Codependence is a compulsive behavior that promotes dysfunctional relationship dynamics. It is characterized by using others as a source of identity, value and well-being. Codependence is often a response to emotional trauma or losses in a person’s past. The reliance on another person diminishes the codependent person’s sense of self and creates toxic behaviors intended to serve their own perceived best interest.
Co-Dependents Anonymous is a program that offers a fellowship of men and women in recovery from codependence who want to end their codependence and develop healthy relationships.
Co-Dependents Anonymous follows a 12-step model similar to those used by support programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. It gives members a set of guidelines and goals to work toward while going through the recovery process.
The program also offers meetings throughout the country where members gather to offer support to one another. These meetings promote accountability and assist individuals striving to create healthy relationship dynamics, building self-esteem and realizing their own self-worth.
Co-Dependents Anonymous promotes personal growth and serves as motivation to members. The Twelve Promises of Co-Dependents Anonymous states that:
“I can expect a miraculous change in my life by working the program of Co-Dependents Anonymous. As I make an honest effort to work the Twelve Steps and follow the Twelve Traditions.”
The Twelve Promises encourages members to embrace a new mindset that promotes positive change, including finding a new sense of belonging, overcoming fears, letting go of regrets and worries, and becoming self-reliant.
Co-Dependents Anonymous offers information on recognizing signs of codependence. Broken down into patterns, these behaviors could indicate codependence.
Denial patterns of codependent behavior are characterized by denying one’s own feelings or experiences.
Some symptoms of denial patterns include:
People exhibiting denial patterns may have unrealistic views of themselves or others and avoid confronting situations that create negative emotions.
Individuals who exhibit these types of behaviors are often overly critical of their own actions and thoughts, hindering their ability to act in a direct manner. Instead, they rely on the praise and input of others to make decisions about their actions.
Symptoms of low self-esteem patterns include:
Low self-esteem patterns often cause people to turn to others for their own self-worth or safety and make it difficult for them to set personal priorities on their own.
Those who exhibit compliance patterns of codependence tend to put others’ needs in front of their own in hopes of gaining approval. They may withstand situations that are not in their best interest to prove their value to others.
These types of behaviors may include:
By putting other individuals’ needs and feelings in front of their own, those who experience compliance patterns get themselves into situations that are not in their own self-interest and may be detrimental to their own well-being.
Individuals who exhibit control patterns of codependence may impose their will on others. They intend to influence others for their own benefit and are often stubborn and unwilling to recognize others’ needs or value their opinions.
Control pattern behaviors include:
Individuals exhibiting control patterns of codependence may use sexual attention or affection as a tool to gain another’s approval or acceptance.
Those who engage in avoidance patterns of behavior often have difficulty cultivating meaningful relationships and exhibit behaviors that allow them to keep others at a distance and avoid conflict.
These behaviors include:
Avoiding accountability, intimacy and emotions allows codependent people to remain in cycles of self-destructive behaviors in their relationships.
Co-Dependents Anonymous helps individuals recognize their detrimental patterns of behavior and teaches them to adjust these behaviors to ensure they build healthy relationships in recovery.
Based on the 12-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous encourages members to examine how they handle relationships in efforts of moving toward positive improvement.
Completing these steps fosters recovery and self-growth. Once an individual has reached recovery, it is up to them to maintain it and to share their message with others.
Codependency is common in families affected by substance use disorders. Often, one person’s damaging substance abuse erodes the stability of the family unit.
Family members of those with substance use disorders may respond to this behavior by blaming themselves or trying to “fix” the problematic substance use themselves. Those with substance use disorders learn how to manipulate others through their self-blame.
This creates a pattern of enabling behavior where the codependent person takes on the consequences of the addicted person’s substance abuse. The relationship is built on a one-sided dynamic where one individual inflicts pain while the other shoulders the responsibility for it to maintain the relationship.
Both parties perpetuate the patterns of destructive behavior and create a cycle of codependency that leads to further damaging behavior and prevents the addicted party from receiving the treatment they need to heal themselves and their relationships.
Treatment for codependency, as well as for addiction and co-occurring disorders, includes family counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy and stress management and can address the symptoms of each of the patterns of codependence.
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