CO-DEPENDENCY

Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It is an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship. It is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. The disorder was first identified about ten years ago as the result of years of studying interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics. Co-dependent behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior.

Who Does Co-dependency Affect?

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, sibling, friend, or co-worker of a person afflicted with alcohol or drug dependence. Originally, co-dependent was a term used to describe partners in chemical dependency, persons living with, or in a relationship with an addicted person. Similar patterns have been seen in people in relationships with chronically or mentally ill individuals. Today, however, the term has broadened to describe any co-dependent person from any dysfunctional family.

What is a Dysfunctional Family and How Does it Lead to Co-dependency?

A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied. Underlying problems may include any of the following:

  • An addiction by a family member to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling.
  • The existence of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • The presence of a family member suffering from a chronic mental or physical illness.

Dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that problems exist. They don’t talk about them or confront them. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. They become “survivors.” They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel. They don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited

Attention and energy focus on the family member who is ill or addicted. The co-dependent person typically sacrifices his or her needs to take care of a person who is sick. When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety before their own, they can lose contact with their own needs, desires, and sense of self.

How Do Co-dependent People Behave?

Co-dependents have low self-esteem and look for anything outside of themselves to make them feel better. They find it hard to “be themselves.” Some try to feel better through alcohol, drugs or nicotine – and become addicted. Others may develop compulsive behaviors like workaholism, gambling, or indiscriminate sexual activity.

They have good intentions. They try to take care of a person who is experiencing difficulty, but the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. Co-dependents often take on a martyr’s role and become “benefactors” to an individual in need. A wife may cover for her alcoholic husband; a mother may make excuses for a truant child; or a father may “pull some strings” to keep his child from suffering the consequences of delinquent behavior.

The problem is that these repeated rescue attempts allow the needy individual to continue on a destructive course and to become even more dependent on the unhealthy caretaking of the “benefactor.” As this reliance increases, the co-dependent develops a sense of reward and satisfaction from “being needed.” When the caretaking becomes compulsive, the co-dependent feels choiceless and helpless in the relationship, but is unable to break away from the cycle of behavior that causes it. Co-dependents view themselves as victims and are attracted to that same weakness in the love and friendship relationships.

Characteristics of Co-dependent People Are:

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
  • A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
  • A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and/or others
  • Fear of being abandoned or alone
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
  • Problems with intimacy/boundaries
  • Chronic anger
  • Lying/dishonesty
  • Poor communications
  • Difficulty making decisions

Questionnaire To Identify Signs Of Co-dependency

This condition appears to run in different degrees, whereby the intensity of symptoms are on a spectrum of severity, as opposed to an all or nothing scale.

  1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?

    2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?

    3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?

    4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?

    5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?

    6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?

    7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?

    8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?

    9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?

    10. Have you ever felt inadequate?

    11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?

    12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?

    13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?

    14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?

    15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?

    16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?

    17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?

    18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?

    19. Do you have trouble asking for help?

    20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?

If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seekingl help.

How is Co-dependency Treated?

Because co-dependency is usually rooted in a person’s childhood, treatment often involves exploration into early childhood issues and their relationship to current destructive behavior patterns. Treatment includes education, experiential groups, and individual and group therapy through which co-dependents rediscover themselves and identify self-defeating behavior patterns. Treatment also focuses on helping patients getting in touch with feelings that have been buried during childhood and on reconstructing family dynamics. The goal is to allow them to experience their full range of feelings again.

When Co-dependency Hits Home

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about the course and cycle of addiction and how it extends into their relationships. Libraries, drug and alcohol abuse treatment centers and mental health centers often offer educational materials and programs to the public.

A lot of change and growth is necessary for the co-dependent and his or her family. Any caretaking behavior that allows or enables abuse to continue in the family needs to be recognized and stopped. The co-dependent must identify and embrace his or her feelings and needs. This may include learning to say “no,” to be loving yet tough, and learning to be self-reliant. People find freedom, love, and serenity in their recovery.

Hope lies in learning more. The more you understand co-dependency the better you can cope with its effects. Reaching out for information and assistance can help someone live a healthier, more fulfilling life.

 

DRYDRUNK SYNDROME

Being active in addiction ingrains many negative trains of thought, attitudes, feelings and actions. Simply removing alcohol or drugs without changing these underlying factors is likely to produce ‘dry drunk syndrome’.
Dry drunk is a slang expression infamously known in the sober community. It describes a person who no longer drinks or abuses drugs, but continues to behave in dysfunctional ways.

The syndrome is best described as someone who fits one of two conditions:

1.  A person with chemical dependency issues who has given up alcohol and drugs, but made no internal emotional or behavioral changes. Essentially, the only difference in these individuals is the absence of a substance.

2.  A person with chemical dependency issues who is currently abstinent yet regressing in recovery. Sober alcoholics and drug addicts in this category will likely begin exhibiting negative thinking, isolation behavior and a general uneasiness/restlessness with life.

