Codependency

Justmehere

Moderator
Good book. I also grew up in an alcoholic home. It's also common for people without that experience but strikes alcoholic families regularly. I'm always surprised/not surprised. It makes sense it develops in any environment where a caregiver is out of control. Someone has to take care of shit. Eventually, it's easy to begin to have taking care of other's stuff become a coping tool for one's own distress.

Another way to look at it - when someone is codependent, instead of working through their stuff, they work through someone else's for them as a way to manage internal distress. They ignore their own anxiety and needs, go and manage someone else's as the way to manage their own internal distress. Instead of dealing with grief about the alcoholic and setting boundaries, they try to change others as the way to cope with one's own internal distress.

Codependence can be coping skill, a maladaptive coping skill, and a form of avoidance. It makes sense, and it's nothing to feel bad about. It's good to learn when to recognize it (as you are certainly beginning to do) and be able to flex away from it (which it sounds like you did with your daughter who went through trauma with self care and detachment very well!)

It comes in degrees. For example, when I was 13 years old my very co-dependent mother would fuss about us wearing enough jackets and cold weather clothes in a way where it was clear she was trying to manage her anxiety, not so much our body temperatures. I could be sweating through my shirt but if mom was anxious about the cold, that jacket was staying on so mom felt better. If her past was stirred up and she wasn't managing her anxiety about it, suddenly everything I did was possibly dangerous. When her anxiety was well managed, she would still set boundaries, suggest I put on a jacket, etc, but with entirely different levels of energy and degrees. Managing me as a kid (heck even trying as an adult) was how she tried to manage her internal distress.

Kids being dependent on parents is normal. There are ways it can travel from healthy dependence to co-dependency, and a lot of it is about degrees, and how the parent manages their own distress.

Adult kids detaching and becoming their own adult selves is a hard process for many parents. Learning to let go and let them walk through life has got to be tough. Some recovery programs for those who grew up in alcoholic homes talk about giving people the dignity to make bad decisions. You gave your adult child the dignity to make her own choices. That's awesome. It didn't work out as hoped, because this world can be a shitshow, but you don't have anything to blame yourself about but to be proud of as a parent learning to let go and yet still be there for her.

I think I am trying to hard to be sure my children are happy and making the right choices. They are both young adults (over 18). My youngest recently was in a situation that caused her trauma. I felt I was to blame for all of it. I had to "detach" and take care of myself so I could care for her. I also have codependent issues with my husband. probably because of my fear of the past repeating itself. It is causing me to not be able to have a healthy relationship that we both could benefit from.
This makes sense why co-dependency might be suggested and it does also cross over into enmeshment.

It's nothing to feel bad about, and it happens to most from time to time.

Example:

I tend to not be codependent in relationships. (I'm a little too distant. Independent to a fault.) When I get super stressed in my life overall, PTSD is spiking, sometimes I go from flexible pet owner to OMG IS MY DOG OK SHE JUST LIMPED FOR A SECOND. Then I fuss over if she's ok... because really, whatever is going on for my dog, I'm trying to manage my internal distress my fixing her - above and beyond what is needed to actually have the dog kept safe and healthy. I can laugh at it now (sometimes)... and trying to change my too independent and sometimes too co-dependent patterns in human relationships.

Two killers of co-dependency that I have found so far:
Good boundaries, internally and externally.
Self care.

I think I am trying to hard to be sure my children are happy and making the right choices. They are both young adults (over 18). My youngest recently was in a situation that caused her trauma.
Most adults will go through trauma at some point. Most heal up and carry on. You can help by NOT taking on responsibility that belongs in the boundaries of others.

For, me I am learning that excessive worrying and trying to help my family and not letting the go to grow is part of it for me. I have a lot of anxiety around normal things but it is hard to separate from being triggered.
YES. It would make a lot of sense if spikes in anxiety and triggers lead to more of a struggle with this. At one time, especially in alcoholic homes, co-dependency may have been a way to survive, to cope. As you replace it with other tools, it will get easier.
I thought I had done everything to keep my kids safe. I made sure they weren't abused and then at the age of 18 someone hurts her. I feel/felt I should have done something different something better. I should have said something, seen something. Which is where the idea of detachment is calming to me. Not detach from her or withdraw love or time with her. But, to set that blame down where it belongs with the young man who did this. To stop trying to find where I messed up. And to start caring for myself. To be present and help her I had to stop making myself sick.
Exactly. Well done. :)
 

Invisible Fire

MyPTSD Pro
I have to do a lot of self-searching before I become someone's friend, since I haven't really had a friend in my life who didn't want a codependent friend. I wonder how to stop wanting to be friends with these people? I guess I will read the book.
What I am learning from the book is that the only person I have to be responsible for is myself. Sounds simple. My youngest is now 19. As a mother there is that constant sense of responsibility for your children. But, I guess losing your identity and taking care of yourself can still be OK as you take care of others. I think its a fine line and like many things I am starting to see codependency has many levels. I do think I have codependent tendencies the urge/need to care for others. I want to feel love and that is how I felt it growing up. Even my PTSD trauma was based around feeling important and when the trauma stopped, so did the attention I was getting. (messed up thinking I know) but, there was a part of me that missed the attention even if it was bad attention it was better than none at all. Or so I thought at 11. Lots of layers of the onion here, which must explain the tears. :)
 

