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Lucrecia Castro de Polasek

This article refers to Julian’s mother, Beatriz, Lilian and so many other people who live with and suffer with a toxic substance user. It refers to codependents, those who are addicted to living with someone who is an alcohol, drug, work, food, betting or sex addict or live with neurotic parents. There is no specific definition that describes a codependent; there are discrepancies, as specialists do not agree. However, we will use this definition: codependent is a person who lives in a dependence relation with a partner that is dependent or physically or emotionally addicted to something.

In his book “Co – dependency, An Emerging Issue”, Robert Subby describes codependence as an emotional, psychological behavior, condition that develops as an outcome of individual and prolonged exposure to and practice of, a set of oppressive rules”.

E. Larson, codependence specialist and pioneer in this field, defines it as “those thoughts of self-failure, learned behavior or character flaws that result in reduced capacity to start or take part in love relationships”.

A lady says: “I am codependent. I am married to an alcoholic”. Another woman states “it is knowing that all your relationships are or will be the same road (painful), or that in the end it will always be the same road (disastrous), or both”



  • They are hostile. They have been hurt, and hostility serves as defense to avoid being punished again. They are angry because anyone that has suffered what they have endured would be equally angry and hostile.
  • They are leaders.  To maintain control, because everything around them and inside them is out of control. They always need to set up a sort of dike in their life and the lives of those who surround them, simulating to avoid bursting in a manner that is harmful to all. No one except themselves seems to notice or care.
  • They are manipulators. Apparently, manipulation is the only way to achieve that everything is done their way. They do not ask for things directly, because the family system in which they live is incapable of tolerating honesty.
  • Sometimes they think they are going crazy, because they have had to believe many lies and cannot distinguish reality.
  • Other people’s problems absorb them; they do not have time to identify or solve their own conflicts. They are deeply concerned, often destructively, for other people and forget to take care of themselves and grant importance to their own problems. The codependent is responsible for many and those who surround him do little or nothing for him.
  • They are frequently hurt; they are confused persons that need comfort, and understanding and information about what is going on around them.
  • They are victims of alcoholism but are not alcoholic; however, they are killers or perpetrators.

Codependents are more deeply hurt, because they endure agony without the anesthetics provided by alcohol and drugs. The deep pain felt by loving someone who is in trouble is inexpressible, sometimes indescribable. They suffer twice the pain, occasionally mitigated by anger and fantasies. Unfortunately, only the alcoholic or drug addict receive care because they have been identified as the focus of the problem; their silent victims that carry the weight (sometimes unbearable) on their shoulders are overlooked. Here we have the Al-Anon group, specialized institution that provides support to partners of addicts. You can contact the group in your neighborhood or community.


Following are some of the most important characteristics. We invite you to score yourself. If you never do, score 0; if sometimes, score 1; and if usually, score 2 (the highest the score, the more probability you are a codependent).

  • You believe and feel you are responsible for other persons
  • You feel anxiety, compassion and guilt when others have problems
  • You feel you cannot help persons with problems
  • You feel angry when your help is not effective
  • You anticipate to others’ needs
  • You try to please others instead of yourself
  • You feel assured when you are giving
  • You feel insecure and guilty when someone gives you anything
  • You are attracted to persons in need
  • You feel bored, empty and poor is they do not have a life crisis, you don’t have a problem to solve or someone to help
  • You come from a dysfunctional family
  • You deny your family has problems
  • You blame yourself for everything
  • You get angry, become defensive, justify or are furious when others blame you and criticize you as being codependent
  • You reject flattery
  • You feel different from the rest of the world
  • You consider yourself not good enough
  • You fear rejection
  • You tell yourself you cannot do anything right
  • You expect to do everything perfect.