Co-dependency - Part 1

March 24, 2016 Length: 42:44

Treating the relationship illness co-dependency, mother of addictions.

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In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

I’d like to welcome all of you to the podcast number 13: Healing Addictions: The Orthodox Method of Treatment. I will begin by praying the Akathist prayers to the Mother of God as we have in the past. For those that are familiar with them, you can join me. I am on kontakion 13. For our members, this is the point where we are asked to create a short list of individuals that we’re praying for, beginning with yourself and your family. Then, as members, we share those lists. The ministry of the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup is fundamentally a ministry of intercession, and it is at this point where the Mother of God asks us who it is that we’re praying for. I will pause just a moment at that time, and anyone that wants further information, of course, regarding our fellowship, please contact us. Seek out our website, which is inexhaustiblecup.org for further information regarding membership and participation in these holy prayers.

O most-holy Mother of our sweetest Lord Jesus Christ, hear this our prayer. Deliver us from every infirmity of soul and body, and especially free thy servants and handmaidens suffering from alcoholism and all manner of addictions, that we and they may not perish, but be saved, and thus always sing to God: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

The angelic choirs of the righteous unceasingly glorify thee, O Theotokos, Queen of All, intercessor for us sinful Christians, wallowing in lawlessness and continuing in sin. It is for our consolation and salvation that thou, in thy mercy, dost give us this miraculous icon, so that, gazing upon it as the brightest star amongst a multitude of stars, we may fall down before thy holy icon the inexhaustible cup, calling out from the depths of our hearts:

Rejoice, dwelling-place of the unapproachable Godhead; rejoice, constant wonder of mankind!
Rejoice, perfect cleanser of our sins through sorrows; rejoice, healer of our infirmities through afflictions!
Rejoice, bestower of heavenly mercy through thy miraculous icon!
Rejoice, joy of our grieving hearts; rejoice, wonderful reconciliation of all with God!
Rejoice, eternal deliverance from Gehenna; rejoice, O sovereign Lady, the inexhaustible cup that quenches our spiritual thirst!

A wonderful and marvelous healing has been given to us by thy holy icon, O sovereign Lady Theotokos. By its appearance we have been delivered of spiritual and physical afflictions and from sorrowful circumstances. Therefore we bring to thee our grateful praise, O all-merciful protectress! O sovereign Lady of the Inexhaustible Cup, bend down thine ear and mercifully hear our sighs and cries for help that we bring to thee, and give deliverance to those who suffer from drunkenness so that we may cry out to thee with faith: Rejoice, O sovereign Lady, the inexhaustible cup that quenches our spiritual thirst!

I want to thank you, all that are listening. Today we are going to address a very important topic. There is an illness that is related to all addictions that, in my opinion, after years of work in the field of the treatment of all manner of addictions, that I’ve made some conclusions about. This illness has more to do with the effects of addicted individuals in our families over the generations. The effects are great, because wherever there is an addiction, wherever there is a marriage that has been principally disrupted, the effect upon children is enormous, and there is an illness among therapists for years now, for some years, that is emerging, that is being discussed, and people are attempting to treat it. But as I said, it has more to do with the effects of addictions, not necessarily the addiction itself, like to a substance or to lust, as we’ve described, or to overeating or any number of other addictions. In my opinion, with all the work that I have done in the field, I have come to some conclusions, and I do believe that this particular illness may be the mother of all addictions. It is in many ways the root cause, and in order to be free from principal addictions, most people that I know that are addicted have this illness, and we’re going to discuss it today.

That illness is a relationship illness which we call co-dependency. In the first part of this podcast, I’m going to give you some basic and general information. I’m going to try to combine some traditional work among therapists today, and I’m going to focus also on a place where there is treatment in terms of 12-Step recovery and a fellowship for those that are afflicted by the illness of co-dependency can go to and participate in to get better, to remove levels of dysfunction in our relationships. This particular illness of co-dependency is a relationship illness. It’s come mostly in our upbringing. Most people are the product of years, of generations—not just our parents, but theirs and the parents before them—of the effects of addictions, which we’re going to discuss, and, from the Church’s point of view, we can look at it as years of the effect of sin and its devastation and its dismemberment and attack upon the sacrament of holy matrimony which is one of the most precious relationships which God has created for our salvation. It is a sacrament in the holy Orthodox Church.

