There was once a time in which I wholeheartedly believed that love equaled caretaking. Fresh into my sophomore year of college with the keys to my first apartment in hand, I felt invincible. From clammy fraternity basements to college bar rooftops, freedom rang, and it rang loud.
Now, I was midway through the year and that exhilaration began to fade behind work responsibilities, school assignments, and what would soon come to be another ‘failed’ relationship. I was slowly slipping into a depression, falling short on my academics, and it became harder to get out of bed for anything other than work.
Funnily enough, I was working at an addiction recovery center at the time. I didn’t know it yet, but here I was helping others recover from chemical dependency, when I, myself, was struggling to find self-worth in any role outside of caretaking (a classic codependent move).
As life does, things eventually got better, but my recovery from codependency is still an active part of my daily life. I don’t have all of the answers and there are still moments when my conditioned, childhood responses fight to take center stage, but I’m doing much better now.
There are many practices that have aided in my recovery, all of which involve caring for myself rather than looking for problems to ‘fix’ within others. Today, we’ll discuss the potential that psychedelic mushrooms have for helping codependents break the self-destructive obsession with trouble and troubled people.
We’ll even review anecdotal reports from Psychedelic Passage survey respondents who’ve used psychedelics to aid their recovery from codependency. How can psychedelics help codependents reorganize their caretaking agendas, so we can begin directing those same efforts onto ourselves?
What is Codependency?
Through the years, the meaning of ‘codependency’ has undergone several shifts. It grew out of the term ‘co-addict’, referring to a person who has lost their sense of self after cohabiting with the distorted and out-of-balance lifestyle of someone suffering from addiction.
Later, in the early 1980s, the term was being used far more loosely. Codependency became an umbrella term attached to people with all kinds of relationship problems. Today, through the work of brilliant minds like Melody Beattie and Pia Mellody, codependency has met a much more succinct definition.
Many refer to codependency as “relationship addiction” because people struggling with it tend to develop and maintain emotionally destructive and one-sided relationships. I, however, am not very fond of this definition because it only scratches the surface of what’s really going on inside.
I believe codependency is based on fear. It creates a specific pattern of thought processes and behaviors which grow from anxiety and breed hypervigilance in our romantic relationships. Unsurprisingly, codependency has been heavily linked to adults who grew up with high stress in their homes. They may have been surrounded by emotional abuse, domestic violence, mental illness or addiction.
As a result, these children learn that hyper-awareness of other people’s emotions is key in avoiding scolding and preventing conflict between their caretakers. Not only that, but they also learn that sharing fear leads to disagreement (especially if the parent is the cause of their fear).
Children in such environments are often told what to feel and don’t receive help in identifying their emotions. This fine tuned ability to recognize the emotional cues of others comes at the expense of one’s own introspective adeptness.
As children grow into adults, this habit makes it very difficult to get in touch with their own emotions. In fact, before identifying emotions in themselves, codependents identify their emotions in those of other people. They see their own instability in the instability of other people, but it’s much easier to ‘fix’ the lives of others than to face the faults that lie within ourselves.
From this angle, codependency doesn’t seem very debilitating. Yes, perhaps we could benefit from some introspective journaling, but at least we make excellent caretakers, right? Wrong. Codependents may be some of the most caring people in the world, but their habits can heavily complicate intimate relationships.
How Does Codependency Affect Intimate Relationships?
A codependent’s incomplete sense of self longs for a stability that was absent in their youth. Though they may fail to recognize the role they play in their own suffering, they’re experts at breaking down the mental complexes of others.
They can name exactly what it is that someone else needs to do in order to be happier, to make more money, to mend broken family relationships and move through any mental illness. They’ll even go so far as to create a routine that their partner should follow in order to attain physical and emotional “balance”.
A codependent’s conscious intentions are always in the right place. They seek to organize their partner’s lives because they foresee the emotional turmoil that lies ahead of their partner’s actions or inactions.
Paradoxically, this obsessive behavior comes as a direct result of a codependent’s unresolved feelings and traumas. Their ‘fixing’ behaviors may become hyperfixating if a codependent doesn’t have a proper therapeutic outlet.
Their emotions may manifest into acts of control and manipulation. The inability to label one’s own feelings creates confusion in relationships. The feelings of loneliness that accompany an incomplete sense of self may suddenly become the fault of their romantic partners.
“I’m lonely because you don’t give me enough time”, “I’m overwhelmed because you don’t have a job”. Codependents attribute the vacancy in their own body to the lack of something external. Thus, codependents very often find themselves in unhealthy relationships.
