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Healing Codependency: 5 Steps to Free Yourself

July 17, 2023

Ian Young

Healing Codependency

5 Steps to Free Yourself

by Steff Hopper

Do you tend to put your partner’s needs before your own? Perhaps you struggle with boundaries, finding yourself always giving 100% and getting nothing in return. Do you move around in an endless cycle of choosing someone who doesn’t choose you? Or do you accept neglect, disconnection and abandonment over love, connection and security? Sound familiar? Well, you are in the right place. Let’s look a little deeper at Codependency and how you break the cycle.

What is Codependency?

Codependency refers to a behavioural pattern where individuals will rely on those around them for their own sense of self-esteem, security and worth. In particular, this is fostered within romantic relationships, with the co-dependent placing the partner’s needs and desires above their own. Moreover, this leads to the codependent partner feeling overwhelmed and addicted to gaining validation from their partner, this comes from their strong desire for connection that was often absent from their primary caregiver growing up.
Secure vs Codependent behaviours

In a relationship, our ultimate goal is to remain secure within our behaviour, self-regulation, needs and boundaries. In a codependent relationship, our fear of conflict, abandonment and rejection leads us to behaviours that move us away from a secure relationship and into an insecure one. As we begin to heal our codependency we will start to see ourselves becoming a more secure version of ourselves and within a relationship.



Below I describe some of the big differences between secure and codependent behaviours, see if you can recognise any behaviours that are familiar to you.

  • Able to self-regulate emotions and feelings.
  • Feels safe to express their needs and desires.
  • High self-esteem and belief in oneself.
  • Shares their feelings with others.
  • High trust in their partners.
  • Independence and self-autonomy.
  • Healthy relationships with family, friends and partners.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feelings of jealousy, distrust and fear.
  • High to low-intensity relationships/neglect and abuse is common.
  • Lack of boundaries.
  • Fear of abandonment.
  • People pleasing prioritizes others’ needs.
  • Control issues, stress and anxiety during times of uncertainty.
  • Deep craving for emotional connection and intimacy.
  • High capacity for empathy.

By now you are probably starting to worry how many of these points relate to your own life. Lucky for you I have the steps available to help you move from codependent behavior to secure. Follow these steps and you will see a change in your life, guaranteed.

Continue reading below to start this journey towards your recovery.



5 steps to Healing Codependency

1. Focus on YOU

I want you to think about the times you have felt co-dependent. When you think of these times, how much of your time and energy is spent thinking and obsessing over someone else? A lot, am I right? Now I want you to think about how much energy and time you would get back if you stopped obsessing, ruminating and thinking about someone else and thought about yourself instead. A lot, am I right? As someone who has a nervous system that is programmed to focus all your attention on soothing others rather than yourself, choosing to focus your attention back on yourself is one of the most important things you can do.

What does that look like you ask?

Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • A well-deserved break from romantic relationships.
  • Reignite your passions and hobbies.
  • Find connections with new friends/people in recovery from codependency.
  • Challenge yourself in education or career change.
  • Enter a wellness/recovery programme.



2. Self Awareness and Mindfulness practice

Anyone who is codependent will know the difficulty we all face when it comes to losing control in times of uncertainty. The fear of abandonment is so strong within us that we lose all sense of consciousness and become a version of ourselves that disrespects, abandons and forgets who we truly are. Gaining self-awareness in our everyday lives will be a saviour for someone codependent, it’s a lifeline that if used properly can help you choose a different path for yourself. Cultivating self-awareness can create distance from your thoughts and therefore help you see your codependent thoughts and behaviours in action.

The key is to become the observer of your thoughts, to observe rather than react to a thought. As the great holocaust survivor Viktor.E.Frankl said; ““Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”― Viktor E. Frankl

There are many different mindfulness and self-awareness techniques you can try, if you don’t know where to start have a look at some of the ones I suggest below.

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Box breathing
  • Yoga
  • 1 to 1 Therapy or Group Therapy

3. Creating A Healthy Connection

The real reason we are codependent is because at one point in our lives, we didn’t receive the connection we needed and this developed an insecure attachment system within us. As we grew up our version of connection was flawed, we may have been taught that to get the connection we must go above and beyond to get it. During this period we begin to believe that we are not good enough to be loved and the only way we can receive connection and love is from certain unhealthy behaviours. As we grow up these behaviours are installed into our everyday life and you guessed it, our romantic partnerships.

When we begin our journey back to a healthy secure life it is really important that you start to surround ourselves with others who are secure. You may have never had a healthy relational dynamic modelled to you, so surrounding yourself with people who have built a secure way of living will help you navigate the stormy waters ahead and get a helping hand along the way.

