From Bondage to Bonding: Escaping Codependency, Embracing Biblical Love

From Bondage to Bonding: Escaping Codependency, Embracing Biblical Love

by Nancy Groom
     
 

In this thorough, nontechnical guide to assessment of and recovery from codependency, author Nancy Groom takes you beyond simply escaping codependency to helping you tackle the tough questions you’ll face as you emerge from destructive relationships. Men and women who are dealing with grief, anger, and feelings of shame from codependency will learn how to

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Overview

In this thorough, nontechnical guide to assessment of and recovery from codependency, author Nancy Groom takes you beyond simply escaping codependency to helping you tackle the tough questions you’ll face as you emerge from destructive relationships. Men and women who are dealing with grief, anger, and feelings of shame from codependency will learn how to bond to God. Tyndale House Publishers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780891096207
Publisher:
NavPress Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/01/1991
Series:
God's Design for the Family Series
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
437,237
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 9.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

FROM BONDAGE TO BONDING

Escaping Codependency Embracing Biblical Love
By Nancy Groom

NAVPRESS

Copyright © 1991 Nancy Groom
All right reserved.


Chapter One

CODEPENDENCY: A SELF-FOCUSED WAY OF LIFE

* * *

Codependency has a fuzzy definition because it is a gray, fuzzy condition. It is complex, theoretical, and difficult to completely define in one or two sentences. MELODY BEATTIE Codependent No More

Nothing was working anymore. Not the cheerful facade, not the furtive manipulating, not the dogged attempts at normalcy, not even the desperate prayers that God do something. "It's hopeless," Jenny's inner voice concluded. "You might as well give up."

Jenny sat on the edge of her bed and glanced around. Her wedding picture with Brad smiled at her, and she wondered with a cynical laugh, "How could the promises have so betrayed us both?" The photos of the children caught in spontaneous play pierced Jenny's heart with regret and guilt now that things were so different, so awful. After twenty-six years of marriage and the raising of two daughters, Jenny felt numb and out of touch with life. Her world was closing in on her.

Brad had just returned to the store after supper. It was the same old story. He'd come home angry and half drunk again. Even when no one else could tell, Jenny knew. She also knew with nervous certainty how things would go when Brad came home again at 9:30 that night. The sale he'd planned was not going well, and his drinking would surely escalate.

The fallout of Brad's anger had landed, as usual, on the family. At supper he'd complained about the food, fumed about the broken dishwasher, criticized Jenny's housework-and all the while Jenny nervously apologized. Their daughter Jodie, a high school senior, seemed immune to her father's condition and comments. After supper she'd retreated again to her bedroom without a word.

"At least Melinda is away at college, away from the responsibility she always took for her father's drinking," Jenny sighed to herself. She missed Melinda-even envied her-but she was glad her daughter could escape the craziness. Soon Jodie would be gone, too, and then Jenny would be alone with Brad. When that realization occasionally broke through her usual wall of denial, Jenny's heart constricted with sudden dismay.

In a way, the failure of Brad's sale that particular day wasn't the issue at all; he drank just as much when a sale went well. Jenny knew things were getting worse, but she could see no way out.

The pain was catching up with her. Troubleshooting the business and social disasters caused by Brad's drinking over the years had wounded Jenny more than she realized. With the familiar knots tightening in her stomach, she recalled the spoiled dinner parties, the missed holiday celebrations, the nights she had bundled her young girls out of bed and into the car to rescue Brad, too drunk to drive, from the downtown bar. She frowned and shook her head as she recalled her explanation: "Daddy's just sick; he'll be better soon." She wondered if they had believed her.

"What choice did I have?" she asked herself. "I couldn't let anyone see him drunk. What if the pastor had found out and Brad couldn't be a deacon anymore? What if Brad had an accident and killed someone?" At the time it seemed necessary to "save Brad from himself." But now, after years of coping with his erratic and increasingly volatile behavior, Jenny was feeling used, unappreciated, trapped, even a little angry.

In fact, Jenny was very angry, though much of her anger was unconscious. Terrified that her anger might cause Brad to abandon her, she refused to experience that anger. She wouldn't let herself feel angry at her daughters, either, though they were demanding and unappreciative of her efforts to please them. And, of course, no one except her closest sister knew how uncontrolled Brad's drinking had become, or how chaotic Jenny's life was because of it. She was angry, to be sure, but her anger had taken the form of martyrdom, silent withdrawal from Brad and the children, social isolation, increasing depression, and a camouflaged resentment that was rapidly settling into chronic bitterness-not just toward Brad but toward life in general. She felt like a puppet with its strings hanging out for just anyone to pull.

