Ask Abdi: Is There A Way To Beat Codependency?

Question: Hello from Scandinavia. Turns out I am hugely codependent. My question is about Self and healing as a thirty year old. I used to find it quite easy to maintain friendships and make new ones. In hindsight I spent many years being emotionally dependent on my best friend. This is crippling at worst and has ruled my existence, especially after a traumatic event where she swallowed a lot of pills. I feel inadequate in ‘supporting’ this person who is often either depressive or happy and now also seeks out pain and addict partners.

I feel guilty and weak for not wanting to be around around her darkness and in hindsight I might have been feeding it instead of setting boundaries for myself. I seem to have an issue with responsibility and guilt. I communicated that I have become scared of her but was shamed for being neurotic. She is an intense character. Real, but perhaps not soft. A tough teacher.

Her moods affect mine and her words can take on an almost physical form in me. Recently my whole body started resisting her and I had to get out, not sure I can go back at this point. Don’t know if it is my ego that wants out or if it is ego-driven to stay in it.

Now there is grief and intense pain as well as anxiety. There is no way I can be in a relationship if I continue like this. Is there a way to beat codependency? Is Self enough? How do we heal when the future is ridiculously nebulous and everything is up for grabs?

Answer: Co-dependency is no joke. It is a profound addiction and reaction to early childhood wounding. It is not something we beat but rather heal. Dancing for our dinner so to speak starts at a young age where there is real or perceived lack of intimacy. So we learn to take on people and beg for their love.

I like that you put air quotes around the word “supporting”. Because you are aware that enabling is what you were doing, not supporting. This is radically different and damaging to both parties involved, the giver as well as the receiver. We support people when they are engaged constructively in life. We enable people who are engaged destructively. That is the difference between the two. You were doing the latter so best that you stepped back.

Working with and healing co-dependent behavior is a life long endeavor for those of us deeply afflicted. Many addictions are a coping mechanism for the underlying co-dependence. So give yourself a break. The fact that you are aware of the issue is huge. When our “whole body starts resisting” something or someone, it is time to listen and take action. It is not your ego that wants out, it is your true Self. Yes, it is ego (addiction) driven to stay in it. Feel your way though this, not think your way.

Of course there is grief, intense pain as well as anxiety. You are giving up a drug. All addictive withdrawals are brutal and this is no different. Get support. There are wonderful twelve step programs available for co-dependency. Look up Co-Dependents Anonymous or Al-Anon meetings, they have them in your country. That would be a place to start to get some support and learn about your dis-ease. Some one on one therapy is also crucial to get to the bottom of when and were your issues started and how best to heal them.

No, Self is not enough. You are a young person and need to learn how to be in relationship. That starts by learning not to hide by care taking others. The future is only “nebulous” if we do not tend to the present. I know you are in pain and scared so it is easy to see everything as shit. Start offering yourself the energy that you have thrown away at others. Mother and nurse yourself back to health. Kindness towards self goes a long way.