Codependency Questions To Ask Yourself
Codependency Questions To Ask Yourself
Let’s talk about codependency. Here’s what surprised me recently. Because I used to teach classes on codependency, I thought, oh, I’m good here. I’ve conquered this. Spoiler: I have not. The more I research about codependency, the more I realize, holy cow, I still have some growth to do.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the transcript and find more details here:
So I asked myself some questions, and I’m writing them out for a new program I’m working on all about codependency. But I think it’d be really helpful if I asked you all these questions too. So today I’m going to ask you these questions.
I’m just going to be doing prompting with you; there’s no right or wrong answer. You may need to put me on pause to think about these questions or write them down and think about them throughout the week. It’s not a one and done type of situation. You really want to unpack this. You want to park here on each one of these questions. And I promise, the more you park, and the more you dive deeper and deeper, the more you’re going to discover that you might have more things to work on than you think you do. The more golden nuggets you uncover, the more you can find about who you are, right?
This is super important because discovering who we are – know thyself – is helpful because we have an addict in our lives—most likely abusive, telling us terrible things about ourselves.
So if we know who we are and we’re solid in that, then we can manage all of this malicious venom that they try to throw at us.
Are you ready for the questions? All right. Remember, no judgment. It’s just you and me, and I am far, far, far, far, far from perfect. I’ll probably be able to join you and say yeah, me too for a lot of them.
Okay, real quick before we get to the questions:
These questions are all ways you can tell if you have healed from codependency or not healed from codependency.
Question number one: have you learned to esteem yourself?
So if you can answer, yes, Michelle, I have learned how to esteem myself. Well, then, that’s one excellent sign that you have healed from codependency.
But if you say no, Michelle, I actually haven’t. I rely on other people’s opinions of me. I still allow that conversation with my dad to shake me or look to my partner to help me feel better or maybe even worse about myself. And sometimes, I look to my kids’ performance, happiness, or success as a way to validate myself as a mom. Or I’m still relying on outside influences to make me feel good.
I still find self-esteem by driving a fancy car, maybe a piece of jewelry, or maybe my looks, or how much academic success I’ve had. Those are all outside ways to esteem yourself. They’re not healthy ways to esteem yourself. Esteeming yourself and having good self-esteem means knowing you were born with value and wonderful traits and knowing what those traits are and embracing them and not letting anyone talk you out of them.
Having good self-esteem means admitting to yourself and others that you are not perfect. And that you do have some negative traits that you’re working on. Having good self-esteem means that you forgive yourself for those negative traits, and you say, you know, my self-growth, my healing, and self-esteem are constantly growing.
There’s not an endpoint.
I will be growing until the day I die.
So while I’m on that journey of growth and healing and loving myself and finding self-esteem, I’m going to choose to forgive myself consistently.
And you know this about me. If you’ve been listening for a while, one of my biggest struggles is I am dyslexic and have dyscalculia, too. So I get dates and times wrong. Yesterday I showed up for a dentist’s appointment on the wrong date. And I would love to tell you that happens very rarely. It happens weekly. I just read numbers incorrectly, and rather than getting in the car and being embarrassed because I walked in on the wrong date, I just said, you know what? Of course, it’s the wrong date because I do this all the time.
I said that out loud to the receptionist, and they laughed, and I laughed, and I said, okay, see you tomorrow. When I got in the car, I could beat myself up about it, sit there and feel embarrassed about it. Instead, I just admit that my brain doesn’t work that well in that area. And numbers are confusing to me. So I’m not going to worry or beat myself up.
I’m going to laugh.
My dentist is 30 minutes away. So it took a little over an hour to go there and back out of my busy day. Instead of me sitting here getting upset that I took an hour out of my day and judging myself for it, I’m going to find the good. I got to listen to the codependency audiobook and learn a lot more about codependency. And that was a great opportunity. And guess what? I get to do it again tomorrow.
That’s an example of looking at yourself and really embracing everything about yourself, not just the positive things. It’s not pretending that you don’t have negative traits. Of course, you do. We all do.
So again, question number one, have you learned to esteem yourself and the keyword being yourself?
Moving onto question number two: do you know how to set boundaries?
Listen, you’ve heard me say it over and over and over again. I’m not going to stop saying it because we’ve got to do this together. Me too. Our lives are continually changing. We’re growing into people that we were called to become where our relationships are changing.
Our boundaries are fluid.