"That's it," Jenny thought bitterly as the image played across her mind. "I'm everybody's marionette, yanked around day after day, dancing to whatever tune someone else wants to play. What about my tune? Why is no one meeting my needs? Will this nightmare never end?"

ADDICTION IN TODAY'S SOCIETY

Jenny, like thousands of others caught in unhealthy relationships, was finally becoming desperate about the way things were going. Marriage to an alcoholic generates overwhelming emotions that are difficult to admit, even to oneself-anger, resentment, paralyzing fear, self-pity, and confusion. Alcoholic homes breed negative attitudes and behavior, and people and families are destroyed by what goes on there.

But other situations besides alcoholism cause similar feelings of helplessness. Living with an out-of-control child (who may be abusing drugs, sex, or alcohol), a chronically ill or terminally ill family member, a compulsive eater, spender, worker, or gambler, an abuser (physically, emotionally, or sexually), a sex addict, or a mentally disabled relative or close friend can produce the same confusion and despair. Though some compulsions (like overeating or workaholism) may appear less destructive than alcoholism or drug addiction, people who love the overeater or workaholic can suffer as much damage as those related to alcoholics or addicts. The helplessness feels the same, regardless of the dysfunction.

Some people feel out of control and confused about their lives but can't understand why. Although their lives seem more or less normal, they find themselves overwhelmed when they shouldn't be, angry out of proportion to their experiences, depressed without identifiable reason. The compulsions mentioned above may not be occurring in their lives at the time, yet negative feelings persist.

Perhaps it's because one or more of those compulsive situations existed in their family of origin (the family in which they were raised). The effects are often handed down. Children who grew up in a family environment with addiction, compulsion, or abuse are profoundly affected as adults in ways many don't realize. The increasing number of people in support organizations like Adult Children of Alcoholics indicates that emotions damaged in childhood don't go away if left unattended-they just go underground. Scenarios from the family of origin often repeat themselves in the adult lives of children who grew up there, despite those children's determination that "It will never happen to me." One's childhood with an alcoholic, abusive, or emotionally neglectful parent shapes that person's self-image and expectation of "normal" family life. People move unthinkingly toward repeating (and trying to correct) what they have experienced, even when they believe something else would be better for them.

The increase of addiction and compulsivity in today's society has far-reaching and terrible effects. It has brought on an exponential increase in family problems, such as child abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), addiction-induced financial collapse, loss of nurturing for children, loss of intimacy in marriages, pre- and extramarital affairs, and a host of other related difficulties. But also, an unprecedented number of children have come out of those dysfunctional homes unable to relate to others in healthy ways. Thus the problems of addiction and its inevitable destructive consequences are multiplying at an alarming rate, and the resources for dealing with these problems are often inadequate and ineffective.

ADDICTION IN TODAY'S CHURCH

Where is Christ's Church in all of this? Are addictions and their accompanying demons present in the Church? Does Scripture offer any solutions? Is there hope for those imprisoned by their cravings? What about those in bondage to their addicted loved ones? Can the Church offer a ministry to the addicted unchurched or to its own members trapped in compulsive lifestyles?

Unfortunately, addictions like alcoholism, drug dependency, child abuse, incest, eating disorders, and workaholism afflict Christians as well as nonChristians. Even more unfortunately, the Church often closes its eyes to this reality. Too often Christians won't admit they struggle with behaviors they can't control.

There are reasons for the denial. Sometimes pride gets in the way. Many Christians can't admit they're gripped by a compulsive dependency. They conceal their addictions and maintain a whitewashed "Christian" image to protect their "spiritual" reputation, instead of grappling authentically with the dark side of their soul. They may fear losing their "witness to the world," not realizing the world needs to see honest strugglers not pious pretenders. Some churches teach that "Christians don't have those kinds of problems," and to admit an addiction casts doubt on one's salvation. Christians often believe God won't love them if they admit to all that's inside of them, so they simply stop looking there.

Unfortunately, we as Christians can't make the problems of addiction and compulsion go away just by refusing to look at them. The power of God is available to help solve our problems, but only if we acknowledge them honestly. Wrong dependencies keep us in bondage, and Jesus waits to set us free, beginning with our admission that we're enslaved. If believers cannot look at sin-their own and other people's-with honesty, compassion, and a word of hope, who on earth can? The Church must remove its rose-colored glasses and seek to help the addicted-those within as well as those outside its own walls. It's a ministry desperately needed in today's world.

