by Maggie Barton

Hi folks! This month I am going to write about transforming co-dependency. If you are wondering what co-dependency is, it is a set of maladaptive, compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing great emotional pain and stress. These behaviors are passed on from generation to generation whether substance abuse is present or not. In other words, the original alcoholic or substance abuser may have been a great-grandparent. And though no one else in the family tree has been a substance abuser since then, several generations have learned to use the same set of coping behaviors. This set of behaviors eventually becomes co-dependency or dependency disorders.

Some of these co-dependency or dependency disorders are: perfectionism, workaholism, procrastination, compulsive overeating, compulsive gambling, compulsive buying, compulsive lying, compulsive talking, dependent relationships or overpossessiveness in relationships. Other dependency disorders can be dependency on acquiring status, prestige, material possessions, power or control to the extent that one’s behavior causes problems in social interactions with family members, co-workers, friends, authority figures, etc.. In addition, persons suffering from alcohol or drug related co-dependency or one of the other dependency disorders often experience themselves being caught up in a kind of treadmill existence so that whether or not goals are achieved, there is still a driven compulsion for more; an anxious feeling of incompleteness or emptiness remains no matter what is accomplished.

Health problems can also exist such as migraine headaches, gastro-intestinal disturbances, colitis, ulcers, high blood pressure and many other high stress related physical illnesses. Emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and hyperactivity are evident in many codependents.

The first step in kicking this habit is for you to acknowledge your co-dependency. So take a moment to re-read what co-dependency is, taking note of any characteristics that you may have. Think about them and then allow yourself to pretend that they are not there. Focus on how that feels.

Now that you are more focused on YOU, which is always a co-dependent’s main problem, I want you to make a commitment to yourself to recite this alphabet each day for 21 days and see the change:

A is for Accepting yourself just the way you are. So look in the mirror at your eyes and say "I accept the way I am."

B is for Believing in yourself. Say "I believe in you" three times as you point to yourself.

C is for the three C’s: Caring, Comforting & Caressing yourself. So think of ways you can implement the three C’s in your life.

D is for Deciding for yourself. Think about a present area in your life that you are struggling with and you make a decision about it.

E is for Experience - get out of the co-dependent rut and experience something new. Make a commitment to yourself to experience something different each week: different food, a different route home from work, etc.

F is for Fun. Co-dependents are too serious. Allow yourself to think of fun things to do. Possibly things you used to do that you let go to seed. Learn to water them again.

G is for your Growth. Grow out of the co-dependent habit.

H is for Happiness, which, after all, is the true purpose of life.

I is for I! I am the most important person to me, so repeat this every day 3 times to yourself.

J is for Joy. Think of the joy that is in your life, or maybe the lack of joy. Make a deal with yourself to allow more joy to enter your life.

K is for Kicking old habits. Old habits such as worry, procrastination, perfectionism, etc. If you are serious about this, write down these words, tear them up and put them in the garbage where they belong.

L is for Love. The first person to love is you. Remember you cannot truly love someone else until you love yourself first. You can’t give anything to anybody unless you have it first to give.

M is for Moments. For you to take those moments for you. So take a moment to get off of your daily treadmill and spend a moment or two with yourself. Feel yourself being energized.

N is for NO! Contrary to that popular commercial, say NO! No to doing things that you don’t want to do. Take a moment to think about how you have recently said YES when you had wanted to say NO. Say NO a few times for practice - it can feel invigorating, making you feel more alive.

O is for Openness. Openness to different life encounters. Open yourself up to breathe deeper.

P is for Power. Close your eyes and connect with your power. Feel your power inside of you.

Q is for Quest. Connect with your inner purpose. Ask yourself "What is my life quest?"

R is for Rest. Rest yourself. Take a rest from any compulsive habits that you may have.

S is for Serenity. Say the serenity prayer each day before you start your day.

T is for Timelessness. Take time to be timeless. You have time for many other things, so take time for timelessness.

U is for YOU. So say "U is for You!" You can use ‘U is for You’ as a new mantra.

V is for Victory. Your victory over co-dependency. Make the V-sign to yourself to acknowledge your victory.

W is for Wholeness, Wealth and Wisdom. "I am Healthy, Wealthy and Wise!"

X is for Extra. Give yourself something extra this week or next week. You probably have gone out of your way to give other people extra, so give yourself extra ASAP.

Y is for YES! Yes, I can! Yes, I will! Yes, I am! YESSSSS!!!!

Z is for Zero. If you’ve come this far, you have nothing left holding you prisoner to co-dependency - you’re free to go.

If you’re still not free to go, Maggie is presently forming a "Women's Healing Circle" where you can learn to transform your co-dependence. Call her at 828-452-4029 for more information or e-mail her at

Maggie's Homepage
Maggie's Writings Maggie's Place
Maggie's Place Homepage