Review Posted September 30, 2008.
Hazelden, 1987. 231 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2007: #5, Personal Growth
Codependent No More is by now a classic work on codependency. If you want to understand what people are talking about when they mention "struggling with codependency," this book is a good place to turn.
My friend Doris Rauseo gave me this copy of the book when I was a newlywed. Interesting. I have a feeling she saw many codependent traits in me which I was oblivious to. Though I did read it and thought it had some good ideas. However, 20 years later, I found the book in my moving boxes, and reading it now as an abandoned wife, I could suddenly see myself clearly.
Who is a Codependent? The author describes in the introduction how as she became a codependent she began to understand them better:
I saw people who were hostile; they had felt so much hurt that hostility was their only defense against being crushed again. They were that angry because anyone who had tolerated what they had would be that angry.
They were controlling because everything around and inside them was out of control. Always, the dam of their lives and the lives of those around them threatened to burst and spew harmful consequences on everyone. And nobody but them seemed to notice or care.
I saw people who manipulated because manipulation appeared to be the only way to get anything done. I worked with people who were indirect because the systems they lived in seemed incapable of tolerating honesty.
I worked with people who thought they were going crazy because they had believed so many lies they didn't know what reality was.
I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people's problems they didn't have time to identify or solve their own. These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves. The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.
I saw hurting, confused people who needed comfort, understanding, and information.
In this book, Melody Beattie manages to convey comfort, understanding, and information. She helps you understand what codependency is, and helps you understand why sometimes being helpful ends up being hurtful.
Best of all, she offers hope of recovery:
Codependency is many things. It is a dependency on people -- on their moods, behaviors, sickness or well-being, and their love. It is a paradoxical dependency. Codependents appear to be depended upon, but they are dependent. They look strong but feel helpless. They appear controlling but in reality are controlled themselves, sometimes by an illness such as alcoholism.
These are the issues that dictate recovery. It is solving these problems that makes recovery fun. Many recoveries from problems that involve a person's mind, emotions, and spirit are long and grueling. Not so, here. Except for normal human emotions we would be feeling anyway, and twinges of discomfort as we begin to behave differently, recovery from codependency is exciting. It is liberating. It lets us be who we are. It lets other people be who they are. It helps us own our God-given power to think, feel, and act. It feels good. It brings peace. It enables us to love ourselves and others. It allows us to receive love -- some of the good stuff we've all been looking for. It provides an optimum environment for the people around us to get and stay healthy. And recovery helps stop the unbearable pain many of us have been living with.
Recovery is not only fun, it is simple. It is not always easy, but it is simple. It is based on a premise many of us have forgotten or never learned: Each person is responsible for him- or herself. It involves learning one new behavior that we will devote ourselves to: taking care of ourselves. In the second half of this book, we'll discuss specific ideas for doing that.
This is a helpful, encouraging, and liberating book.