Trauma bonds are bonds formed by trauma —and they are strong! This type of bonding has both a biological and emotional component. So, these bonds don’t easily fade over time. You can’t fall out of trauma bonds like you “fall out of love.” Plus, it’s very difficult to stay away from someone you have bonded with. Even more so, the longer the time bonded, the harder it can be to break. These are a typical manifestation of an abusive relationship and relationships with alcoholics, addicts, or narcissists.
If you love an alcoholic, then you know how much energy it takes. There's usually so much focus on the alcoholic, that often, we don’t see ourselves.
As the author of, So, You Love an Alcoholic? (book available on Amazon), I put together a list of 30 signs & symptoms of codependency that I saw in myself. You’re welcome to use this as a self-screening tool. Just know it can’t diagnose or treat the condition.
Detachment can be key to recovering your sanity, coping with the chaos and surviving the progression of a partner’s alcoholism. More so, it can stop codependency from creeping into our lives and taking over. Too much victimization can lead to a very detrimental victim mentality. When detaching, you get a chance to break off of the fixation on the alcoholic and come up for oxygen and see yourself. Detachment is a powerful tool and often the first step in healing. Detaching is a choice and skill. First, we start by being willing. By detaching, you can not only recover yourself and your life but also your joy and happiness.
If you love an alcoholic, then you probably have tried Al-Anon, a Twelve-Step Program for friends and family of alcoholics. It’s anonymous, it’s free, and meetings are virtually everywhere. Meetings take place by phone, virtual, via chat, and in person. The Al-Anon program is a spin-off, sister-program/companion program to the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and the original Twelve Step program. It has helped millions of people and families stuck in the alcoholic-codependent dilemma.
It’s helpful, valuable, and can be a sanity-saver. I, myself, have used and relied on the program. Al-Anon adopted its twelve steps from AA. What I often wonder is, was that the right idea? Should we have our own program geared more towards what we deal with
A “codependent bottom” is a dark and hopeless place mentally, physically, and emotionally. It’s a place of despair, fear, and brokenness. It’s equivalent to the “Dark Night of the Soul.” However, if you have gotten to such a low place that you feel you have hit a “bottom,” this can be a good thing! Bottoms can be our greatest teachers. Bottoms can be the starting point we need. After all, we can only go up from there.
Since life coaching is about making actionable changes, here is a list of some of the ways that I help you get in control of your life in our life coaching calls.
Hear your story!
Validate your suffering
Acknowledge your concerns
Help you get clear on the issues and priorities
Identify what your obstacles are
Brainstorm ideas for safety and sanity
Make to-do lists
Create a healthy mind-set
Shift the focus
Teach you about important principles
You’re not wrong for loving someone. Please stop judging yourself so harshly. Love is a wonderful, beautiful thing that, by nature, we are capable of. Being a loving, caring, compassionate person is a good thing to be. Know that you are okay being a loving person.
It’s also okay to love others—even those who are sick and suffering. Sometimes, however, we have to recognize that our love has limits. In reality, it may not “conquer and cure all.” Actually, whatever form of love we are practicing may even hurt ourselves and others. Learn more. . .
Here are a few of Grace’s best practices for recovering from an alcoholic-codependent relationship.* She created and practiced these Do/Don’t which led her into loving herself to healing and wholeness. Take what you like, take what you can—and leave the rest for later use!
I was in a toxic relationship for fifteen years with an alcoholic full of non-truths lurking under the surface. Actually, the subtle relationship abuse centered around all of his lies. (And the various ways he lied to me.) Pay attention to the "quiet lies" — the lies by omission or the lies happening through non-disclosure of the truth. I realize in hindsight, the lies about who he really was were even more important than the fibs he told to me. I learned that it's abuse when someone makes you question your reality. And more so, it's abuse when they distort your version of your truth. You can even start to go insane if you can't apply more denial to it. Having cognitive dissonance is actually psychologically painful. I found that the confusion created by his lying was painful and mentally disturbing. That’s why I say that I was abused by lies. What’s more?
I wanted the alcoholic to get out from being under the influence of alcohol. What I failed to realize was that I was under the influence of my own dysfunctional codependent thoughts. I was drunk on codependency binges. He had his alcoholism and I had my codependency. Binges for me were mental and emotional. My binges stemmed from giving into any thought that I should fix, save, and rescue everything/everyone around me. I had codependent compulsions, and they got progressively worse when he was actively drinking. My reactions became bigger, more unhealthy, and more severe. I was being affected by both his issues and my own. Ask yourself: What are you being affected by?
Loss of Self in an Alcoholic-Codependent Relationship
I started to notice my loss of self every time we got back together. This was disturbing to me. Very, very disturbing. It was like watching a slow suicide of myself and my soul.
I realized that my alcoholic demanded (passively and covertly) ALL of my attention with his issues. (Later, I would learn that the disease of alcoholism does this to everyone caught in its cycle.) His issues became my issues. He made them mine. I made them mine. It was a trap.
Begin at the Beginning:
Honor Where You Are.
"Would it shock you to discover that you are the one that you've been waiting for all this time?"
”So, You Love an Alcoholic?: Lessons for a Codependent" (page xl)
Have you considered that, perhaps, you haven't been waiting for the alcoholic to stop drinking and become the hero of your life? Would it surprise you to find out that you have been waiting for yourself all this time?
"I loved the alcoholic, but I had to learn to love myself more!"–Grace W. Wroldson. I loved him. I loved the alcoholic. I loved him as much as I possibly could. I loved him 100 ways that didn’t work. To my dismay, my love couldn’t cure the active disease of alcoholism that was destroying him. I thought my love was helping him for a time. After a while, my love stopped helping and started hurting us both.
What I can tell my readers is that the #1 thing they can do for themselves is to learn. Seriously, with conviction, completely learn what is needed at the moment. I encourage readers to learn from everything that’s happened. Learn from all that they have already tried. Learn about their partner and who they are by their behavior. Learn about themselves and their behaviors and reactions. We can learn from everything—one day at a time.
Because when you are learning, you are able to change, grow, heal, and make better choices. Someone who doesn’t learn is doomed to repeat their past mistakes. It’s a learning disorder when someone can’t/won’t/doesn’t learn from what’s happening to them and around them. Denial is a form of a self-inflicted learning disorder—designed to help us cope.