Their hyper-vigilance attracts them to people who are sad and unwell. To codependents, these unhealthy attractions are masked by the familiar taste of their bitter childhood. It may be a subconcious opportunity to give their caretakers’ story a new and happy ending. This is one of the many reasons why codependents gravitate toward people in need.
Growing up in such an unstable environment, codependents are often one of their parent’s main emotional outlet. It’s why codependents tend to pursue careers in mental health and medicine. They have great practice as therapists, but often make controlling spouses.
Upon entering an intimate relationship, codependents are known to become angered by their partner’s inability to let them ‘fix’ their problems. Codependents struggle to respect boundaries. They expect others to make them feel happy, but refuse to look inward and acknowledge the role they play in their own suffering.
A low sense of self-worth causes codependents to permit the disrespect of others. They may cry, they may yell. They may toss threat after threat, but until they’ve resolved their internal conflicts, they’ll continue to disrespect their own boundaries and those of others.
How Can Psychedelic Therapy Help Codependents Recover?
This question is fairly loaded. As we’ve shared in other articles, psychedelic experiences are highly unpredictable by nature. This unpredictability, though, may be key in helping a codependent practice the act of surrender and acceptance, a radical proposition for someone who craves control and order.
As we’ve come to understand, codependents have a very difficult time finding fulfillment in their own presence. They struggle with issues of self-worth and believe they don’t have the internal resources to overcome adversity without the support of their romantic partner.
In a psychedelic experience we embody the rawest versions of ourselves. Our most repressed insecurities and subconscious beliefs can surface. At which point, it becomes virtually impossible to deny our personal truths.
Facing the culmination of our self-neglect in such a direct way, can be extremely beneficial to a codependent who has spent their life refusing accountability over their suffering. This heightened awareness sheds a light right through our hollow, victimizing narratives.
As we move through the psychedelic experience, the deep pit of emptiness can no longer be attributed to the actions or inactions of others. We are here, now. No one is coming to save us and the only option left is to fill our void with the love and compassion we nearly always reserve for others.
Psychedelic Experiences Help Codependents Practice Independence
Usually, I stray away from using personal experiences to exemplify the potential that psychedelic medicine has to change our life circumstances. With this specific topic though, I find it may be the most productive way to illustrate the truths that may surface for a codependent who embarks on a psychedelic healing journey.
A while back, I had my first guided psychedelic experience. Leading up to the event, I considered bringing my partner along with me for the 4 hour drive to Massachusetts. It would be my first road trip alone and I felt intimidated by the idea.
I’m not alone in this way of thinking. Codependents are notorious for falling into the delusion that external company provides a level of value that doesn’t already exist within themselves. Even if logically, we know that we’re capable of completing a task independently.
After all, I had a reliable car, a cellphone to contact others if need be, and a GPS that could take me anywhere in the world. Why was there so much internal resistance to embarking on this journey alone? Very simply, I was scared to be alone with myself for 4 hours.
I wasn’t scared for my physical safety, but rather for my emotional security. Codependents unconsciously fear being alone because they fear that their ineptitude for self-care will be unmasked. Company offers distraction, it enables our self-neglect.
I knew what the correct choice was. So I set off in my green Kia Soul, taking every part of this experience as an opportunity to prove my inner resilience to myself. Here lies a significant benefit to the psychedelic experience for codependents in recovery.
A psychedelic experience is an opportunity for codependents to prove to themselves that everything they need is already within. It forces us to practice inner resourcing. For a codependent, moving through a heavy emotional event without outside support can be a magical experience.
If you’re considering having your partner present during your psychedelic experience, I suggest asking yourself why. Beyond comfort and beyond support, what is the necessity for your partner to be a part of this experience?
Only you can decide if your answer to that question is reasonable or if it has codependent tendencies written all over it. A psychedelic experience is an opportunity to explore who you are without the scapegoat of others’ “problems”.
Psychedelic Therapy as an Act of Self-Care
Codependents often play martyrs. We play up our distress as a way to gain sympathy and affection. We beg for emotional validation, but refuse to listen to our own cries of desperation. This is not all our fault. As children, many of us learned that emotional upheavals receive the most attention.
However, it is our responsibility to correct this. We cannot continue to stain others with the blood of our unmet childhood needs. Practicing self-actualization and self-love isn’t easy, but it is a necessary component of recovery from codependency.
