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The problem of co-dependence in family relations


Aug 21 2017, 14:35

Around the world, alcoholism and drug addiction, from a medical point of view, are regarded as serious diseases that affect their victims physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and socially. The immediate environment of the addict - members of his family, friends, employees - are drawn into this disease. The term “co-dependence” appeared as a result of studying the nature of chemical dependence, its effects on humans and the impact that this disease has on others. On the subject of co-dependence, we continue to talk with clinical psychologist, specialist in chemical dependence Oksana Butorina.

- So who usually suffers from co-dependence?

- Co-dependence usually affects people with, so to speak, undermined in childhood spiritual immunity. People from dysfunctional families in which the emotional bonds connecting family members were broken, from families where unhealthy, inflexible rules reigned, people who suffered from childhood trauma, not necessarily from parents, but from significant people: teachers, friends, society. The number of people with “undermined spiritual immunity” includes victims of physical, emotional, sexual violence, chemically dependent themselves.

The co-dependent, as it were, loses the ability to feel, think and act according to his choice, loses the ability to control his life (he tries to control someone else's life), he only reacts to what other people do, think and feel.

The life of a co-dependent can conditionally be presented in the form of constantly changing two opposing states: joy, when the chemically dependent temporarily does not consume, and despair, when he again begins to consume alcohol. Such mood swings contribute to stress.

-Oksana, how are co-dependent relationships developing?

- The development of co-dependent relations can be divided into 5 stages:

1. Defender

This stage coincides with the initial stage of the development of the disease, when the addict completely denies that he has a problem with consumption. At this stage, relatives also deny the problem, justifying their addict by the fact that friends, problems at work, society are to blame for its use. Such a position helps in the development of a chemically dependent belief that others are to blame for his problems, but not himself. In turn, relatives can’t turn to specialists for help in time. Since they are trying to solve the problem by excluding from the life of the dependent external, in their opinion, provoking factors.

2. Control.

This stage begins when relatives begin to see that all their attempts to deal with external factors do not lead to positive results. They see that their husband, son, daughter, brother, he himself is looking for an excuse in everything. They begin to understand that the reason for use is not others, but the addict himself. Relatives see that a person is not able to control his use, regardless of who surrounds him and in what position he is. That is, regardless of his social, financial situation, the state of affairs in the family, chemically dependent abuses.

The problem of abuse comes first. In the co-dependent, protective behavior relative to the patient is enhanced, as well as guilt and self-flagellation.

And what control methods are there?

Sozavisimye use various methods of control over the use of chemicals:

- offer to drink at home,

- give money for a certain dose (rarely, but it happens),

- control the amount of drink at parties, sit next to the table, go on a visit together,

- lead to the institute, control his physical condition, check his pockets, secretly monitor where he goes, with whom he meets,

- pour alcohol, take the money earned to give it in parts,

- kept dependent at home, happens for months,

- refuse to attend various parties that could provoke a chemically dependent on consumption.

In an attempt to control the behavior of the addicted, the co-dependent gradually takes less care of himself, his health and begins to live only by the worries of the relative's condition.

3. The prosecutor.

It is very difficult to live a life that is based on the desire to take control of the behavior of an alcoholic / drug addict. The co-dependent is constantly experiencing negative emotions or mood swings from euphoric to depressive. The feeling of complete powerlessness and inferiority to correct such a lifestyle contributes to the accumulation of negative emotional stress. To protect himself from this, the co-dependent uses a form of psychological defense - the accusation of a chemically dependent in all family problems.

The behavior of relatives changes from defensive to accusatory. This may be expressed in the following phrases and statements:

- if you loved me, you would not drink or inject,

- if you loved children, you would have left it long ago,

- if you had willpower, you would be able to quit,

- for you I sacrifice myself, my health, but you don’t see my efforts,

- we provide you with our whole life, but you continue to use it.

Of course, such phrases only contribute to the growth of negative tension in the family and are a good reason for the chemically dependent to continue to use, as in his mind everyone is against him.

4. The loner.

If relatives do not part with their addict, then, due to an increase in the feeling of complete powerlessness, to change the existing situation, they begin to fence themselves off from their friends, or constantly complain about life, which repels others from them. Their conversations fixate on one topic - their unbearable life, their thoughts are also busy with this. A person becomes gloomy, ceases to care about his needs, becomes estranged from life.

He tries to come to terms with such a life, tries to show himself the only one on whom the family rests, that he is the most miserable in the current situation, and endures everything for the sake of the well-being of the family. Such a position helps to somehow raise self-esteem, which slightly brightens up a life full of despair and hopelessness.

