Family Challenges and Codependency

Family Challenges

They just need a little Tough Love!

“When I hear people tell me I need to use Tough Love, I feel like they don’t understand that, even though she is an adult, she will always be my child.” – Martha C., client and parent

Parents feel a lot of pressure, particularly when their child (at any age) isn’t doing well.

Advice seems to crawl out of the woodwork. Intended or not, the underlying message is, “Here is what you are doing wrong.”

Well, as a parent, you know all too well that you need no help taking the lion’s share of the blame. Guilt is born with our children. It shows up with every bump, scrape, and struggle. We wonder what we should have done differently, and we hold our breath awaiting someone to confirm what we fear… that our child’s pain is our fault.

Caring for a sick loved one is hard.

If you go to medical facilities that treat chronic diseases, you will find entire departments devoted to caregiver support… using terms like “compassion fatigue.”

Why do you think that is?

Because it’s painful, exhausting, terrifying… and sometimes infuriating – and nearly impossible to successfully do without support.

Addiction is a disease that breaks all the rules.

If your loved one had cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, the path would be simpler. Your role would be intuitive.

What makes this disease different from the others?

In a word… shame. Substance use disorders can’t exist without shame. It’s what fuels the stigma of this disease and keeps the whole family from getting the needed help to heal.

As Brené Brown put it so well, shame dies when it is exposed to light and in the absence of judgment. When we stop keeping the shame secret, we heal… and so do our loved ones.

Working with the 3 Cs of family recovery…

You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. And there is no cure for the disease of addiction. This is the message of Al Anon Family Group, a 12-step program for friends and family members of individuals with a substance use disorder.

In therapy, we examine closely the 3 Cs. We explore the difference between control and influence and identify ways to be an effective influence on our loved ones suffering from the effects of this disease.

I have to say, I really like the word “effective.” I far prefer the language of “Effective and “Ineffective” to “Healthy” and “Unhealthy.”

We know when we are doing something that is effective. We also know when what we are attempting is ineffective. We can observe it with all our senses and measure the outcome. “Healthy” and “Unhealthy” have an essence of judgment. (Don’t forget what Brene’ says about shame and judgment.)

Once you and I are able to identify what isn’t working well, we can examine alternatives.

“They” say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

So, together we interrupt the insanity by addressing the pain, shame, and fear at the root of ineffective patterns of coping.


The agony and the ecstasy…

This is a term that is often misused or misunderstood. Sheila, a former client, explains it perfectly:

“I am so uncomfortable when someone close to me is in pain that I will LITERALLY go to any lengths to try to stop their pain with no thought at all about my own needs.”

Here’s another clear definition of codependency: The taking care of others to our own self-neglect. Did you catch that last part?

Codependency is an effective form of self-abandonment, and it’s incredibly painful and lonely.

So often, at the root of codependency is an agonizing fear of being rejected and abandoned. It begins at a very young age and often is the result of an experience of feeling abandoned and rejected that grew into a core belief of unworthiness.

When a person feels fundamentally unworthy, that is self-abandonment. That person becomes a validation-seeker. Validation and self-worth now must originate outside him (her)self to enjoy any connection at all.

But here is the fine print on that plan, even when validation occurs, it isn’t to be trusted. There is still an underlying terror that the source of validation will “see the truth,” then the abandonment/ rejection will happen again.

The self-abandonment occurs with the fundamental sense of unworthiness.

As Groucho Marx famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

Healing from codependency is challenging…

… because its roots are very deep and stem from childhood wounds. But challenging is not synonymous with impossible.

With growing self-awareness and developing healthy tools to move through shame and fear, there is hope for fulfilling relationships.

Together, we examine the foundations for painful self-abandonment. Through connecting experientially with childhood wounds and naming the shame and fear, we begin the foundations of boundary development.

You will learn tools to begin treating yourself as a person of worth and value. As these new “muscles” begin to be exercised and take form, you will discover a growing intolerance for accepting the unacceptable in relationships with others.

We decide every day what is worth fighting for.

There are things in life that we are powerless over. Codependency is not one of them.

Long-standing patterns are tricky to change, but with willingness and courage, we create the life we want to be living… the life we were born to live. We just need help to do that.

I very much want to be a part of that help for you. I have seen others heal, and you can, too.

Contact me today (615) 308-9385, and let’s talk about what freedom will look like for you.