But over the generations, even the effects of unrepented sin from that perspective bring about a whole level of disorder and dysfunction and illness, and we’re going to discuss some of the symptoms, primarily: what this illness looks like, how it came about, and how we are affected today. Then, of course, in future podcasts, we’re going to consider the solution to this problem, where we can be healed.

One of the most important fellowships I can bring up today is called ACA Red Book 12-Step Fellowship. You can look them up. ACA stands for Adult Children of Alcoholics or Dysfunctional Households. Members of this fellowship are not just physically an adult child, a child of an addicted mother or father; there is an equal amount of members who have been affected by dysfunctional patterns and behaviors over the generations, and they enter into this fellowship in order to gain emotional and spiritual health, healing.

We know that this illness primarily has come within our childhood upbringing, and there is a strong focus when you read the literature and you enter into participate in this 12-Step fellowship… There’s a very strong emphasis on a call to forgive one’s parents and all principal authority figures that may have sinned against you. It’s a call to be released from the effects of sin and primarily our lack of forgiveness and to grow up in the Lord, to leave on some level our earthly parents and those ways in which they have sinned against us and to forgive at a deeper level, and along with that forgiveness be released from the effects which are often negative and destructive. And not only that, but they put individuals in a position where they are much more prone to becoming addicted themselves without treatment.

So let’s take a look at these symptoms of co-dependency. Let’s define it and describe it in a more traditional manner. Then I will draw on some of the work of ACA Red Book to further explain what this illness is about. Co-dependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to another. It’s an emotional and behavioral condition that affects and individual’s ability to have healthy, mutual, satisfying relationship. It’s also known among many therapeutic circles, traditional therapists, as a relationship addiction, because people with co-dependency often form or maintain relationships that are one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive.

The disorder, as I mentioned, was really first defined approximately ten years ago. It was defined as a result of years of studying years of personal relationships of families of alcoholics or addicts. Co-dependency behavior is learned by watching and imitating other family members who display this type of behavior. One of the most interesting facts that adult children come to terms with is that within their upbringing, especially where an addiction or a mental disorder, a mentally ill parent or a high level of dysfunction is present, children often imitate or get infected by the very same illness that is principally untreated in their parents. And the pattern of dysfunction repeats itself over the generations. We’re going to want to know more about it, and we’re going to want to know how to treat it. I’ve already discussed in a previous podcast the importance of praying for the souls of the departed, because we know that this illness and other addictions are passed down, and in order for us to heal today, we must be committed to praying and releasing those before us or praying for those that may have been addicted or afflicted and not been principally repentant enough during their lifetime, because their effects have often been on their children and their children after that. We know that the Lord himself is at work in rooting out illness and sin and forgiving mankind for multiple acts of disobedience, and he’s not only interested in bringing us healing, but he wants to bring healing to those who have trespassed against us, by our commitment to forgive.

Co-dependency often affects a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a co-worker of a person afflicted with an addiction. Originally co-dependency and its term was described as partners in chemical dependency, persons living with or in a relationship with an addicted person. Today, though, the whole topic has broadened, because one doesn’t have to have an addicted parent; one can have the product of a single parent, where a father is missing or there’s been a divorce and a mother is principally carrying the burden of trying to be father and mother to their children, and they fall short, of course, because we were all intended on having both father and mother. So it’s broadened in terms of it’s not just for those who have had a parent who’s actually addicted; it’s also an illness that comes from just being raised in what we call a dysfunctional household.

