Codependency Recovery: 7 Keys to Healing Yourself

By Michelle Farris, psychotherapist and codependency expert.

Codependency impacts everything we do, from our relationships, to our self-esteem, to how we care for ourselves. 

While the process of codependency recovery can be daunting at first, it can also explain certain aspects of our personality. Realizing your own unique style of codependency can put major puzzle pieces into place for you and create a deep sense of relief. Finally, your behavior begins to make sense. 

You’re not alone, and you’re not crazy.

Many people who struggle with codependent symptoms find relationships challenging because at the core of codependency is a lack of self. They look to others for validation and support. Healthy behaviors like setting boundaries and admitting when we are hurt often trigger an intense fear of upsetting others.

When you struggle with codependency, hiding your true feelings becomes easier than telling the truth.

On the other hand, codependent people are high achievers and tend to over-function in relationships. Over-giving makes you appear incredibly generous and trustworthy which gives a false positive self-image.

Over-giving becomes a part of the codependent person’s identity.

As a result, you may not recognize these behaviors as problematic until it creates separation in your relationships. 

Losing a relationship is often the catalyst for starting codependency recovery.

What is codependency recovery?

Codependency recovery is the process of unlearning dysfunctional relationship behaviors while learning how to create mutually satisfying relationships without sacrificing yourself. In this blog, you will learn seven keys to codependency recovery that you can start right now!

1. Build a Healthy Relationship with Yourself:

Several years ago when starting my own recovery, my biggest mistake was not befriending myself sooner. All of my time and energy was spent improving my relationships because that’s what I thought recovery meant.

But many people, like me, become hyper attached to others as a way of feeling emotionally secure. But it never lasts. 

Your self-esteem cannot be built by other people no matter how much you love them.

The recovery process requires a change in focus; from taking care of others to taking better care of yourself. Many people who suffer from codependency do not know how to take care of themselves. They don’t know what their own needs are!

Being codependent doesn’t mean you can’t give, it just means you need to give less in order to take care of yourself too. Pay attention to your own needs to improve self-care. 

Without a solid connection to oneself, the unhealthy dependency in codependent relationships will never be fixed.

Instead, start cultivating a relationship with yourself. Spend time alone and learn to enjoy your own company. Discover what’s important and who you are as a person. Get to know what YOU like and what YOU don’t like so you can live a more honest life.

2. Assess Your Current Relationships:

Assessing relationships is another key task in codependency recovery. It’s important to uncover your unique relationship patterns. By definition codependent relationships are one-sided and based on an unhealthy dependency. 

For instance, doing for others makes you feel productive but being still can make you feel lazy and uncomfortable. This tends to happen when codependency is a challenge. There are certain relationship patterns that are important to uncover. 

For instance, do you often feel like you are giving more than you are receiving? Do you frequently feel taken advantage of or resentful in your relationships? Typically, do you desire more contact than others in your life? Do you attract people who are more self-centered or chaotic?

Identifying how you do relationships is going to help you identify what needs to change. Remember that while awareness is key, you don’t have to make big changes all at once. Baby steps still count!

3. Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships:

Every relationship needs boundaries to be healthy but knowing how to set boundaries can be confusing. Some people confuse boundaries with ultimatums or requests, but healthy boundaries are limits you set for yourself that determine your choices. 

Here are 4 simple steps to setting boundaries in relationships: 

  1. Figure out your values and what’s important to you. This will become your roadmap to taking better care of yourself. 
  2. Identify what behaviors you will and won’t accept in relationships. If someone continues the toxic behavior, you decide if you will stay or leave the situation.
  3. Make sure that the boundary is something you can control, namely your behavior, not their behavior.
  4. Create a Plan B so when boundaries aren’t respected you have a back-up plan so your needs are still met.

4. Managing Emotions in Codependency Recovery:

The next key to codependency recovery is managing feelings (not hyper-focusing on everyone else’s feelings). In codependency, you are amazing at projecting empathy but have trouble feeling your own feelings.

Find safe ways to identify and honor your emotions. Try keeping a journal as a safe outlet to express your innermost thoughts. When you’re with others, notice what bothers you or makes you feel uncomfortable. Sit with whatever sensations come up for you.

Recovery requires reclaiming all aspects of your experience, especially your emotions. Feeling the pain is hard, but feeling whole and happy is worth that pain.

5. Address People-Pleasing and Enabling Behaviors:

Next, addressing enabling and people pleasing behaviors is a core part of the healing process. A codependent person has a huge heart, and in order to preserve that heart, you need to identify areas where you are overstepping into enabling or rescuing others. 

Enabling other means doing for others what they should be doing for themselves. For instance, paying their bills, calling in sick for them, and making excuses for someone else’s bad behavior are all examples of enabling.

Letting go of other people’s behaviors including their consequences replaces the unhealthy dependency and need for control.

6. Create A Reliable Support System:

The sixth key to codependency recovery is creating a reliable support system. This could be a therapist, a life coach, or group support like 12 step meetings. 

It’s important to note that some people don’t recognize the value of group support. Being a part of a group can mimic childhood memories of not being seen or valued by others. As adults you may still struggle with feeling left out in social situations.

Others resist seeking help because they don’t see their codependent behaviors as a problem. They may be married to alcoholics or narcissistic people who have blamed them for years. 

We cannot recover in isolation – having nonjudgmental support is essential so continue and maintain your recovery.

7. Healing Your Childhood Pain:

Healing your childhood pain is one of the later tasks in codependency recovery.  This task usually involves participating in some form of counseling whether that’s a therapy group, individual therapy, or coaching. 

You may not have the emotional bandwidth to dive into childhood issues right away. For instance if you are newly sober or still struggling with an addiction, it’s better to wait until your sobriety is stabilized and you feel emotionally ready to handle the intense emotions that often accompany childhood wounds. 

Depending on what issues you are dealing with in your past – it’s best to wait until you have some solid recovery under your belt before tackling this.

Final thoughts:

Recovery is not a linear process. It’s full of ups and downs but it will improve the quality of your life and relationships like nothing else. Looking back on my own recovery, I wish I would have focused more on building self-trust because when you trust yourself, everything else gets easier – boundaries don’t feel as scary, speaking up feels better and you will have healthier relationships in the long run. Recovery starts with you and it’s SO worth it!  

Michelle Farris, Codependency Expert and Psychotherapist. Get my free 7 Signs of Codependent Friendships (and How to Heal Them):

2 Responses

  1. Janet C Boucher says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful article. I’ve been in a 35 year relationship to a controlling, narcissistic spouse. Your explanation of being codependent as a result brings clarity and focus to my healing.

  2. Thanks Janet, I’m really glad you found it helpful!

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