“Codependent” was once used to describe a specific set of behaviors in spouses of alcoholics. While this is still true, the term has expanded to other situations. It also includes people who have grown up in a dysfunctional home and other difficult circumstances.
As a faith-based addiction program, we define “codependence” as a relationship in which one partner finds his or her worth or identity based on a relationship with someone else.
The codependent person often chooses relationships in which the other person needs to be rescued. Whether knowingly or not, they take on this role because they want to be indispensable.
Although at first glance this concept seems to be based on outward relationships, codependency is actually a dysfunctional relationship within the self. It is a pathological or addictive relationship with other people. These unhealthy relationships tend to be primarily one-sided (as opposed to a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship).
How Does Codependency Play Out in Addiction?
One doctor paints the picture of codependency within addiction like this: “The addicted person develops a relationship whereby the other person will feed into the addiction. So the wife or husband or other family member almost facilitates the person’s ongoing dependence on the substance. That’s not because they’re intending to make it worse, it’s because they’re drawn into that whole circle of behavior, and breaking the pattern of that is almost impossible.”
Generally, a codependent person’s attitude is very easily affected by others. Typically, a codependent person reacts, under-reacts, or overreacts to problems and stress. Rarely do they just act.
Codependents have a tendency to overreact to things that aren’t that big of a deal, while they under-react to situations that actually are important. Both of these reactions represent a different aspect of codependency.
An overreaction is addictive because the codependent party is able to:
help others in crisis/be the rescuer
focus on the negative things others do to them
blame those around them for their own issues
All of these are behaviors are used to avoid their own reality and pain.
An under-reaction is the denial side of codependency. Denial behaviors actually refuse people of their basic human needs. This forces the person to minimize or eliminate feelings, pain, ambitions, goals, and more.
Our Basic Needs as Humans
At No Longer Bound, we teach that a person’s basic needs are love, acceptance, worth, and security (LAWS). Almost always, a codependent’s basic needs are restricted or falsely met within a dysfunctional relationship.
Unfortunately, codependency can lead to a false sense of worth or responsibility, as well as hurt and anger. Codependency may have developed in one’s childhood as a need to fix others’ problems. It’s likely that they were in situations where they needed to rescue or control someone. It’s also likely that their basic needs were not being met at that time.
Are You In A Codependent Relationship?
Left unchecked, codependency can become a response to people in all of their relationships, although it usually begins in only a few. Many (not all) relationships that involve active addiction, neglect, abuse, or control are defined as codependent.
If a person feels that they are responsible for trying to make the other person happy, they might be a codependent. Here are some other clues that your relationship is codependent:
You have an obsessive need to please the other person
You feel guilty if you don’t do everything correctly
You worry about minor mistakes that could upset them
You feel incomplete without the presence of another individual
You neglect self-care
You have resentment towards your role as the rescuer
You lack objectivity when helping others
You take yourself and situations too seriously
In short, codependents seek others for their own validation and happiness, resulting in completely dismissing their personal responsibility.
Changing a codependent relationship starts by setting healthy boundaries and having a healthy understanding of the role you play. For men in addiction, a faith-based addiction program like No Longer Bound can help you set these boundaries and work toward reconciling codependent relationships.
Recently, Edward Bailey, our Executive Director, shared a new perspective on manhood with the residents of No Longer Bound – a faith-based addiction treatment center. This is one resident’s key takeaways from that discussion.
What Is A Man, Anyway?
When you think about what we have been taught about manhood, a few things may cross your mind. For example, fathers teach their sons that boys don’t cry, or men must provide for the family without allowing anyone to see him struggle. According to this definition of manhood, men certainly don’t ask for help, and they definitely don’t have any intimate relationships.
Maybe your definition of manhood comes from a famous movie where a man demonstrates that emotions are for girls, and men simply “don’t have them”.
Perhaps you believe that as long as you have all the money, the latest car in the garage, the biggest house on the block, and “manly” friends, then you’ve got it made.
Regardless of how your beliefs formed, most men define manhood in just a few short phrases:
But what if that was all wrong? What if we took these simple concepts and added to them, completely changing the way we think about them, effectively redefining manhood?
Here’s a fresh way to think about what it means to be a man.
Be Brave with Your Emotions
As a man, of course you want to be brave, but you can be brave about the wrong things. What if you change what you’re brave about?
As a man, be brave with your emotions. Allow yourself to feel. Honor your feelings, name them, and don’t allow certain emotions to have the power to control your life.
Take a Risk To Be Rejected
Most men like to take risks. Some can be dangerous or damaging, but taking risks in a new way can pay off. Considering taking a risk that could lead to rejection. Sounds intimidating, right?
You must be accepting of the fact that some people may reject you and your decisions. The sense of belonging is comfortable, but when that is threatened, it can lead to fear regarding our social standing.
Rejection hurts because it threatens our entire identity, which is exactly what makes it so freeing when you make it to the other side. Once you shed yourself of people who hold you back and judge you, gone are the days of being stuck within the boundaries that are set by “the wrong crowd.”