So what’s the dysfunctional family look like? Well, we often have—and this is over generations—someone afflicted with drugs, alcohol, relationships, abusive relationships. We have workaholism as a huge problem over the generations, where parents virtually check out and are too busy working but not necessarily providing and nurturing to children that which they need, emotionally and spiritually. We have the sexual addiction that we’ve discussed. Gambling—all manner of addictions bring on devastating effects. One of them is the inability to grow up emotionally and spiritually to forgive at a deeper level, and especially to acquire and re-establish a proper relationship with the Lord himself. This illness attacks one’s ability to have learned to pray as a child and to remain faithful in that prayer and to principally learn to serve the Lord and to please him above everyone else. Most adult children are crippled, emotionally and spiritually, because one of the hallmarks of this illness is the need to gain the approval of others at all costs. And often one’s spiritual life is denied in the process. Adult children are survivors, but they don’t necessarily get nor nurture early on and maintain the proper relationship with the Lord, and are even in a position to be freed from the effects of sin themselves, which is what we are all intended to try to give the kind of environment to our children that can help them be free of sin principally, because we’re committed ourselves as parents.

So anyway, dysfunctional families do not acknowledge that the problem exists. This is a big problem. There is a high degree of denial in addictive households or their effects, and in homes with high degrees of dysfunctional relationship. They don’t talk about them or confront them, the effects. As a result, family members learn to repress emotions and disregard their own needs. As I mentioned before, they become survivors; most of us are. They develop behaviors that help them deny, ignore, or avoid difficult emotions. They detach themselves. They don’t talk. They don’t touch. They don’t confront. They don’t feel, and they don’t trust. The identity and emotional development of the members of a dysfunctional family are often inhibited. Attention and energy focus on family members who are ill or addicted. The co-dependent person often sacrifices their own needs to try to take care of a parent who is afflicted or dysfunctional.

When co-dependents place other people’s health, welfare, and safety before their own too much, they just can lose their ability to know what their own needs are, their own desires, and principally, as I mentioned, without a proper re-establishment of a child who learns to pray and not just survive at home, they’re fundamentally not going to be committed nor know enough about nor trust that the Lord himself is the one who calls us to have him as our parent ultimately, not just our biological. For he is our creator, and he has called us by name, and our souls have been afflicted by sin over the generations. Today and from the beginning of time the Lord has desired to free children of the effects of sin and to remove them and to have them leave their parents emotionally and spiritually, which we all have to do at some point, forgive them, but be released from the effects of sin at home and over the generations, because we are meant to serve and to be called by name and to follow the Master, our King and our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is going to be intent by the action of the Holy Spirit to lead us to relationship with his Father.

This was the basis of his coming into the world, suffering on the cross, and rising from the dead. The whole ministry of inner healing within the Church is often lacking, but it is a call to forgive and to come to terms with sin and the effects of sin over the generations so that the Lord himself can have his will be done in our lives, for us to re-establish relationship and communion with him, to heal our souls of the dysfunctions and the effects of sin upon us, and that is great for most of us because the soul is most vulnerable to sin and to hurt and to dismemberment and to dysfunction as children. So the Lord is about healing our pasts and removing its effects by a call to forgive at a deeper level.

So let’s talk about how co-dependents behave. Co-dependents have usually low self-esteem, and they’re always looking to have their needs met outside of themselves. There’s a very strong possibility that this tendency will end up in looking to something uncreated, and now we’re looking at the relationship between this illness possibly being the root of addictions, because co-dependency is usually at work long before an addiction sets in, because a person that’s co-dependent has learned to survive, learned to continue to look, often to parents who themselves have a measure of sin and illness or addiction and are not able to parent them or to nurture them because of their own illness. And, therefore, they’re continuing to be almost suspended in this need to get approval and to get the blessing of their parents who are ill themselves.

We all have a measure of this, and ultimately we must re-establish our ability to gain the ability of the Lord himself, by removing acts of disobedience in our lives, by cooperating with his holy will, for he desires to nurture and to give us everything that we need, and to re-establish that which we had before the Fall of Adam and Eve: communion with the Lord High God, intimacy, a security of the knowledge of his love for us as children, and an identity rooted in being a son or a daughter of the Father, the Giver of life, the Giver of every good gift. This process requires the pain and hardship of dealing with grievances and the sins of our forefathers upon our souls and bodies as we were raised, and to grow up in the Lord in such a way that we can leave and forgive and see the hand of God redeeming the suffering of our past, redeeming every act of evil and trauma upon our soul and body, and removing the effects of this sin, which is death itself, and re-establishing life in abundance. We’re talking about a real-live experience of the cross and the resurrection of the Lord himself.

