You Can Break the Cycle of Co-Dependency
Stop Playing the Role of Martyr to the Alcoholic or Addict
You probably were trained to become a martyr while you were still a young child. It doesn't matter if your home contained alcoholics at the time, or not. At some point, you were made to feel responsible for someone else. Perhaps you were the oldest child and you were told that it was your responsibility care for the younger ones. Maybe you were the youngest child and all your siblings were grown and had left home, leaving you alone to care for an ill or aging parent. Perhaps you had loving and thoughtful parents who, in an effort to help make you more socially conscious, drilled into you the idea that you needed to be responsible and helpful. If you happened to also have a parent or sibling who was an alcoholic or drug abuser, you may have spent long hours covering up for them, or driving around town with the sober parent, looking for the drunken family member. Whatever your circumstances, you gradually came to believe that the weight of the world was on your responsible shoulders. If someone else, such as a family member with alcohol or drug problems, could not care for themselves, or chose not to, it was up to you to take care of them … all of them, all of the time. In truth, you have become as dependent on them, as they are on you. You have become co-dependent. You are a martyr.
If this describes you, what can you do about it now? You are convinced that all of the people around you, especially those that are alcoholics or drug abusers, desperately need you to care for them and solve their problems. You can't let them down, give up and walk away from them, no matter how tired and exhausted you are. They may even repeatedly tell you how much they need your help. The honest answer is that you must learn to let go of them. You cannot take on the burden of other people if you are barely able to take care of yourself. Even if you can go on for a while longer, you are not going to live forever. Someday they are going to have to stand on their own, especially if they are your children. If other mentally capable adults are entirely dependent on you, you now have one final responsibility to them … to teach them that they can and need to be responsible for themselves. How can you do that?
One place to start is by reading Alanon books and literature. They are written to help people who love alcoholics and drug abusers. You can get the literature at meetings or, if you aren't ready to go to a meeting, yet, you can use the link above to order some of the literature from Amazon.
Take Care of Yourself, Not the Alcoholic
One of the most loving things you can do for the alcoholics and drug abusers in your life is to take care of yourself. I have heard countless adults reveal how their alcoholic parent was NOT the parent that they resented, because it was the sober one who was frequently angry and yelling. The "responsible" parent was the one who was always meting out punishments, and trying to strictly enforce rules. Is this the kind of person you are? As difficult as it might be, you need to lighten up. Not only will it help you, but it will also help the ones you love. In addition, learning to take care of yourself will set a good example for your children.
Learning to relax and have a lighter touch will seem extremely difficult at first. After all, you believe that other people, especially alcoholics and drug addicts, need you to tell them what to do, or they are going to make mistakes. However, by having this attitude you are hurting them, you are hurting your relationship, and you are hurting yourself. Instead you need to learn to let others make mistakes, while you concentrate on taking care of yourself.
In what ways can you take better care of yourself? Get a hobby. Take a walk. Read a book. Go for a drive. Sign up for a class. Go to lunch with friends. Lounge in the bathtub. Get a manicure, a facial or a massage. Find a hobby. Do the things you enjoy, without worry, and without guilt. You have spent your life helping others. You deserve to have a little rest, as well as fun. I have heard it said that, "When we got busy, we got better." This will be true for you, too. Eventually, you just won't have the time to hover over your family members, making both them, and you, miserable. Ultimately, you will give them the best gift of all. You will teach them that they need to take care of themselves. For more ideas on how to take care of yourself, despite having alcoholics in your life, read "Living the Alanon Do's and Don'ts."
Let Go of Those of You Love
You cannot always fix things for the alcoholics and drug abusers you love, and the longer you try the more likely they are to get into a difficulty which is way too serious for you to solve. If they believe that you will always be able to bail them out of difficulties, eventually they could end up in jail … living in total disbelief that you weren't able to make the charges go away. Instead, you need to begin to teach teens and young adults that they are responsible for themselves. Teenagers, and sometimes younger children, are able to learn to solve most of their own problems. Let them try. Even if you help, ask them for their ideas. Encourage them to put their ideas into action. Don't just swoop in and handle everything. If you are not always there to rescue them from every conflict or problem when they are young, gradually they will learn that they need to take care of most of their problems themselves. Encourage kids to have part-time jobs, earn some of their own spending money, clean up after themselves, make their own simple meals, and be responsible for their school work. These are lifetime skills that build self-confidence … and free them from being totally dependent on you. Meanwhile, you might want to read, "Loving the Addicted Teen."
Turn Alcoholics and Drug Abusers Over to God
Whatever your religious beliefs, hopefully, you also believe that the alcoholics and drug abusers that you love are also God's children. They are in His hands. Sometimes, if they have a problem, it may be because of decisions that they made … especially if they are alcoholics or drug abusers. Or, it may simply be because of bad luck. Whatever the reason for their troubles, trust that God will help them find the right solution, and you need to stay out of His way. This is what is meant by the saying, "Let Go and Let God." You may find it helpful to read the article, "Alanon and the Serenity Prayer."
Give Alanon a Try
If you are trying to survive with an alcoholic or drug addict in your life, you will find other people who are also going through the same thing when you attend an Alanon meeting. At these meetings you will find helpful, caring people who are willing to share their own personal experiences, strength and hope with you. They will give you free or inexpensive literature, and encourage you to talk to them when you are feeling discouraged. You can find out more about what it is like to go to a meeting by reading, "Your First Alanon Meeting."
You can find local meetings of Alanon by looking online or in your phone book under Alanon Family Groups. Most counties have a Central Alanon Office which will give you information about all the meetings that are being held in your area. There may be more than you ever imagined!
For more information about Alanon, as well as finding ways to deal with the alcoholic, addicted or dysfunctional people in your life, you may also want to read some of following articles:
Order This Helpful Alanon Daily Meditation Book
Amazon Price: $14.10 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 23, 2014)