What Is Codependency? The Allergy to People: Explained
When I first heard the term “codependency”, I thought it referred to those whose lives depended on another’s actions and that the dependence was reciprocal. Boy, I was so wrong and so right at the same time. Codependency IS very much someone who depends on others to live their life. But it’s not like: “Oh they’re disabled and need help getting out of the shower”. It’s like “anything this person does, from their facial expressions to their actions, have to be PERFECT and EXACTLY what I want, or my life is RUINED!”. However, codependency is not necessarily reciprocal. They don’t need me the way I need them. They don’t consider me as I consider them. They don’t let my behavior derail their whole life. And if they do, welp! That just means they’re like me and just so you know…. We’re not good for each other.
I’m going to give you a clearer view of codependency from a few different resources. First, the definition from the dictionary: Codependency is excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction. Second, from Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More and various other works: A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior. Third, from a recovered Al-Anon: Codependency is a progressive and habitual illness of the mind, where the obsession of the thoughts and feelings of people becomes predominant in the lives of those who suffer with the illness. Simply put – it is the addiction to people.
Living a Life of Misery
So, there I was. Miserable. Wondering why everyone around me seemed happy. Angry at the whole world for doing stuff “the wrong way”. Practically begging God to just let them see that I could do it better. Why won’t they just listen to me?!?! Listen to reason?!?! Why am I crying myself to sleep every night or hating everyone and everything while they’re just walking around happy even though THEY are the ones doing it WRONG?!
This was my life. Every single day. I had zero successful relationships of any kind. Every person I dated dubbed me crazy while I was dubbing them as villains. Every friend was exhausted and eventually moved on to someone less dramatic. I would push people away or cut them off completely because I could not stand watching them “ruin their lives anymore” or I was too damn tired from wondering what they thought of me anymore. So many times, I called them idiots or dramatic or toxic. So many times, I refused to take responsibility for my own actions and instead blamed everyone around me. I became a professional victim. I was really good at it! I was “ugly” or “stupid” or “annoying” or pretty much anything that got me sympathy. “Nobody loves me” …. “everyone is mean to me” …. “everyone hates me”. I assumed everyone was thinking of me when I entered a room. I constantly adjusted my clothes or worried about my makeup. I couldn’t even go to Walmart on a weekend without makeup and nice clothes on. I assumed that everywhere I went, everyone zoned in on me. So much self-centeredness. Such little appreciation for how little people considered me.
Reaching a Breaking Point
At some point, the anger and anxiety became too much. People weren’t listening. I kept shouting and shouting and SHOUTING and everything I was saying was falling on deaf ears. I kept changing everything about myself to please them. I kept polling people so that I wouldn’t have to make a decision. I couldn’t sleep because I was consumed with what they may think of me. I kept wondering why they weren’t doing the same for me. I GIVE AND GIVE AND GIVE AND YOU DON’T GIVE ANYTHING BACK?! Why won’t you talk to me? Why won’t you do what I ask? Why aren’t you a mind reader? Why don’t you care about the things I care about? Why? Why? Why?
I deserved better, right?! The real answer? No. I was the perpetuator of my own misery and I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t grasp that it was none of my business what people chose to do. I couldn’t understand that it was none of my business what they were thinking, whether it be about me or not. I couldn’t accept that I had NO POWER over them. People kept asking me: “why do you care?” and all I could think (to the point that I felt like I was literally insane) was “how could you not?!?!”. So, I had had some experience in the Al-Anon program before. I had loved ones who had worked the program and had come out the other side with their sanity intact, love for themselves, and respect for others. It took me YEARS to get to a point where I was willing to consider that I might be doing it wrong. Finally, I decided to give the program real effort.
Codependency: Same Malady – Different Allergies
When I started working a 12-Step program in the Al-Anon fellowship, the main thing I had to understand to my core was that I am almost the same as the alcoholic or addict. We both have allergies, mental obsession, and a spiritual malady. First, let’s talk about allergies. An allergy is just an abnormal reaction. The alcoholic and/or addict has an allergy to substances. Their bodies do not process them the same way that mine does. I do not have a problem with drinking or drugging. I can take it or leave it. However, I do have a VERY abnormal reaction to people. Therefore, while the alcoholic/addict’s allergy is to substances; mine is to people. I cannot behave normally when people are introduced into my life. Second, there’s the mental obsession. This looks exactly the same whether I am an alcoholic or a codependent. Constant obsession for the thing that we’re allergic to. Going to any lengths to possess, control, or monitor our allergies. Altering everything about ourselves: our wants, needs, responsibilities, schedules, WHATEVER in order to get our “fix”. Our whole lives being derailed if we can’t. Physical sickness and insanity if we don’t have what we “need”. The similarities are endless. Third, there is the spiritual malady. Sickness deep in our souls. The insecurity, self-pity, depression, anxiety, anger, resentment, selfishness, dishonesty, intolerance, hate, judgment, sadness, and FEAR that corrodes our entire existence until at some point we wonder if death is just easier. The constant “wrong” feeling. A life of despair that we have no idea how to escape.
We Do Recover
Taking the time to understand how similar I am to alcoholics and addicts helped me see that I am not alone AND that I’m not unique. Ugggghhhh, I didn’t like that. I want to be unique, remember? Well… I’m not unique. Now that I’m further in my program, I appreciate that fact. So, here I am. Working a 12-Step program with those who have the same allergy I do: people. I started by admitting that I am powerless and that my life is thoroughly unmanageable. I came to believe that my Higher Power could restore me to sanity. I made a decision to turn it all over. I cleaned up my side of the street and continue to do so every day. I stay connected with my Higher Power. And, most importantly, I help others who still suffer.
My whole life has changed. I look back on who I used to be with mixed emotions. Some of it is sadness. Sometimes it’s cringing at old behaviors. There was a lot of regret and shame that has turned into forgiveness. But mostly, I look back with a smile on my face because I now know that I do not have to be that person ever again, REGARDLESS of how people around me behave, think, or feel. This is the result of addressing my spiritual malady and relying on something other than myself – my Higher Power. Everything fell into place once I earnestly sought Him.
Every day, we’re going to be approached with all sorts of nonsense. People are going to continue being people. Our loved ones are going to continue making decisions that we don’t agree with. There are going to be things that make us angry or afraid. There are going to be things that we want to control and manipulate because we think they’ll work out better if we could JUST have the reins. But those thoughts that once consumed our entire existence now fade quickly without much effort. Instead of yelling at or chastising someone, we can respect and love them regardless of what they’re doing or saying. We fall asleep and wake up easier. We look forward to what our day will bring rather than hiding from it or turning our back on it. Our family members can finally breathe because they don’t have to pay such a hefty price to be in our lives anymore. We can actually sit down and relaaaaaxxxxx. We can meet the world head on with our chins high and know that we are putting good into the world and doing His work instead of wondering what we can get out of it. We become who we were meant to be.
An Al-Anon 12-Step program was what I needed in order to get close to my Higher Power and find freedom from my allergy to people. I could not do it on my own – I tried that throughout my whole life and it NEVER worked. I came into this program so desperate to just feel better. And surprise, surprise… something finally worked. Surrender. Simply saying “I can’t. You can.” And then letting Him.
We’re Here to Help
Long story short: If you feel that desperation like I did and you’re out of options, please give Solutions of North Texas a call. They have people on staff who have been EXACTLY where you are, and they have found FREEDOM. They can tell you their story and help get you to where you deserve to be!