For the Lakeside Leader
Every addict negatively affects the lives of one or more people – most of these are family members but may also include close friends and/or co-workers. These people are known as co-dependents.
Today many of the co-dependents are partially the way they are because they grew up in a chemically dependent home and carry the emotional scars from that experience.
The disease of addiction to mood altering chemicals, you will remember, is a very complex one. In fact, it is hard sometimes to understand some of the symptoms for they just don’t seem to make sense.
The answer there is because we are dealing with the whole person and the overwhelming relationship the addict has with chemicals.
Once the family members, particularly the spouse of or the parent of the dependent are aware that something is wrong here, it is too late for control to set in. Addiction does not have a sudden start and it has already made the user a victim, though symptoms may not have been noticeable for some time. No amount of the co-dependents moralizing, threatening, lecturing punishing, setting up boundaries, scolding is going to change anything. It may increase the addict’s guilt, which he/she can only fix by having another “hit”.
When the co-dependents don’t give up trying to change the life style of the addict they fail, which they will, each time and fail and fail. It is as if they have a second-hand addiction to mood altering chemicals! It has become a sickness with its own symptoms, the same as those the addict has (see Article #3). This indicates therefore that chemical dependency and drug abuse are always more than individual affairs; they are family and group matters, with all that are involved needing help.
Symptoms of Co-Dependency
Spiritual Power: Gives one the ability to develop personal moral and religious values and apply them to his/her behaviour. A symptom of dependents’ illness in this area is the spiritual deterioration is an inability to maintain their conduct in accord with their own value systems.
Social: The relationships with friends dwindle because they (the co-dependent) think everyone is talking about conditions in their home.
Physical: One’s energy is practically nil, resulting in headaches, lack of sleep, no ability to experience pleasure, comfort or relaxation.
Emotional: Even the anti-depressant pills that have been prescribed don’t work anymore.
Mental: No hope in sight, even the phone or door bell ringing becomes scary. All ideas and images are doom and gloom.
Vocational: That power of forming opinions or making decisions is no longer functioning.
The hardest things for the co-dependent is to face his/her feeling of powerlessness and the guilt. Therefore, the hardest thing they have to learn is they did not or could not give anyone the disease of addiction and neither can they cure it.
The best they can do to assist the addict in becoming aware of their condition is to leave them alone to suffer the results of their own destructive behaviours.
Remember at the same time “a soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs)
Next week: What can be done?