It is important to recognize regression to old ways of thinking and acting, or lack of progression on the road to recovery. Another catchphrase used in the sober community is “untreated alcoholism.” Both terms refer to the same symptoms, and these dangerous conditions traditionally mark the initial stages of relapse.

The big book of Alcoholics Anonymous describes dry drunk syndrome and untreated alcoholism with the phrase “restless, irritable, and discontented”. Basically, if you happen to be a sober alcoholic or addict, and find yourself consistently dissatisfied with life, you may be in the thick of untreated alcoholism/addiction. Another way of looking at the dry condition rests in the two distinct dangers it
presents those on the road to recovery:
1. Negative attitudes and mental postures that return or redevelop in a person who has not worked on underlying emotional issues or behaviors. These symptoms start to impact quality of life in harmful ways.

2. If left unchecked, relapse or some other serious event, in some cases suicide, can occur.

Here are some attitudes and mental postures common with dry drunk syndrome.

The dry drunk may display superiority

Superiority or grandiosity basically means a return to a self-centered, ‘the world revolves around’ me attitude. Chemically dependent people are self-centered in the extreme, as any therapist or psychiatrist is quick to observe.

With grandiosity, you are setting yourself up to be the center of attention; either superior to everyone around you, or by playing the victim. Either way, you’re
distancing yourself from the people and world around you. What you’re really saying is ‘I am not like you’ with the implication that rules don’t apply in my particular case.
In 12 step programs, this is commonly known as ‘terminal uniqueness,’ or the belief that I am so unique, no one could possibly understand or relate to me. Self-pity or superiority characterizes this mentality. Unfortunately, those of us in recovery find that the only thing we ever got from sitting on the ‘pity pot’ was a ring around our butt.

The dry drunk may display impulsivity

One of the most common attitudes or observable behaviors of people with addiction problems is poor impulse control and impatience. We tend to do what we want, when we want, with little regard for self-harm or the hurt caused towards others.

When impulsivity is combined with grandiosity, attention-seeking behavior accelerates to warp speed. Warped expectations that characterize virtually every alcoholic and drug addict feed this impulsiveness. Chemical dependency instills a taste for immediate relief. Years of alcohol and drug abuse almost mold it into addiction’s nature.

I heard the phrase “time takes time” so often in early sobriety that I wanted to punch something. Ironically (and unbeknownst to me at the time), this frustration was a manifestation of impulsiveness.

The dry drunk may display negative Judgment

This may be one of those most destructive mental aspects of addiction. According
to the big book of Alcoholics Anonymous, this unfortunate addiction characteristic is like a man who looks at a beautiful forest and points out the only dead tree. Alcoholics and addicts tend to exhibit particularly negative perspectives about themselves, others and the world about them.

When we, as alcoholics and addicts, judge a person as being ‘better than or less than,’ we are creating a situation where we manipulate our internal condition in much the same way a drink or drug functions. On the other hand, if we judge ourselves or others as ‘falling short or less than,’ we can feel bitter and cultivate resentment.
In both cases, people with chemical dependency are at risk of separating themselves through mental isolation. By negatively contrasting ourselves or the outside world, we invite regression in recovery. This is another reason why drug addiction and alcoholism are commonly referred to as mind-powered diseases.

The dry drunk may display complacency

This is not only an attitude of somebody in dry drunk syndrome, but is a red flag warning sign of someone who dangerously treading the path to relapse. An important facet of being in active recovery is just that – being active. It does not matter how quickly an alcoholic or drug addict progresses, just that progress is being made. It is easy to regress into laziness or disinterest, usually with a return to addictive behaviors. Once lured into these attitudes, thinking begins to tread on choppy waters. This twisted thinking invites destructive, self-centered thoughts. And there’s an excellent chance these thoughts and thought processes will inform an alcoholic or drug addicts’ actions in negative ways.
I look at my sobriety and recovery as being always on the move. I am either moving toward a drink and drug or away from a drug and drink. The key is that, left alone and not progressing in recovery, the prospect of a drink or a drug quickly grows. It’s like parking a car on a hill, and sooner or later, the brakes will give out while the car tumbles to its demise.

But I wonder if complacency is in fear rather than laziness. Am I afraid of success? Am I afraid of failure? Am I sitting around waiting for things to work out the way I want them to without putting in the necessary effort? Unless I find the willingness to meet these fears with the tools of recovery, my sobriety is tenuous at best.

The dry drunk may display negativity in general

I was guilty of this for quite some time in my recovery. I kept asking myself when good things would come to pass, always neglecting to recognize some positive events that had already transpired.
If negativity sets in, it is very important to determine if any underlying issues are present. What’s going on beneath the surface? Is it anger and resentment, or is some person, place or thing not working out the way you expect? Is excessive anxiety and worry beginning to creep into various threads of life? In these situations, a sober alcoholic/drug addict should work closely with a sponsor, and if necessary, a licensed medical professional.

One of the most futile emotions is anxiety because your focus tends to shift towards future events. I don’t know anyone who can genuinely foresee future events; even Nostradamus had problems with a crystal ball.