While people who are depressed without being codependent may complete tasks like brushing their teeth or taking a shower, for the sheer purpose of self-care, codependents tend to do these things only when it serves an external purpose.
They may clean, shower, and cook only when their partner is scheduled to visit their home. Making the choice to have a psychedelic experience for the betterment of ourselves, is in itself, a major step up from our typically-extrinsic motivations.
Not to mention that psychedelic therapy has already been proven to treat co-occurring disorders with codependency, such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Beyond the psychedelic experience itself, a qualified facilitator will also guide you through preparation and integration processes.
In these stages of preparation, you’re tasked with evaluating your habits, perspectives, and ways of relating to yourself and to others. To see the most therapeutic success from psychedelic therapy, we cannot avoid these crucial steps.
The act of sitting down and writing about our internal conflicts, the act of having very serious reality-based conversations with ourselves, can be incredibly powerful to codependents who actively avoid their own pain and the role they play in it.
Healing is not complete once the psychedelic experience is done. Afterwards, integration becomes a journeyer’s focus. Integration is crucial to the durability of our personal changes. We may gain access to a world of insights during the psychedelic experience, but if we refuse the responsibility of ingraining those new perspectives into our lives, our efforts will be futile.
At this stage in psychedelic therapy, codependents have new ways of assessing our circumstances and it becomes our job to use them. Psychedelics aren’t a quick fix, but they are a way to rapidly bridge the mental gap that prevents codependents from realizing their self-limiting beliefs.
Psychedelics Catalyze Self-Discovery in Codependents
Codependent adults often come from homes where self-exploration was discouraged, whether directly or indirectly. They learn that the feelings of others are most crucial for their own survival and stability, and with that, the development of an individual sense of self becomes stunted.
Psychedelic medicine is famous for catalyzing deep epiphanies about the self. They unshadow our insecurities and mediate a conversation with the subconscious. Habitual outer-focus is at the center of a codependent’s self-destructive habits.
Luckily, introspection is the very core of an intentional psychedelic experience. Facilitators encourage us to direct our attention inward. Our truest emotions surface and they cannot be ignored. This may be the first time in a codependent’s life where their feelings cannot be masked by the feelings of others.
Psychedelic therapy is arguably one of the most straightforward ways for a codependent to own their feelings, because there is nowhere to go, nothing to do, nothing to feel, besides the presence of our own truth. Such an experience can be an extremely beneficial way to jumpstart the practice of identifying our emotions.
They help us establish a relationship with them, and perhaps of most importance, they help us name the pain. They help us realize that our emotions are not weapons of self destruction, but rather vehicles for acknowledging the triggers that must be internally addressed, not projected onto others.
Psychedelic experiences help us realize the abundance of love that exists in all things. We can become more grateful for our family and friends. We can relish in the love that exists within us and realize that the love in our life is not only limited to our intimate relationships.
Most psychedelic experiences come with their own challenges and 9/10 times, the only way to move past the discomfort is by surrendering to the experience. Through this, we learn that fixing does not always mean doing. Many times it means being and observing for longer than is comfortable.
If we allow it, a psychedelic experience can give us a real-time example of how control isn’t always the solution. In fact, control is a great source of resistance to the organic unfolding of both a psychedelic trip and of this trip we call “life”.
Through it, we can become aware of the suffocating grip we have on our partners. We learn that true love demands free will. A psychedelic experience can show us that although our intentions may be noble, attempting to control the life trajectory of others prevents them from loving us freely.
We expect others to meet our demands while ignoring the repercussions it has on our perception of them. We trick ourselves into receiving performative affection by forcing others to behave with an intensity that is not natural to them.
Do we love them or do we love how their problems keep us in the familiar comfort of a caretaking role? The problems of others are not ours to fix, in the same way that our problems have no business being forced into the hands of others.
Your partner’s problems are just as important as yours. And if their problems cause such disagreement on your end, then perhaps the real question is why you’re attracted to someone whose life choices do not align with your values.
Anecdotal Reports From Recovering Codependents
We asked Psychedelic Passage survey respondents to share their codependency stories and tell us if/how psychedelics aided in their recovery. Here’s what some of them had to say:
“While I haven’t focused on my codependency in my psychedelic use, I can honestly say that LSD saved my life. I had married my high school sweetheart, and, in true codependent fashion, gave up all of my dreams to support her through years of schooling and on to a DPM degree…
…which involved us moving across the country twice even. Six months into her residency, she had an affair on me and quickly left. This was the only major relationship I had ever been in up to that point. I lost my virginity to her even.
