Our Orange County alcohol and drug treatment program has seen its fair share of codependents. Each one would have done anything for the addict or alcoholic in their lives, but that very well may be their death knell. Sadly, there is such a thing as loving someone to death, and these are some of the myths surrounding this little-understood phenomenon.
Codependents Act on Behalf of Others
Not true, but even if it did have elements of truth, it would only be in a very obscure and roundabout way. Although a codependent may claim to be acting in the best interest of the addict or alcoholic, the truth is that the codependent is acting for the sake of the codependent. When problems and consequences are avoided, is there really a problem? Not really. If that is true, though, then why would we rescue someone from a problem that does not exist?
An addict or alcoholic lives in a world of chaos and uncertainty. It is our natural state of being. The codependent, on the other hand, lives in a world of order and always knowing what will happen next. Both the addict/alcoholic and the codependent engage in a tug-of-war over which side will prevail, and usually that is the addict/alcoholic. That is because the addict/alcoholic is working for his or her own interests, just like the codependent. It just so happens that the addict/alcoholic is the benefactor of some of the codependent’s interests.
“It Isn’t Codependence—It’s Being A Good”
Whether you fill this in with mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, uncle, employer, friend, or any other term, there is a difference between being a good (whatever), and being codependent. A codependent manages the life of someone else so that they can live their own life free of the chaos that the addict or alcoholic introduces.
Being a good (whatever) actually means helping that person grow in their life in relation to that person. In other words, a good employer gives the addict or alcoholic the opportunity to succeed or fail—he or she does not sabotage his or her own business and well-being on behalf of someone who chooses a different path.
For some, that chaos that the addict/alcoholic introduces becomes addictive. It always provides a distraction to anything else going on, and also helps keep the codependent from dealing with their own problems in their own lives since they are so busy doing the same for others.
“I’m Saving Them From The Pain They Will Face. How Is That Not Good?”
It isn’t good because the codependent is robbing the other person of their experience and opportunity to grow. When the option is taken out of the person’s hands, there are no lessons to learn, as the consequences do not follow—whether or not those consequences are good or bad.
It might be a crude analogy, but like a flower, an addict or alcoholic grows better and more vibrantly when it has to go through a layer of crap first. If he or she is unable to rise to the occasion because they are not given the opportunity, that can hardly be seen as a good thing.
Pain is temporary, and with the amount of pain that codependents and alcoholic/addicts endure daily, it is a small price to pay for a better life for all involved.