Recovery Tools Codependency


11- Recovery Tools Codependency


It takes time to recover from codependency. A lifelong pattern of behaviors though self-defeating has become our default way of living and we cannot change overnight. As with any type of addiction, recovery calls for a radical change in our attitude and learning new tools to cope with life in healthy and functional ways. This article provides suggestions on how to start your journey towards freedom from codependency.


1. Work the 12 Steps of Codependents Anonymous

2. Take responsibility for your self-care

3. Process your childhood

4. Practice healthy detachment

5. Set boundaries on your relationships

6. Exercise your no muscle


Recovery tools codependency 


1. Work the 12 Steps of Codependents Anonymous

  • Working the 12 Steps of CoDA is one of the most effective ways to recover from codependency. The Steps help us admit we have a problem and to accept the nature of our condition, while providing tools on how to live life free from codependency. Recovery from codependency is a lifelong process that requires a complete change of attitude and belief towards ourselves and others and the Steps are the pathway towards this transformation. Changing our behavior does not happen overnight, but as we work each Step we become aware of our detrimental ways of thinking and our faulty beliefs, and we learn new ways to care for ourselves and have functional relationships.
  • Most of the tools for recovery suggested in this article are rooted in the principles of the 12 Steps of Codependents Anonymous. In addition, there is information and suggestions in the next article to help familiarize you with the approach towards recovery from codependency by working the 12 Steps of Codependents Anonymous.


2. Take responsibility for your self-care

  • Recovery from codependency means recognizing that our primary responsibility is to make our lives a priority and to take care of ourselves. By virtue of practicing these principles, our relationships will inevitably become more healthy and functional. Admittedly, taking care of our needs, wants and desires is a foreign concept to many codependents, but if you have decided to put an end to your misery, then you need to stop relying on others to fix you and take responsibility over your own life. Recovery from codependency starts when you begin to let go of the delusion that others are responsible for the well-being and quality of your life. As codependents, we wasted precious time and energy in vain attempts at getting others to make us feel whole. It has been a lifelong journey filled with misery, frustration, disappointment and resentments. If you have finally reached the end of your codependent life and wish for a powerful way to live, then you need to face the truth and acknowledge that no one is responsible for the demise or the quality of your life except yourself.
  • As codependents seeking recovery, we must own up to the fact that we are adults who are responsible for their lives. We have to wake up and take a stance towards ourselves that says I am responsible for myself. I am responsible for solving my own problems. I am responsible for the choices I make in life and what I give to others and what I receive in return. I am responsible for how much I enjoy my life, for whom I love and how I choose to express my love. I am responsible for setting and achieving goals in life. I am responsible for how I behave towards others and how I allow others to behave towards me. I am responsible for taking actions to make my dreams come true. We tell ourselves: I count for something. I matter. Every aspect of my being is important. My feelings can be trusted. My thinking is appropriate. I value my needs and wants. I do not deserve nor will I tolerate abuse or mistreatment in my relationships. I am responsible for setting boundaries against behaviors that are unacceptable to me, and it is my responsibility to maintain the boundaries I have set. I have rights and it is my responsibility to assert my rights. I am responsible for the decisions I make and I am responsible for its subsequent consequences. It is up to me to determine and decide where the responsibilities of others lie, and it is not my responsibility to interfere in their lives. I must avoid behaving in ways that manipulate or undermine others in my life. My children, spouse, relatives and friends have the right to live their lives the way they choose and I must respect their rights. Though they may abuse drugs or lead troubled lives, it is my responsibility to acknowledge I do not have the power to determine their destiny. Above all it is my responsibility not to try to rescue or solve their problems. I must remind myself that I gain nothing by behaving in controlling ways in attempts to change them. First and foremost I must take responsibility for taking care of my life. This is what I have power over and where my responsibilities lie. I am responsible for taking care of my life, and this means allowing others to live their lives as they choose. Taking care of myself is not a selfish act and does not mean I am uncaring. It means I have finally realized my limitations and what I am responsible for. It means I have the humility to allow others the dignity to live their lives as they please and to take care of themselves.


