My Own Struggle With Codependency

by Monica

(Editor's note: I received the following from a reader and have posted it for you with her approval.)

I wrote this letter after reading your page about codependency. I've kept it all this time because I wasn't sure about sending it. I know I wanted to, but my reluctance was I guess, an example of how I got into this mess in the beginning. And how I allowed it to take hold of me. I was locked into inaction by my own personal fear.

It is ironic that it took me reading your suggested book about procrastination to get me to take action on forwarding this letter. If you think it will help someone, please place it on your web site.

In reading your page about codependency, I sensed that we have been dealing with similar issues. For me it was a family member of whom I cared deeply. He was making at least in opinion, incredibly bad life choices. I would try so hard to help him, but it seemed as though he always reverted back to old patterns.

I could completely relate to the three points of that triangle you wrote about. That was us, everyday. I would point out to him how he was wasting opportunities and how he needed to make better choices. He would deny it and I'd recite examples of how he had done exactly as I said he did.

He would get really sad and talk about how everyone was against him. And then he would get mad. And we would switch roles. He would explain in loud detail how I was one of the reasons he wasn't getting what he wanted out of life. And I would feel bad and tell him how hard I was "just trying to help him."

And then I would bail him out again. It could be money. He is healthy and fully capable of getting a job. It could be use of my car. He never replaces the gas in the tank, but still I gave him use of it. I was living that triangle.

(Editor's note: This is the Karpman Triangle. Please click the link below to read that page.)


Nearly every hour of my day was consumed with worry and aggravation. I would spend hours scanning want ads for jobs he could look into. Even though he had a free day after a restful night to do the same. I was exhausted and wore down with stress.

I have friends who have been married for many years. The man has faced this dilemma for most of that time. His wife, also a good friend of mine was an alcoholic. I should say, is an alcoholic. They both remind me that there really isn't a past tense in this codependent relationship. She is still an alcoholic. She just doesn't drink anymore.

His path was similar to mine. We needed to follow an important point in your original page. For us, we needed to break free. Detachment is how it was written on your web site. I read the quote you included everyday. "Detachment is not detaching from the person we care about, but from the agony of involvement."

That is really the most important step. Anyone out there seeing themselves as they read this, please make that step. Take it from me. Your constant attempts to lead or cajole them where they aren't ready to go, won't get them there. They aren't ready yet.

But it will ruin your health and your state of mind. The best thing you can do for the person in your own codependent relationship is to detach. Right now. You are actually holding them back. The phrase "killing with kindness" fits so well right here.

In these situations, the best thing you can do is be the example. Be the best you can be. Maybe your example will spur your codependent into reaching the place they must reach. And only they can get themselves there. You can't do it for them. No one can. You still care about them. But they must also care about themselves.

Thank you for posting that page about codependency. This is a topic that many people deal with in lonely silence. I would agree that "Codependent No More" is an excellent book. Had I read it a couple years ago, I would have bypassed many sleepless nights. But if those hours of gained experience helps someone else who reads this page, it will be an acceptable trade.

Monica from Michigan

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Just below is a quote from "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff" by Richard Carlson.  The chapter title is "Open Your Heart To Compassion." 

"Every day we are given hundreds of opportunities to practice compassion in action.  We can learn to be less reactive and live with more patience.

We can smile when others are serious.  We can drive our cars more carefully, pick up litter on the streets, recycle, and reduce our consumption.

We can resolve conflicts rather than create them, and we can become less judgemental and more inclusive.  When someone is aggressive, we can teach them to be more peaceful.  Instead of waiting for an example, we can be the example.

The more compassion that enters your heart, the happier and more peaceful you will become.  By knowing that you are doing your part to create a better world-whatever form that takes-you will fill any void that exists in your life, and you will begin to find the peace you are looking for."

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