The meaning of codependency as well as how to find healing can be confusing. As a relationship therapist, I intimately know how confusing codependency is to understand it also is at times. A common question I would get from my clients was, “Am I codependent?”
Because of this confusion on both the meaning, and healing path, for codependency, I decided to write my book, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle. My intention was to clarify codependency’s meaning. I also wanted to help simplify the healing process from codependency with a 5-step system that works.
What is Codependency?
In this article, I’ll be reviewing my book, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle. An overview of its material is provided to help you recover as well.
Firstly, lets discuss the meaning of codependency. Fundamentally, codependency is an internal process of devaluing one’s self to prioritize others’ needs, wants, thoughts, and feelings. In my book, I define codependency as “prioritizing others’ needs, expectations, or problems over one’s own mental and physical health” (p. 6).
A person who is struggling with codependency has this issue whether they are in a relationship or single. The codependency exists within the individual rather than just the relationship. Therefore, codependency doesn’t go away just because someone ends an unhealthy relationship.
The Meaning of Codependency: Its Symptoms
A person is codependent whether they are in a relationship or not. Individually, they will be experiencing the symptoms of codependency. The five core domains of codependency symptoms are outlined in The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle. These five domains are people pleasing, struggling with self-worth and/or self-awareness, issues with reality, distorted thinking, and intimacy issues.
In this book, you will be able to take a quiz to assess if you may have codependency. This self-assessment is invaluable because it helps you identify the intensity of your symptoms. This builds self-awareness which is one of the elements of codependency recovery.
The Meaning of Codependency: Where It Comes From
Codependency stems from life experiences which wound a person’s sense of self-worth and ability to navigate relationships skillfully. In The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle, you learn about family roles. When we play a role for our family growing up, like being a high-achiever (hero), we learn our worth comes from how we perform we others. This deprives us the sense of learning how to be authentic and believe in our inherent value. This need to perform for others to be accepted lays the groundwork for codependency.
Healing Codependency: The 5 Steps
While codependency may be commonplace, it is completely possible to heal from it. You will learn about the 5 steps to recover from codependency in The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle.
Healing from codependency requires self-awareness, self-care, boundaries, communication skills, and intimacy skills. While it takes time to learn and integrate these skills, ultimately, recovery involves the practice of all these steps together.
Step One: Self-Awareness
The first step of codependency healing is to become more connected with yourself. This process begins the moment you begin reading The Codependency Recovery Plan as you learn more about what codependency means and how it develops. Of course, like all the steps cultivating self-awareness continues throughout your life.
You are provided opportunities to connect with your needs and wants. You also learn more about your internal beliefs and how they may be helpful or harmful. Finally, you are given an opportunity to release shame by rewriting your story based on your truth.
Step Two: Committing to Self-Care
Next, to recover from codependency, it’s essential to work through the people pleasing tendencies you may have. It’s common, in codependency, to feel so guilty taking time for yourself or saying “no” that you just don’t do it. Of course, neglecting yourself leads to more stress and resentment. It also hurts your relationship with yourself because you never have time to built this connection.
I understand how hard it is to commit to self-care though. It is one of the most common struggles of my clients with codependency. Therefore, in this book, I encourage you to prioritize self-care yet create small, tangible goals. For example, taking one minute to do breathing exercises a day is better than nothing. Start simply to begin caring for your emotions. In this chapter, you are provided numerous strategies to do this.
Related: What is Self-Compassion?
Step Three: Identifying, Setting, and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries
Codependency recovery is not complete without learning how to protect yourself with healthy boundaries. In codependency, it’s common to deprioritize yourself both in time and by not speaking up for your needs. It makes sense that it can be scary to talk to others about your needs and you may not want to be a burden. Yet, without healthy boundaries, resentment festers as does a sense of poor self-worth.
In this book, I provide various exercises to have better boundaries. I include the visualization I still practice daily for relief. This skill has truly been invaluable to my own recovery as well as countless clients’ healing.
Furthermore, knowing that healthy boundaries are both essential yet often complex to navigate, I wanted to go further with this topic. That’s what I created my course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself. In this course, I simplify the process of having better boundaries with a 4-step system (hey, I like my systems!). If you want to deepen you recovery, I highly encourage both reading my book and taking the course to stop people pleasing and start being true to yourself.
Related: 5 Ways to Stay no Contact with Your Ex
Step Four: Communicating Openly and Kindly
Once you identify your boundaries, you must communicate these with others. In The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle, you both learn how to identify ineffective communication as well as how to cultivate healthy communication skills.
Please know, it’s natural and human to struggle with poor communication at times especially if it was role modeled growing up. However, through practice and commitment we can learn how to speak directly with kindness to others to share who we are as well as to know them. This fosters healthy intimacy.
Related: My boyfriend yells at me but then apologizes. What should I do?
Step Five: Nurturing Intimacy
Learning how to have truly healthy, and intimate, relationships with others and yourself is the ultimate goal of codependency. This state of being is called “interdependency.” This process includes accepting others, being vulnerable, and practicing gratitude. Of course, nurturing intimacy is a life-long process. Some days and moments are easier than others. We will never be perfect in this step – or any of the steps. Instead, recovery occurs when are connected to your worth and the commitment to these skills.
It is scary to have true intimacy with others but when you are interdependent, you know it’s worth being courageous. After all, being seen and truly knowing another person are ultimately what adds great meaning and joy in this life.
Related: 7 (Not So Obvious) Signs of Emotional Abuse
Recovery is a lifestyle. Every day, in every moment, you get to make a choice to nurture your recovery or act from codependent urges. This book is an invaluable resource in learning how to practice codependency recovery daily.
I am very proud of this book; both the system and its impact on others. My main intention was to write a book that didn’t just focus on describing codependency but instead focused on its healing. As one reviewer says, “I know I’m codependent help me not to be.” This is what I chose to do.
In each step, you learn a variety of skills. You are also given opportunities to practice these skills through different exercises. I’m very proud that many people have shared this book is life-changing. These very skills changed my own life, as well as my clients’ lives.
If you are struggling with codependency, I highly encourage you to both read, and practice the steps, in The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle. I’m sending you love as you go through your healing journey!
About The Author, Krystal
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. She has focused her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She teaches the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her course, Confidently Authentic: Stop People Pleasing and Start Being True to Yourself, provides the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. This course features over a year of relationship skills you would learn in therapy. Students share this course has been “life changing.”
Each week, she answers your relationship questions from a place of expertise and compassion. To submit your relationship questions, please DM us @confidentlyauthentic.com