

“Detachment is based on the premises that each person is responsible for himself, that we can’t solve problems that aren’t ours to solve, and that worrying doesn’t help.” (from the book referenced below)

I use the term “detach with love” to remind myself that detaching is a loving action. Detaching doesn’t mean pushing people away or not caring about them. Detaching isn’t angry or withholding love. It’s letting go of controlling and worrying, and putting responsibility back on the individual.

Detaching also isn’t cutting ties or ending a relationship (although, at times, that can be the healthiest choice). Detaching helps you to stay in relationship and not lose your sense of self.

I know that isn’t always an easy thing to do but it’s necessary until you have gotten your own help and what you need.

Keep in mind, this isn’t just something that is an issue with spouses.

Codependency can happen with parents and adult children, coworkers, friends, any relationship between two people can become a codependent relationship.

The very first thing I did was tell someone what I was dealing with.

I found a therapist I felt comfortable with, told my friends and joined a church where I was able to share what was going on.

That first step was the hardest, but it was one of the most fruitful.

You’d be surprised at how many people can relate to what you’re dealing with and help you through it.

The next thing I did was read a book called Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. I’m linking it here so it’s easy to find. There is also a workbook version to help walk you through it.

It was literally life changing for me. At the time I didn’t know what codependent even meant, let alone how to fix it. So to read something I feel like I could have written myself, and to see steps to changing it really helped me.

I also started going to Al-Anon meetings.

My husband is a recovering addict so that’s how I found it. There is something called CoDA as well, specifically for this but there weren’t any in my area, so next best thing, I guess. (also could be wrong, I have no idea, I was winging it.)

After going to a few meetings I realized that it wasn’t only for spouses or family/friends of people with addictions. It was so helpful and I met amazing people there who were going through the same things I was.

I said earlier, I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have my own experience and opinions.

Obviously I’m not a therapist or psychiatrist, so seek help there as well, but this should get you started.

My friend will wake up tomorrow, and hopefully remember the things that matter most, rather than the least.

She’s one of the strongest and most resilient people I have ever met and I know that she will push through this and recover the same way I did.

Not without putting in the work and wanting this for herself though.

As always, I am here.

Please reach out if you have questions, need help, or just need someone to vent to.

If you need a tribe, count me in.

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