Insight for the Journey: A Better Understanding of Codependent Behaviors

Insight for the Journey: A Better Understanding of Codependent Behaviors

A New Twist on Codependency 

Family members of people with substance use disorders are often referred to as co-dependent. They are warned of rescuing and enabling addiction habits and lifestyles. Master’s level clinician and educator, Robert Weiss Ph.D.,MSW, has a helpful twist on understanding the interactions of families caught up in substance use disorders. Due to the negative meaning associated with co-dependency he created a new paradigm called “prodependence” designed to be a more compassionate and understanding support for family members of addicts. Weiss explains: 

Interestingly, prodependence recommends and implements the same basic therapeutic actions as codependence: a fresh or renewed focus on self-care, implementation of healthier boundaries, and an ever-improving response to the addict and the addiction. But prodependence views this work through a different lens. Prodependence does not ever ask loved ones to doubt themselves, to doubt their love for the addict, or to consider some of their loving as pathological. Nor does it give them any reason to feel as if they are “part of the problem.” I believe that we can create change in such partners by validating their efforts as being nothing but love — no matter how ineffective — and then shifting their efforts toward becoming more useful. We do not need to discuss enabling, past trauma, or the spouse having contributed to the problem.1 

In his model, Robert Weiss reframes typical codependent language with empathetic and caring terms. 

Codependent Versus Prodependent Traits 

Codependent Traits

  • Enmeshed 
  • Externally focused 
  • Enabling 
  • Fearful 
  • Lacking healthy boundaries 
  • Can’t say no 
  • Obsessed with the addiction 
  • Living in denial 
  • Angry 
  • Controlling 
  • Hypervigilant 

Prodependent Traits

  • Deeply involved 
  • Concerned about others 
  • Supporting 
  • Concerned 
  • Eager to care for a loved one 
  • Chooses to say yes 
  • Determined to protect the addict 
  • Unwilling to give up 
  • Fearful of further loss 
  • Trying to be heard 
  • Anticipating problems

The prodependence model keeps the same goals of self-care, firm boundaries, and healthy interactions between family members. Viewing relationships through a different lens helps us to see the love, connection, and compassion of the family toward the one struggling with addiction. It removes some of the stigma, refusing to focus on the dysfunctional rescuing, compromised boundaries, and enmeshed relationship. Instead, prodependence acknowledges the crisis events in addiction and the resulting attachment crisis that threatens family stability. By using a new lens, healing, health, and hope come clearly into focus. 

Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!

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