Co-Dependency Questions, Co-Dependency Treatment – Am I Co-Dependent?
Due to the popularity of the interview that we did with Kathryn about all things Eating Disorder related, we are continuing the series that seek out and chat to the experts in their respective fields, ones that many of us simply don’t know enough about, sometimes even when suffering from them! This time it is Leigh-Joy, an expert in the field of co-dependency. CapeRecovery will be working with her to launch a new CapeRecovery Co-Dependency Rehab and Recovery Experience for local and overseas clients alike, so watch this space! We ask all the Co-dependency questions, look at co-dependency treatment options and you can also do a short questionnaire to ask yourself ‘am I co-dependent?’.
1. Hello Leigh-Joy, tell me a little bit about your own experience and how you came to focus on the effective treatment of co-dependant people?
Hello Simon, in 2007 I found myself in a hospital in Cape Town. I had reached my rock bottom as an addict and alcoholic and was being treated for psychosis. It was in this hospital that I met a lady from England who had been booked in for co-dependency. She taught me so much about it. I realised that co-dependency was the root of all my addictions and thanks to this lady I was able to work my co-dependency as I have worked my recovery from drugs and alcohol. In 2008 I started studying as a counsellor, coach and facilitator. I have since helped many clients, friends and family members with co-dependency issues.
My co-dependency was born out of a coping mechanism. My biological father abused my mother. After they divorced she was killed by an elephant. I was given up for adoption and adopted by my maternal aunt and her husband. Life was very stressful. I didn’t feel wanted and suffered badly from rejection and abandonment issues. I oscillated from extreme compliance to sheer rebellion. I tried desperately to fit in but just always felt like the odd one out. I was different and different felt wrong or bad. So I tried on other people’s personalities and behaviours. I could last for a couple of months but then I would slip back into being myself. I felt like a failure all the time. My crushing self-esteem would sometimes abate, but not for long. I tried all sorts of tricks to fit in. I felt if I was a nice, good girl no one would give me trouble. I would be accepted. I personalised everyone’s behaviour around me. I felt that everyone’s mood was dependent on how I behaved. Most days there was nowhere for me to run. So I started escaping by drinking and eventually through using drugs. It took me years to realise that the only way to escape the inner critic is to address my co-dependency issues. I have worked through many different step work books focusing on co-dependency, been in talk therapy for over 10 years looking at my co-dependency patterns. In own life I have come a long way in becoming healthier. It has not been an easy journey. I am by no means NOT co-dependent. I have better days than most. I am learning the value of listening to my intuition and heart and making decisions that are self-loving. Today, I learnt that when I am setting a boundary someone may not like it. It might hurt them. But I need to be true to myself. I don’t have to be mean in the way I set my boundary. But sometimes taking care of myself is going to hurt others. But I am learning to have the courage to live my truth anyway.
I am of the belief that most 12 steppers are co-dependent. Often, I see people who are drug and alcohol free but emotionally not sober. This is due to co-dependency issues. I have always believed that it is my co-dependency issues that will cause me to relapse.
The relapse rate is incredibly high among most addicts. There are a variety of reasons. One in my opinion is that the addict comes out of a toxic family environment. They seek help but then get released back into the toxic environment. The addict is then blamed. However if the whole family got treatment, I believe that the success rate would be so much higher.
2. Briefly, to someone who knows nothing about co-dependency, could you explain what it is?
Co-dependency is the misplaced belief that control of other people and events outside myself will make me happy. A sense of control, or the lack of it, is central to everything you think, feel and do. Co-dependency is a generational and cultural epidemic. The co-dependent is driven by different compulsions (addictions included). The co-dependent is bound and tormented by the way things were in the family of origin. Self-esteem is often a stumbling block for the co-dependent. The co-dependent feels over responsible for others through care taking and enabling behaviours.
If you think that you or someone close may be co-dependant and need help then try answering this questionnaire and see for yourself! Am I Co-dependent?
3. How common is co-dependency and does the person always know that they are co-dependant?
In my opinion family members and some friends of the addict are co-dependent and the addict or alcoholic is possibly on the co-dependency spectrum too.
I think a lot has been written about co-dependency in the last 40 years so it is very much a hot topic at the moment.
4. At CapeRecovery, we always view addiction and related illnesses like eating disorders as family diseases, do you agree that whilst the person is in treatment the family also need support and guidance to heal?
Yes most definitely. I think the poor success rate is because the family is not being treated holistically. I love that CapeRecovery is looking into ways to change this dynamic and give more families a fighting chance at recovery, health and happiness.
5. If a person is co-dependant, is it possible for them to re-build relationships or to have healthy relationships in the future?
Definitely, old and current relationships will become unstable the more healthy the individual gets. So they will either transform and strengthen or they will fall away. There will be an adjustment period. As we are one continuum of co-dependency it takes time, layers and many processes to come to a healthy space of integration and self-love.
The co-dependent will start attracting friends that will test their new knowledge and mirror and support their new found freedom. Relationships are often a mirror of what is going on inside us. We are learning to go from co-dependent to interdependent relationships. This takes time, patience and self-love.
6. I suppose what I’m asking in essence is can a co-dependant person go onto live a ‘normal’ life free from the illness?
I am not sure one can be cured from co-dependency. But I do believe one can grow and develop a healthy sense of self and find ones equilibrium.
7. How long would this take?
In my experience I think and feel it is a lifetime event. I have seen how it takes a while to break through the denial coping mechanism. Then the 5 stages of grief are triggered. As the individual starts to mourn the pain the various relationships have taken them through.
Some relationships thrive on our co-dependency and these primary relationships have a lot to lose if we no longer enable and control.
I currently run a group for 19 weeks. I believe this group will show my clients what their patterns are. How they can change them and then what a healthy relationship looks like and what they can work towards.
This program can be modified to run over 28 day in patient program.
8. We are devising co-dependency rehab and treatment packages, do you think this is something that will be effective in treating people with co-dependency issues as rehab is for those struggling with addictions of all kinds.
Yes, most definitely! I feel giving the co-dependent equal opportunity away from the pressures of home life to focus on their coping mechanisms and relationship styles will give the family unit more opportunity for growth and healing.
Too often the addict is taken out of the toxic environment and the family has to cope without them. Then they are put back into the family and expect change and acceptance.
So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about co-dependency, do the questionnaire, Am I Co-dependent? and look out for the C0-depenency CapeRecovery Experience coming very soon and visit beautiful Cape Town in order to receive individualised treatment at the lowest local prices! Also, check out CapeRecovery UK, CapeRecovery International and Rehab Cape Town today for the best treatment for all addictions, process addictions, dual-diagnosis issues and eating disorders!