At the young age of 6, the codependent in me started to bloom. My father was an alcoholic and my mother was the codependent I modeled myself after. My mother took care of everyone first, was a hard worker, kind, caring, and compassionate. As I was the older sister of twin girls and coming from a double income family where both parents worked, I took on the responsibility of caring for my sisters. I helped with feeding, bathing, and dressing them when my Mom was working. I sat in between their cribs during nap time, trying to get them to sleep which seldom happened right away. Mothering and nurturing were my best traits and I was the grownup, mature kid. My siblings had their own codependency issues, which were revealed later in ways far different from mine. My brother, the angry one; my older sister, the fighter; one twin turned to alcohol and drugs; the other twin turned to God and self-expression. I quite possibly was the perfect middle codependent child, always taking care of everyone and everything.
Hiding my true self became as simple as tying my shoes in the morning. My friend that has known me since I was four years old recently told me she had no idea of the issues or troubles that went on behind our closed doors. This was a girl I have known for 40 years. I consider myself a secret agent – harboring multiple secrets, and all the while completing whatever my mission was at any given time. There were many times when I simply could not deal with the outside world, or the world inside my home. During these times I would end up hiding in my closet or I would write notes or letters, sometimes I would just cry. My parents would argue frequently, with my father saying many, many awful things to my mother. This fighting caused me to stay in the closet weeping and hoping my parents wouldn’t divorce. While the upheaval was occurring in our home, I started to develop my slightly obsessive organizational sense. I brought an old cart with three shelves into my room, took a box with bottle separators and flipped it on its side, grabbed some pads of paper and medical forms (with carbon paper) and created a “hotel front desk.” I made mailboxes for these rooms using the box with the separators and played “receptionist” for hours. This fantasy role took me to a grown up world with friendly people and a different type of responsibilities. This was the beginning of my desire to work in an office setting.
The definition of codependency. Codependency or codependence is behaving in an excessively caretaking or overly passive way that negatively impacts your relationships and quality of life. Codependents are also known to put their needs on hold while, at the same time, being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. Codependency may also be characterized by low self-esteem, excessive compliance, and/or control patterns. A codependent is similar to a pack mule and will create a routine of continuing on their path regardless of how they think or feel.
Codependency manifests itself in many ways. In many people, it is the only way of coping with an exorbitant amount of unhappiness in a family due to alcoholism or any type of addiction. A codependent will take over the reins in this situation and try to steer towards a happier place, or what appears to be a happier place, and then proceed to have everyone around them believe it is a happy place. This form of control becomes a way of life for the codependent. Codependents are known to have ordinary, positive character, with assorted behavior traits thrown in. These traits can include: judgment of self, hypersensitivity to criticism, constantly seeking approval, fear of anger, and a need to control. We can refer to a codependent as a person with hyper-normal behavior, meaning this person will act in a normal fashion, however, if something is not quite right, their behavior can become quickly escalated. The codependent can be overly responsible, overly needy, overly engaging, and overly caring. They will also take on so much that they will overlook their own needs.