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“I wish I had known that I was a co-dependent and that my co-dependent nature was learnt from my upbringing. Reason being is because growing up and up until finding recovery my happiness relied on someone else’s happiness. If someone was not happy then I was not happy so I felt like it was my job to make them happy. Recovery gave me a chance to change that nature. I didn’t know I was a people pleaser and looking back I can see it meant that a lot of the time I was doing things I didn’t want to do to please other people. It meant I hid my true self from other people, I didn’t tell my family that I was gay. I wish I had found the 12 Step programme much earlier because then I would have found myself, I would have been able to be true to myself, and to understand that my emotional serenity is not dependent on other people but on myself. I grew to understand and accept that I have no power over others’ well-being or emotions. Finding the 12 Step programme earlier would have led me to surrender my delusion that I could have controlled my situation and then I would have had an acceptance of my circumstances and everyone around me, instead of trying to change the things I couldn’t I would have focussed on myself. Where I am now, I still enjoy doing nice things for people and there are still times where I have an expectation that the nice thing I do will make people happy which is when the co-dependency comes up again. Now, I can give a gift and it is just that, giving a gift without any expectations. I do know that I need to carry on my recovery work. It is like going to the gym, if I don’t go to gym then I will get unfit and so, if I stop working the programme then my co-dependency will come back with force. I don’t regret having not done this work earlier because part of my journey is understanding and accepting that things come at the right time even though it doesn’t always feel so.”

This was the response Andrew Kennedy, the co-owner of YouTurn House, gave me when I asked him the same question I had asked Pierre a couple of weeks ago. I asked Andrew what was something he wished he had known before recovery.

Andrew is a member of a 12 Step programme that is specifically a family support fellowship for anyone who has a loved one who is suffering with addiction or is in recovery from addiction. Embarking on a journey that encompasses self-discovery and self-acceptance, such as the 12 Step programme can be both challenging and transformative. Originally formed to help individuals in overcoming addiction and entering recovery, the 12 Steps offer profound insights and tools that can help anyone seeking a deeper understanding of themselves and a more serene life. This journey helps individuals shed the burdens of co-dependency, embrace their true selves, and cultivate lasting inner peace. One of the most significant areas where the 12 Steps can make a difference is in addressing co-dependency. Co-dependency is a complex and often misunderstood condition that frequently emerges within families dealing with addiction. It involves an unhealthy reliance on the approval and well-being of others for one’s own sense of identity and self-worth. For family members of those struggling with addiction, co-dependency can manifest as an overwhelming need to help, control, or fix the addicted person’s problems, often at the expense of their own emotional and physical health.

Breaking down what co-dependency is:

Andrew beautifully explained what co-dependency is; simply put it is relying on another person for one’s own happiness. It is when someone relies on another person for their own sense of self-worth and happiness because of this focus people who are co-dependent often feel a sense of helplessness over their own emotions. Co-dependency is characterised by excessive selflessness, passivity, and a personal powerlessness.

Addiction as a catalyst for co-dependency:

In families dealing with addiction responses to the addict’s behaviour often start as natural reactions to situations of crisis. Loved ones might begin by covering for the addict’s absences, making excuses for their behaviour, provide financial support, or constantly worry about their well-being. Although these actions may come from a place of love or a desire to help, they ultimately enable the addiction to continue by protecting the addict from the consequences of their behaviour. Over time, these actions can evolve into a pattern of behaviour that becomes central to the loved one’s life which, in turn, leads to co-dependency. The family member’s identity and sense of purpose become enmeshed with the addict’s struggles that they lose sight of their own needs and wants.

Dangers of co-dependency:

Despite often coming from a place of care and concern, co-dependency carries several hidden dangers that have a significant negative impact on individuals and their relationships. In the interview with Andrew, he mentioned almost every one of the consequences of co-dependency that are listed below:

  • Loss of Identity: Co-dependent individuals often lose sight of their own needs, wants, and interested because of how they become overly focused on others. This often leads to a blurred sense of self.
  • Emotional Exhaustion: Constantly prioritising others and neglecting self leads to chronic stress, burnout, and emotional exhaustion.
  • Resentment: Anger and resentment can build up due to suppressing one’s own needs and feelings to serve others.
  • Difficulty in Establishing Healthy Boundaries: Co-dependent people often struggle to set and maintain boundaries which can cause feelings of being overwhelmed or unappreciated.
  • Enabling Unhealthy Behaviours: As mentioned above, by continually rescuing or protecting loved ones from the consequences of their actions this can inadvertently enable harmful behaviours.
  • Neglect of Personal Goals: It is common for those struggling with co-dependency to put their own goals and/or dreams on hold in order to support others.
  • Decreased Self-Worth: Over time, constantly placing others’ needs above one’s own can erode self-esteem and self-worth, making it difficult to break free from the cycle of co-dependency.

Recovery From Co-dependency:

Andrew’s story offers hope for loved ones facing similar struggles. Discovering the 12 Step family support programme can be a turning point in an individual’s recovery journey. Recognising co-dependency is the first step toward change and healing. Education and awareness are crucial in dismantling the denial. Family members can benefit from learning about co-dependency, identifying the patterns in their behaviour, and understanding how these patterns impact their lives.

There are a few crucial aspects that seem to have shaped Andrew’s journey towards recovery and the serenity that the recovery programme brings.


  • Entering recovery wholeheartedly opens doors to understanding parts of oneself that were previously hidden or suppressed. Living authentically means being true to oneself, expressing one’s genuine feelings, needs, and desires without expectations or fear of judgement. The recovery programme provided a framework that helped Andrew learn and accept that true emotional serenity comes from within and will not come from depending on others. This shift in perspective can be liberating as it allows one to break free from the exhausting cycle that co-dependency perpetuates.

Accepting Powerlessness:

  • The realisation that one cannot control the uncontrollable or change the unchangeable can bring about relief, serenity, and a sense of empowerment. This acceptance involves recognising and embracing one’s limitations and the reality of life. It shifts the focus from what cannot be controlled to what can be – one’s own actions and reactions.

Recovery is a Journey not a Destination:

  • Andrew compared working a recovery programme to the likes of going to gym. It requires consistent effort. Regularly working on one’s recovery is essential to prevent old patterns of co-dependency or other dysfunctional behaviours from resurfacing. It involves setting boundaries, focussing on self, learning new coping strategies, and continuously reflecting on and improving oneself.

In conclusion, the journey of recovery from co-dependency can be life changing. Andrew provides invaluable insight on the nature of co-dependency and its detrimental effects, highlighting the importance of self-discovery, accepting powerlessness, and recognising that recovery is an ongoing process. Through the power of 12 Step programme, he has learnt how to break free from the patterns learned in his upbringing, where his happiness was tied to others’ well-being. Recovery is a multifaceted journey that encompasses more than overcoming dependency. 12-Step fellowships offer invaluable support for the loved ones of addicts. By providing a community of understanding, companionship, and offering a structured programme for personal growth. Recognising and addressing co-dependency can lead to profound personal growth and healing. Shifting focus from the addict to oneself, learning to set boundaries, and embracing self-care are crucial steps in this process. Breaking free from co-dependency is a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, leading to a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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