When I first got sober, a friend told me that codependence is the root of all addiction. I didn?t understand what they meant at the time; it wasn’t until I read the Codependent’s Anonymous book and started attending meetings that I began to understand how deeply codependent I was and how it was affecting every aspect of my life.
The official dictionary definition of codependence is “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction”.
But the clearest definition I’ve ever heard is this: “Codependence is when you make some other person, place or thing your Higher Power.” That, I think, encompasses all the aspects of the disease of codependence. I also like to think of it as the disease of being addicted to wondering what everyone else thinks of me? the disease of needing others? approval to feel good about myself.
I still see a lot of codependent tendencies in my own life and relationships, even after being in recovery for some time now. But I do have a memory of when a codependent cycle was firmly broken, and whenever I feel uncertain about what to do in a particular relationship, I remember back to the worst night of my life.
I was seventeen years old, and in the darkest depths of my drinking and using. I was sitting in my truck outside of a party, chugging beers as fast as I could before I drove home. My ex-boyfriend, who was still one of my best friends even after we broke up, came running out and pulled me out of the front seat. He insisted on driving, and ten minutes later we were in my driveway. I was plastered at this point, and filled to bursting with anxiety and depression. (Drinking and using had already stopped working for me by then.)
I asked him to stay the night. He had always done everything I asked of him from when we first met, and I knew he still had feelings for me. But, shockingly, he said no. I sobbed, I wept, I cried, I screamed. I literally got down onto my knees and begged him not to leave me alone. At this point he was crying too, but to my agonizing surprise, he kept saying no. A car pulled up, and he left.
The rest of that night is burned into my memory as one of the worst of my existence. The emotional, mental and physical pain I went through, with no one there to buffer the pain and loneliness, was enough fuel to keep me resentful toward my ex-boyfriend for months.
But half a year later, when I decided to get sober, the memories of that horrifically lonely night were one of the main catalysts that pushed me to start going to meetings and working the Steps! I eventually made amends to my ex-boyfriend, and thanked him for leaving me alone that night, even though I knew it had been really difficult for him to do.
You see, a part of him had realized that there were some things I was going to have to do without help from anyone or anything but my Higher Power. He saw that he couldn’t help me anymore. So he physically and emotionally removed himself from my situation, and I was forced to face my truth. It was excruciating for both of us at the time, but ultimately IT SAVED MY LIFE.
Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone else is to take care of ourselves. That may seem selfish, but in reality, if we’re not healthy and dedicated to loving ourselves, we can’t be of maximum service to the people around us. Part of the process of recovery is letting go of what other people are doing and saying, and instead focusing on our relationship with our selves and our Higher Power. I believe that is what brings lasting joy, and stable relationships.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.