I was devastated, and that turned into pretty serious suicidal ideation. I had sworn off drugs earlier in my life, but, at that point, I just didn’t care. I started tripping regularly. And, through my experiences my viewpoint became more “cosmic” if you know what I mean.
It allowed me to see that what a single person on this planet (in such an incomprehensibly massive universe that we inhabit) felt or did not feel for me was simply inconsequential, in the grand scheme of things.
It allowed me to feel connected to all, and, maybe, all that is. And that helped me more than any amount of talking all the hurt out ever has. I am currently embarking, for the first time, into digging into the layers upon layers of hurt that lie in my younger years.
So my codependency is a big part of that, and likely the largest reason why I have now had a total of three major relationships (of progressively shrinking duration, thankfully) with narcissists, of which my ex-wife, in retrospect, was one. They can smell my porous boundaries from a mile away.”
“Mushrooms and DMT have aided me immensely on my journey. I had moved across the country away from my family. It was a huge step for me. Literally everything went wrong, I couldn’t get a job in my field due to paperwork errors.
I finally got a job that ended up being something I hated, then I got laid off. I ended up getting a better job, but lost all my friends. No specific reason, all different reasons. I felt like curling up in a deep hole. I went to a festival and tried a large dose of mushrooms.
At first I felt so detached and panicked that I might just float away. I grounded myself and tried to give in to the experience. It was amazing. Everyone I looked at had a light around them. I could read energies and see some folks were full of peaceful energy while others had more chaotic energy.
After this experience my life began to get better. I began to draw again and a fellow artist even commented on my new pieces, saying that it looked like I’ve had an art epiphany. My new work had a lot of emotion in it, something I’ve always struggled with.
I threw myself into art, which was easy considering I had no friends to distract me. I learned a new medium, spray paint. It just clicked with me. Around the time I discovered spray painting I met my now boyfriend. He was a painter also and introduced me to DMT.
That trip changed the trajectory of my life. Some people have told me they have a spirit guide while on DMT, I did not. I could only hear my own voice. At first I didn’t want to succumb to the trip and images, but when I relaxed I saw the most beautiful mess of vibrating colors.
I felt calm like I was a part of everything. My voice began to tell me things. It told me that so many of the things I worried about were completely pointless. I began to cry while I was on the trip. It felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off my back.
When I came out of it I felt amazing. I was relaxed and I had a million new creative ideas. Soon after this experience I quit my job and became a professional muralist. I don’t think I would have followed this opportunity if I hadn’t had the DMT experience. It eliminated my fears using knowledge I already had inside of me.” -Anonymous Respondent
“Mushrooms and LSD helped me heal childhood trauma which caused codependency. Now that I healed all trauma I’m no longer codependent!” -Anonymous Respondent
“Mushrooms/Acid have helped me tremendously in my codependency, addictions, and overall self esteem and sense of self. They gave me a perspective I truly believe I was not capable of seeing before.
New found clarity on who I was outside of others and expectations, as well as an inner sense of peace that I am able to fall back on throughout daily life when things get hard. Honestly it’s been life changing, I mostly microdose though I have had some profound experiences on larger doses.” -Anonymous Respondent
Explore How it Feels to Be Self-Fulfilled
Fellow codependents, your hearts are very big and your devotion to selfless acts of love do not go unnoticed. However, it’s time that we stop searching for meaning in others and start strengthening the relationship we have with ourselves. For codependents, recognizing our own feelings in those of others is not empathy, it’s a form of emotional displacement.
If you feel ready to reclaim your identity and the feelings that come with it, we encourage you to book a consultation with us. As always, we invite you to visit our resources page for more informative articles like this one. That’s all we have for today, but in the meantime, we’ll leave you with some food for thought:
“If we weren’t trying to control whether a person liked us or his or her reaction to us, what would we do differently? If we weren’t trying to control the course of a relationship, what would we do differently?
If we weren’t trying to control another person’s behavior, how would we think, feel, speak, and behave differently than we do now? What haven’t we been letting ourselves do while hoping that self-denial would influence a particular situation or person?
Are there some things we’ve been doing that we’d stop? How would we treat ourselves differently? Would we let ourselves enjoy life more and feel better right now?
Would we stop feeling so bad? Would we treat ourselves better? If we weren’t trying to control, what would we do differently? Make a list, then do it.” – Melody Beattie