Codependency Part 2

Is there a cure?  

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.
—  Melody Beattie

Codependency—or relationship addiction—is much like any other addiction. A codependent relationship functions just like a drug. The “addict” needs it to be able to cope with insecurity, anxiety, and especially guilt. When a person I care about is not doing well, I experience these very uncomfortable feelings. So I’ll work to “fix” you at any cost, to get relief from my anxious thoughts and felling’s. In other words, I need you to be okay, so I can be okay. But codependent “helping” is always harmful, because we do things for others that they should be doing for themselves because of our own need to rescue.

In most cases, the root of codependency stems from children feeling responsible for adult problems. The feelings that are produced from these false beliefs are guilt and anxiety, which makes codependents need to control others to make those feelings go away. If I’m responsible for other people's problems, then I’ll feel guilty when they mess up. This can produce a constant state of anxiety to avoid feeling guilty.

Psychology tells us one of the attributes of healthy people is that they are able to get in touch with what they need and ask for it. Codependents are aware of the needs of others, but not their own. Their controlling behaviors push everyone away. This leads to loneliness, isolation, and vicariously living their lives through the needs of others. 

In all codependent relationships, the rescuer needs the victim as much as the victim needs the rescuer.
— Barbara De Angelis

Recently I was talking with a woman named Samantha, the mother of a 35-year-old alcoholic/addict. She has been enabling him most of his life. She talked about how guilty she feels because she was in an abusive relationship when he was young. Now she blames herself for how messed up he is. She doesn’t have much money, so she borrows money on credit cards to give him. In our conversation, two consistent themes emerged.

First, her son is always the victim. “Someone stole my wallet. I need a new battery for my car so I can look for a job. I quit work because the boss is a jerk.” In every story, her son presented himself as helpless, the victim of others or circumstances. Second, the conversation always ended up with him needing money so he can” get it together.” Even though Samantha understood all this, she felt powerless to stop rescuing him. She feared that if she didn’t help, he could die or go to prison and it would be her fault. Like many codependents, Samantha make her codependent decisions based on fear and guilt. And those who manipulate codependents know exactly how to use those feelings to get what they want.

In Genesis, we always look at any destructive behavior as merely a symptom of a more powerful root. In my experience, the root of most codependency is a set of false beliefs. One of the core concepts of Genesis is:

 Thoughts and beliefs → create emotions  →  that drive behavior.

The most common false beliefs at the core of codependency are:

  • “I'm responsible for other people’s feelings, problems and behaviors,” and

  • “If I'm not control, something bad will happen and it will be my fault.”

      Codependency or Relationship Addiction says:

  1. I’m OK when you’re OK.

  2. When you’re not OK then I’m not OK.

  3. So, the only way for me to be OK is to make you OK

  4. Thus, creating the need to control.

If beliefs cause feelings, and feelings drive behaviors, what would happen if we could change these false belief systems that drive the feeling of being responsible for others? Behavior would also change! These distorted belief systems reside in our heart (limbic system) and are changed through a partnership with the counselor and the Holy Spirit. We take these distorted beliefs to the Lord and he speaks truth which frees us from the lies and the behaviors that have become habitual to cope with them.

The Roots of Codependency

In my experience, the roots of codependency usually comes from, where a child feels responsible for  and tries to control adult problems. Whether its addiction, mental illness, abuse or neglect, anger/ rage or divorce it is common for a child to try hold the family together. The child can also become addicted to being needed. In other words, “I feel value when someone needs me”, and therefore feeling the opposite when not needed. So, a better name for codependency is “relationship addiction” ––I need you to be ok, for me to be ok. In the recovery field codependency can also be called enabling. When I’m working with addicts who don’t want to change, the first thing I do is to take away all their Enablers.  There’s an old saying that states:

Enablers kill more addicts than drugs and alcohol do.

It can be hard to know when our efforts to help others, are helping, and when they are hurting. Enabling (co-dependent rescuing) ends up hurting more than helping, because co-dependents are doing for others, what they need to be doing for themselves, out of their need to rescue thus creating dependency. Enabling is when someone, such as a spouse, friend, or family member, takes responsibility, blame, or makes accommodations, for a person’s bad choices and behaviors. They usually have good intentions, but their helping actually does more harm than good, because it minimizes the natural consequence of the person’s choices and behavior. It can actually shield the person from realizing that they have a prob­lem and, thus, reduces their motivation to change.

“Pain is Gods megaphone to a deaf world” C.S. Lewis

It is pain that motivates us to change, so enablers minimize the con­sequences of the person’s choices, thus reducing their motivation to change, keeping them from hitting a bottom.  Co-dependent helping always causes harm because you are doing some­thing for others that they should be doing for themselves. Examples could be, calling in sick to work for an alcoholic and making excuses so they won’t be held accountable for their destructive choices, especially giving those addicted money. Another good example is; how we rescue our teenagers from the consequences of their choices i.e.  saving the prodigals from the pigs.  When we do that we actually inhibit them from growing up. Are we helping or hurting them? Grace is not enabling—it leaves room for the consequences for our choices.  It is hard to trust God and not take control when people we care about are self-destructive.

