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Scratch an addict...

The job of recovery is to become “inner-directed” and that task requires re-directing your attention from others to the self. But as a child, I had been accused of selfishness and told that I should be ashamed of myself for thinking of this “ME” thing. So I became a “people pleaser.” When the people I was with suggested drinking or using drugs I often spoke up to say it was a bad idea, but I was always voted down and ended up following the “gang.” I went to prison twice following someone else’s idea. I married two women I did not care for (even marrying Diane the first time was Georgina’s idea). I bought a very expensive car that I hated and fantasized committing suicide in it because someone else thought it was cool.

(p. 250, Double Helix)

Food for thought…

When you say “codependent,” most people automatically think of the person who enables the addict ─ the parent or sibling, partner, friend, doctor, or employer. But it is much more complicated than that. After my first few years in recovery, I understood that my addiction to drugs was in reaction to being the people pleaser that I describe above, when I consistently put my relationship or friendship with someone else above my own interest,and usually to my own detriment.

There is a saying in AA, “scratch an addict, and you will find a codependent.” The truth is, not using drugs or alcohol is only the beginning, the first step. If you have the courage to look and the motivation to do the work, you can find the emotional and/or traumatic underpinnings of the shame and secrecy that led to using alcohol or other drugs in the first place ─ to feel better, to forget, to escape the pain of what you'd like to forget, even if only for a while. I always tell clients in my groups that the hard work of recovery begins after you stop using alcohol or drugs, and that work is having the willingness to get to know who you are and how you became yourself, to look at the burden you carry and, really importantly, if it's even yours ─ or someone else’s.

There are so many ways that recovering addicts sabotage their recovery by not working on their own codependent behavior. Just a few examples: denying or minimizing feelings, never feeling good enough, lovable or worthwhile, having trouble setting healthy boundaries, staying in harmful situations too long, giving more credibility to the opinions and feelings of others than their own, using indirect or evasive communication to avoid conflict ─ and there are so many others.

Codependents Anonymous has a great list of traits and characteristics on their website.

Check it out for yourself!

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