Co dependency is a range of behaviors that manifest in relationships. In addiction, the dependent lives his/her life around the drugs/alcohol and the family and close friends base their lives around them trying to control their usage, in the bargain losing their identity .
The addict becomes a person whose life is centered totally on using and living life around it.
The co dependent who has thus lost control over a chaotic life searches for a semblance of control by taking on responsibilities of the house, many times the business, the children and the affairs of the dependent .
They give more love, care and respect to the dependent than they will ever receive back. They are ridden by insecurities and a low self esteem making them believe that they cannot live without the other person. What they think as “love” turns out to be clinginess, emotional dependency , possessiveness and the like , thereby stifling themselves and the loved ones.
There is a huge amount of resentment that accumulates . There are manipulative behaviors that consciously or unconsciously surface in order to get the love ,care and respect they crave from the other.
Co dependents can be passive or active.
The passive codependents dread and fear conflict and will do anything to maintain the peace. This probably arises out of the fear of being alone, low self esteem and low self worth. They would be abject people pleasers who never can say no even if it hurts them or inconveniences them. They manipulate the dependent subtly and subversively into receiving love and care from them. This could be by
(i) giving them money for their alcohol/drug usage to avoid a fight
(ii) Buying alcohol/drugs for them out of fear
(ii) One codependent who had visited us actually wanted her husband to continue to drink because only when he was drunk he would be nice to her and would not be violent towards her!
(iv) Creating a wedge between other constructive relations and the dependent thus isolating him from others for oneself.
(v) Playing the victim consciously or un consciously, blaming the person addicted for the miserable state of mind /life they are leading, thus emotionally manipulating the other through guilt.
(vi) The children too are many a time emotionally manipulated and controlled as the dependency shifts to them ..
Thus their methods adopted to manipulate are covert and subtle and the usually intelligent person addicted to the substance fails to see it.
The active co dependents can appear to be domineering and are not afraid of confrontation. They would many times be confrontational when the person afflicted is intoxicated resulting in a fight which can take ugly turns. They can pick up arguments and demand the love and time ,respect and care that they feel is their right that the person afflicted should be fulfilling but is not due to the all consuming addiction to alcohol/drugs. Here too the co dependent is unable to walk away or emotionally detach from the dependent and live their lives. Under the hope that some day this person shall look at them and see them and their Love and care and will change towards them .
The feeling that they need this relationship to feel complete or to fulfill them . The responsibility to care for their emotions, love and self respect is on the other person is the belief.
Their lives have been made living hells because of the person who is using. This garners sympathy from family and friends and puts them in the “right “ only as a matter of relativity of the other using substance-thus being in the wrong.
Many times the addiction of the dependent is kept in wraps, excuses made for and violence hidden because of the feeling that it is my duty to protect him/her from the world and I can take care of him/her, I can make him stop his addiction. If I hide it I am listening to him and he will love me more and will value me. Or If I talk about it I will have to face shame , blame and ridicule from society.
Thus the co-dependent emotional manipulation that is unconscious or conscious most times results in enabling the afflicted person’s addictions.
Sadly if the co dependency is not treated , the co dependent does not realize that they are responsible for whatever is happening in their lives and are the result of choices they have made. When the person addicted goes into a rehabilitation treatment process and change happens in him, he takes control of his life and starts participating in the family dynamics which he/she had been isolated from due to the addiction, taking responsibilities of the children, of work etc. Here, the codependent if untreated , feels threatened and insecure again and the happiness at the sobriety of the afflicted is short-lived. The resentment and the bitterness boils over and they try to again control the situation which leaves them also baffled . Now, being in the right as a matter of relativity is also absent. The manipulations of the co dependent now come to the face and he/she has to seek help.
Treatment involves Counseling with an experiential co dependent counselor and possible residential treatment in a loving, compassionate, understanding, non judgmental environment where in the co dependent gets the time and space to look at oneself and learns to detach emotionally from the other and recognize that responsibility of one’s happiness lies within oneself. The process involves, meditation, Counseling, written introspection and other therapies to reconnect with one self.
Help is available.