What is codependency?

Codependency is something we all experience to a degree. But some of us are more attached to its dysfunctional patterns, becoming ‘relationship addicts’ when our codependency makes our lives unmanageable.

Here’s a paragraph from the CoDA website describing in a nutshell what codependency means.

What is Co-Dependency?
“We came to accept our inability to maintain healthy and nurturing relationships with ourselves and others. We began to recognise that the cause lay in long-standing destructive patterns of living. We have found these patterns to fall into five major categories: denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control and avoidance.”

They’ve got an extensive tick list on the site that helps newcomers identify whether they exhibit any co-dependent patterns or characteristics. A lot of these resonated with me, too many to mention. Here are a few; low self-esteem, not feeling good enough, prioritising others, denying my own feelings and looking to others for a sense of safety. One that was really poignant for me was, ‘I give up my truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change’.

I’ve tried AA. I am absolutely an addict, but the formula didn’t work for me. There’s far too much blaming and finger pointing. Ultimately the message I took on from those meetings was; ‘if you’re an addict, you’re a bad person’

A few people have recommended CoDA meetings to me, and it’s been on the back burner for a while. I think with my therapist being on holiday, I have been more willing to consider something different this week. So this morning I went along to my first CoDA meeting.

Firstly, I had the wonderful surprise of seeing a friend there who I haven’t been in touch with for a while. She greeted me with a huge smile and a super hug and I instantly felt like the meeting would be OK. The chair was really inspiring and the other women were warm and friendly. I even managed to do a very brief, nervous share. I’m pretty sure I made no sense at all due to anxiety addling my brain, but I’m not left feeling the burn of retrospective embarrassment  I often get in these situations.

I feel optimistic about attending again next week. I’m looking forward to learning more about codependency and how I can begin to change my unhealthy relationships, and maybe even learn to care for myself a bit better. I’m hopeful that I’ve finally discovered a fellowship I can buy into. I know the value of sharing and listening in a group of like-minded people and how much comfort it can bring.

The CoDA website lists all their meetings, so if you think it might be for you check out the meetings page here.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. The only relationship I have had in my 11 years of recovery from drugs and alcohol was blighted by co-dependency in exactly the way you describe it in this post. I put up with verbal abuse which escalated to smashing things and kicking down the door and eventually hitting me, all because I was so dependent on him and thought I couldn’t live without him. I was like a two year old child I would sit on his lap and call him “mummy.” I also did things like doing his washing and making sure his dinner was on the table when he came back from work, which I don’t agree with as a feminist, all to please him and placate him. The relationship didn’t actually finally end till he had a baby with someone else. Then I had a nervous breakdown and that was enough to convince me never to have anything to do with him again…


    1. Laura Black says:

      I’m sorry to hear about that experience, it sounds terrible. What I liked at the meeting this morning was the emphasis on the relationships we have with ourselves as well as those with others. It made sense to me that if I care about myself, I will have better and healthier relationships in general. Relationships in recovery are always difficult from what I’ve heard. There’s just so much change happening.


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