Work Hard On Yourself
Working hard is also a “manly trait” that fits most people’s definition of manhood. Although working hard at a job or relationship is extremely important, working hard on yourself is, too.
Do you know what’s manly? Taking the time to know yourself. Knowing what makes you tick and why, as well as knowing and setting goals for yourself to work towards. This is one of the most responsible choices someone can make for themselves.
The ancient thought of real men not asking for help is truly for the birds. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and ask for all of the help you need. Everyone can benefit from therapy because learning more about yourself is a blessing to everyone around you.
There is just something cool about being, well, cool. And deep down every man wants to be cool in their own way. However, being cool with the wrong people can be life-threatening. That’s why it’s important to find the right tribe.
Redefine cool, and find other people that have been rejected by taking their own risks. These are the people that will appreciate love, belonging, and the safety that comes from being rejected. They have experienced pain by people who don’t know what cool really is.
Get Rich in Love for Others
One of the most common stereotypes about manhood is wealth. For many, getting rich is important. But pursuing financial wealth is not what Jesus wants from us. In fact, he says that getting rich is a foolish goal. As Paul tells us, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:7.
That’s why this new definition of manhood encourages you to get rich by loving and caring for others. The act of caring for others may not always bring about financial worth, but it will give you personal wealth.
Jesus’ second commandment is to love others as you love yourself. But of course, to do this, you have to start by wholly loving yourself. Self-love is an ongoing process, and by redefining manhood, you are taking a great first step.
“He knows the way I take, When He has tried me, I shall come out as Gold.” (Job 23:10)
Be Honest with Yourself and God
Written By: A No Longer Bound Resident, Austin
For men in a faith-based recovery program, the first step we’re encouraged to take when we’re disappointed in God is to be honest with Him. We’re told to open about our disappointments, and allow honest and open communication.
Even his most trusted followers, the earliest apostles – the ones that saw firsthand the miracles performed at the hand of Jesus – were disappointed and failed to fully trust Him. At times, they even failed to believe that God is all-knowing.
God knows your thoughts, heart, and ambitions. If you are disappointed, share with Him which expectations He has not met.
Did He not give you an answer in a timely manner? Did you lose a loved one unexpectedly? Did you not land your dream job? Tell Him what’s on your heart.
get back on track
Perhaps you can’t recall an exact event or circumstance that led you to feel disappointed. Maybe your faith today is a reflection of what you were (or were not) taught as a child about God. You just know that’s where you are right now.
Or, maybe you know the exact point in your life that you lost your faith, but you don’t know how to get back on track.
Similarly, if you go hiking, and you find yourself lost, you probably don’t know where exactly you made a wrong turn. All you know is that you’re off the path, and you don’t recognize your surroundings. The easiest way to regain your bearings is to turn around and walk back on your original way you came. The same is true about your faith journey.
If you have come to a point where you have only found disappointment, ask God for help and strength, and “turn back” to when you started feeling that way. Go back down the path of difficulties, and work back to the point on the trail you went off course.
Trust that God is always teaching and only wants what is best for us. One of the hardest, but most essential, pieces of faith is to trust Him more and our own “map” less.
your disappointment isn’t a punishment
It’s also important to point out that your disappointment is not a punishment from God. Christ took that punishment for you already.
God is not a punisher. He might hand out discipline, but never punishment. The difference is that discipline is done out of love for growth and learning, while the other is out of anger and worry. Your loving Father in heaven always wants you to grow and learn, even if that means you face some big battles in life. He will continue to give you the good and the bad.
In other words, God isn’t spiteful. That disappointment is usually a sign of our own shortcomings and unrealistic expectations of ourselves – not God’s.
god’s purpose through the pain
Revisiting your journey to disappointment can help you uncover the “why” behind His purpose in putting you in that situation. Usually, in the midst of a difficult season, we have a hard time understanding God’s “why”. It’s not until later when we take time to reflect that we see His hand at work.
“He knows the plans he has for you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11) This means not just a future here on this Earth, but a future much more meaningful.
However, before that future can be given, you will be forced to face trials, solve problems, and rectify disappointments. With this comes God’s work of preparing us for what He has planned for us after the hardships.
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
If you only look at life through a disappointed lens, you’re robbing yourself of witnessing His strength and grace. Even at your lowest and most disappointed state, He will provide you with the tools you need to endure life’s challenges. It’s up to you to find and use them.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)
One of my favorite hobbies is photography. It combines two of my favorite things in life: being alone and the beauty of the world around me. I’m able to steal a moment and forever hold it if I choose to. For that very reason, I’ve always loved taking pictures of flowers.
I love any flowers really, it doesn’t matter the type; even weeds are pretty in their own ways. However, I am fond of recently bloomed flowers. There is something special about capturing the most beautiful step in its life cycle.
It’s so incredible when the bloom springs from its bud and opens itself fully to the world around it for the first time. The flower selflessly shines into the world around it with no need for a thank you. Just being itself. The world can look upon it as God intended.
This selfless budding reminds me of what is taking place here at No Longer Bound, a faith-based rehab.