In the next blog we will look at what drives co-dependency how it can be healed.

 
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The Secret of Recovery is Gratitude

The result of humility and receiving undeserved grace should always be gratitude. Since we are all in the process of recovering (returning to a former healthy state), gratitude should be the result. Receiving a life-giving gift, we don’t deserve is the central theme of the New Testament. The process of recovery usually begins with a spiritual awakening. We start by believing that there is a power outside of ourselves that can give us the strength and ability to overcome the destructive behaviors we can’t overcome on our own. The addict’s prayer is, “God save me from myself.” When that new strength happens, we will naturally be grateful. But when we start to grumble and complain that life, people, and God aren’t treating us right, (life is not fair) our ability to receive His grace through humility is diminished.

…. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10.10

We can measure whether or not we are in recovery by simply checking our level of gratitude. An attitude of gratitude and humility is the key to receiv­ing God’s restoring power. Of course, His grace usually comes through those who invest themselves in us when we don’t deserve it. They see something valuable in us, which is how He sees us. Faith, humility, and gratitude are a daily battle. Gratitude is simply realizing who is really in control. Make your goal to be the kind of human being who, when someone hits rock bottom, you will be the first person he/she thinks of to ask for help -  a person of grace and competency.  

God pours out the free gift to recovery to all unconditionally, what changes is simply our ability to receive it. Humility gives us the ability to ask for help whereas pride says, “can do it myself.” God says,” go for it I’ll be there when you come to the end of yourself.” God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.

The Power of Hope

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
— Helen Keller

Hope, which involves both beliefs and expectations, causes the brain to release neurochemicals called endorphins and enkephalins which actually mimic the effects of morphine, thus reducing pain and increased feelings of “I can do it.” Hope can be like a “runners high.” The result is that the brain can overcome fears and move to a place of change and risk. In scientific terms, hope and recovery are not causally connected, but they are correlated.  Real hope gives a feeling of confidence, optimism, and a willingness to take risks—a “go for it” ––“I can do it” confidence

There are basically two kinds of hope.

One kind of hope is a desire or longing. The word is used as a verb— “I hope everything is going to be okay,” or, “I hope it doesn’t rain this week.”

The other kind of hope is based on reality—based on what is  actually taking place in a person’s life, such as, “I have hope because I am doing the work to change”

For recovery purposes, hope is not a verb—it is a noun. It is something you either have or you don’t. When you project your current situation into the future, either hope or hopelessness looks back at you.

The Genesis Hope Formula:

HOPE comes from CHANGE,
CHANGE comes from RISK,
RISK comes from FAITH,
FAITH gives you the HOPE (Courage)
to CHANGE and RISK again.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
— Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Real hope gives a feeling of confidence, optimism, and a willingness and ability to take risks—a “go for it” ––“I can do it” confidence. When I teach now my targeted goal is to impart hope. In my experience people have hope when they believe that someone understands their inner world, what it’s like to be them. In other words when someone truly understands what’s broken with my self-destructive behavior––why I do the very thing I don’t want to do––how it got broken and what it takes to produce real change gives them the ability to seek help. It takes two things for those struggling to take the risk of asking for help, grace and competency. In other words, they believe you’re not going to judge them but that you also have the understanding, experience and tools that will help them be successful. 

Genesis Story

The following is a real life example of how God used the genesis process to transform a life.


My experience with Genesis taught me what my heart really is and that it has been distorted by being born into the World. This was caused both by the disfiguring effect of my human relationships and my own choosing. I learned that my heart is the instrument that God gave me to communicate with Him and each other and that I can easily fill it with things not of Him; that doing so is the nature of sin.

This would have sounded elementary or even pretentious to me before Genesis. But the knowledge I have gained is heart knowledge; not the head knowledge I’d sought. I cannot adequately express the gravity of the difference between the two. No other world-view or religion I’ve been involved with (I’ve tried several) or personal study with introspection did or ever could have led me to where I am now. This program is truly inspired by God Himself, funneled through a man who allowed himself to be used. I can hardly believe I am saying that, skeptic that I was.

Most of all I learned that changing my heart according to God’s will is not only possible, but that it takes work and human relationships, especially the ones with my dear brothers in the Genesis group. This has given me great hope about my future on Earth and in Heaven for the first time since I can remember.

Genesis for me has made the bible make sense because it led me to understand it isn’t about details that Christians argue about: How long were the six days of creation in Genesis? The dichotomy between works and faith? These arguments simply don’t matter if your heart is right with Him. I am eager to continue chipping away at the distortions of my heart to make it an available place for relationships with others and most of all Jesus, for whom I now genuinely yearn. This will be a lifetime task. Yes; being born again is real, but that happened to me a long time ago. I have finally begun the work, motivated by hope and a new sense of peace and certainty.  