3. Process your childhood

  • There are good reasons we became codependents, and many of us find it useful to look back at our childhood for insight into ourselves. We reflect on the home environment in which we were raised for clues about who we are and the beliefs we hold. This helps us discover the roots of our codependency, how it developed in us, how we absorbed our faulty beliefs, and why we behave in the self-defeating ways we do. Processing our childhood should not be used as an opportunity to blame our parents or to come up with excuses that help us stay in self-pity and inaction. Rather, it should be an exercise in raising our awareness about the root of our condition, while helping motivate us to become accountable for our own recovery.
  • Children develop their sense of identity, measure their self worth, and learn how to communicate and express their needs and feelings based on their parental interaction. However they were treated as children they consider as the norm and continue as the basis of their relationships. Most children in addicted or dysfunctional families grow up in an environment lacking adequate care, nurture and healthy boundaries. As a result they lack the foundations that enable them to cultivate an authentic identity and self esteem. The fundamental faulty belief that we are not worthy human beings leads to an amalgamation of character traits, all of which lead to the development of codependency. We grow up believing we are inadequate people, that our needs and wants are unimportant or that we should not have feelings. In our childhood, we learned that the best way to stay safe and survive life was to take care of others. Unfortunately as adults we continue living our lives on the same basis. Part of the recovery process entails acknowledging the conditions in which we were raised and how they impact our thinking and our beliefs today as adults. When we understand the roots of our self-sabotaging behavior, we have a better chance to use recovery tools to change ourselves.
  • To acknowledge that our childhood was less than nurturing is difficult for many of us. Most of us prefer to deny it and pretend we had loving homes. It may be that the denial protects us from the hurt and the pain that we otherwise we would need to come to terms with. Or it may be that we are still bound by the unspoken rules of secrecy taught to us as children, the rules that said we should never think or talk “bad” about our family members and should stay loyal to them regardless of how we were treated. Though we may want, for whatever reasons, to avoid confronting our childhood, experience has shown that acknowledging the truth about our past is constructive to our recovery process. We all have our own way of dealing with the past, and it is up to each of us to decide when and to what degree we want to process our upbringing. But it is a fact that many of us have experienced a sense of power and freedom after acknowledging the circumstances we were raised in. As we begin to discern the roots of our faulty belief system, we gain insight into the reasons we behave in the self-defeating ways we do. This in turn motivates us to take the necessary actions to free ourselves from our codependent behaviors. In processing our childhood issues, we may want to see a qualified psychotherapist or talk with a trusted friend about what we are discovering about ourselves. But coming from a background where we were constantly betrayed and shamed, some of us may find it difficult to share our “secrets” or trust another. Many of us have found the meetings of Codependents Anonymous a helpful place to begin to share our truth and our history, in the knowledge that in these meetings what we share will not be judged and all is kept in confidence. But if this too sounds daunting, we can start this process by simply putting pen to paper by ourselves and writing down our childhood experiences, describing our feelings about the events and what beliefs and behaviors were instilled in us and whether these beliefs are detrimental to our recovery.
  • Although processing our childhood experiences throws light on the areas we need to work on in our recovery from codependency, we should be careful to avoid using this information as an excuse to sit in more pain and misery. We have had a lifetime of that already. Our aim is freedom from all that, not to create more of it. What might be helpful as we start this process is keep uppermost in our mind the reasons we want to look at the past, and what we hope to get out of the exercise. Let us recognize that the past is the past and cannot undone. At the same time, let us also realize the objective of recovery from codependency is to disempower the past so that we are no longer ruled by it. It is also helpful to take a step back and try to understand the circumstances of our childhood household. Seldom do parents want to deliberately hurt their children. In all likelihood, they did the best they could, probably raising us based on how they themselves were brought up. Blaming them, feeling aggrieved or being angry with them does not help our recovery, but keeps in resentment and toxicity. The longer we point the finger of blame at them and hold them accountable for our predicament, the more we are staying in our victim stance and feeling helpless. It is when we acknowledge the truth about our past and our childhood and say, yes, that was the past that led me to develop codependency, but this is today and I am an adult who has the power to change it. I choose not to allow my head to convince me I have no rights or choices. I choose to take responsibility for my recovery today and will all tools and resources to become free of codependency.


4. Practice healthy detachment

  • Codependents tend to attach to people and their problems. The result is they become overly involved and hopelessly entangled in other people’s lives, omitting to take care of themselves. Attachment in codependents can take several forms:


1. We may become excessively worried about and preoccupied with a person, to the point where all our mental energy is spent on them.

2. We may become obsessed with people, and try to control them, taking responsibility over how they conduct their lives.

3. We may always be reacting to those around us, to how they are behaving, instead of deciding things for ourselves and calmly choosing a course of action.

4. We may become emotionally dependent on our relationships, thereby letting their conduct and lifestyle define our emotional state.