It’s great to have set boundaries, but they have to be flexible. You have to reevaluate your boundaries every couple months and go, how is this boundary working for me? Is it serving me well? Or is it maybe a little off? Do I need to readjust? Is it too rigid? Is it not rigid enough? How am I doing sticking to my boundaries? Am I making excuses for them or letting people talk me out of my boundaries?
You have to take self-inventory of your boundaries regularly. Boundaries are something that you must learn, period—end of subject.
There are many things in life that you don’t need to learn to be happy.
Boundaries are a must, must, must, must. Without them, we will continue to be codependent. We will continue to be a victim to other people’s agendas and not be in control of our lives. We let other people control us.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. They’re so important. I wrote an entire program about them. You must master them. You cannot get to happiness without them. And I know I have friends whose boundaries are a disaster. They don’t have them. And then guess what? Those friends are so resentful. They’re resentful of their kids and their husbands. They’re resentful of their life because they just don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to upset people.
They don’t want to be considered selfish or ruffle anyone’s feathers. And that is BS. I promise you; people will like you better if you stand for something and have self-respect, and the people who won’t like you when you set boundaries are the takers. They are the moochers, the ones that rely on you being a sucker and always saying yes.
And they’re going to be like, what? Wait, no. And then you’re going to say, I’m saying no, and I’m sorry, but this is my new thing. And they’re going to go find another sucker and won’t bother you anymore.
That’s going to feel refreshing.
You’re going to feel like a million pounds lifted off your shoulders. Boundaries are scary to implement at the beginning, but you’ll get in the rhythm. And then you’re going to be a boundary queen.
I had a year of no, a whole year where everything that was asked of me, my immediate answer was a no. And then I would have to convince myself to make it a yes, but it was just immediately, no.
Michelle, do you want to lead this? No.
Michelle, can you volunteer for this? No.
Michelle, would you like to go? No.
Michelle, can you… no.
I’m talking about things that people were surprised by—for example, teacher-parent conferences. No, I’m not driving into school and sitting down with you and talking about my kid for an hour; we can do it over the phone or work it out over email.
That’s a little extreme, I will admit it.
But I had asked myself, is this valuable? And the kid in question goes to school 45 minutes away. That’s 45 minutes of driving time each way. I can accomplish just as much meeting over the phone.
The point is, you need to be very real with yourself and ask, do I even want to do this? I also started saying no to large group events like parties or charity events or whatever. I hate those things. Some people love them, and I love those people, but I cannot do large groups. I love intimate one-on-one conversations, or one on three conversations with girlfriends who come over to my house or I go over to theirs, or we go to lunch or for a walk. I do not like getting dressed up and going to a large event.
It feels like a bunch of small talk where we don’t talk about anything real. And it’s only like I’m attending this so that other people can see, I was invited and then be invited to other events.
I’ve never wanted to be a who’s who. I’d rather be at home with my kids in my pajamas, have meaningful conversations and pouring into my family, and then form one to five really great friendships.
I like my world small.
I don’t particularly like big. And so that’s just me.
There’s nothing wrong with big, at all. I just want to put that out there as a disclaimer. But so I said no, and I still say no. Now we have COVID. So we don’t do those events more. Thank you, Jesus.
And as soon as I made the decision, it felt liberating. It feels empowering. And I know it’s a boundary, so now next time I get an invitation, it will be a very polite, no, thank you.
Before we move onto question three, let’s bring it back to you. What are your boundaries? If you’re not sure what a boundary is, get the program. If you’re not sure if you have boundaries, or not sure if they’re healthy, get the program. And if you’ve got boundaries, remember it’s very helpful to reevaluate them. Like constantly reevaluate them. And if you have boundaries and know they are awesome and working for you, then big high-five to you. You are killing it, and I’m proud of you.
Question number three, do you own your own reality?
This has been such a mega game-changer for me. Here’s the deal with codependency. One of the major aha moments for me around codependency in the last couple of months is that I have struggled in my life with reality. Let me give you an example. This doesn’t have anything to do with addiction, but it’s one of the things I’ve really noticed struggling with lately, and I am very real with you.
I think I have struggled with how my body really looks as opposed to what I think it looks like. And a few people have mentioned that I may struggle with body dysmorphia. And I thought no, of course not.
I don’t know if it’s body dysmorphia, but I do think it’s a sign of my codependency. When I look at my body, and I think I am bigger than what I really am. And I don’t know where that comes from; I’m still unpacking it.
