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Four Steps to Break the Shackles of Codependency

Addiction is unhealthy, abusive and dependent. The relationships created out of addiction are no different.

Individuals suffering from addiction rely on unhealthy relationships to serve their addiction, transforming normal, healthy relationships into dysfunctional, codependent ones.

Codependency Defined

Codependency is a behavioral and emotional condition that doesn’t allow for a mutually satisfying relationship. For addicts, this binding, unhealthy condition is necessary for continuing a relationship with both loved ones and their addiction. For friends, partners and family members of addicts, codependency becomes the emotional pillar on which addiction stands while a meaningful relationship crumbles.

To genuinely help an addict, loved ones must first take steps to honestly evaluate both the relationship and themselves if they ever want to successfully break those shackles. With that goal in mind, here’s a look at four necessary steps you’ll need to navigate on the road to ending codependency.

Step #1 Become Aware

Denial is the cornerstone for both addiction and codependency. Many codependents deny their own feelings, needs and expectations to cater to the irrational and unreasonable demands of addiction. Over time, fulfilling these irrational demands offers emotional satisfaction, replacing the void left by a lack of emotional nourishing and intimacy. The first step towards breaking the shackles of codependency is acknowledging the shackles of emotional transference exist.
The first step towards breaking the shackles of codependency is acknowledging the shackles of emotional transference exist.

Step #2 Accept Your Value

Codependency is typically characterized by feelings of low self-esteem, helplessness and inadequacy. These unhealthy emotions then lead to self-deprecating or enabling behaviors. Although the codependent relationship may have caused or exacerbated these feelings, loved ones may not feel they deserve change over time. They must first believe in their own self-worth to combat the insidious and chaotic nature of a codependent relationship.

Step #3 Redefine Relationship Roles

Caretaking is typically the predominant role for those sharing a codependent relationship with an addict. Many times, the role of caretaking offers loved ones a feeling of control and relevance. In a codependent, addiction-centric relationship, offering emotional and financial support enables the addiction to grow stronger, while the relationship becomes less healthy. In recovery, it’s important to become a genuine friend or a concerned parent—not a caretaker.

Step #4 Take Action

The final step to break the cycle of codependence is turning insight into action. Whether it’s setting physical boundaries, severing responsibility for someone, joining a self-help group, receiving therapy or demanding someone undergo treatment, only meaningful action can create meaningful change, for both yourself and your loved one.


Additional Reading: Compassion Fatigue: Is it Happening to Your Family?

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