5. The connivance.

At this stage, the co-dependent is completely reconciled to his position. He tries to keep everything at such a level that it does not become worse than he really is. He tries not to resist the actions of the addict, which only contributes to the development of the disease. He is afraid of drastic measures, as he is completely disappointed in the fact that somehow it is possible to change the current situation. As a rule, he had already tried all methods of helping his sick relative to try to look for something better.

His behavior is based, not on trying to help the addict, but on maintaining the state that exists at the moment.

Relatives get used to constantly recurring binges, do not oppose the behavior of the addict, and silently endure until he decides to stop again.

Parents of the addicted get to the point that they start giving money for chemicals to somehow prolong the existence of their sick relative.

In this position, the co-dependent loses the ability to perceive the recommendations of specialists, he lives in complete stupor, which gradually leads to an even greater deterioration in the state of both chemically dependent and co-dependent.

- And what to do, is it possible to somehow help the co-dependent?

“Working with co-addicts is just as complicated as with chemically dependent.” It consists in helping the co-dependent to understand the patterns of his behavior that he developed during his lifetime with the chemically dependent, to help find ways to change this behavior, learn how to work with emotions and learn how to resist manipulation.

Behavior that allows the co-dependent to become more independent of chemical manipulation attempts and helps him to feel the negative effects of alcohol / drug use is called DISCONNECTION.

The development of such behavior is not always easy, as it requires a co-dependent certain effort that breaks his views on how to help his dependent relative.

Co-addicts usually experience fear for what might happen to their loved ones if they stop helping him. This feeling is especially strong among addicted mothers.

The process of recovering from codependent behavior takes a long time. Co-dependent, as well as dependent, breakdowns occur, that is, a return to the old stereotypes of behavior and thinking. They may suddenly begin to control their relative, who is addicted, to distrust his sobriety. Such behavior can be a reason for a breakdown in the chemically dependent.

The topic is as problematic as it is “inconvenient”, it can be both scary and embarrassing, but if you are faced with the problem of a loved one’s dependence you can always anonymously call 89163356182 and ask your questions.

Conduct of co-dependent people

The behavior of co-dependent people reveals some repeating trends. Often they are not realized and seem to be natural or forced. Being close to a person suffering from some form of addiction, loved ones can try to influence him, help him, try to correct his behavior or control him. It may seem to them that they themselves can solve the problem and change the person. And often that role, which seems outwardly beneficial, actually does a lot of harm.

People who find themselves in a situation of co-dependence sometimes take responsibility for the patient - pay their loans, provide money, protect the employer in case of, for example, absenteeism or omissions related to the consequences of his addictive behavior. It seems to them that in this way they help a person, solve his problems. But in fact, they unwittingly encourage addiction, because a person does not see the full consequences of his behavior.

Of course, there can be no clear criteria - what is “bad” and what is “good”, and this is by no means an appeal not to care about loved ones at all. But the degree of such care should be tried to consciously evaluate - how useful this care is and how feasible (and not to the detriment) of the person himself.

Here we move on to the next important issue - to abandon our needs and desires or to severely infringe them. The dependence of a loved one can capture attention so much that sacrifice of one's own rest, interests, and health care is sacrificed. The co-dependent does not begin to live his own life, but the life of another person.

Family Dependence

Co-dependence also affects family relationships. Family roles are changing - children with a dependent parent often themselves begin to play a parental role, trying to manage family life, and parents, on the contrary, go into the state of a ward child. Family roles are not free, but forced. Lost flexibility, variability. Some roles cannot be fulfilled due to obvious reasons - a small child cannot fully play the role of an adult, and this creates the following series of problems - a feeling of helplessness or a tendency to hypercontrol.

Dependence, or addiction, can be denied, in connection with which family secrets arise, a lot is kept secret, a game is created that there is no addiction. Denial is a form of defensive reaction, because family members have many very difficult feelings - guilt, anger, shame, helplessness, which a person tries to get rid of in various ways, and one of the most obvious is denial. No problem - no painful experiences.

Therefore, co-dependent tend to not see sometimes obvious things. But this negation also has a flip side - they do not even notice their problems of co-dependence, which prevents them from seeking help.

Another consequence is connected with this - suppression of feelings. In order not to experience negative, unpleasant feelings, people begin to try to feel less at all. The meaning of feelings decreases, and emotional life becomes poorer.

