3) Late Stage
Now the emotional and behavioral symptoms begin to affect our health. We may experience stress-related disorders, such as digestive and sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension or pain, eating disorders, TMJ, allergies, sciatica, and heart disease. Obsessive-compulsive behavior or other addictions increase, as well as lack of self-esteem and self-care. Feelings of hopelessness, anger, depression, and despair grow.
The good news is that the symptoms are reversible when a codependent enters treatment. People don’t generally seek help until there’s a crisis or they’re in enough pain to motivate them. Usually, they aren’t aware of their codependency and may also be in denial about someone else’s abuse and/or addiction Recovery begins with education and coming out of denial. Reading about codependency is a good beginning, but greater change occurs through therapy and attending a Twelve-Step program, such as Al-Anon, CoDA, Nar-Anon, Gam-Anon, or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
In recovery, you gain hope and the focus shifts from the other person to yourself. There are early, middle, and late stages of recovery that parallel recovery from other addictions. In the middle stage, you begin to build your own identity, self-esteem, and the ability to assertively express feelings, wants, and needs. You learn self-responsibility, boundaries, and self-care. Psychotherapy often includes healing PTSD and childhood trauma.
In the late stage, happiness and self-esteem doesn’t depend on others. You gain the capacity for both autonomy and intimacy. You experience your own power and self-love. You feel expansive and creative, with the ability to generate and pursue your own goals.
Codependency doesn’t automatically disappear when a person leaves a codependent relationship. Recovery requires ongoing maintenance, and there is no perfect abstinence. After a number of years in treatment, the changes in thinking and behavior become increasingly internalized, and the tools and skills learned become new healthy habits. Still, codependent behavior can easily return under increased stress or if you enter into a dysfunctional relationship. Perfectionism is a symptom of codependency. There is no such thing as perfect recovery. Recurring symptoms merely present ongoing learning opportunities!
©Darlene Lancer 2016