codependency is a challenge: the leading recovery gurus' interpretations
vary widely, some almost as dissimilar as the blind men's
descriptions of an elephant.
definition belonging to Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse links
codependency with alcoholism--"a primary disease and
a disease within every member of an alcoholic family."
Subby looks beyond alcoholism ties: "An emotional,
psychological, and behavioral pattern of coping that is born
of the rules of a family and not as a result of alcoholism."
Together with John Friel, they delineate the rules which are
clearly oppressive, "rules which prevent the open expression
of feelings as well as the direct discussion of personal and
Whitfield has stated that codependence "affects
not only individuals, but families, communities, businesses
and other institutions, and states and countries... [It is]
ill health, or maladaptive or problematic behavior that is
associated with living, working with, or otherwise being close
to a person with alcoholism"
Larsen has defined a codependent as "anyone who
has been affected by the person who has been afflicted by
the disease of chemical dependency [as well as] anyone who
lives in close association over a prolonged time with anyone
who has a neurotic personality."
Wilson Schaef avoids making a contribution by stating,
"I also believe that trying to generate definitions
from a rational, logical premise is actually a manifestation
of the disease process."
Kokin writes: "`Codependency,' just like its predecessors
`coalcoholic' and `coaddiction' and its contemporary `enabler,'
is an absolutely unsatisfactory and insidious term. Granting
it further status as a disease only adds to the damage already
done by the alcoholic and his bottle."
Beattie's official definition is: "A codependent
person is one who has let another person's behavior affect
him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's
Beattie's long description is: "Whatever problem
the other person has, codependency involves a habitual system
of thinking, feeling, and behaving toward ourselves and others
that can cause us pain. Codependent behaviors or habits are
self-destructive. We frequently react to people who are destroying
themselves; we react by learning to destroy ourselves. These
habits can lead us into, or keep us in, destructive relationships,
relationships that don't work. These behaviors can sabotage
relationships that may otherwise have worked. These behaviors
can prevent us from finding peace and happiness with the most
important person in our lives--ourselves. These behaviors
belong to the only person each of us can control--the only
person we can change--ourselves."
wordiness has not restrained me from rambling about how I
associate codependency with feelings of anxiety about almost
anything, anyone, any circumstance; that the individual feels
insecure within about most situations, people, events; that
the level of anxiety can vary from barely conscious to near
panic; that "What will other people think?"
is a shared concern among codependents.
to being interviewed by a reporter and guessing she would
press me for a codependency definition, I asked my husband
for his help. In his best inquisitive style, the one which
works so effectively for him when he is inventing (he is a
scientist who holds many patents), he urged me to do what
he does, to "get down among the molecules" to determine
the essence of codependency.
John Bradshaw who believes "that internalized
shame is the essence of codependency." I can see
internalized shame being the thrust of codependency but down
among the molecules, something comes before the shame. So
I said, "Codependency is a feelings affliction."
Oh-oh, and from whence come feelings? From thinking. (Years
earlier when new to recovery, what a difficult concept that
had been for me to understand and accept!)
that "failure to thrive" was coined to describe
certain infants, but who is more deserving to be characterized
as suffering from a "failure to thrive" syndrome
than codependents? I felt I was getting close.
said, "Codependents don't have a life," and
when my husband asked, "Do you mean as in `get a life'?"
the codependency significance of that slang expression dawned
on me: getting a life is what recovering from codependency
is all about. "I'm going to say that in the interview."
rid of codependency "is truly about getting a life,"
you overhear, "Ah, get a life!" forget the sarcasm
and see the positive side; it's a rallying cry for changing
As for the ultimate definition of codependency, it's of importance
to "outsiders" wanting to understand. But when we
are codependent, we may not recognize the symptoms, but we
sure do experience them --as a prisoner within our own thinking.
from the inspiration found while getting down among the molecules,
I offer my definitions:
is the lack of having a life.
A codependent does not have a life.
A codependent in recovery is getting a life.
A recovered codependent has a life