The closer we get to the holidays the more I think about how we look forward to spending time with our friends and family. Christmas lights on the tree, festive decorations, and joyful music in every home. The truth is this cookie cutter Christmas isn’t the norm for many families. Children of co-dependent parents suffer through long days of fighting, drinking and other negative behavior, spouses suffer the abuse of their addicted partner, care givers are forced to deal with the selfish behavior of those in their care. And parents….parents of addicted children face a whole different set of feelings and emotions. Where did they go wrong, how did they allow this to happen to their child – to their family, why do they allow it to happen, and why can’t they make it stop.
I had a client a few years ago who came to me for help recovering from the codependent relationship she had with her son John(fictional names used). Jane* was 18 years old when she married Dick, they had known each other for only a few months, her parents hated him, her ex boyfriend had cheated on her, and Dick was older attractive and he made her feel special. After a whirlwind relationship they were married in her parent’s back yard.
Trouble started shortly after and their marriage turned rocky, he quit his job claiming it made him have seizures. After months of Jane working two jobs while they attempted to find a medical reason for his illness they finally had a diagnosis…his seizures were a psychological manifestation of his dislike for his job. In other words, there was nothing wrong with him, and to this day Dick has never had another seizure. To say that this caused resentment in their relationship would be an understatement. Jane admits to feeling used at this point in their relationship, instead of confronting the problem she became very controlling, demanding that Dick find a new job even loading up in the car and driving him around town to fill out applications. Once he found a job however it was for very little pay, a huge amount of physical labor and a boss that loved to take his team out to drink after a hard day….every day. This is the life that John was raised in, a father turned alcoholic because of his wife’s controlling ways, a mom who felt used and resentful. As such, it’s no surprise that John turned to drugs in high school. He was 14 when started smoking pot, 15 when he tried coke, and 16 when he began using meth.
Jane came to me after having read a brief blip online regarding a local drug rehab program she hoped John would agree to take part in. It was too late to save her relationship with Dick, he’d left the family for another woman, one he met at a bar, the status of that relationship is unknown, but neither John or Jane have any interaction with him. Jane and I have started working on a plan built around her life, her job, John’s addiction, and her desire to heal them both.
12 Step Group treatments
Many rehabilitation centers, and even some churches and local communities are staffed with counselors that lead groups such as Codependents anonymous, Al-anon, and Alateen. Not only do these groups assist the individual but they allow codependents to interact with others who have shared their experiences. Knowing that you have someone beside you who has traveled down this road, who understands the pain and suffering that is involved and who is willing to listen to you, support you and share in your healing.
There are hundreds upon thousands of books and websites designed to aid the codependent down the road to recovery. These books allow you to privately seek the help that you need. Doing it all yourself however can also lead to other personal problems and relationship issues such as self induced isolation which may exasperate the issue rather than help overcome it. Keeping your problems locked away allows you to continue to hide away from the reality of your disorder; there is very little if any support system available. This is not to say that these are not good tools to aid in other forms of treatment. When you have a support system, an interactive website for example, or a chat group that will be there to talk to these concerns are less severe. When you add self help reading to other forms of treatment as well, you give yourself a leg up on your recovery.
One on one therapist appointments are perfect for those who are not quite ready to face their codependency in a public setting. Again here we have the most important part of recovery, being able to talk about our past, our relationships, and our flaws. The nice thing for many when it comes to outpatient treatment such as this is the fact that they are allowed to keep their secret until they have faced it and taken on it’s demons with the assistance of a trained professional. Others find this method to be overly expensive or leads to medicated treatment, which is quite often a gateway to addiction in itself.
The most cost prohibitive method of treatment is full inpatient treatment; this often includes group therapy, one on one therapy, life coaching, and chemical addiction treatment. Not everyone can afford this level of care, and many insurance companies do not provide coverage for this type of care unless it is part of a drug or alcohol treatment program.
Perhaps the most effective treatment option is life coaching. This type of treatment allows for an individual to find support in a life coach who is knowledgeable about the treatment of co-dependency, often having been in a similar relationship in the past the life coach is able to share what worked for them, adapt a plan of action specifically for the individual around their life and needs, while giving the much need support and accountability that is needed for a full recovery. Cheaper than therapy, more inclusive than self help, and more fully rounded than 12 step groups, the treatment of a life coach can take on many shapes and forms from face to face, to phone consultations, to online chat support.
No matter the treatment form you take on, it needs to be the one that is right for you or your recovery simply won’t be complete.
* not their real names.