I know that the reality is not matching up with my imagination.
It made me think of my first marriage, being married to someone suffering from addiction. For a long time, because I was in that relationship for ten years, I did not accept the entire reality.
I knew there was a drinking issue, but I did not truly accept the infidelity. The reality that my husband was sleeping with other women throughout our marriage. I didn’t accept the reality that my husband was using very serious drugs. I was willing to accept he has a drinking problem, and he runs away from the family a lot and doesn’t come home.
But in my mind, I believed what he was telling me. That he was at a hotel by himself, struggling on his own, getting drunk, watching sports. The reality was that he wasn’t alone. He was with other women, other friends, and he was doing a lot more than drinking. So if you had asked me, I would have said, I am completely realistic. I know my husband suffers from addiction.
But the truth is, I wasn’t embracing the entirety of the reality.
I think codependents struggle with full reality, whether it’s good or bad.
Ask yourself, do you really own your current reality?
Question four: do you take care of your needs and wants most of the time?
I said most of the time. Yes, I did. Most. Not some of the time, not like two days of the week, but the other five days of the week, do you struggle?
Let’s be honest with each other. How many times have you thought I am exhausted and need to go to bed early, but you push yourself and do one or two other things on your list for the day? Or how many times do you think I might have a pajama day where I eat pancakes and bacon for breakfast. And I watch TV and play board games with the kids and don’t leave the house? But instead, you push yourself to take your kid to soccer practice or push yourself to vacuum the living room?
How many times do you, when your husband or loved one is in all up in their addiction and behaving very poorly, stop yourself and go, okay, that’s a lot of noise.
And that is a lot of self-destruction and dysfunction going on over there.
And I’m going to remove myself from that. I’m going to detach from that. Even if it’s under my roof, I’m going to walk into another room because you have other rooms unless you live in a studio apartment. And you walk into another room and ask yourself, what do I need right now?
And it might be, you need to leave. You know, you need to take your kids and play in the park for a little while, or it might mean you need to call a friend who you have a great relationship with or a family member. It might mean you need to put on your favorite show and bake some cookies. You know, whatever it is. It might mean a bath where you lock the door, and you remove yourself.
Whatever it is, how often are you checking in and tuning in with yourself and going, all right, this is what I want and what I need?
If that’s not being done daily, I would really encourage you to start making that a routine and a habit in your life.
I do that. I am pretty consistent, but I’m not perfect. And every day I wake up and ask: what does my body need right now? What does my spiritual being need? What does my family need? And then I weigh them all out and line them all up according to what’s healthiest for me.
Do you take care of your needs and wants most of the time?
Alright, it’s time for the last question of the day. This is big for me. It’s big for you. I know it.
The last question: Do you express yourself with moderation?
I hate that question so much because I’m like hmm… moderation. One thing I’m uncovering about codependency is that when we are codependent, we are immature. We don’t express ourselves with maturity because we feel all the feels. Many times we’re very empathic. And we are extra a lot. Right? But that’s a good thing. I’m not saying that’s a negative, but when we choose to express ourselves, particularly when we are dealing with stress and chaos and dysfunction of addiction, sometimes it can come across as very mean, right?
Come on, let’s own it. I’m going to own it. I’ll raise my hand and admit I used to scream and yell. My kids will tell you that they still remember me yelling and screaming at their father.
If I wasn’t yelling or screaming, I would beg. There were actually a couple of times where I was on my knees, begging; that’s how sad I was and how desperate I was. I would cry and nag. So I just called constantly, trying to get him to pick up to see if his voice would be sober. I’d even follow him around. I would get in my car and pile my kids in.
They were too young to know what I was doing, but I would go from bar to bar looking for him at all his usual spots. I never went in nor did I have the courage or the guts to confront him face to face. I just needed to see his car.
Those are all very unhealthy ways I expressed myself without moderation.
Those are all bad habits from my codependency that I needed to unlearn.
And I did unlearn them. Actually, I unlearned them before I left him. I stayed in that relationship for a year while working on myself and figuring out my life.
That’s when I was unlearning to express myself extremely. I grew up; I no longer was the little girl with a temper tantrum. And I grew up and matured into the young woman that I was. I learned how to say I’m angry, or I’m sad or what you just did really hurt my feelings without all of the extremeness, which I think is a sign of maturity.
Because when I would express myself with him, when I was having my temper tantrum, it was actually a manipulation to get him to do what I wanted him to do. And then, when I grew up and matured, I was expressing myself for me, not to try to get him to change.
