I first pondered the notion that I might have codependent tendencies when my oldest daughter was in the midst of her, shall we say, “rebellion”. It was not a good time in our lives, I was a complete wreck, I thought she had lost her mind and it was scaring the crap out of me. I kept attempting to “make” things better and “fix” her. Not a good strategy at all.
Somehow, in my mind, if I continued to “help” her, the situation wasn’t REALLY as bad as it was (and it was BAD). I thought if I was able to help I was still somehow in control. Turns out, I was never in control.
And thus began the dance…………..for several years – yes YEARS (I tend to be a slow learner). I wasn’t making the situation any better. I was prolonging it (hindsight is a wonderful yet frustrating thing).
She knew that I would jump into action when she called with whatever sob story she had concocted that particular day. I would give her money, buy her food, take her places, help her move, get her a new phone – the list goes on and on and on and……..well, I’m assuming you get the picture.
In the process, my other children felt like they were forgotten. And a lot of the time, their needs became secondary to hers.
My primary focus WAS on her. My life started to fall apart. It was hell.
In retrospect, I thought I was keeping her alive (which was my greatest concern – my biggest fear was that I would get the call to identify her body). Thankfully, that never happened.
But what did happen was, after a very, very long time (because I’m a slow learner), I got sick of it. I got sick of being in a constant state of chaos; sick of handing over money (always with a promise to THIS time pay me back – also never happened); sick of the excuses; sick of being completely consumed by her issues and so, so, SO sick of the lies.
I started to do a lot of reading and research. I needed answers. Why had this happened to our family and for the love of Pete, how? Most importantly, could I make it stop?
Turns out, you don’t make IT stop; YOU stop. That too was a very long process.
So, how do you know if you’re codependent? There are a few tell tale signs.
This is a BIG one. When I was trying to “fix” and “help” her that was about control. I was attempting to manage her and her situation. I was trying to manage and control how things “looked” to other people – i.e.: my daughter hadn’t really gone wild – I had it under control. My intentions were good. I believed I was doing what I was supposed to do as a parent. I believed I was still teaching her.
And I was. I was teaching her how to manipulate me and laid right down and let her do it. Not a lot of control there was there?
#2. Poor Boundaries
Do you overshare with people? I am an over sharer. I sometimes can’t stop myself. Even with strangers. Somewhere in my head I’ll hear a voice saying “STOP TALKING” but I just can’t.
I think this stems from very poor boundaries that were set by my mother and sisters when I was little. They each told everyone else EVERYTHING about themselves, their kids, their husbands and worst of all, each other. I remember doing it also when I became an adult. It was normal to me. Trust me, its not normal and its not healthy.
Along with the poor boundaries in my family, there was also a lot of dependency. If I didn’t check in with my mother at a minimum of once a day (as a 35 year old woman), she would call my sisters to see if they had heard from me. They would then call me to let me know that she was upset that I hadn’t called her. Never mind that I had children, a husband and a house to take care of (while working full time). I learned from a very young age to always tell them all where I was going and with whom. A vacation out of the area was extremely stressful because “God only knows what could happen”. Sigh.
Decisions about simple things were discussed with my parents and sisters in addition to my husband. We were all very dependent on one another.
#4. Low Self-Esteem
I don’t remember really liking who I was until just a few years ago. I never felt like I was my own person. I felt as though I was an extension of all these other people and who they wanted me to be. I do remember being completely consumed with worry about what other people thought about me. It was the catalyst in most of my decision making and probably why I didn’t trust myself to make a decision alone.
#5. Pleasing Others and Giving Up Yourself
It’s not unusual for women to put others first. It’s just what we do. But when it’s ALL you do, it’s problematic.
Do you do things for yourself? Do you spend time doing things that only make YOU happy? Do you ask others to help you or do things for you? Or is your time consumed completely with work, cleaning, kids, schedules, your parents and your husband? If you can’t think of a time in the last week that you spent doing something you love for at least 20 minutes, you need to step back and take a good look at whats going on.
There are many good books on codependency. My favorite is Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.
And it never hurts to find someone to talk to about it.
The good news is that you CAN stop being codependent. It isn’t an easy thing to do, it takes work and sometimes that work is difficult. But you can do it.
I have made significant progress and am happy to report that my daughter is no longer “wild”. It honestly took me removing myself (some call it tough love – I have a hard time with that) and making her figure out her problems on her own. She did have to hit rock bottom but guess what? She’s a smart girl – she’s just fine. She didn’t need her mommy constantly hovering over her and her bad decisions trying to fix them. Once she realized I wasn’t doing that anymore, she started making better decisions. Go figure!!!
Hang in there! Be tough. You can do it too. And don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.