Codependency Tools

Codependent people carry on day after day pretending that nothing is wrong, leading an increasingly miserable life. Managing, rescuing and controlling a family member who is struggling with addiction, mental disorders like post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, or who have a serious physical illness is difficult, and can be ruining the health and self-esteem of the care-giver. The helper can become as dysfunctional as the addict.

Room to Breathe

It is natural and loving to desire happiness and comfort for your loved ones, and often painful to see and experieince their suffering. It’s so upsetting in fact, that you try to solve all the suffering person’s problems.

But how does the care-giver remain responsible without getting bogged down with negative feelings, guilt, and self-blame for all the addict’s problems? Being responsible for care, feeding, keeping appointments, etc., is one thing. Taking responsibility for everything the loved one says or does is quite another. Be realistic about responsibilities. If the addict is old enough and able, they should be responsible for major aspects of their life. Learn to be less attached, and allow the person – and yourself – room to breathe.

An Ounce of Detachment

If the person being cared for is a drug or alcohol abuser and is being treated for their addiction, don’t be surprised or hurt when they relapse. Because they will. While it is painful to see a loved one hurting themselves, certain expectations the care-giver has adopted can be even more painful.

If you are the care-giver, stop worrying and trying to second-guess your loved-one’s thoughts and actions. Doing so creates stress and drains energy. It also sets up your rehearsed response even if the action is quite different from what you were obsessing about. Being more detached helps to be more loving, both to you and your loved one. Your self-esteem is just as important.

The Art of Acceptance

Acceptance is the corner-stone of mindfulness and should be woven into your daily life. Acceptance is your commitment to yourself to stay focused in the present. You can’t change “what was” and worrying about “what if’s” is stressful and draining. Focus your thoughts and energy in the moment. When your mind begins to wander or obsess, drag yourself quickly back to the moment. Take a deep breath and smell the aroma of that cup of coffee, or the roses outside your window.

Acceptance puts a tiny sliver of space between you and the problem. In this case your problem is taking care of your loved one, not taking over their problem. Remember, you didn’t cause their problem (despite what you think). You can’t control their problem (no matter how hard you try). And you can’t cure their problem (because you aren’t a therapist).

Take A Step Back

Here are a few more rules to help you detach and step back from your loved one. Don’t watch their every move. Don’t expect very much from them. Don’t judge them and, once again, don’t obsess over them. Remember that you have your own life. There’s no need to sacrifice yours to concentrate all of your energy on your loved one.

When you find yourself arguing with them, take a time out. Withdraw from the exchange and change the scenery. Focusing on a new activity will calm your nerves. Remember the scent of those roses. It will build your self-awareness and self-esteem.

A Different Tack

If you and your loved one argue frequently, change your strategy. Do something unexpected and completely opposite from your normal behavior. If you are normally loud, be soft and speak calmly. If you are always stern and serious, be humorous. If you are usually negative try being positive, offering helpful suggestions. During a particularly heated exchange, tell them how amazing it is that you both still love each other so much.That should put a smile on their face and end the argument.

During your next argument ask yourself how you would act if the loved one was a good friend, not a family member. Would you use the same tone of voice? Would you hurl the same labels at them? Would you have the same expectations? You can even ask them the same question. How would they act if you were the good friend?

Stay focused on the moment and your self-esteem. You aren’t God and you can’t solve all problems. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved ones.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you into improving your life.

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