26 Feb Sources for Recovery in Relationships by Sarah Frank, LMFT, ATR
Many of us have grown up with the goal of finding and maintaining healthy romantic relationships. In a world where more acceptance is being promoted around different definitions of a “relationship” there are still many fundamental aspects that apply universally. For those of us whose lives have been impacted by some form of addiction, whether our own or someone else’s, it can be especially challenging to know how to get our needs met in healthy ways in relationships. In my work as a therapist and former addiction counselor I have had many long conversations about this topic with those in recovery from addiction as well as their family members, partners, and friends. It is also not uncommon for many individuals to struggle with their own addiction as well as be impacted by the addiction issues of a loved one (sometimes referred to in AA and AlAnon as a “double winner”).
The author Melodie Beattie (author of “Codependent No More”) has written extensively on the recovery process for those who have been impacted by another’s addiction. She uses the term “codependency” to signify an emotional dependency on the person who is dependent on a substance or other addictive process and she has written at length about the struggles, characteristics, and recovery process for those who identify as “codependents”.
One of the main aspects of recovery from codependency is self-care, as it is usually the first sacrifice made in a relationship where addiction is present. There are many wonderful resources available on the subject of self-care, one only has to do an internet search with some added key words to see what I mean. The idea here is that relationships can only benefit when all parties are taking good care of themselves and have healthy perspectives on self-worth, as this is brought into the relationship and serves as a foundation for honesty, communication, empathy, and compassion.
In the history of 12-Step programs, AlAnon was the second of these programs co-founded by the wife of Bill W., the founder of AA, and another woman in 1951 to help family members of alcoholics apply the same principles of 12-step recovery to themselves, knowing that they had also suffered the impact of alcoholism. If you are curious about characteristics common in codependency I would suggest looking at some of the 12-step model programs geared towards this which include (but are not limited to) AlAnon (for those affected by someone else’s drinking), NarAnon (for those affected by someone else’s use of narcotics), CoDa (Co-Dependents Anonymous), and SAnon (for those affected by someone else’s sexual behavior).
I hope these are some useful resources for you or someone you know. A common saying in 12-step meetings is “take what you like and leave the rest”, which I take to mean there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but there certainly are a lot of resources that may be helpful to you if you take the time to learn more.