What Is Codependency?  How Do We Break Free?

"If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a fact, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system."   Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

What is codependency?  Isn't it something that only involves families involved with alcoholism or drug abuse?  Far from it.  The ramifications have a long reach.   

I never really realized the depth of the problems associated with codependency until a reader suggested that I check out a book that has been a true eye-opener for me.  As is often the case after finishing an empowering book, I didn't know how much I didn't know about this issue that affects so many of us in varying degrees,

In fact I only needed to get through a few chapters before I could see myself in the pages.  Not anywhere near as as much as the examples provided by the author, but still, there I was, an anonymous part of the story.

The phrase "codependency no more" has dual meanings.  We'll present both in this page.   As a call to action or maybe even a form of mission statement, those three words if taken seriously and complemented with positive action, could be the most freeing words you'll ever hear.

And those three little words are very close to the title of a book that I will certainly place within our list of classic books, located in the left margin of every page.   The title of this empowering book is "Codependent No More."  The author is Melody Beattie.

A New Addition To The List Of Classic Books

If you'd like to purchase this incredible book, please click the link below.

What Is Codependency?

 Answers to the question "What is codependency" are varied and I've found, so wide ranging that they tend to disguise the problem.  Too many of us don't see ourselves as being codependent because we don't fit the "clinical" definitions.

We aren't in a relationship with a compulsive alcoholic, although that is certainly a great example of an answer to "What is codependency."  In fact that area may be where the focus began and certainly is where some effective programs were launched to get past this issue.

Those of us who who ask "what is codependency" may not have a close relationship with someone who is chemically addicted or is physically abusive.  But these are two more well documented areas where codependency develops. 

For many of us we're just trying to help a close family member or someone we've known for years break away from destructive practices and poor life decisions.  We're doing all we can to protect someone from themselves. 

So I'm leaving out the detailed, multi-syllable descriptions.  I've included a link further down the page that offers plenty of those characteristics.  A very simple answer to "what is codependency" is this.  An overpowering need to protect someone from themselves which causes us to put our own lives on hold as we try to rescue them, even if they don't want to be rescued at this time.

Melody Beattie writes, "A codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior."  

The Compulsive Need To Rescue

Rescuing is the fuel that powers the codependency furnace.  The curse of this issue is that while we do these things with only the most noble of intentions, when we become rescuers or caretakers to another person, we are merely weakening them and dragging ourselves down.

Melody Beattie quoted Scott Egleston in her book with these words,  "We rescue anytime we take responsibility for another human being-for that person's thoughts, feelings, decisions, behaviors, growth, well-being, problems or destiny."

In "Codependent No More" the author provides many lists.  Here is an example as she documents situations where we fall into the rescuer trap.

* Doing something we really don't want to do

* Doing something for someone that the person is fully capable of doing for themselves

* Doing someone's thinking for them

* Suffering people's consequences for them

* Accepting behavior that we would normally never accept

* Solving people's problems for them

Just below is a diagram called the "Karpman Triangle."  It's named after Dr. Stephen Karpman.  He came up with this concept of victim, persecutor and rescuer.  It's also called the "Drama Triangle."

Karpman Drama Triangle

In nearly all cases, the pattern is the same.  In severe cases of alcoholism or drug abuse right on down to relationships where one person is trying to turn around another who is making questionable decisions for their future, the pattern seldom varies.

As codependents we see the other person needing us to help them.  Never mind that they could really help themselves.  In fact, over time they are just waiting for us to step in and take the pressure off them.  They know we'll bail them out.  We always do.  After all, it isn't their fault.  They are the victims.  Life has persecuted them.

So we rescue them again.  But they don't show appreciation.  At least not to the level we think they should.  So we get mad.  We've gone out of our way to do something to help them.  Never mind that they may not have asked for our help. 

But we're just enabling them further with our anger.  We allow them to escape from that victim spot and become the persecutor.  And they turn that response toward us.  They resent us for suggesting they aren't able to take care of themselves, even after they allowed us to bail them out time after time.

The author of "Codependent No More" offers the best explanation of what follows. "We've been used-again.  We've gone unappreciated-again.  We try so hard to help people, to be good to them."  And we tumble down into that bottom spot in the triangle.  We've assumed the victim role."

Here is a link with more information about the Karpman Triangle.

