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Recognition of and Recovery from Codependency

The sick behavior of sick people in our lives can cause us to become sick ourselves if we are too strongly attached to them.

Just as stopping addictive behavior is essential to recovery from the addiction, detachment is essential to recovery from codependency.

Step One: Admit powerlessness

The First Step in Co-Dependents Anonymous is "We admitted we were powerless over others--that our lives had become unmanageable." This is the essential spirituality of all of the "-Anon" programs: Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Gam-Anon,, and many other companion programs designed for the family and friends of addicts. Another colloquial expression of this fundamental insight from Al-Anon is that "we are powerless over people, places, and things."

As Ernest Kurtz said so well in his book by the same name, we are "not God." The Three C's of Adult Children of Alcoholics follow from this spiritual principle: "We did not cause them, we cannot cure them, we cannot control them."

Step Two: Come to believe in a Higher Power

The Second Step tells us that there is "a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity." We do not have to allow the insanity of others to drive us insane.

Step Three: Let go and let God

The Third Step, then, means that in our relationships with those who are sick, we must "Let go and let God."

GOD is the changer of hearts, not us.

Dealing with a wayward brother

"I feel that I have to somehow do something about it. After all, I am my brother's keeper, right?"

Let's distinguish between what you can and cannot do.

You can intercede for him and offer sacrifices for him.

You cannot command his assent to the faith.

No one can take a bath for another person.

No one can accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior for another person.

On Judgment Day, God will ask each one of us, "What did YOU do with the gifts I gave YOU?" He will not ask what we did with the gifts he gave to other people.

You are responsible for your salvation.

Your brother is responsible for his salvation.

You are not his God or savior.

  • Let go and let God.
  • Say the Serenity Prayer.
  • Say the Peace Prayer of St. Francis.
  • Say the Forgiveness prayer.
  • Pray to St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine.
  • Pray in reparation for your own sins, then pray in reparation for the sins of your family.
  • Pray the Infallible Prayer: "Thy will, not mine, be done."
  • Recognize that "unsolicited advice is criticism." If we could nag people into good behavior, we wouldn't need a Savior.
  • Pray that God will place someone else in his life to convert him. Don't doubt God's power to save him. We are saved by the love of God poured into our hearts through the death and resurrection of Jesus. He died to save this person; He knows how to save him. Pray with St. Faustina, "Jesus, I trust in you."

Some helpful slogans

  • A gift with strings attached is not a gift; it is bait.
  • Al-Anon ACOA's Three Cs:
  1. I did not cause them.
  2. I cannot cure them.
  3. I cannot control them.
  • Happiness is an inside job. It is my job to make myself happy; no one else is responsible for my happiness.
  • Stop taking your bucket to that dry well.
  • Stop getting into the ring with the bear.
  • Stop going down the street with the pit in it.
  • Doing the same old thing, hoping for different results, is crazy.

Drawing boundaries

What belongs to me?

The two crucial questions to answer in any breakdown in relationships are:

  1. What is my part in it?
  2. What am I willing to do differently?