This is an illness which was developed in childhood, and we will need to make a return and be willing to become child-like and place our souls first and to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness in order for all things to be added unto us. And it will require the great and painful journey of the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ and our own cross, that where we were hurt, where were rejected, where we were forsaken by our parents, just as Christ experienced in his passion and the cross. And through and by grace, by our dependency on, principally, the body and blood of the Lord, we are given the ability to forgive those who have trespassed against us and to ultimately also forgive ourselves, because one of the curses of mankind and of children is that, no matter what their affliction has been, they primarily have carried a curse which is that they feel responsible for the sins of their parents and others. They blame themselves. We feel condemned and responsible.

While we are partially responsible and we are needing to grow up and to do right things to follow the Lord, we’re not completely responsible for the sin and its effects over the generations. And the Lord comes to each of us and invites us into this journey where we’re going to descend into the heart, deal with those traumatic times and memories, and avail ourselves to him to forgive and to be forgiven.

Let’s look at the chief characteristics of co-dependency. One: An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others. I just mentioned this. A tendency to confuse love and pity, and the tendency to love people they can pity and rescue. A tendency to do more than their share all of the time. A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts. Also, feeling hurt or being unable to receive constructive and loving criticism. An unhealthy dependency upon other relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold onto a relationship, even one that is chock-full of abuse, emotionally and spiritually, and even physically—to avoid the feeling of abandonment. Many of these feelings were experienced as children; they’re going to need to be gracefully rooted out, and the loving action of the Holy Spirit must shine upon and meet us where we have been traumatized and hurt in order for him to redeem the suffering that we experienced as children.

And extreme need for approval and recognition. I’ve mentioned this already. A sense of guilt when asserting themselves. A compelling need to control others. As I mentioned that we often mimic and imitate dysfunction or illness in our family life, many parents are co-dependent, and their tendency to try to control children is much more than nurturing them or allowing them to develop a relationship separate from them and ultimately putting them in a position to be obedient and to follow the will of the Lord for them, not only their own as parents. This tendency to over-manage and over-control is rampant, and it’s destructive to children, because our own agenda is at work, not necessarily the work of what the Lord wants for us.

The pattern is repeated. Co-dependents are raised as adult children, and then they get married and they raise further children with these tendencies. It’s a pattern that repeats itself over and over. It’s both destructive and addictive, these patterns that I’m just talking about. People often get stuck in them, and they don’t emerge. They’re not released from them in order to grow up emotionally and spiritually.

They have difficulty identifying feelings. They become rigid, and it’s difficult to adjust to change—and life is full of change. Life requires growth. Life requires leaving tendencies, removing sin, in order to become healthy. We have to be open to change, because it’s the Lord himself who will require this in order for us to grow and to become more fully healthy in the Lord. Co-dependents have problems with intimacy and with boundaries. And one of the core issues that they carry is fear of intimacy. Therefore they have problems in relationship. They have issues often with chronic anger.

They can fall into patterns of lying and dishonesty, because this illness, co-dependency, is fear-based. And adult children learn to act and to look good and to get a certain level of the blessing or the approval of others, but in the meanwhile they often are whole-heartedly irresponsible and have not been properly taught how to nurture their own emotional and spiritual life through prayer, fasting, confession, and further experience of the love and the healing action that comes principally by participating in the holy sacraments of the Orthodox Church. They’re poor communicators, and they often have difficulty making decisions, because they’re afflicted with a high level of insecurity and doubt.

So I’ve shared a lot about this particular problem in attempts to get everyone who’s listening to consider that we all have a measure of this illness. I know from myself and my wife we are both adult children, and after many years of recovery we were able to enter into ACA Red Book fellowship. I encourage you to look into this fellowship and to look into their literature. They themselves have 14 characteristics that describe the face of co-dependency, just like I’ve tried to do, and I’m going to further expound on those characteristics, because they repeat part of what I’ve already mentioned are the characteristics, and they have their own take on this, but it’s all similar. It points to this illness, this relationship illness. I will at a later time go over what they call the laundry list, but for those listening now you can look this up. Google: the laundry list of ACA/dysfunctional households Red Book. Put those words in and you’ll find the 14 characteristics of a co-dependent or an adult child.

