Co-dependency is known as the “mother of all addictions” and is a relationship illness with origins in childhood and growing up in a dysfunctional home that is usually afflicted by another addiction such as alcoholism or drug abuse. It is passed down through the generations when the lack of treatment and forgiveness occur. Without treatment and forgiveness, co-dependency becomes a cycle that repeats over and over by way of marriage that produces children who suffer from the cycle as their parents repeat the abuse of their parents.
To treat co-dependency, we must let go and grow up emotionally and spiritually, and extend forgiveness to our parents, siblings, authority figures and anyone else that have contributed in any way to the cycle of the illness. We must realize that they too have been victims and are only repeating the pattern that they themselves were exposed to. Help in treating those who suffer from co-dependency can be found in an organization that is dedicated to treating this illness in the same manner as Alcoholics Anonymous and other similar organizations. The organization is the 12-Step Fellowship of the ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and their Redbook program details 14 signs that one may be suffering from the illness of co-dependency. Here is the list of those 14 signs:
- Isolation and fear of authority figures.
- Become approval-seekers and suffer loss of identity.
- Fear of angry people and personal criticism.
- Become alcoholics, marry them or find other compulsive personality to fulfill abandonment needs.
- Live life from viewpoint of victim and are attracted by that weakness in relationships.
- Overdeveloped sense of responsibility and are concerned with others more than ourselves.
- Feeling guilty when we stand up for ourselves and not give in to others.
- Become addicted to excitement.
- Confuse love and pity, and tend to love people we can pity and rescue.
- Deny and suppress childhood feelings and lose the ability to express feelings.
- Judge ourselves harshly and have low self-esteem.
- Dependent personality that is terrified of abandonment and does anything to hold on to a relationship.
- Alcoholism is a family disease; can take on characteristics of the disease without actually engaging in the behavior (drinking).
- Are reactors rather than actors.
Aside from this detailed list, the Orthodox perspective also focuses on ancestral sin which accounts for the illness passing down from generation to generation. We realize that sin came from our first father and mother in the Garden as a result of their disobedience to God, and that we are all born sinners. We must look at what we inherited from our parents, learn from it and make the necessary changes in our lives to ensure that the cycle of illness and sin does not repeat itself. As Orthodox Christians we are called to pray for our enemies (even those close to home), to forgive them for their trespasses against us, to forgive ourselves and to commit to the Orthodox methods of treatment within the Church that will rebuild us and allow the Lord to release us from past hurts and grow up in the faith as He intended. We must become childlike, not childish.
The Orthodox Church is a hospital; we need to go for treatment and when we do, we will enter into the fullness of the faith which is the sacraments of the Church. We will see an entire redemption and transformation of not only the removal of our sins but their effects. As we approach the cross, the cross which put an end to sin and death, let us enter in to this call for forgiveness and rely on Him, He who desires for all of us to forgive our enemies, those around us and ourselves, by the grace of God.