What is codependency?  Two people working in tandem, but certainly not in united efforts have changed the structure of a geometric angle.  They turned a triangle into a circle.  Sadly this circle turns back into a triangle with those same three roles re-occurring over and over.  Until we as codependents detach.


Detachment is the first specific action step in part two of "Codependent No More."  The author, Melody Beattie writes, "I chose detachment not because it is significantly more important than the other concepts.  I selected it because it is an underlying concept.....And it is something we must do first-before we can do the other things we need to do."

In my own case, this was the first big step.  And the most difficult.  All those thoughts raced through my mind.  What will happen to this person if I'm no longer right there to be the on call support person?  But that quote really is one of the most important parts of this page.  We aren't abandoning the other person.   We're removing ourselves from the drama, from the "entanglements" and the problems that are out of our control.

Detachment comes about when we make the break and vow to work on solving our own issues-at least the ones we can control.  It's a conscious effort to mind our own business.

This doesn't mean we don't care anymore.  For me, I think I was actually able to care more because I wasn't wringing nearly every ounce of energy out of myself as I struggled to find solutions to problems that belonged to someone else.  I was trying far more than the person who actually had the problem.

"Codependent No More" offers a series of methods to detach from suffocating situations.  For me, it was a sudden realization; an epiphany of sorts that made it finally crystal clear I was fighting a losing battle and it didn't matter how hard I tried. 

My detachment came about by simply listening.  That's it.  No magical elixir and no prophetic pronouncement.  I listened.  The big difference is that I didn't react.  I didn't offer suggestions on how this person could solve their problems.  I didn't offer sympathy, although I still feel empathy for the situations.

" It (detachment) is not detaching from the person who we care about, but from the agony of involvement."   Al-Anon member 

I also didn't get drawn into arguments and didn't allow myself to become part of the problem.  I have plenty of scars from taking that journey in the past.  My situation didn't involve alcoholism.  Nor was there any instance of violence or abuse of any kind.  All of you will have to decide your best method of detachment.  Melody Beattie provides some great avenues to freedom.

For this subsection, please realize that detachment is critical to freeing yourself and I believe is vital for the other person as well.  He or she has no reason to assume personal responsibility for themselves if you and I are willing to do it for them.

Codependency No More

Our good intentions led us to help.  For those truly in need, we are called to lend a hand.  For those unable to help themselves I believe it is our duty to get involved. 

But to place our own health and happiness in jeopardy in futile attempts to rescue someone who is fully capable of helping themselves is just as much a destructive pattern as the ones used by the people we are trying to save.

I've written before about the entitlement mentality that has taken hold in our society.  Through my own experience in going around my values and beliefs all the while trying to "help" someone, I've come to recognize these actions as enabling methods of adding  passengers to the entitlement train.  A train that has no shortage of riders.

In the most severe cases of codependency, there are amazing groups to offer support and to guide you to freedom from this situation.  Al-Anon is the most recognized such association.  There are similar formations for friends of drug addicts or victims of family abuse.

For those of us who just let our own good intentions cloud our focus, increase our own anxiety levels and cut into our own happiness, maybe we just need to get a copy of a great book to open our eyes.  And hopefully this page will be a form of support for those of you who see yourself within the words.

If so, please pass this page to those who you suspect could be helped by the message.  It took such an effort to convince me of what I already knew deep down.  I wasn't helping the person for whom I had spent so much time, money, and worry.  And I certainly wasn't doing myself any favors.

But we learn from mistakes and we get better.  Our intentions are honorable.  We just need to correct the pathways.  I'll close this page with some words taken from "Codependency No More."  Melody Beattie writes this in her empowering book.

"I believe God wants us to help people and share our time, talents and money.  But I also believe He wants us to give from a position of high self-esteem.  I believe acts of kindness are not kind unless we feel good about ourselves, what we are doing, and the person we are doing it for.  I think God is in each of us and speaks to each of us.  If we absolutely can't feel good about something we're doing, then we shouldn't do it-no matter how charitable it seems.  We also shouldn't do things for others that they ought to and are capable of doing for themselves.  Other people aren't helpless.  Neither are we."

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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."

What's New?

Just below is an article from Peter Schiff about passing the buck from one administration to the next.

Owning The Bubble

Just below is a link to look up your congressional representatives.   Let them know you expect accountability.

Congressional Representative Look Up