Our Favorite Books About Codependency
Codependence is defined as a physical, psychological, or emotional reliance on a dysfunctional relationship, usually involving the care of a person with an illness or addiction. At its root is the belief that one needs to sacrifice personal needs for others, regardless of the outcome. A problem carried from one to generation to the next, it can ruin a person’s relationships and well-being.
Because they ignore their own feelings and needs, codependents are especially vulnerable to low self-esteem and trauma. The good news is that codependency is a learned behavior that can also be unlearned. You can find a wealth of information at your local bookstore.
Ten Books for Recovery from Codependency
Codependent No More by Melody Beattie
In 1986, Melanie Beattie’s classic self-help book introduced the world to the concept of codependent behavior. Written especially for people-pleasers, it offers stories and tips to help readers recognize their need to put the care of others before their own and shows them ways to value themselves. A Codependent No More Workbook that helps readers track their own recovery through a series of ten lessons is also available.
The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents by Melody Beattie
In this book for self-reflection, Melanie Beattie uses the knowledge gained from her own experiences as a daily guide for those seeking to take responsibility for their own lines. The meditations are as fitting for addicts and alcoholics as they are for the people who love and care for them. The collection includes an inspiring meditation for each new day.
People who grow up in families with drug addiction or alcoholism are often unaware of the impact that addiction has on their own lives. In addition to trauma, physical or emotional abuse and shame, they often feel overly responsible for the happiness and behavior of others. This can result in issues like depression, anxiety, unhealthy relationships, controlling behavior or the need for perfection. Menter uses an interactive format to help readers recover from codependent thinking by using mindfulness.
The New Codependent: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation by Melody Beattie
In an update to her earlier writings on codependent behavior, Beattie looks at its changes in the 21st century. She breaks the obsession of caring for others into specific actions that can be individually addressed. Each chapter deals with a different topic, including the difference between codependent and chemically dependent behavior. She also talks about healthy behaviors like acceptance and self-love.
Pia Mellody is an authority on alcohol and drug addiction. In this book, she explains the link between childhood trauma and the inability to have healthy relationships as an adult. She introduces the concept of the inner, or “precious” child and describes a re-parenting process to heal old wounds and love oneself. A workbook, Breaking Free: A Recovery Workbook for Facing Codependence, accompanies the book.
Co-Dependents Anonymous by CODA
A guide to the 12-step program practiced by Co-Dependents Anonymous, also known as CODA, this book leads support groups through the stages of self-discovery, growth, and sharing. It is also a valuable resource for individuals. The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions Workbook of Co-Dependents Anonymous, a journal that goes with the guide, explains each step and provides a space for personal reflections.
Co-Dependency for Dummies by Darlene Lancer
This book provides an in-depth view of codependent behavior, explains its causes, and addresses methods of healing. It also distinguishes between healthy and dysfunctional care-taking as well as discussing healthy boundaries and offering a recovery plan.
This is the story of a woman who survived a childhood of loneliness and bullying but carried its painful legacy into adulthood. Her journey to healing from low self-esteem and suicidal feelings comes after the birth of her three children and provides a role model for anyone recovering from a painful past. She distinguishes between inherent self-worth and dysfunctional programming from the early years.
Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependence by Robert Weiss, Ph.D., MSW
Weiss uses his knowledge as a psychotherapist to offer a new approach called to caring for and living with addicts. In it, he recognizes the stigma sometimes attached to the old paradigm of loving someone too much or loving the “wrong” person. He also outlines the steps toward healing the self-doubt and blame that comes with being involved with a person with drug addiction. His answer lies in validating the caregiver’s and the addict’s journey instead of pathologizing it.
The Real Dope on Living with an Addict: How Addiction Saved My Life by Meredith Elliott Powell
The author speaks from personal experience about living with multiple addicts in the same family. She describes the actions to expect from an alcoholic and discusses ways of dealing with them. She also talks about to take care of oneself and other members of the family as well as how to start the path to recovery.
Healing the Shame that Binds You by John Bradshaw
In his classic book, Bradshaw talks about the toxic shame that comes from growing up in an alcoholic home and outlines 12 steps for transforming it into the healthy shame needed for spiritual living. He also addresses the importance of championing the inner child and learning self-forgiveness. Bradshaw hosted a series of PBS programs on topics like addiction, recovery, and spirituality.