Finding people like this is easier than you think, here are some suggestions of where to go and find them!

  • Find a therapist or a sponsor who specializes in codependency
  • Group meetings/CODA (recovery from codependency groups)
  • Volunteering and Service work
  • A rehabilitation rehab
  • Healthy activities; sports/yoga/meditation classes

4. Boundaries and Self Confidence

A frequent problem that surfaces in codependent behaviour is the lack of installing boundaries. People pleasing others to gain validation is a game we love to play, so much so that we create our lives around it! This trait comes from a deep fear of rejection and abandonment, to avoid this fear coming true we do everything in our power to make people love us. Unfortunately, this makes us targets to be taken advantage of and in turn, be rejected.

Discovering healthy boundaries is an essential part of regaining self-confidence and removing our toxic people-pleasing behaviours. The amazing part about this is that the more our self-confidence grows the more our self-esteem grows, therefore we are beginning to heal the roots of our codependent insecurity!

Implementing boundaries is a difficult process, one that comes with lots of guilt, shame and fear (we are quite literally going against everything our nervous system has built to protect us, it’s ALOT!). Therefore it is suggested you go through this process with someone you trust that can guide you, for example, a therapist, sponsor or boundary coach would be a great start.




There are many areas in your life that you can start to implement boundaries, here are some suggestions;

  • Physical Boundaries
  • Sexual Boundaries
  • Emotional or Mental Boundaries
  • Spiritual or Religious Boundaries
  • Financial and Material Boundaries
  • Time Boundaries

5. Finding Service and Passion

Finding service in your life is something that every human needs to feel authentic love. Giving back to the community is a great way to bring more love and connection into your life and help others in the process.

As a codependent we are extremely attentive to rescuing others’ needs before our own, this comes from seeking validation or trying to prove that we are worthy. A big switch for myself was when I started to redirect my empathetic energy towards helping others in a professional capacity rather than in my relationships. For example, volunteering at a food bank for homeless people gave me the natural hit of oxytocin (the ‘feel good’ chemical in the body), in a healthy environment. This helped me gain a sense of purpose and fulfilment that is no longer contingent on the approval or validation of others. This will empower you to develop a stronger sense of self and strengthen your ability to establish healthy boundaries and connections.

Moreover, the further you go on your healing journey the more you will learn about yourself and how to heal from codependency, depression, grief and all the other challenges you have faced along the way. You can then spread this message to others who are suffering and help them in their own recovery, it becomes a beautiful cycle of healing that makes life worth living (Trust me,
I am the one writing a blog on how to heal codependency!).

Here are some areas and ways you can find service in your everyday life;

  • Volunteering in your local area
  • Career change in the social sector
  • A gift to a stranger
  • Environmental change
  • Counselling and helplines for those in need
  • Volunteer exchange abroad



What should I do next?

At this point, you are probably a little overwhelmed and wondering how on earth you start this process. Learning to become less codependent is not an easy task. It takes time, bravery and a lot of faith in the process. This is a journey best taken with others by your side, having people to walk with you step by step in this struggle can be the very thing that aids you to never give up.

When I was going through this journey it was really hard to ask for support but I reached a point where I knew I couldn’t do this by myself anymore. I found myself a therapist, I went to group therapy and I found others to share with who were on this journey as well. I know for a fact I wouldn’t be here without this support and it was the best decision I ever made for myself.

If you feel lost and you don’t know where to start, finding a programme, support or guidance is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Final Thoughts…

Codependency is and will be a challenge to overcome, but follow these steps and you will learn to manage and rediscover what it means to feel free of this addictive pattern. It is possible to maintain a secure lifestyle and break the pattern of codependency. Remember this takes time, consistency and a willingness to change, but it WILL change if you commit to the steps above. Believe in the journey and have faith, you got this.

More About The Author

Ian Young has worked in the addiction treatment industry since 2003 (in personal recovery since 2001) and has been involved in establishing 5 residential rehabs (in the UK and Thailand). He also has his own private practice “Sober-Services” since 2008 – pioneering Sober Companions & Transporters, as well as emerging as one of the world’s leading Addiction Interventionists. Ian is the Founder & Senior Trainer of Sober Academy, (since 2015) which was the first organisation to help Interventionists and Sober Companions become accredited, certified, and able to become insured practitioners, outside of North America. He went on to co-create EARS –European Association of Recovery Specialists with 6 other practitioners from 7 countries across Europe. The author of “It’s Not About Me”, he discloses his life story, whilst exploring practical and spiritual lessons he’s learned along the way and explaining how the 12-step program has worked in his recovery and his life. Ian’s higher purpose is to co-create a green and harmonious world, through laughter and love, one person at a time.

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