We heal by remembering, literally bringing back
into the wholeness of our being
that which we have lost by hiding it
When my mother first started reading my initial manuscript for Gifts From The Child Within, she looked up at me and asked, "What do you mean in the Introduction by my being a co-dependent?" My mother, being an intelligent and well-read person, caught me by surprise with her genuine lack of knowledge about the meaning of codependence. I found myself somewhat embarrassed about the necessity to explain to my mother, what for most of my life, I saw her doing with hers.
I realized I had few words to describe to her just what being codependent meant. I tried using phases such as, "too dependent on her husband," "not caring enough about herself," and "restricting her own life because of her husband's demands." These broken sentences came easily but still did not touch on the real feelings I associated with the term codependent. Finally, I looked at her and said softly, "Mom, it just means that you cared so much for Daddy that somewhere along the way you lost yourself." She understood and accepting this definition, lowered her head to continue reading.
The surge of interest in the recovery field has led us to this nebulous issue of "codependence." Some leading experts claim we all have a codependent-self, a side of us which withdraws, avoids, and denies our true Self. Others maintain codependence is a disease or illness which requires psychological methodologies and sometimes medical intervention! To assume an illness one must demonstrate a physiological, psychological, or emotional dysfunction; therefore, to label one who nurtures and cares deeply for others codependent under this rationale would commit 99% of our female population to pathology! Only when one is nurturing others to the exclusion of themselves can the ill effects of codependency be labeled unhealthy.
One of the latest definitions of what constitutes a codependent personality comes from a group of professionals who spent several hours of deliberation to confirm: "Co-dependency is a pattern of painful dependency on compulsive behaviors and on approval from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and identity. Recovery is possible." This is a good working definition; however, we must remember, codependency is an individual game played by two. We must not forget it takes two to form a codependent relationship.
As much as I desired not to “be a codependent” like my mother, I certainly found myself in that position with my alcoholic son. It took all the strength and several years to break my learned habit of codependent behavior. You can read more about my struggles with my son in my newest recovery book,