“When the family energy is focused on the problem of the adult rather than on the needs of the children, the results for the children are the state of not knowing they come first, the state of believing that they have to fix the situation, and the state of believing that life is about surviving instead of enjoying and that the meaning of life is to get through the struggle of life.” Cathleen Brooks
Codependency–the addiction of power–begins in childhood. Over 34 million Americans grow up in an alcoholic home. Add to those the millions who grew up with families dominated by an adult with another addiction: power, control, money, work, sex, food, etc. All addictions do the same to the families of the addict.
The children learn to discount their own feelings; they learn to be the parent to the addict’s child; they learn not to trust; they learn to be ashamed. But, most of all, they learn they are not important. Any good feelings from the parents come from dwelling on the obsessions of the adults–bound together in the whirlwind of addiction.
“Addicts (which include almost everyone on some level) really want others to believe that they do not have a problem.” Wayne Dyer
Anyone who has lived in a family that didn’t make each family member feel safe, loved and valuable can benefit from learning from ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) materials. The family may not have had alcoholism but some other dysfunction.
From Chapter 1 of the ACA’s Red Book: what a child learns in the family controlled by addiction:
“From the descriptive power of the traits, ACA was born and created. In just 260 words, The Laundry List describes the thinking and personality of an adult reared in a dysfunctional family. A sample of the 14 traits reveals how we judge ourselves and others harshly. We remain in destructive or loveless relationships because we fear abandonment.”
“The term “adult child” means that we respond to adult interactions with the fear and self-doubt learned as children. This undercurrent of hidden fear can sabotage our choices and relationships. We can appear outwardly confident while living with a constant question of our worth.”
“In ACA, we believe the experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional family affect us as adults. many of us have had successful careers but still feel disconnected from life. Some of us experienced regular failure. We lived with a self-created calamity mixed with self-harm and self-hate. Many of us have been in the middle of success and failure. We have had fine jobs and homes, but we wondered why others appeared to be enjoying life while we guessed at what was normal. We felt like we were on the outside looking in. Whatever our path, we found no lasting help until we found ACA.”
One of the first major voices in the field of codependency is Melody Beattie. Her first book in 1992 was titled Codependency: No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. Several years later I read that she said a better title would have been Codependency: Not So Much. All of her books or articles give clear direction and are very interesting as she uses her personal experiences as examples.
We believe very strongly that codependency helps to create and foster addiction as well as addiction creates and fosters codependency. This is a family system experience. The addiction/codependency relationship needs each other to complete the cycle.
Emily Dickinson wrote in one of her poems–“the soul selects her own society–then shuts the door”. The power in a relationship is divided or debated from that first glance. The people that we meet and with whom we instantly feel comfortable are those with whom we share the power.
Unfortunately what many call “excitement” is the game of control. In A Course of Miracles, we learn that our two main feelings are love or fear. If we aren’t offering love, we are trapped in our fear.
In case that we want to deceive ourselves about our “loving” motives, the test is that if you are coming in the name of love, there will be no resistance. The resistance from the other person is a reflection of our fear and proves that we are trying to control.
If we are in a tug of war with someone, we can let go of our end of the rope. With the freed energy from letting go, we can then join the “enemy” to find a better way of relating to each other. Sometimes, when you let go of your end of the rope, the other person never reconnects because controlling you was his/her only interest in you.