The University of California UC Davis Healthcare System defines a person that is codependent as someone with low self-esteem who looks outside themselves for their happiness. They usually look to other people, often people they care for. People who are codependent often see themselves as saviors. Unfortunately, those that they save are normally those who most need to save themselves. A codependent person can take steps to escape this unhealthy habit.
Learn to Recognize Codependence
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, codependency poses a health risk to women more than men. This is not to say that men are not codependent. Members of both sexes need to recognize the symptoms of codependency in order to escape it. Some of these symptoms are:
- Low self-esteem – this includes feelings of inadequacy and self doubt
- Poor or no boundaries – this includes not enough separation between you and your spouse, children, or friends who are users, addicts or abusers
- Poor communication skills – inability to communicate thoughts, feelings, and emotions
- Emotional imbalance – anxiety, guilt, fear, shame, depression, and despair
- Drug and alcohol use and abuse
- Care-taking behavior – taking care of others constantly to the detriment of yourself
- Problems with intimacy – losing yourself in others
Create a Journal
Write down all of the signs of codependency that you have. Make note of these signs and behaviors. You can also use the journal to write down your thoughts and feeling throughout the day. Psychologists say journal keeping is an excellent way to relieve stress and sort through your feelings.
Observe and Learn from Your Actions
Observe and look for codependent behaviors in all relationships. A person can be codependent with a parent, a spouse, a child, or a friend. Your list can help you with this. Try to change the behaviors that are harmful to you. Do what is beneficial to you and disregard the behaviors that are not. By recognizing the behaviors involved with codependence and attempting to learn from them, it is easier to identify the problems with the relationship. Once you know who in your life you share a codependent relationship with, you can take additional steps to correct the issues.
Work on Self-esteem Building
Low self-esteem is a huge problem in the United States. Many people suffer for self-esteem issues not just people who are codependent but since codependence is largely a self-esteem issue, building self-esteem is extremely important. Build it by:
- changing the way that you think about yourself by recognizing your strengths
- read and watch uplifting materials
- create an atmosphere of self improvement and self forgiveness
- write down one positive thing about yourself every day
- be aware of the negative thoughts in your mind
There are many other ways to build self-esteem. Local colleges, churches, and other agencies hold self-esteem building workshops.
Allow for Consequences
Part of recovering from a codependent relationship is learning to allow others to accept and face their own consequences. Part of codependence is continually saving others from themselves. Recognizing when helping someone is beneficial and when he or she needs to fend for themselves is an important step in recovering from codependency. Everyone around you should be responsible for himself or herself. Recognize that you are not responsible for their actions only for your reactions. You cannot control what they do only what you do.
Know Your Boundaries
Knowing your boundaries is one of the hardest things to correct. You have to know when to set limits and when to give them up. This is particularly true with people. If you set limits with the people in your life, they will know your boundaries. With clear and defined boundaries, the people around you will know what is and is not okay. They will learn when they are out of line.
Stop Self Blame
Realize that it is not your fault that someone in your life uses drugs or is abusive. Once again, you are not in control of their actions. Stop blaming yourself for what they do or do not do. You can only control your own emotions, reactions, and actions. If the consequences of their actions are negative, it is their fault not yours. Therefore, you are not responsible for correcting their mistakes nor are you to blame for them. Self blaming is an extremely destructive behavior.
Focus on Yourself
By focusing on yourself, you create positive changes in your life. You can take a class you’ve always wanted to or attend a workshop that interests you. By shifting the focus to what makes you feel good and right, you take some of the codependents power away. Be sure that you stay positive in your actions. Make sure you are taking time for yourself when you need it. Having people dependent on you is both physically and mentally tiring, be sure to give yourself a break when you need one.
You do not have to make these changes alone. You can get help for your codependency issues. There are a variety of community based and private organizations that help with these issues. If drug use by you or a family member is causing your codependency issues, then a rehabilitation or treatment center might be the answer. Many people need help to stop being codependent. There is no shame in asking for help from a support group, community based organization, or treatment center.