Unlearning Codependency in Recovery

When you first learn about codependency, you might at first wonder, “What does relationship issues have to do with recovery from addiction?”. However, there is a strong relationship between the way that someone learns to relate to others (especially in intimate relationships) and the presence of addiction. When there is an addiction in the family, there are certain ways that family members learn to react to that addiction. This is especially true if a parent was an addict and the other parent enabled that addiction.

Likely, at some point in your recovery, you might want to have a healthy, loving intimate relationship. You might want to leave your past behind you and create a new life of health, love, and sobriety. For this reason, you might find yourself interested in how to heal from codependency.

Certainly, if you’ve been in recovery for some time, then you’re already working on the more subtle facets of sobriety. For instance, you’re sober and now you’re exploring how to stay true to yourself, how to express your needs, how to be vulnerable from time to time, and perhaps you’re exploring new ways of being in an intimate relationship. One of the biggest problems for recovery addicts is how to avoid giving your power away. Since addiction itself is an illness of powerlessness, learning how to stay in your own power in relationships is important in recovery.

In fact, codependency is an experience in a relationship where one or both people believe that they need the other to survive (just like a person might believe that they need alcohol or drugs to survive). This loss of power contributes to powerlessness and an unhealthy dependence upon a person in a relationship. Thus a co-dependency develops. .

In order to unlearn anything, the primary step is learning to become more aware of what you’re already doing. To the extent that powerlessness is woven into the fabric of your daily functioning, it can lead to patterns of caretaking, low self-worth, controlling, denial, poor communication, weak boundaries, anger, and lack of trust in an intimate relationship. The belief in being powerless in your life leads to a dysfunctional relying on others for things that you can and should do on your own. To heal this, you might ask yourself questions about whether powerlessness is playing a role in the way you relate to your partner. You might also see if you can recognize any of the patterns just mentioned in your own life.

Another way to become more and more aware of yourself and your relationship patterns is to work with a professional. In fact, you’re likely to find a mental health provider, such as a counselor or psychologist, who is familiar with the patterns of codependency and can facilitate healing it in your life. You might also read about it, exploring what others have written about and learning by their experiences. Lastly, once you learn new ways of relating to your partner, you might experiment and see how that affects the relationship. You might play with believing in your own power and turning away from a need to rely on your partner. You might avoid enabling your partner and facilitate empowerment in him or her.

If you’re in recovery and you’re ready to get into a new relationship, learning to heal from codependency might be the very tool you need to create a healthy, loving partnership.


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