Saturday, December 1, 2012

Truth and Codependency

I've been absent for a while.  I missed some of you who read and email me regularly.  I've had good reason to be away and I've decided to share that with you guys.  Mostly because I'm starting to believe that every single experience we have is for our good.  And then it's so we can share to help someone else.  Maybe lots of someones....

My grandfather died of cirrhosis of the liver.  One of my uncles, that same grandfather's son, was an alcoholic.  Both my brothers are addicts/alcoholics. Actually, my oldest brother died this year and you can read about that here if you'd like.  I have at least 5 cousins who are addicts/alcoholics. One is actually seeking help right now and has given guardianship of her only child to someone else in our family while she enters rehab.  I've been married twice and both my ex and my current are recovering alcoholics/addicts.  To say that addiction may have affected my life would be like saying if you jump off the roof, you might hit the ground.

I've learned some whacked out stuff by being surrounded by addicts since birth.  I've learned that addicts are the best liars known to man.  No really...they can look you in the face and hold your hand, while you're crying and begging, and tell you that they did not, do not, will not EVER, relapse, no matter what...ever.  And they'll have a vodka bottle hidden somewhere with pills stuffed in their pocket.  Literally.  They will be stealing from your purse while they kneel at your feet begging your forgiveness.  I am NOT exaggerating that information, people.

I've learned that addiction is like a disease but not like a disease. Cancer is a straight out disease. Arthritis is a disease.  You usually just get those through no fault of your own and do the best you can with the treatments that are available. You hope. Addiction is like that in that you have something that is ravaging you and everyone around you.  The difference is that the addict actually IS the cure.  They have to CHOOSE to no longer seek out their disease.  It's a conundrum.  Yeah...let's go with that.  A conundrum is defined as a riddle who's answer is or involves a pun.  Addiction is a conundrum. The addict HAS a disease (sort of) AND the addict themselves, literally, hold the cure inside themselves, too. You don't have much hope with addiction.  You have to have will power, conviction and lots of therapy to readjust your thinking. Forever.'s a long process, but worth it.

I've learned that addiction can't successfully exist without a codependent.   There may be some argument to that statement, but it's absolute truth based on everything I've ever experienced.  Alcohol and dope don't buy themselves.  Money doesn't grow on trees.  They have to get money to fund their addiction.  Most addicts don't own homes (not usually for long, anyway) and they have to have somewhere to live.  Addicts don't work for long periods at the same place and someone has to take up the slack.  Addicts have to eat, too. I've yet to see food grow on trees for longer than a few months if you include fruit trees, so someone is feeding them.  Addicts lose interest in everything but themselves and yet you see them everywhere...always with someone.  That someone will be their codependent if the addict is practicing.  It's typically a spouse or parent who falls into this role.  They do it to "help". can't hear or see me, but I actually grimace every single time I read or type that word in relation to an addict in the context I'm using the word...

I've learned that addicts can't be "helped", unless you include the word "self" before the word help.  The only kind of help that an addict can get is self-help.  Period.

I am codependent.  Can you be patient with me while I re-type that for myself? (it's the first time I've said it to anyone but myself, my husband and my therapist)  I am co-dependent.  Even knowing that every person on the planet is "f"ing crazy in one way or another, it has been so dang hard for me to accept.  That I am codependent is still hard for me.  But, I guess that's better than not knowing what the heck was wrong with me as I gave the illusion that control was my middle name.  Unless you knew me VERY well (I have two people who knew me well enough to know my entire life, up to this point), most people would have told you that I was in charge, controlled and "had it together".

Can I whisper to you that I so did not have it together?  I can distinctly remember at least 10 times that people used that phrase directly to my face and everything inside me would recoil....because I knew it was a lie.  And one that I had worked very, very hard to cultivate.  It was BS.  Sorry about that.  But, I'm pretty sure that it also saved me.  Had I not worked hard at control, I damn well may have broken into about 4,693 pieces by the time I was 21....just splattered out on the ground. We all have to get there at our own pace, I guess.

