It's not what you think.
The term "codependency" was born out of necessity. Once people struggling with alcohol use started receiving treatment, it became clear to providers that addiction didn't only affect the person drinking or using, it affected everyone they came in contact with, especially their family. If people seeking treatment were dependent, their family members were considered codependent.
Since then, we've come to realize that you can be codependent for other reasons, not only if we love someone suffering from addiction. It can stem from other situations like trauma, parental relationships, living with an ill person, and being in abusive situations, just to name a few.
So, let me ask you:
Are you compassionate? Are you so compassionate that you caretake for other people that can care for themselves?
Are you a high achiever? Are you such a high achiever that people don't just want you around, they NEED you around?
Do you like having a plan? If yes, why? Is it to control the day?
Do you have a hard time trusting people?
Do you tend to have strong conversations that lead to a blow up?
Do you avoid saying what the REAL problem is in conversations?
Do you say YES when you really want to say NO?
Are your thoughts obsessive? Do they ruminate on one person or situation over and over without resolution?
Do you have a hard time with intimate relationships?
Are you critical of others?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be codependent. Another way to find out is by taking this quick quiz: http://www.melaniemoberg.com/quiz
When I was in the height of my codependency, I did things so damn well that people needed me. They just didn't want me around, they NEEDED me around. At work, at home, and with family - I needed people to need me.
The needing me part boosted my low self-esteem. I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. Making eye contact with myself was unbearable. I quite literally hated myself. Having people need me was the only thing that made me feel good.
The relationship I had at the time was incredibly exhausting. He was sick and I couldn't get him to be the way I needed him to be (seriously. . . this was my thought process. . . so horrible). So, I complained to my friends, over and over again, with the same story, different day. Why couldn't he just XYZ?
Then, one day I had enough. I was exhausted and tired. If he hadn't changed yet, odds were he was incapable or unwilling to do so. When I look back, I know he was incapable of it. I no longer wanted this person to consume all my energy. It took lots of breakups and makeups to get to the point where I was finally done. But, once I got there and had enough self-worth to stay there, life changed dramatically.
I swore off dating anyone for at least 9 months. Surprisingly, I was good extending that time and took a full year off. Prior to this point in my life, there would be no alone time. I couldn't stand to be alone with myself. During that year, I prioritized myself. I found out who I was, deep inside when the house was quiet and there was no one directing the ship.
Sure, it was uncomfortable in the beginning. So I did what I usually did: I kept extremely busy. I was in grad school, working full-time, on the church council, writing a blog, teaching Sunday school, being a single parent with over 70% custody, had a side business, started creating another side business and started writing a book. A gall-darn book, people. Looking back I realize how crazy I had become. I literally allowed no seconds for my thoughts to wander back to myself.
But, eventually, I started to see my self-worth. I let go of the church activities that sadly didn't bring me joy as they use to. I let go of clients that didn't fit my long-term plans. I quit trying to be part of some girl clique that I didn't belong in. I started accepting the people in my life that I wanted to change. I let them do whatever they decided to do and I felt (and still feel) really good about it. . . despite it not always being what I want it to be. I started to love myself again.
The message this week is this: codependency is not just loving someone with addiction. It's caring for others and people pleasing until you have lost yourself. It can be anger, arrogance, and and mostly, a really sad, lonely place to be.
If you are in this place as I was, stay tuned for next week's blog that will shine some light on what to do next.