“Adult child,” now, refers to a person who’s been raised in an addictive home or a dysfunctional one, and it refers to the idea that, while a person is an adult on one hand, physically, often emotionally and spiritually they’re much more crippled or child-like in their immaturity and patterns of dysfunction have set in. This wonderful fellowship allows people to have a safe environment where they can share, work the steps of the fellowship, the 12 Steps, target these characteristics, and to be committed to forgiveness. One of their biggest principles is that they feel that to be healed is going to take dealing with the grief and the losses of our childhood, and by grace relying on the Lord himself we can be re-established, remove the grievances, suffer the suffering of trauma and memory, and by our commitment to forgive, the Lord is able to have us emerge into new life in patterns of health and wellness. So consider that, this fellowship.

Lastly I want to say to you that we, as members of the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup, after a whole year, by bringing the ACA Red Book Fellowship to here, in this local area, we have a meeting once a week in Lexington, Virginia—over a period of a year there’s been an establishment of a wonderful small group of mostly Orthodox Christians who are addressing this illness, and they have also have experienced being addicting and participating in other 12-Step fellowships. And we all are gaining from this participation in fellowship, and our Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup is now offering an online meeting. We’re meeting on Tuesday nights at 6:30 for members only, and we began this about a month ago. We already have had two or three meetings, online ACA Red Book, but we also have a time to share as Orthodox Christians, because all of the participants are also members of our non-profit, the Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup, and are committed to our daily prayers to the Mother of God, and we pray for one another.

And this grace that’s coming by combining the good value of participating in 12-Step but not denying our need to bring the fullness of what the Orthodox Church has, the healing ministry of the Lord, and our prayer life and its re-establishment, we’re able to fellowship on a whole new level. We are excited about what the Mother of God is actually doing, because we’re simply, as children, turning to her daily and doing our minimum prayers for ourselves and afflicted members of our family and others. And together we are beginning to experience whole new levels of sobriety. And there are some who have never been able to be released from a primary addiction who have been working at 12-Step recovery for years and relapsing or not acquiring a high degree of emotional and spiritual sobriety, and I believe and others believe that it’s because of this illness and lack of treatment of co-dependency that often the missing link of being released from a primary addiction as well as their roots is actually possible.

And we know also that we must rely on the Lord and on the movement of grace within the holy Orthodox Church, the sacraments especially, in order for Christ himself to dispense this measure of forgiveness which is discussed and that we are committed to as we participate in this fellowship and in ours.

In a very soon future podcast, I will try to explain how I believe that there is… the theology of the Orthodox Church confirms that we need to be healed as children and for the soul itself to be healed, because it teaches that the soul is child-like and all of the discussions that we hear among therapists and even 12-Step recovery with an emphasis on an inner child and learning to be released from the effects over the generations, we have a theology within the Church that confirms that the soul itself was made child-like and that the Lord himself and the science of spiritual medicine as taught by the holy Fathers and Mothers confirms that the soul needs to be healed and the effects of sin need to be removed. And we’re going to further discuss the theology of the Church, the methods of treatment within the holy Orthodox Church, along with some of this Step-work and the wisdom that’s come from participation in groups like ACA in order to get a holistic approach on this particular topic.

I want to thank everyone for listening today. I am extremely grateful to our members for their ongoing prayer. I am extremely grateful to the Mother of God, for without her and the grace that’s coming from our simple turning to her every day and commitment to her to relieve and to heal and to gather up all of the abused children, which are you and me and many of us in the Orthodox Church and in other places, she… without her… it is her intent, I believe, to gather all of the abused children, for she is our holy Mother, and by grace as we look to her Son in the Inexhaustible Cup, who is Child, a child, and as we imitate him and enter into this ministry of healing and deliverance, which will require the cross and the resurrection, we principally will and have to have the power and the grace that comes from her intercession for us children in order to be healed. We believe this, and we encourage all of you to consider this, and we’re grateful to her.

My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O holy Trinity! Glory to thee! O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Have mercy on all of us. Pardon us, and grant us your forgiveness. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.