Hi. I am Jill, and I struggle with codependency.
A few years ago, somebody said to me, “Jill, I think you have some codependency issues.” I was extremely offended. At that time, I thought that “codependency” meant that I needed people. In my mind, I was an independent woman who knew how to change a flat tire all by myself. I worked a lot, and I paid my own bills. I could take care of myself. I did not need anyone. At that time in my life, I didn’t even think that I needed God.
Not only could I take care of myself, but I could take care of anyone who needed help. And that is where I crossed over the boundary between healthy relationships -vs- codependent relationships.
The Struggle With Codependency
You see, codependency comes in many forms. To wrap it all up into one simple sentence, codependency is trying to do God’s job for Him. Here are some characteristics of some people who struggle with codependency:
• The need to be needed
• People pleasing
• Trying to control others (aggressively or passively)
• Focusing on helping others before working on your own issues
• Being consumed with other people’s problems
• Unclear boundaries in friendships and relationships
• The tendency to date (or marry) alcoholics or addicts
• Workaholism (or always being busy)
Where Does Codependency Come From
Many people with codependency grew up with a parent who was an alcoholic, an addict, or emotionally unavailable. Some of us came from a chaotic environment while others were not allowed to express their emotions. Wherever we came from and whether our family was dysfunctional or not, we learned that if we tried to control our environment, we could possibly find peace. We became over-aware of other people’s feelings and did what we could to make them happy. In doing this, we lost touch with our own feelings. Many of us felt that we were only valuable if we were helping others. We had to put ourselves last so that others would not abandon us.
Many times, there were rules set-up within our families that caused codependency including:
- It’s not okay to talk about problems
- Feelings should not be expressed openly; keep feelings to yourself
- Communication is best if indirect; one person acts as messenger between two others; known in therapy as triangulation
- Be strong, good, right, perfect
- Make us proud beyond realistic expectations
- Don’t be selfish
- Do as I say not as I do
- It’s not okay to play or be playful
- Don’t rock the boat.
Many families have one or more of these rules in place within the family. These types of rules can strain the free and healthy development of a child’s self-esteem, and coping. As a result, we can develop non-helpful behavior characteristics, problems solving techniques, and reactions to situations in adult life.. 
Codependency can be disguised as “I’m just being a good Christian.” We have to ask ourselves, “Am I doing this because this is what God wants me to do, or am I doing it because I am trying to please someone else or feel good about myself.” Sometimes it is very difficult to see the difference. It takes a lot of prayer and constant communication with God.
A good example of codependency in the Bible is the story about Martha and Mary. Martha was upset with Mary because she was spending time with Jesus while Martha had to finish all the chores.
Examples of Codependency in The Bible
Luke 10:38-42 (NIV): At the Home of Martha and Mary
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus wants us to spend more time with Him than anything else. The more time we spend with Him, the more likely we are to know what is important to Him. I don’t know about you, but I definitely have a tendency to be more like Martha. It is hard for me to let go of busy-ness, especially when something “important” must be done.
The struggling codependent does not realize that he or she needs help. I was fortunate to have someone very close to me bring me to Celebrate Recovery. I quickly met a lot of women who struggled with the same issues I did. I joined a Step Study. I learned how to make boundaries. It was a very humbling experience that has brought so much peace. I am finally to the point in my recovery that I actually thank God for this struggle. I thank Him because the awareness of my codependency issues has inspired me to be extra careful to listen to what God is asking me to do instead of what I think I should do. No, I will never be cured completely. But I will get better. One day at a time.
Do you think you might have a touch of codependency? If so, there are groups that can help. I personally found help at Celebrate Recovery at my church. To find out if there is a location near you, go to this website: http://www.celebraterecovery.com/
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Peace, Love, and Joy,