Finally, I learned about addictions, that they can assume almost any form; that they fill up that void inside me, if I allow them. I also learned that cravings, A.K.A temptation, can actually go away if my heart is in the right place. For me this is true whether the craving is for money, power, sex, fame, family, substances... the list goes on. Without cravings, or shall I say if I crave only for the Lord, following the Him is far easier, than the many path’s I’ve been on for over 60 years, some disastrous; because His yoke truly is light. I’ve read that so many times before but never believed it, until now.  

Mark 
Chief Aerospace Engineer

Real Freedom Requires Heart Change

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.
~ Thomas More

The Bible teaches a lot about the heart—the word is used about 735 times in Scripture. For example, Jesus tells us that “the heart” can be desperately wicked, and Paul says the Word of God can change the thoughts and intentions of our heart. He also gives us an important understanding about the heart’s role in the process of change. In Romans 10:9-10, Paul says: 

“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

This important Scripture is key to understanding how we change our destructive behaviors. Paul says that with our hearts we believe, and what we believe results in how we act—righteousness. In other words, if you want to change your behavior, you have to change your beliefs, which reside in your heart.

One reason we have had so little success in changing self-destructive behavior is that we have tried to change it through our heads, using logic and information. But it’s this limbic system (our heart) that causes us, like Paul, to do the very thing we don’t want to do. It is our survival brain. It doesn’t respond very well to words—only experiences. Science is now helping us understand the logistics of New Testament transformation. Changing the unconscious beliefs in our hearts—the beliefs that drive our self-destructive behaviors—usually begins with a spiritual awakening (being born again). The problem is that the beliefs driving our self-destructive behaviors and emotions are mostly subconscious, and are almost impossible to see or change with our own self-effort. Jesus is all about heart change.  He came to, bind up broken hearts and set the captives free.

The Genesis Process helps uncover, challenge, and help change faulty beliefs that drive destructive behavior. Explore the roots of destructive patterns that keep others—and ourselves—trapped in cycles of bondage including: workaholism, food, anxiety, codependency, sex, shopping, alcohol, porn, substances, and other self-comforts. 


Sobriety Versus Recovery

Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it a hundred times.
— Mark Twain

Many people use the term “recovery” when they actually mean “sobriety.” Sobriety without recovery is simply abstinence—a cessation of a negative activity, but not necessarily a state that leads to long-term freedom and heart change. A big part of real recovery is a spiritual process, a partnership of healing of God working through people. The 1st step to recovery begins with sobriety.

Definitions: 
Sobriety:
To abstain from an addictive behavior.
Addiction: To continue to do a self-destructive behavior despite the consequences; an inability to stop; a loss of control.
Recovery: To return to a former healthy state (i.e., “Who were you before you were hurt by yourself and others?”)

When I do the weekend seminars I always ask the audience; how many of you are addicts? Usually a few people raise her hands. Then I give my definition of addiction, which is; to continue a self-destructive behavior in spite of the consequences. So, I ask; how many of you out there don’t do anything that you know is not good for you. Usually no one raises their hands. So, if you’re doing something that you know is not good for you why don’t you just stop? That’s crazy to keep doing something you know is not good for you. So, why do you keep doing it?  Obviously because it’s there to cope with something. I ask again, how many of you are addicts and almost everybody raises their hands.  Whether it’s food, chemicals, anxiety, anger, electronics, sex, work addiction, we all have adopted coping behaviors that have become habitual.  Real freedom is usually a spiritual process called recovery, which is to return to the person you were before you were wounded and found a way to cope , which in turn helped you do function–– feel normal.

The Empty Place

We all have a void, and a small quiet voice that is trying to get our attention to live as a healthy human being by prompting us to seek intimacy with God and others. We are designed for relationships. Intimate relationships are a foundational necessity for being a healthy human being. From years of working with hurting and addict­ed people, I have come to understand a common root that drives our self-destructive coping behaviors. Human addictive coping behaviors are simply ways to temporarily anesthetize the awareness of the empty place, which can feel like a deep loneliness. This empty place can only be filled by intimacy with God and people.

 

“The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people. The hardest is with one.”
~ Joan Baez


Thought for the Week: Submission

The other day, a woman who had been wounded by legalism asked me about my thoughts on submission. I thought I'd share my answer with you.

I believe the word submission has become very misunderstood because of how Christians and other religions have used it for power, control and abuse both within the church and personal relationships, e.g. wives submit to your husbands. Power is by far our most addictive emotion and we usually use philosophical or religious ideology to condone and justify it. I read recently that the word submission actually is a military term where one rank submits to a higher rank in order to achieve a common goal, thus voluntary cooperation.

Rebellion is the fear of being controlled.

 

Stress... The #1 Enemy

Stress is the # 1 killer and destroyer of our relationship in the USA.

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Many are turning to eastern religions because they teach practical tools for reducing stress and its effects. I have developed a Genesis mediation with practical tools for being able to lower stress what drives it. Stress is another word for fear. If you identify the fear (belief system) the stress will go away.

Try it for 30 days and you will see change.