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  • Writer's pictureMegan Estes

A Sign of Victory in Co-Dependency

Updated: Feb 4

What is Co-dependency?

noun: co-dependency

  1. excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.

Celebrate Recovery, a biblically based ministry, says that one of the main characteristics of someone struggling with co-dependency is "assuming responsibility for other's feelings and behaviors." This may look like people pleasing, taking on other's feelings upon yourself, not recognizing your own hurts and feelings need validated, and trouble saying, "no" to someone because you want to avoid any conflict or anger.

(Celebrate Recovery is a biblically based approach through the 12 steps that I believe EVERY CHRISTIAN should walk through at some point in their life. It's not just for the addict or victim of abuse, it's for EVERY hurt and habit you've walked through in life--maybe it's pride, control, anger, or perfectionism.)

learning about co-dependency

Learning I Was Co-Dependent

I didn't even know what co-dependency was seven years ago. I had always described myself using the terms: people pleaser, perfectionist, and an avoider of conflict with others because I didn't feel like I could speak to how I was actually feeling, or voice any unmet needs in relationships outside of my home. I wanted to be liked and didn't want to be at fault for any problems or conflict in friendships. Seven years ago I went through my first 12 Step and began working on a few things--one being co-dependency. I'm a pretty confident and secure woman, so the thought of me being dependent on someone was really strange to me. But, once I read through Celebrate Recovery's definition I realized that the root of some of my anger, control, and perfectionism was due to co-dependency in relationships.

fruit of spiritual labor

Finding Fruit of Spiritual Labor--Signs of Victory in Co-Dependency

Fast forward seven years to now and I'm currently working through the 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery for the third time! I'm working on other issues because I've learned to build some healthy boundaries and balance my own needs with the demands/expectations of others and their behavior. I feel like I've grown lightyears in these seven years. And recently I was presented with an opportunity to truly test this growth in my own character and walk with the Lord.

Several years ago (while I was still in the beginning of recovery from being a co-dependent) I was deeply hurt by a friend who up and left my life. We were really close and I had been walking with her through Bible study and sharing in raising our kids together. She had a lot of conflict and chaos happening within the walls of her home, and so even though she was a good friend to me, I was trying to do everything I could to make sure she was safe, taken care of, and had help when needed. Despite us being extremely close and myself and my church family loving her and her family radically, they left abruptly. Unfortunately, when you're a leader in ministry sometimes when people leave "your church" it feels as if they are leaving you. That's something I no longer feel as deeply as I used to, but I used to be more sensitive about in the the early years of recovering from co-dependency. So when that friend left abruptly without so much of a "good-bye," it hurt deeply. I was silent about that hurt and did my best to encourage her on her new journey and stand strong.

I literally hadn't seen this person but maybe once or twice in passing the last several years until this past week. She came up to me and gave me a great big hug expressing her joy in running into one another. I had a spirit of peace come over me that surprised me, because the last time I saw her I had felt the ache of scars from past wounds. This day was different. I was confident in who I was and where I was at in relationships with others. After some lengthy conversation catching up on life (me being graciously guarded and making sure not to let down the healthy boundaries I had worked hard to build) this person offered a heart felt apology. They apologized if they hurt me in any way by just leaving all those years ago and confirmed that it was not because of anything I had done but simply because they didn't know how to be in relationship during that time of their life. I was honestly kind of shocked. As the recovering co-dependent it is usually MYSELF that comes to a friend to apologize first when I've been hurt by them. And if by chance someone comes to me to apologize you better believe that I'm apologizing right back at them to make sure I cover all my bases, even if I don't know what I'm apologizing for. My husband has even called me out on this at times, asking me, "what are you apologizing to that person for?" Sometimes I don't even know why--it's just an action I've taken to keep peace in a friendship or try and carry burdens that aren't mine to carry, and if I'm honest maybe even slightly manipulate restoration.

Back to the friend...

As I listened to her apology there was not a bone in my body that wanted to offer an apology back--even though I was frantically searching for one! SO WEIRD! I was asking God while she was speaking to show me what my part was, and all I felt I needed to do was say, "thank you." I thanked her for apologizing and we had a heartfelt conversation for several minutes afterward. Old Megan would have immediately reciprocated the apology trying to make sure that nothing was my fault and taking on some of the fault of hers.

victory in co-dependency

Celebrating Victory with Accountability

This was big. I walked with my accountability partner later that week and shared with her what had happened. It wasn't until I talked with my CR people that I even realized what I was experiencing was growth and victory from co-dependency! I was trying to figure out why I didn't feel guilty walking away from that relationship without apologizing and it took my accountability partners to point out that I wasn't immediately minimizing the hurt they had caused, nor assuming responsibility for their behavior. To be honest, I'm still processing this event. This friend from the past is now someone I'm going to see regularly because of our family commitments, so I'm going to have to be on guard for the old co-dependent Megan to rear her head. Thankfully, I've got my accountability team in place to call if I start worrying or carrying too much from this past relationship again. Praise God for community! It's the only way to true lasting recovery! I hope this post encourages someone today to take a step towards freedom from co-dependency, or even recognize if they're in a co-dependent relationship.

Celebrate Recovery's website is a great resource for handling hurts, habits, and hang-ups. If you are wondering if co-dependency is something you struggle with head on over here and check out their description of co-dependency, download their PDF, and see other resources they offer, like connecting to a 12 step group to work on these hang-ups and character flaws.

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