Three Taverns Church

Step 9 & Co-Dependency


I’ve been working through Step 9 over the past week and I can feel the co-dependent urge to want to make others feel better through my amends, which is of course not the point of Step 9 at all. Step 9 is about cleaning up ‘my side of the street’ by making things right through owning my sin. Step 9 is NOT about  cleaning up ‘both sides of the street’. It is not about making things right by doing whatever it takes to make other people feel OK about my sin. If that were the goal of Step 9 my work would never be done because others would never feel ‘whole’ as long as I was trying to manage their emotions. That’s another thing Step 9 is not: It is not an opportunity for my controlling nature to take over and manage how other people think or feel.

As a byproduct of Step 9 I am beginning to sense where I ‘end’ and where the rest of the world ‘begins’. In my old, co-dependent view of the world there are spider webs of emotion connecting me to everyone else around me. For example, if my wife is angry, the thread connecting her and I starts vibrating and soon I am angry, too. Then I try to make her feel better so that I can again feel OK.

In my new and emerging view of the world (and this is difficult to describe) it is as if the thread connecting my wife and I passes through a ‘glass wall’. This wall filters my wife’s emotions before they get to me. It also provides a clear line of demarcation between my wife and I; it separates our personhoods so that it is easier to feel and understand that she and I are different people and can exist in different emotional states simultaneously. Thus I am becoming my own person by eliminating co-dependency through Step 9!

4 thoughts on “Step 9 & Co-Dependency

  1. Well said! This puts a new spin on the way I view Step 9. As an AA who found Al-Anon, I’m still discovering that there is more than one way to work these steps. Thank you.

  2. This is something I’ve struggled with as well. I think mine stems not only from a lack of a strong personal identity but also from a lack of self-worth (kind of along the lines of “if so-and-so-who-is-very-close-to-me is upset/angry/depressed, what right do I have to feel good/different?”. I think I confused that with empathy. I’m learning now that I have a right to my own emotions, but I also need to be aware, as a Brother in Christ, to what those close to me are feeling or going through. And just as I have a right to my own emotions, others also have a right to their emotions. And if I am angry or trying to throw myself a pity party, it should be a party of one. I have no right to expect others to join in on my feelings. They can understand and acknowledge how I’m feeling, but that’s it.

    • I think many other people (myself included) confuse codependency with empathy, so you’re not alone in that. Through my recovery program I’ve learned to understand where me and my emotions end, and where the rest of the world begins. That way I can be sensitive to others’ needs without having them dictate my emotions.

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