A developmental, behavioral, biological approach to codependency treatment
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Mary Crocker Cook
I am a licensed therapist and addiction specialist who has trained counselors for over twenty years. Awakening Hope. A Developmental, Behavioral, Biological Approach to Codepedency Treatment was developed in response to a disastrous relationship loss of my own that took place DESPITE my years in the field. I had to figure out what happened – why “knowledge” didn’t prevent my loss of self.
I make the connection for readers between their developmental problems with attachment disruption; the anxious and avoidant behaviors in their relationships that result; and the adrenal system damage that comes from constant arousal and reactivity in relationships with friends, family, and co-workers.
I incorporate research, personal observation, case vignettes, and ultimately offers a plan for healing and relapse prevention.
Several years ago I met the man, who for me was the love of my life. I started a business to be with this man, participated actively in supporting his education, and began and ended every day of my life with the thought of him. He never asked me for any of those things – I volunteered them. After seven years, having attempted to establish myself as “indispensable”, a woman walked in to our business wearing tube tops, and within three months I had left the business, and him, because I became insane.
Despite his denials of everything I accused him of, I could not be comforted. I couldn’t breathe – I was having at least five panic attacks a day. I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts because all I could do was obsess about her and wish me, or her, dead. The pain came in waves, and I would find myself literally keening on the floor, where my staff could on occasion hear me wailing because she was in his office behind his locked door. I was suffocating under the weight of the loss, because he had been my entire world for such a long time. All he had to do to “fix” the situation was remove her, and he would not do so. So, the obsessive thoughts that tormented me day and night was “he chose her over me”, and “maybe I hadn’t loved him enough”, and my gut and chest hurt constantly. I rocked back and forth, doubled over and folded into my abdomen. I now viscerally understand what it means to be “bereft”, because I lost both him and me at the same time. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would live through this much pain without permanently losing my mind.
This is not a story about him, or how I was a “victim”, because I wasn’t. Despite 20 years in the classroom teaching “Codependency and Family Dynamics”, and 20 years in Al-Anon, “knowledge” did not prevent me from disappearing into him, and the wrenching apart was the hardest and most frightening experience of my life. In the initial aftermath, I chose to “save myself” by deepening my understanding of the role my own attachment disruptions played in laying the foundation of such a profoundly destructive codependent relationship. The breaking of the attachment consumed me at a level that I recognized could only be “core”, and I went back to the early attachment theorists to evolve a theory of codependency formation and treatment planning that would address this core level. While this project was born out of desperation and overwhelming grief, I have come to recognize that counseling professionals have been missing important inroads into the permanent healing of what is a developmental, behavioral, and biological disorder.
It is my deepest hope that this text will provide guidance and genuine direction in healing for the codependent who suffers and those who are working valiantly to save their lives.