CODEPENDENCY: RELATED TO ADDICTION

But it's not just the addicted who are in bondage and need the Church's help. Those connected to the addict by ties of blood or love are affected as well. In the early days of treatment for addiction (the Alcoholics Anonymous movement, begun in the 1930s), it was assumed that once the alcoholic stopped drinking family life would resume its normal course. But that didn't often happen, and eventually it became apparent that alcoholism was a family affair, not just one individual's struggle with a compulsive habit.

Not only did a family suffer from the actions and attitudes of the alcoholic. But also, it was learned that the spouse had developed a recognizable pattern of relating to the alcoholic by continually adjusting to-yet always trying to manage-the alcoholic's behavior, particularly the drinking. Thus, the alcoholic's unhealthy addiction pattern had meshed with the spouse's unhealthy control pattern, and each had fed on and been reinforced by the other.

In addition, the children in that alcoholic home developed their own strategies to adjust to the loss of nurturing from both parents. The roles they played helped the family survive, but in the process the children had to sell out their true selves to maintain the family system. There were more casualties in the war zone of an alcoholic home than was first thought.

With the discovery that the spouse and children played specific and more-or-less predictable roles in supporting the alcoholic in his or her drinking (so that the family would not be destroyed), attention turned toward helping those family members change the negative coping strategies they had learned. The spouse began to be called co-alcoholic, the person whose pattern enabled the alcoholic to continue an alcoholic lifestyle. Later, when the addiction field broadened to include dependencies in addition to alcohol, the term co-alcoholic changed to co-dependent, designating a person in a close relationship with anyone destructively dependent on any substance or habit.

Thus, the term codependency is related to addiction because most codependents are or have been in a relationship with an addicted or compulsive person. In fact, even the addict is codependent in relationships, a fact that becomes obvious once the substance abuse is stopped. But in recent years codependency has been increasingly viewed as an identifiable, unhealthy compulsion in its own right. In other words, a codependent person is "addicted," not to a destructive substance, but to a destructive pattern of relating to other people, a pattern usually learned from childhood in an abusive or nonnurturing home. Codependency holds a person hostage to other people's behaviors, moods, or opinions, and the codependent bases his or her worth and actions on someone else's life. It's a terrible bondage.

That explains why, even when an alcoholic or drug abuser got sober or clean, both spouses continued to have relational problems. The destructive patterns of the two partners no longer meshed. Sobriety had been established and the home had become externally less chaotic, but the codependent spouse felt internally more confused and more miserable than ever because the earlier balance, however destructive, had been upset. In addition, the now-sober spouse struggled with similar self-doubts, confusion, and guilt, because the underlying codependency in the addicted person's life had never been addressed either.

Perhaps a working definition of codependency is in order. No clinical description has been agreed upon in the family-systems or addiction-recovery field, but for purposes of this book, we will operate from the following broad definition, which will be examined in greater detail in following chapters:

Codependency is a self-focused way of life in which a person blind to his or her true self continually reacts to others being controlled by and seeking to control their behavior, attitudes, and/or opinions, resulting in spiritual sterility, loss of authenticity, and absence of intimacy.

Codependency is a matter of degree. Everyone feels controlled by people and circumstances at times; codependents feel that way most of their lives. Everyone tries to control others to some extent; codependents think they'll die if they lose control. Everyone has blind spots; codependents live in denial about basic realities in their relationships.

Think of a relationship continuum with healthy mutual interdependence at one end and debilitating codependency at the other. We all fall somewhere in between, but people who live in close relationship to alcoholics, drug abusers, workaholics, or other addicted persons occupy the codependent end of the spectrum.

There are no clear-cut indicators of just when a person steps over the line from being noncodependent to being codependent.

Continues...


Excerpted from FROM BONDAGE TO BONDING by Nancy Groom Copyright © 1991 by Nancy Groom. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author


NANCY GROOM has been a featured speaker at retreats, seminars, and conferences around the country, addressing both men and women regarding spiritual and relational growth. She has appeared on a wide variety of national radio and television broadcasts, including Midday Connection, Chapel of the Air, COPE TV, and Action 60’s. She is the author of several books. In addition to her writing and speaking schedule, Nancy enjoys being a grandmother and loves sailing with Bill, her husband of thirty-seven years.

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