I read a great story just last week that will better define what I mean.  I'll paraphrase it here:

Bill's parents came to see a well known addiction counselor in their area about their son.  Bill was 24, lived at home, didn't work and had friends who lived very sketchy lives, as well.  He was on drugs and drank heavily.  Bill, of course, didn't think he had a problem.  So, Bill's parents were coming to get Bill some help.

"Where's Bill", the counselor asked after speaking to them for 15 minutes or so.

"Well, Bill didn't want to come because he doesn't think he has a problem", replied his parents.

"Maybe, he doesn't", said the counselor.

With mouths hanging open, both parents sputtered that of course Bill has problems.  "Didn't you just hear anything we said?!  We've sent him to three colleges and he's quit them all!!  We've paid for rehab.  We've bought him two cars so he could get back and forth to work, but he's wrecked them both and STILL doesn't work. He totaled the last one so badly we were afraid to get him another one!  He lives in our basement and he'll be 25 in just two weeks!!!  Did you just say that he might not have any problems?!"...they both screeched, with voices ending somewhere around dog whistle level. 

"Yes, I did.  Let me rephrase", replied the counselor.  "You are taking responsibility for a grown man and you are miserable.  Your son, who is that grown man, is out of control, irresponsible and perfectly happy.  Does that about sum it up?"

"Yes",  both reluctantly replied.

"Well, would you like me to help you help Bill have some problems?", the counselor asked.

And then the light bulb very slowly and very reluctantly went off for both parents.  Over the course of a 6 month time frame, Bill's parents learned that they were codependent.  They learned what that means and how to heal themselves by letting their grown son grow up.  They learned to live THEIR lives and stop trying to control Bill's life.  They learned that only an addict can help themselves or they will forever be crippled by a disease that only they can cure. They may forever be crippled by it anyway...and the rest of the world is still not responsible.

Bill's parents were, obviously, co-dependent.

I'd like to tell you that Bill turned out perfectly and all is peachy keen.  I don't know that,  because the story ended there. I had to trust that while Bill may finally be miserable due to his life choices, that Bill's parents may have found peace and finally be dealing with their own lives instead of unsuccessfully trying to control Bill's life. I hope that Bill has sought out professional help because his misery was his own and not being owned by someone else.  I'm learning what that means for myself, too.

I began the early part of this year knowing that I had the ear of a publisher willing to possibly publish a book on the victims of addiction.  I'm not shelving that, but right now we are negotiating the possibility of writing a much more needed book about codependency and how to heal from that.  Right now, that book inside me feels like one that is terribly needed by so many.

Co-dependents don't JUST surround addicts, by the way.  All addicts have co-dependents, but co-dependents don't always have an addict.  Workaholics, that person that can NEVER say no, that gossipy chick who knows everyones business but her own, or even that drama queen who needs drama to feel anything because she is so numb...those are ALL co-dependents. They have "other" control and no "self" control.  Yeah, we all know one and you can trust me when I tell you that they are internally miserable. 

I would like to encourage anyone who is living their life trying to "help" an addict or even those who recognize that they have "other" control, but no self-control, to seek help.  You have a problem.  The good news is you do NOT have a disease.  You have a life that has been trained to respond wrongly to the needs and wants of someone else and to ignore what you need and want.  You have a life that is consumed with trying to control someone else or anyone but yourself. You are numb.  You have a life that is waiting on you out there in the real world and it's one that you deserve and is worth living.

You'll hear much more on this topic from me, but for right now I'm just going to say...  YOU ARE NOT ALONE and YOU ARE OK.  Find help, pray, get support and let go.  Just, let go...the world really will keep revolving when you do.  Who may actually find that the world has been quietly waiting for you to let go so you could become who YOU are supposed to be instead of trying to control what someone else has become.



  1. Wow! I know this took courage. I am praying for you and for your book to help many people. I know I am this way with my sister. She likes drama and to be the center of attention. I get wrapped up in it at times and then end up acting that way. I enable her at times. This post has helped me realize I can't always do that and it is better that I don't.

  2. Good word. I also am a codependent.