With only a few short months passing by come the days where the buds begin to show – steadily growing and beginning to really open up. To begin with, it gains comfort within itself, receiving direct sunlight upon what it really is and what it is meant to be. It still has some time before it will fully open up.
Similarly, guys get here as barely growing stems, desperately needing help. The staff puts in work, the culinary crew gives some nutrients, and God provides healing and time. All of these things working together lead to buds starting to show within our community.
At this point, there is really no amount of coaxing that can further this process along quicker. Just like the flowers, it is visible when a man gets to this stage. He has hesitation to open up to the community. At the same time, he has glorious moments of maturity and growth. Meaning, he suddenly has the want and need to open up, however, there is still comfort in remaining closed off to the world around him.
It is safe to remain in the bud. We feel so much comfort hiding from the world in layers of protection wrapped around the pretty parts.
Help Without the Hurt
Eventually, however, our nature comes through, and we spread out our petals and allow the real us to be seen for the first time ever, possibly. It is truly beautiful when we bloom.
Over time, we have a willingness to not just help others, but be helped without resentment or hurt feelings. We are open to making changes from the environment rather than blocking them off and hiding from our much-needed changes.
Ultimately, we watch grown men really accept and become the helping hand, shoulder to cry on, a crutch to lean upon, and a guide to follow. It is an impressive and touching thing to witness.
This leads to another favorite thing of mine: the effect of one bloom on the buds around it.
We watch as one bud blooming affects the buds around it. In other words, it’s almost as if it’s calling to the others to follow it on the wonderful journey it found itself on. It’s like it selfishly or apprehensively doesn’t want to be the lone bloom, and needs its surrounding buds to follow into blooming themselves.
Similarly, it’s a process we all go through here. As men, we watch our brothers start off as closed-off individuals, only interested in protecting themselves from the outside world and content with being alone. Then, they transform in to opening up day by day, little by little, to what everyone around them has to offer.
As a staff member, it must be amazing to watch each wave of men blooming together and opening up in their own time. Eventually, this campus becomes a full community of open men. They allow the beauty God has bestowed upon each of them to shine, and they can serve as a light to guide the people behind them towards their own blooming.
Reflecting on the Growth
Finally, I’m blessed to be able to capture this event in photos. The growth I’ve seen through my camera lens is truly amazing. It is my blessing and privilege to witness the blooming of our community. It is something I will always remember as I have captured these memories forever. These photos are reminders of the growth we have all physically, mentally, and spiritually gone through. Put simply, they’re reminders of our blooming into what God knew we were always meant to be.
“I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in his shade; they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like the vine Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon.” (Hosea 14:5-7)
Once of the strongest tools is both a feeling and an action: intimacy.
A word that was once one of the least “manly” words (in my opinion) is used to strictly describe a relationship. It’s used by guys that want to sound more appealing to the opposite sex, as if they’re more in tune with their feelings. They use the word “intimate” to show off a vernacular that awakens something in a female’s brain because it sounds better than “love” or deeply caring.
As a resident in a faith-based rehab in Georgia, I recently realized my opinion about this word was born from an immature place, from a heart that didn’t fully comprehend or value the true depth of its definition.
How could I have? As someone still realizing day by day what it means to love one’s self, it comes as no surprise the word “intimacy” was (and still can be) uncomfortable at times.
However, it is exactly what we, as humans, desperately seek. Oftentimes, we confuse intimate relationships with unhealthy, codependent control over what we think love for another person should be.
WHAT DOES INTIMACY MEAN?
To be intimate with God, yourself, and others is to strive to love like God loves – that is, unconditionally. Don’t set unseen expectations or unjust “goal posts” for someone just so they can unknowingly miss. What ends up happening is you hold it against them when they continuously fail. They fail through no fault of their own other than being an imperfect human being.
Ultimately, you are positioning your “love” as a token or prize that’s dangled in front of them. Your “love” is forever out of reach, like the old cartoon cliche of a carrot in front of a bunny or a steak in front of a dog. This is the opposite of unconditional love.
Love your neighbor, just for love’s sake. Don’t set out to control it. If someone shows they aren’t the one for you in a relationship, love them still, just a bit further away.
Love people for who they are and what they can become. Be honest with who you are and what motivations drive you. Be content with who you are as a person and understand that your love for yourself will eventually turn in to love for others. Eventually, it will be an intimate kind of love. This love won’t be trying too hard to mold something into what it was never supposed to be.
GOD’S GIFT TO US: RELATIONSHIPS
God gave us a great thing when he gave us each other. We were not meant to be alone. But we were never supposed to leave God behind when we found someone to be with either.
Without God, intimacy wouldn’t be an adjective used to describe relationships. Intimacy is an amazing gift, even if it is a frightening one.
This is also not a word only used to describe romantic relationships. God wants us to have intimate, profoundly deep, meaningful, life-changing friendships as well. For that, we should all be thankfully vigilant for our next opportunity to find and love someone with no strings attached.
Love by pure intention, just as God intended when he told us to “love thy neighbor”.