In families where co-dependent relationships are present, family rules change. A family may become fragmented, its members may be practically not interested in each other. Or, on the contrary, the whole life of the family begins to revolve around a dependent person, who becomes, as it were, its center, and sometimes a fastening link. Families may experience physical and emotional abuse.

Ways to solve the problem of co-dependence in the family

There are several approaches to solving the problem of co-dependence. Since the family is a certain system of several elements — relatives, close people, the approach to “correcting” the pathological situation must also be systematic. The psychologist can work with several family members, revealing the patterns of their relationship, weak links, or vice versa, the strengths of the system. By adjusting the methods of interaction or by making changes to some links in the chain, you can change the whole family system.

You can also approach the treatment of co-dependence based on the personal qualities of the person himself. The fact is that not every person becomes co-dependent - for example, some women simply leave the man if he becomes an alcoholic, and some begin to save him, living next to him and suffering. It is believed that people with certain qualities are prone to co-dependence, and if a person changes, then he becomes less prone to co-dependence.

For example, low self-esteem is one of the key qualities that contribute to the emergence and exacerbation of co-dependence. The consequence of low self-esteem is dependence on other people's opinions, on others. A person is inclined to live not by his desires, but rather by his obligations - I must / I must. Such people may have a very developed desire to “be good” - and this is a very strong motive in order, for example, to begin to “save” a dependent person. They are used to the fact that love needs to be earned, earned, which means that it must be reinforced all the time with good deeds or with one's need.

The tendency to hypercontrol is another of the characteristics that enhance co-dependence. It may seem to people that one cannot relax, that everything should always be under control. And the dependent person not only does not control himself, but also does not give in to the control of others. All this, on the one hand, only strengthens the efforts of the co-dependent. And on the other - it puts him in constant stress, because he is completely beyond his power to control an alcoholic or a gamer.

There are other personal qualities that contribute to the emergence or exacerbation of co-dependence. Usually they serve as the subject of psychological consultations, because the co-dependent person either does not even see all this, or it seems to him that he absolutely can not do anything about it. All his actions, as a rule, are aimed at saving or controlling the addict, and he or she does not care about himself or his life, or does not have the strength. That is why co-dependence is a question that needs to be considered and adjusted within the framework of psychological counseling, because when working with internal personal factors, a person becomes less and less inclined to co-dependent relationships.

Of course, psychological consultation is the best solution in this case, because the psychologist will help to look at the situation more broadly and comprehensively, and look for solutions and provide support. In other cases, you need to look for sources of help and support from outside.

- One of the first and main steps towards solving the problem is the recognition of the very fact of its existence. And not only the recognition that there is a dependent person in the family. But the fact that the co-dependent often suffer even more than he does.

- Specialized support groups. There are groups for both addicts and relatives. For example, there are groups “Adult children of alcoholics” that help to cope with the consequences of co-dependent relationships in the parental family, or special meetings for addicts who are involved in the “12 steps” program.

- Friends, communication. In no case can not be closed from communication and society. Of course, it should not be a burden, so look for those forms that are comfortable and pleasant for you.

- Caring for yourself. This is the point that is given with great difficulty to many co-dependent people. They have to literally force themselves to do this. Nevertheless, taking care of your health, relaxation, and your interests is one of the most important steps. Ask yourself the question - what do you want, what do you want, what are you interested in? Let these be trifles at first - but they will be very important for your psychological state.

- Transfer responsibility for life to the most dependent person. Even if it seems to you that you are responsible for it yourself, nevertheless, this is a big illusion. Взрослый человек сам отвечает за свою жизнь. И чувство ответственности зачастую сказывается очень благотворно на нем самом. Оно способно давать и силы, и свободу.

- Посмотреть вглубь себя. And what makes you care about a person, except, in fact, his good? Do you want to feel good / good? Are you scared of being bad for yourself or for others? Do you think that nobody needs you anymore? Are you scared to be alone? Very often it is these secondary questions that are supported by your addiction, so try to see them and ask yourself a question - or maybe you can change them? Maybe this is not as important as you think? Or can something be done differently? And why do you need all this, and even at such a price? If you love a person, what other ways can you show him your love for? What will be really useful to him?

If you look at the situation more honestly, suffering and depriving yourself of the right to your own life will bring nothing good either to the dependent person or to someone who is in a dependent relationship. If we continue the interdependent relations, then they will gradually deprive of strength, and health, and energy. Therefore, it is very important to begin to solve the problem of co-dependence - independently or with the help of a psychologist. And we hope that our recommendations will help you with this.