Wednesday January 25th 2017

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Family affected by addiction: How to snap out of the cycle of codependency

Be where you are: From addiction co-dependency to awareness

When we are close to someone who is an alcoholic or addict it’s easy to get wrapped up in a lot of drama:

  • Worry
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

…all things we don’t like in theory but that can become deep habits with addicted relationships. We might spend a great deal of time focused on the addict, the future, replaying the past, possible problems, and worst case scenarios.

Do you get lost in thinking about all of the things you feel like you have to do for or because of the addict? You may have already started to lose a sense of presence and self.

Read here about the simple things you can do to help keep yourself centered. When everything becomes about the other person and you become so wrapped in the addict…there is another choice! Then, feel free to send us your questions at the end.

Is addiction ruling your life, too?

Maybe you have a parent who has a problem with alcohol or drugs and you find yourself sitting in class, not paying attention because your mind is so busy with worry:

  • What can I do?
  • How can I help?
  • What can I say to them?
  • What if they need me?
  • Why do they do this?
  • Why can’t they stop?
  • What will happen to them? To me?

…and on and on and on.

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Suddenly class is over, you didn’t learn anything and you didn’t solve any of the problems you were busy thinking about either.

But this is just one example of how a person can be caught up in someone else’s addiction problem. If you are missing out on your life and letting addiction destroy you as well as the addict, regardless of your unique circumstances…you are a co-addict in need of self-care.

Recovering from co-dependency: The importance of a pause

Pausing to check in with yourself reminds you that you can make a choice about your time, your day and your life.

If you in a meeting not paying attention, you can decide if where you really want to be is with addict or if you really want to be where you are. That pause lets you reconnect to what you are doing as an affirmative action, it reminds you that you have a choice about whether or not you are going to be present in your own life or whether you are going to give that up to addiction.

Knowing where we are as individuals doesn’t eliminate all of the problems of co-dependence or the complexity of caring about someone with a substance abuse problem. It doesn’t magically bring us to acceptance or serenity. Substance abuse in all of its forms is enormously damaging and painful, nothing can just “fix” that.

But within that complexity, just pausing to check-in with yourself can remind you that only you are where you are, only you can control what you do, and all you can deal with in that moment of time is based on where you are right then.

3 Steps to self-care to fight codependency

One of the hardest parts of being involved in a relationship with an addict is how easy it is to lose yourself in their addiction. Addiction destroys not only the person with the problem but so many who are connected to them, and this is why it is so important to learn how to take care of yourself even while you stay connected to the addict.

When you find yourself:

1. Feeling frantic
2. Short of breath
3. Distracted or not able to focus on what you are doing right now
…use them as a signal that you need to take care of yourself.

It sounds counter-intuitive but you can build the habit of self-care that will ultimately give you more personal power, strength and energy to engage in everything else you do. Try one of the following tips to bring the focus to yourself:

STEP 1. Pause, recognize that you may have lost some of your presence and take a deep breath.

Inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of four. Do this 3 times when you start, build to a practice of 8 breaths. It’s only a few seconds but it will help to release the stress hormones from your body and re-focus your attention on where you are in that moment.

STEP 2. Do a quick body/mind scan. Ask yourself:

  • How do I feel physically?
  • Am I breathing from my chest or my belly?
  • What am I seeing in a circle around me at this moment?
  • Is there something I need right now?
  • Am I hungry, am I thirsty, am I cold?

STEP 3. Ask yourself: Where are my feet and answer that question completely.

There are no right or wrong answers to the questions you ask, they are a way of bringing you back to where you are and what you are doing right now. What you are doing is important to be aware of so you create that separation from yourself and the addict. These are meant to be practical tools that can immediately pull you out of the franticness of co-dependent worry, fear and anxiety and back into awareness of your independent situation.

Addiction co-dependency to awareness questions

Do you have any questions about helping an addicted loved one by helping yourself? Please post them in the comments section below and we will try to respond personally and promptly, or refer you to professionals who can help.

Photo credit: Annie Roi

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About Maggie Harmon

Maggie Harmon is a writer, speaker, leadership coach and business consultant who approaches every engagement through a holistic understanding of the situation. Her consulting practice focuses on deeply understanding who or what you are and what you want to achieve, and from there helping to create a plan, develop tools, and access resources that let you get where it is you want to go, and do what you do, better! You can connect with her here or via Maggie's Blog.

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