I lived ten years with an alcoholic. I used to wonder why I was with that person, since I did not have the prior experiences normally associated with choosing unwisely. I had a pretty good upbringing, with fairly normal parents, and had never been abused or molested in any way. It took me a long time to figure out that having an emotionally distant father, who is after all, a girl's first male role model, went a long way to contributing to lowered self-esteem.
My mother helped sway the pendulum back the other way, because in general she was very supportive. I was lucky to have someone in my life like that, or it may have turned out very differently.

After much time on the roller coaster that is known as an alcoholic co-dependent relationship, I started examining where I was going wrong, and getting some help and insight into myself, via books. After reading 'Co-Dependent No More', my life became much better, if only from an interior viewpoint. I could see how co-dependency shapes many lives, or rather I came to see how detachment could help many people live their lives more peacefully, and productively.

When you are not wrapped up in another person's every mood, word, drama, feeling, etc., you are more free to live your own life, and figure out your own feelings. This is not to say you don't love your child, friend, husband, wife, dog, etc. You are just not entwined in their every feeling and act. I should have left the family pet out of this. They are co-dependent on us, not the other way around.
The holidays are coming around yet again, which means that many people will get caught in the trap of recycling old relationships. Short of cutting off your family altogether, many people need to learn coping skills at dealing with all the old baggage that family, or even ex-family bring out in us. It is not easy. It is easy to give advice to other people about how they should behave with the 'others', but it is not easy to step back and see how you should behave, and then change your behavior accordingly. Personally, I think behavior change is probably the most difficult challenge any of us face.

Crisis and chaos don't really feel good to most people, but if that is what you are used to, then you may not know how to live without it. One of the best things that ever happened to me was going through a period of loneliness and depression so deep, I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, feeling like I was being smothered. I didn't know what to do about it, so I went to see a counselor. I had put it off, imagining a long-term, expensive program of talk and getting nowhere. Au contraire, all she did was suggest I keep a journal. I did, and it helped. Gradually, I learned to be happy alone (other than my son), and on my own, and responsible for myself. I had been all those things before, but for some reason, moving up north felt different. It was truly my own move, on my own terms. I had gotten what I wanted, and didn't know what to do about it.

This pathway to freedom has its own price, however. When I reunited with the love of my life two years later, I was ill-prepared to give up any of my hard-won independence. I yearned for a special love relationship like everyone else does, but again, when I got what I wanted, I didn't know what to do about it. It took us a long time to find our rhythm of life together, and we still hit snags. The difference with our age and experience is that we know an argument is not life threatening, permanent, or even damaging to the relationship.

Co-dependency can keep resurfacing throughout our lifetimes. Being around certain people can trigger the feelings and actions. Our children growing up and moving out, can do it; being overly tired, or falling in love can do it. We may never get over acting out the scenarios, but if we can understand ourselves better, and come up with techniques to extricate ourselves as quickly as possible, then we have come a long way to defeating the self-defeating patterns.
Be on the lookout for some warning signs that tell you when self-defeating patterns start to emerge. Some of these may be:

1. Your emotions shut down. You start ignoring emotions, and telling yourself that feelings are unimportant, as are wants and needs.
2. Compulsive behaviors return. You may start eating, or drinking, or smoking compulsively. Working compulsively is also part of it.
3. A victim self-image pops its head up. We may start feeling sorry for ourselves, or blaming others, or finding scapegoats.
4. Self-worth drops. Feelings of inferiority return, and feelings of shame or guilt rear their ugly heads.
5. Self-neglect starts. Dropping the good things that make you feel happy and whole.
6. All the old stuff starts coming back; feeling disconnected, feeling isolated, feeling angry or resentful, feeling guilty because we feel all these things. Feeling trapped, feeling like we have no other choices, is highly suspect. Watch out if you start feeling underappreciated, or feeling like a martyr.

All of these feeling should engender a warning flag, and stop you in your tracks. You can then say, 'Oops, I'm doing it again.' It's ok to keep falling into the same trap; you need to forgive yourself and find healthier behaviors.

Author's Bio: 

I am still enjoying my blog with it being almost eighty strong in articles. Find more parts to the Codependency series on PurelyOurs.com. Subscribe to the RSS Feed!