It was a very healthy, mature expression of my feelings that I felt. I gave myself a voice but without all of the expectations behind it. And that’s really where my growth started to happen. Because then, if I said, you know, I understand that I have been with you for years and years and years. And you leaving on a Thursday night and coming back home on a Saturday has been kind of the norm. And, I’ve allowed you to come in and out of this house whenever you pleased, whenever it was convenient for you because I was so grateful to see you alive and have you back here.
But I’m no longer that woman.
I’ve grown into someone better, and I have needs and wants and expectations of my partner. So if you’re planning on leaving again, I would love for you to continue to leave and not come back because that’s not the type of marriage that I want to be a part of.
I need somebody who is going to be home when they say they’re going to be home and not run away.
When I said this to him, I did not expect him to respect what I was saying. I knew he would deflect and argue and be defensive. And I knew there’d be a lot of noise after what I just said, but I didn’t even hear it. I wasn’t even interested in it or emotionally invested in his response. I was just incredibly proud of what I said.
And I wasn’t interested in the result because truthfully, it was very unrealistic for me to expect him to say well, okay, Michelle, I understand what you’re saying. And I’m so sorry for hurting your feelings. I love you. And I’m willing to change. Let me just go get back in my car and go to an AA meeting and commit to sobriety for the rest of my life.
That is not what was going to happen.
It would be phenomenal, but not going to happen. Instead, I’m going to get anger or defensiveness or maybe even an apology, but he’s going to leave and come back when he wants.
It didn’t matter. It was the fact that I had spoken up for myself and started to break that pattern of manipulation and temper tantrums. I was learning to express myself with moderation.
He would leave and didn’t come home again. And that’s okay because, at that point, I was planning on exiting. I was just practicing new, healthy skills while I was figuring out, okay, where was I going to live? And who would be my lawyer, and how was I going to be able to afford to live on my own, and all of the things you think of when you plan on leaving.
Those are the questions for you all about exploring your codependency. I wanted to throw in my life experiences, so you know that your struggles are not in vain. I am right there with you. I’ve experienced everything you’re going through.
And so have all of the other thousands and thousands of women that are reading this. Even though we’re a secret community, we are a very big community. We all can stand with you and say, we’re walking through this with you. You don’t have to do this alone. What you are experiencing, you might think, is so isolating and so unique. And it is. But it’s unique to all of us.
There are so many of us out there that live in this quiet, silent, secretive world.
And that’s so unhealthy because that’s what addiction wants.
Addiction wants us to remain silent and secret and cover-up and walk around, feeling ashamed for something we didn’t cause and can’t control. That’s kind of the goal.
And when we listen to these podcasts or join a secret Facebook group, when we reach out to each other, that’s how addiction loses its power.
When you drop the whole shame shenanigans and refuse to apologize for something that you didn’t have anything to do with, when you give your feelings a voice, that’s freeing.
That’s when you know you are healing because you’re refusing to live in secret anymore. And that’s when shame disappears because you’re shedding light on it. The more you talk about it, the more you share about it, the more it loses its power over you.
If you have listened to this and answered these questions, let me tell you, you are doing your best. You have more courage than most people out there, and you will be okay because you are taking the time to invest in yourself. You’re striving and trying, and that is incredible.
You’re going to stumble, but you’re going to get yourself back up, and I’m going to help you back up. And we’re going to do this together. Cause I’m not leaving you. I’m going to be here. I’ve no intention of stopping anything anytime soon because I’m committed to you. I know I needed something when I was down and out, and my family really stepped up and helped me. And I want to do the same for you and remind you that you deserve a wonderful life.
No matter how old you are, it is never too late to get it.
You just keep doing the work like you’re doing today. And I am so incredibly proud of you. I believe in you and your happy future. I know you’re feeling desperate and sad and alone sometimes. And I just want to be that very loud voice in your head saying, I’ve got you. You can do this. You can get through this. There is a better way on the other side, but you got to walk here. You got walk through it. You can’t just jump automatically to better. It doesn’t work that way.
It’d be great if it did, but you actually have to do the work. You have to go through this. It’s like a swamp, and you’re in the middle of the swamp, and your legs are hurting, and it’s one foot and slow. And you wonder, is this ever gonna end? Yes, it is. There’s an end, and you’re going to come out of it, and it’s going to feel amazing. And I’m going to be there for you every step, every single step.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
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