Our Codependent Society

“Because of the pervasive nature of the problem, our whole culture can be called codependent. When one looks at the problem from a cultural perspective, it becomes obvious that major institutions in our society support codependent behavior. The social structure we have created may be actually dependent upon this behavior continuing.”

“Throughout modern history, most societies have been structured so that some groups are ranked above others, such as men over women and management over labor. With one group more powerful and in control of the resources, codependent relationships can be easily created and maintained. If people begin to change their codependent patterns, it will bring changes to the larger social structure.”     Barry and Janae Weinhold

Codependency has always been relegated to the back seat in addiction recovery. But it is really the foundation for all addictions. It is how we learned to deal with the pain of growing up. 34,00,000 of us grew up in homes dominated by addiction. When addiction is in charge, children have to adapt to the trauma of dealing with it. Our brains are changed by it.

“Individuals use denial and repression to protect the ego from disintegration. Living with both the constant unpredictability of the alcoholic parent and the detachment and/or anxiety of the codependent parent is difficult enough for an adult who has a fully developed defense system. For a child, surviving the regular assault of trauma requires massive amounts of energy. This puts the normal developmental process on hold; there is no energy left to invest in development. While other children are learning to play, to trust, to self-soothe, and to make decisions, children in addicted families are learning to survive. The end result is a child who often feels thirty years old at five and five years old at thirty.”     Jane Middelton-Moz

I was one of the lucky ones. Having started my addiction recovery journey in Nov. 1976, I discovered Melody Beattie and codependency in 1986. Being an avid reader of all aspects of recovery, I was astonished to discover myself in her pages. Astonished because codependency was being defined as the co-alcoholic. But I was married to a non-drinker and I was the alcoholic. How was this possible?

Moving forward to today (2019), the same problem with misidentifying codependency as the “other” addiction still persists. It isn’t the other addiction. It is the main addiction. Why isn’t this recognized by the addiction/mental health community? Could it be because the codependency recovery means healing the childhood experience? It is painful and a lot of work but has to be done to get to the real freedom.