My best friend is now grappling with setting healthy boundaries with her husband and her family. Chemical dependency isn’t the issue; instead, she has felt herself increasingly pulled into the vortex of their mood disorders and discontent, their traffic violations and other boo-boos, and various other dramas. She doesn’t even need to have an addict in the family to feel the discomfort of their pull. Co-dependency doesn’t require drugs or alcohol—just an unhealthy addiction to curing another’s pain or solving their problems.
It is hard to set healthy boundaries. As a “born fixer,” it has felt almost inhumane to walk away from someone who is struggling. Offering relief, fixing a problem is really core to who I am—it is part of my identity. When facing my co-dependency with my addict son, I had to do some deep digging to figure out who I was, if not a savior and a saint.
When does trying to fix others go too far and cause more harm than good? Clearly, it is important to jump in when life and limb are at stake; at the same time, it is critical to “change the system” so life and limb don’t become chronically at risk. Once we got through our immediate crisis of detox and rehab, we forged an agreement about how we would move forward. Among other things, it required that my son get counseling to help him vanquish the incessant call of drugs and alcohol from his head. I also got counseling to learn how to vanquish my incessant rumination about his addition that played through my head like a broken record.
I’ve made progress on changing my “Fix it” mentality that had portrayed him as broken, and me as the solution. I am much better prepared to face each day, no matter what unfolds. Has my addict son changed? As him, not me. Have I changed? Affirmative.
P.S. Check out Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie for help cutting the ties of co-dependency.