High stress consumes mental energy. It is virtually impossible to retain feelings of happiness and serenity when anxiety permeates life. Here are some destructive behaviors and actions that can result from the dreaded dry drunk thinking:

1. We become restless, irritable and discontent.

Little things start to annoy us. We start to look for differences in those around us, which causes separation. If you remember, this is the first stage in the relapse process. It is also the trickiest because we often fail to recognize that ‘separation mentality’ is present. Without a support system of trusted people around us, a world of trouble awaits.

The people we associate with in recovery may offer their concern, feedback and direction. This is given out of love, not out of spite. It is important to open our ears and listen, despite feeling singled-out.

2. We become bored or dissatisfied.

We are easily distracted from productive tasks. I visualize this as having the electrifying vigor of recovery diminish to a small spark. Nothing excites us anymore. The “pink cloud” is over. Our initial euphoria is replaced with disillusionment.

We may start to wonder why we got sober in the first place. This is an ideal time to start a gratitude list under a guidance. If we become unable to see the progress we’re making in recovery, or we start taking it for granted, it is easy for sobriety to lose top priority.

It is my belief that for those in long-term recovery, complacency is the biggest demon we must fight. On the flip side, I believe the most viable asset one can have in recovery is persistence. When life gets rolling along and things seem to be working well, the temptation is to lose focus on growing in recovery.

Many sick people stop taking medication once they start feeling better, only to see illness reemerge. The same principle holds for those on the sober path. Don’t stop taking the medication offered through recovery.

3. Our emotions and feelings either get listless and dull or we start overreacting.

Either we become emotionally dull, or we catapult into hyper emotionalism. Our reactions are not proportional to the events. Maybe an everyday occurrence results in seething anger, or a simple comment from a coworker causes a war of words.

At this point, it’s a good idea to seek emotional support or feedback from trusted members of the sober community. Let’s face it, recovery and life offer ups and downs, peaks and valleys. These situations can be amplified in the absence of an anesthetizing substance, but we must meet life’s turmoil with the tools learned in recovery. In some situations, however, pain can be an incredible motivator. In the absence of pain, change is usually non-existent.

4. We start to the engage in ‘euphoric recall’.

Euphoric recall is a real fancy way of saying we only remember the good times. We remember how much fun we had when using, how much more social, clever, witty and awesome we were. It really is a journey into the past’s fantasy land.

At the same time, we also choose to ignore all of the misery that resulted from alcohol and drug abuse. We tend to forget the times where we made a total fool of ourselves at parties or social events. Perhaps we ignore memories of legal troubles.

An objective inventory can put a stop to euphoric recall quickly. Simply sit down with a piece of paper and write two columns, one for the good times and one for the bad. Most alcoholics and drug addicts will have a laundry list of negative consequences. Remember them.

5. We start to engage in magical thinking.

We get unrealistic with magical expectations and fanciful dreams. This characteristic is similar to euphoric recall, but not necessarily confined to past events. Magical thinking can involve unrealistic expectations, unreasonable goals, and simply believing that things will occur if we wish for them hard enough.

One example might be thinking that if I stay sober, my girlfriend will come back to me. Or maybe… I’ve been good so long, one drink won’t hurt. My personal favorite is the following sentence: ______ (Drugs/Alcohol) wasn’t my problem, it was __________ (my job, my husband, my wife, my anxiety, etc).

If you find yourself traveling down Magical Thinking Avenue, reach out to trusted, sober friends. Talk with your sponsor. I can assure you, a Powerball win is probably not in your future.

6. We lose interest in self-improvement.

There’s a fine line between becoming peaceful and becoming complacent. What happened to all those plans for a ‘new you?’ Instead of doing more walking the walk, we start talking the talk. The ‘action’ part of the program disappears, and we lose momentum built over days, months or years in recovery. We become content to sit back and let other people do the work. This condition usually doesn’t last long, as people either recapture the motivation to apply recovery-related actions or relapse.

7. We start to become unfulfilled.

As a result of any combination of the points already discussed, a feeling of not having our dreams fulfilled can takeover. Many sober folks have this notion that mere abstinence will solve all problems.

Don’t get me wrong, sobriety is definitely a step in the right direction; however, there is a good chance that wreckage of the past will take time to heal and resolve. This starts to move into the realm of having unrealistic expectations. We want things to happen quickly. But, without action and continual self-improvement, not much will change.

8. We start acting on old defense mechanisms.

We begin to think in terms of old attitudes, and now we’re acting on them. The walls, supports and barriers erected to support drinking and drugging are refurbished with a fresh coat of paint. Minimize problems. Rationalize problems. Deny problems. I’m bulletproof. I got this, and all that sober mumbo-jumbo is for the birds. I’m doing quite well without it, thank you very much.

It is very essential for such a person to enter a rehab program and seek counseling.  The family and loved ones can encourage the person to do so to enable the person. To stay sober and be happy and joyful in doing so. This can happen  in an environs that is all accepting, non judgmental  and wherein tools are shared like meditative techniques, introspective writing in a particular manner, sharing, counseling etc in an environment  that is conducive to transformation and hence, sobriety.