If someone in your life is codependent-a spouse, parent, child or friend-your support may be an important part of recovery. Here are some ways you can help.
Begin a dialogue about childhood and messages your spouses might have received from his parents that could have caused shame. You might want to share your own experiences of shame and how they affected you. If you are recovering from an addiction, it might be useful to discuss how most spouses are affected by their partner’s addiction and what might be helpful to him (Al-Anon Meetings, Codependence Anonymous Meetings). Attending therapy with a spouse or buying a book on codependence and reading it together are other ways to begin to help.
You might want to get a friend to open up to you by sharing your own insights with him. You can offer to go to a Codependents Anonymous Meeting with him or buy him a book to read about codependence. You also could offer him a place to stay (if he is living with an addict and could benefit from time apart) or a referral to a mental health professional. Sometimes making the first phone call for help can be the first step toward empowering the person to get well.
Helping a child, unless it’s an adult child, might not be appropriate since codependency as dysfunctional behavior is hard to distinguish from normal dependency when a child is still young. If you are the parent of an adult son or daughter who is now in a codependent relationship, you could help by telling your child how much you love her and that getting well is possible. Remind your child of the strengths and positive qualities that sustained her through other difficult times. Offer a place to stay or to go to a 12-Step meeting with her.
Helping a parent often is like helping adult children. Parents may resist taking advice from their children. But if, together, you can go to a 12-step meeting, go to therapy or read a book on codependence, you may begin to stir up a desire for recovery.
Helping a coworker might include sharing information over lunch or inviting her over for coffee after work. If you are aware of a codependence problem with a coworker, chances are she already has entrusted you with some intimate information. However, work might not be the best place to discuss a topic as personal as codependence. Often, you can help just by offering to listen outside work or to be an escort to a 12-step meeting.