The ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) Red Book taught me many solutions to the negative feelings I have had all my life. It is for sale here. I believe we live in a very codependent society. It doesn’t take long on a new job to identify all the members of the “family”. Because I worked for many years while I was in recovery, I learned how to be true to myself and, yet, adopt roles that were non-threatening to others. My bossy, big sister role had to go first. I had to learn blending in techniques. Not volunteering my opinion about most things was my first job. It was hard. I changed myself from being codep by asking myself-“Are they asking me a question?”. Then I would ask the other person if they were asking for help. Most said no. So I shut up.
It may help you to read over the characteristics we adult children bring to the workplace. You may locate one you can work to moderate.
The following is an excerpt from the ACA Red Book (pages 417-419):
- We confuse our boss or supervisor with our alcoholic parent(s) or qualifier and have similar relationship patterns, behaviors, and reactions that are carry-overs from childhood.
- We confuse our co-workers with our siblings or our alcoholic parent(s) and repeat childhood reactions in those working relationships.
- We expect lavish praise and acknowledgment from our boss for our efforts on the job.
- Authority figures scare us and we feel afraid when we need to talk to them.
- We get a negative “gut reaction” when dealing with someone who has the physical characteristics or mannerisms of our alcoholic qualifier.
- We have felt isolated and different from everyone around us, but we don’t really know why.
- We lose our temper when things upset us rather than dealing with problems productively.
- We busy ourselves with our co-workers’ jobs, often telling them how to do their work.
- We can get hurt feelings when co-workers do things socially together without asking us, even though we have not made an effort to get to know them and join in the social life.
- We are afraid to make the first move to get to know a co-worker better, thinking they will not like us or approve of us.
- We usually do not know how to ask for what we want or need on the job, even for little things.
- We do not know how to speak up for ourselves when someone has said or done something inappropriate. We try desperately to avoid face-to-face confrontations.
- We are sensitive and can get extremely upset with any form of criticism of our work.
- We want to be in charge of every project or activity, feeling more comfortable when we are in control of every detail, rather than letting others be responsible.
- We may be the workplace “clown” to cover up our insecurities or to get attention from others.
- We are people-pleasers and may take on extra work, or our co-workers’ tasks, in order to be liked and receive approval from others.
- We do not know how to be assertive in getting our needs met or expressing a concern. We may have to repeatedly rehearse our comments before delivering them.
- We have felt that we do not deserve a raise, promotion, better workspace, or a better job.
- We do not know how to set boundaries, and we let others interrupt us. We can accept more work without knowing how to say ‘no’ appropriately.
- We are perfectionists about our own work and expect others to be the same and have the same work ethics and values.
- We become workaholics because it gives us a feeling of self-worth we did not get as a child.
- We may jump from job to job, looking for the perfect position as the substitute for the secure and nurturing home environment we did not have.
- We get upset when people do things that affect us or our work without asking us first.
- We have a high tolerance for workplace dysfunction and tend to stick it out in an unhappy job because we lack the self-esteem to leave.
From “Breaking Patterns: My Journey with Codependency“:
“Every time you wonder if you are keeping a codependent relationship , be it platonic or intimate , I need you to ask yourself if you’re respected in that situation , if your opinion matters , if your feelings matter , if you matter in the same way as your friend. And maybe you are the narcissistic one , so ask yourself , do I allow the other person express freely , do I respect their boundaries , do I feel the need to use them as my emotional fix up , do I make them feel like less just be around me . I think it’s Important to think deeply about this. Keeping healthy symbiotic relationships is very important. I hope that since we now know what it means to be codependent and have an idea on how it manifests, we can stop it.
We know that most of the things that affect us mentally have to do with shame. Codependency is not different, it stems from a huge sense of shame, from a place of self-loathing, of dysfunctional boundaries, low self-esteem, denial, dysfunctional communication, people pleasing, guilt and the list goes on. But truly and surely, I cannot convince you if you are codependent or not. It is not a mental illness and it should not be stigmatized. It’s a situation and it can be fixed by discovering yourself as a whole being. Discovering things, you like and things you don’t, realizing things that are acceptable and things that are not, setting boundaries and putting your foot down to ensure you don’t shift them. I think you should explore on your own. If I could tell my younger self anything, I’d tell her to be whole on her own and even when you lose your other half you are never off balance (Big Sean fans should understand). The truth is the world doesn’t collapse when you are on your own. I promise that you will still breathe air and live. When you build yourself you actually relinquish the need to have a supplementary persona fill voids in your life and personality because those voids do not exist.”
Thank you for writing about this important topic. I identified with several of the points and look forward to taking further steps toward growth and healing.
After 44+ years of addiction recovery growth, I am now, at age 80, fighting an uphill climb to help others to recognize that codependency is the primary addiction of all addictions. Until we heal our childhood, no real healing can occur. Thank you for your kind words.
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