Early Stage of Codependency and Recovery

By Darlene Lancer

The early stage of codependency begins by becoming attached to someone and ends with unhealthy dependency on him or her. In recovery, the early stage ends with starting to reclaim yourself.

The disease process of codependency

You may be attracted to a needy person or be overly involved with a family member and naturally want to help or please him or her. Gradually, you become increasingly emotionally dependent upon and obsessed with that person to the extent that you lose focus on yourself and start to give up ­personal friends and activities.

The recovery process of codependency

You begin coming out of denial, which means you squarely confront the problem and acknowledge reality — a prerequisite to changing it. This shift may be inspired by someone else’s recovery. More likely, it’s triggered by an event — a wakeup call, referred to as hitting bottom. Change becomes imperative. Instead of ignoring or minimizing the facts, you recognize them as difficult and painful, but true. You may not like them, but you see them as they are.

Beginning recovery starts with getting information and reaching out for help. You’ve already begun searching for new answers and options. Many people start psychotherapy or join a Twelve Step program, which gives them hope and starts the process of rebuilding their identity. The table shows the progressive stages of early codependency and recovery.

Early Stage of Codependency and Recovery
Progression of Codependency Recovery from Codependency
Attracted to needy person; offers help, gifts, meals Hits bottom and reaches out for help for self
Attempts to please the person Learns about codependency and addiction
Obsessed with the person and his or her behavior Joins Twelve Step program and/or therapy
Rationalizes and doubts own perceptions Begins to have hope
Denial about addiction, but concern grows Comes out of denial
Gives up own activities to be with the person Learns recovery is for self
Family and social life affected Refocuses on self
Increasingly emotionally dependent on the person Begins to build own identity