Relapse for an addict is relatively easy to understand. It is a reversion to the old coping mechanisms such as drinking, drugging, or otherwise acting out. This reversion is usually preceded by some form of negative mental state, painful emotions, or difficulty in a life situation.
Relapse for a codependent is the same. They experience a hard time in life, a negative thought life or emotional pain, and they start to act out. However their acting out looks somewhat different to an alcoholic or drug addict, because they revert back to behaviors that are sometimes difficult to spot. They re-indulge in controlling others and neglecting their own needs for example.
For a codependent that lives with an addict, the relapse of their addict is highly likely to trigger a relapse. Both partners are then caught in a spiral downward. This is one reason that it is smart for addicts and codependents to both be part of a larger recovery group or program.
We have already said that it is hard for a person, let alone the codependent, to see when they are slipping back into their old ways. How can a codependent identify when this might be happening? Here is a list of “I” statements that are helpful in becoming aware of a slide that is in place; or one that is coming.
- I’ve started saying bad things again about my partner behind their back.
- I’ve stopped giving my partner the benefit of the doubt.
- I’ve lost interest in doing the things I know make my partner happy.
- I’ve stopped hugging my partner goodbye in the morning.
- I’ve stopped using my recovery tools.
- I’ve stopped feeling grateful for my partner.
- I’ve gone back to indifference in my attitude to my partner.
- I’ve become rude toward my partner.
- I’ve reverted back to trying to control everything my partner does.
- I’ve stopped taking care of myself.
- I’ve started to break promises I made to my partner.
If a codependent finds themselves in agreement with say 3 or more of these statements an orange warning light ought to go off in their head, 7 or more ought to result in a trip back to the therapist.
This kind of list, if honestly worked through on a frequent basis, can help a codependent identify when something is going wrong. The list is a tool, it is a “symptom identifier”, a way of discovering that something is happening inside that is not easily seen. It uses affirmative answers to ask the question, “Am I being triggered toward a relapse by something?”
As a topic today, let’s talk about our own emotional relapses as codependents and answer the question, “What else can a codependent do to protect themselves from going back to their self-centered and relationship destructive ways?”