I know I felt miserable, but I didn’t understand why my life wasn’t working. ~Melody Beattie
Has another person’s life affected you?
Do you obsess and worry over what they will or won’t do next?
You fear for this person’s future. You have expectations and they have let you down. Does this sound like you?
In the past codependency referred to couples, but recently parents have found themselves codependent when their children are participating in the ever-widening drug or alcohol abuse problem among teens and young adults.
What does codependent mean?
Melody Beattie’s definition is that “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 dictionary defines codependency as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.
When your life becomes unmanageable because of your child or your family member’s alcoholism or addiction, you may become overwhelmed emotionally trying to fix the situation. The other person is out of control, and you take on the role of being the one in control, the person who has earned respect.
You may think of yourself as strong enough to deal with the crisis since you are the better or smarter person.
When we are holding our kids or other family members so tight in our efforts to prevent further damage, neither one has a free hand to reach out for help, or the ability to let go and solve our own individual issues.
Letting go of codependency is especially difficult for moms. It goes against the grain of our parental role. Mothers feel that at whatever cost, our children come first. Mothers nurture, give, and sacrifice for our children. Learning that our efforts are not helpful is excruciating.
I believed for many years that it was my job to fix my children’s problems. Even though my children were over 18, it was still my job to ease their pain and make their lives better.
When my children were abusing substances, I tried everything I could think of to fix the problem and make it go away. I gave money, offered a car, paid rent for apartments, gave money for more schooling that was never completed in the hopes that this would solve the problem. I have paid for psychiatrists, therapists, an interventionist, and treatment.
Some of this money was well spent. Treatment and intervention as well as therapy, when the person has admitted they have a substance use issue and is ready for help, can change and even save a person’s life.
What isn’t helpful is to continue to spend your emotion, time and money on someone who is not interested in solving their problem. For many parents, this is a painful realization that takes time and sometimes a drain of resources for them to realize that their efforts are not working.
When we continue to help our children in unhealthy ways and not let them feel the consequences of their life choices, we may only be prolonging their pain.
You become frustrated and bitter when you discover that your actions will not solve someone else’s problem. You control because everything around you is out of control. Yet, you cannot control someone else’s addiction or their life for that matter.
When a person realizes that their life isn’t working, change for the better may begin to happen.
It can sometimes feel like you are part of a circus with your loved one being the ring master directing all the other family members. Anyone who has been in this situation knows the feeling all too well.
When we are the codependent we are not the ones making a mess of our lives and expecting everyone else to clean it up. We have things in order. We are responsible. Then why do we feel like our lives aren’t working? Each of us must decide what part we play in our role as the victim.
How you can change
You can control yourself, but you cannot solve other people’s problems for them.
You have an influence over your kids and you can make a difference, however, when someone’s issue becomes the center of your existence, it is time to begin the process of letting go of the drama, while still being there with the love.
Take a look at your interactions if you:
- F eel fear, depression, helplessness or despair.
- Feel guilt, rage, bitterness, and lack of energy.
- Spend most of your time worrying about other people.
- Find that most of your time is spent trying to figure out how to control others.
- Feel your relationships with other friends and family are suffering.
- Feel miserable but are not sure why your life isn’t working.
- Have stopped living your own life.
Tried to help in ways that didn’t help?
- Said yes, when you mean no?
- Tried to get other people to see things your way?
- Believed lies and then felt betrayed?
- Been afraid to trust your feelings?
- Overreacted or under-reacted to the pain and behavior of others?
We can and should love ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness and respect. You can help your child, however, you must live your life and let others live theirs, even when it’s our children. We can let go of the drama, and still, love and support our kids.
Here are some great ideas to help in a healthier way:
- Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them.
- Do not shield your child from taking responsibility for their actions.
- Allow for naturally occurring consequences. When necessary, let the world be your child’s teacher.
- Forgiveness allows you to move on.
- Love others, but love yourself as well.
Don’t allow your child’s issues to overwhelm you and take over your life.
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