Invisible Fire

MyPTSD Pro
Adult kids detaching and becoming their own adult selves is a hard process for many parents. Learning to let go and let them walk through life has got to be tough. Some recovery programs for those who grew up in alcoholic homes talk about giving people the dignity to make bad decisions. You gave your adult child the dignity to make her own choices. That's awesome. It didn't work out as hoped, because this world can be a shitshow, but you don't have anything to blame yourself about but to be proud of as a parent learning to let go and yet still be there for her.
Thank you. :)

@Justmehere thank you for you post. It made a lot of sense and helped untangle some things.
 

Justmehere

Moderator
I do think I have codependent tendencies the urge/need to care for others. I want to feel love and that is how I felt it growing up.
What we do to survive messed up situations and get the love, attention, etc, that all humans need - yeah, it can be messed up, but in a brillant way. You developed a strong care for others to survive and get what you needed as a kid. That was a smart way to get through!

But, I guess losing your identity and taking care of yourself can still be OK as you take care of others.
This is the part that gets tricky: Identity. I'm not a mom, and I know it's a big transition time for moms to shift in how to be a mom with kids becoming adults. I can't speak to that - only want to say hey, go gently, this stuff baffles a lot of moms of 19 year olds. Or even 29 year olds. (I get the impression it's a lifelong journey.)

As someone who as been on the other side of co-dependency, it feels confusing when someone is so focused on helping me, that it is clear part of who they are is based on if what they do is a success or not. It's way more helpful when someone can help, and I know that if it goes well or goes badly, the core of who they are isn't rattled. They don't lose their sense of self. What they do to help can be exactly the same. It makes it easier to help others and be in relationships when someone's identity isn't wrapped up in the condition of another. This can be the hardest part for people. I struggle with it in a big way on the flip side. I lose me a little when I let people help, and I'm learning to have that solid core of who is my identity even when someone is helping. I don't know if this makes any sense of all, but I find thinking this through and reading your post helpful for me as a I sort out being on the other end of the spectrum/side of this a little too often in my life right now and looking at what I can change in me and my relationships.
 
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Invisible Fire

MyPTSD Pro
I struggle with it on the flip side. I lose me a little when I let people help, and I'm learning to have that solid core of who is my identity even when someone is helping. I don't know if this makes any sense of all, but I find thinking this through and reading your post helpful for me as a I sort out being on the other end of the spectrum/side of this a little too often in my life right now and looking at what I can change in me and my relationships.
This is a very interesting thought. For a couple reasons. One being on the flip side myself with my mother. and Two thinking of my daughter. Interesting perspective. I try my best to not let my feelings, thoughts and such show but we all know that is hard to do. Not sure where my mind is going with this but I will give it more thought.
 

Changing4Best

MyPTSD Pro
I have had several codependent relationships. Some abusive, some not. I read the book, it helped me out of one abusive relationship. So it was worth reading. It also helped me to sort out what happened with some of the other relationships from my past and my family of origin. One of the things it helps me with today is to stop giving unwanted advice. It's an old habit, so it does hard, but I am getting better at biting my tongue.
 

Klanala

Learning
I was required to read Codependent No More as part of my trauma recovery. Later on my own I learned about how trauma codependency and addiction are connected more through online research. I saw this play out in the last church I attended. The church was giving a member financial support then a crisis happened to her involving addiction. They did not see their role. I did and left the church and have not returned. It was a good lesson in healing and ego management.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I read Codependent No More and re-read a few times. Neither of my parents were alcoholics, but my mom was the daughter of one. Either way, I can relate to the author a lot. I grew up having to fixate on serving my parents, especially my father. Any emotion or needs expressed on my part was met with rejection and anger. Taken together, I became conditioned to deny my feelings and driven to meet everyone else's needs. Then that became my vehicle of gratification - to help others, and becoming addicted to that. I think the book hits the nail on characteristics of "helping til it hurts.'

I was reading about different forms of attachment (in attachment theory) and there was something in the article that really helped me to have insight about my codependency. They were saying that chaotic attachment is the worst of all. The child is left with no coping mechanism because she neither feels safe to run towards their parents, nor can she look away out of fear that she will be hurt by their parents. So she's left just "angrily focused" on the parent. I think that explains why I ruminate about other people's problems even when I don't have to. I feel like the basic feature of codependency is not being able to just go on about your business and let others to live theirs. Non-traumatized people focus on themselves in their resting state. Traumatized people don't.
 
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