5. We may become caretakers, rescuers or enablers, attracted to their need for us.


  • Whatever forms our attachment to other people have taken, the result is our own life is left in a state of chaos. When we spend our time and energy focusing on other people and their problems, we have little time to look after our lives and ourselves. When we are constantly worried and obsessed over the issue of solving other people’s problems – in a bid to feel good about ourselves, we are left exhausted, resentful and miserable. Most of us get overly involved in other people’s lives because it gives us a fleeting sense of esteem and identity. We learned to abandon our lives as children and now as adults find meaning and purpose only through living our lives through other people.
  • If our relationships are to have a chance at getting healthy and stable — and for the sake of our recovery from codependency — we need to learn to detach. This means mentally, emotionally and sometimes even physically disengaging ourselves from relationships that are dysfunctional and unhealthy. We begin to Practice detachment when we give up the illusion that we have power over other people’s lives, that somehow our behavior, whether we imagine it’s out of love or kindness, can change the course of someone else’s life. It is when we finally realize that other people deserve the freedom to live their lives as they wish and that our actions have little lasting impact on them, that we can slowly let go of our need to control others. It is when we give others the right and the respect to take responsibility for their own affairs and problems that we can finally start to focus on the quality of our own lives and our problems.
  • Healthy detachment does not mean we become hostile, indifferent or uncaring in our relationships. Instead, it is about treating other people with love and respect in the true sense of the words. It means allowing others to take responsibility for their lives just as we are learning to take responsibility for ours. Learning to detach is hard. It requires our courage and determination for interdependent relationships. We have learned to live our lives dependent on and attached to our relationships. It used to be that how others around us were feeling determined how we felt, but detachment calls for an end to our faulty yet familiar ways of relating to others. We must finally accept that no one except ourselves has the power to determine our happiness.
  • Healthy detachment requires us to focus on our own lives and well-being whilst allowing others to take responsibility for the their own lives. When we Practice emotional detachment and let go of our controlling or so called “caring” behaviors, we may experience some backlash. Most of our relationships have become accustomed to our over involvement, our enmeshment with their lives and feelings. They may have become used to using us as the means to relieve their problems and bad feelings. But if our aim is to free ourselves from our codependency we need to keep our focus on ourselves and persevere. Emotional detachment may mean allowing your son to experience the consequences of his addiction, because you no longer feel responsible or guilty. It may mean allowing your brother to go bankrupt because you no longer feel ashamed of his financial incompetence and your family reputation. Or it may mean freeing yourself from your caretaking behaviors because your life is no longer dependent on how people around you are feeling. If you want to break the cycle of your codependent relationships, then start practicing the tools of detachment. Strive for emotional detachment in your relationships. It is a difficult task, one that may feel scary for us. But if our aim to be free from emotional turmoil and codependency, then we need to take courage and believe, think and behave differently. What you will experience as you Practice emotional detachment, is a new way of relating to others that brings freedom and clarity for all concerned.


5. Set boundaries on your relationships

  • Setting limits on behavior you deem unacceptable is a pivotal tool for recovery from codependency. As you establish boundaries in your relationships, you will begin to find your authentic identity and will value yourself as a worthy human being, which is the core of healing from this condition. In addition, setting boundaries leads to healthier and mutually respectful and satisfying relationships.
  • Boundaries and how to set them is a complicated concept. The reasons why codependents find it difficult to set boundaries and practical suggestions on how to establish them, has been extensively explained in the following articles: Boundaries and Codependency and Boundaries and Healthy Relationships.


6. Exercise your no muscle

  • Recovery from codependency means learning to take care of yourself. It means putting our own needs and wants first, and looking after our interests before catering to that of others. In order to do this we need to learn how to say no. No to anything not in our best interest. No to anything we don’t want to do but have done before to please others. No to any behavior we find objectionable or disrespectful. No to any activity we are uncomfortable doing. No to anything that robes us of worth or integrity.
  • For a codependent to say no is difficult, but it’s a tool we need to use if we want to claim our authentic self and self esteem. We have lived a lifetime denying or ignoring our needs and wants by putting the wants of others before our own in the vain hope that saying yes would make them like us and take care of us. But when we finally reach a place where we realize our faulty belief system in that no person has the power to take care of us except ourselves, we can let go of our illusions say no more easily. As we use this tool of recovery, saying no to anything that diminishes our worth and integrity, we begin to value ourselves more and begin to live a life free of expectations and resentments. We are no longer shackled to our dysfunctional childhood beliefs that other people are meant to take care of us and can therefore take actions to fulfill our own lives.
  • When we consistently say yes to another person, doing whatever they request, we are essentially telling them that we are subservient to them, that their wants and desires are our priority. Carrying on as if we were still children trying to please in a world of adults, we are giving the message that it is permissible to be treated less than. Saying yes to whatever we are asked reinforces our lack of regard for ourselves, which further entraps us in our codependency. Part of our recovery into self worth and authenticity entails our ability to acknowledge our rights and say no to that, which undermines us. As people taking on the victim stance, we might think asserting our needs and wants is uncaring and selfish. But the truth is saying no to the things we do not want, is one of the caring acts we can do for ourselves. We may have to let go of our obsession to be liked by everyone, and some of our relationships might dislike our new demeanor and stance. But each time we say no we are further defining our self worth and reinforcing our recovery from codependency.
  • As we exercise our “no” muscle and assert our rights in relationships, people begin to treat us more equally. We are no longer treated like children who can be dismissed or ignored. Rather, we begin to be heard and respected. Saying no to the demands of others and yes to our needs and wants is the beginning of a new relationship with ourselves. We slowly slip out of our victim role in life and begin to view ourselves as powerful people with voices to match. Our sense of self is further solidified as we assert our right to take care of ourselves first. As we learn to say yes to our needs and wants, we become more real and genuine people. As we learn to say no to all that is to our detriment, we begin establish healthy relationships that are authentic and mutually respectful.

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