Adoptees and Codependency

OK, let me rephrase that…ME and codependency.  I can’t speak for other adoptees, although I know from listening to many of you that you struggle with the same things.

From Unwelcome Inheritance by Lisa Sue Woititz and the late Dr. Janet G. Woititz (I didn’t mention on my last post that she is the founder and author of Adult Children of Alcoholics so she has some cred, 😉 ) — she’s quoting Melody Beattie from Codependent No More:

A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.

also (her own words, no longer quoting the other book):

This is the nature of codependency, where a person is so preoccupied with the other that they are distracted from their own life.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying I am the adult (adopted) child of an adult child of an alcoholic, who may or may not be an alcoholic in his own right…I still haven’t figured that one out. My adoptive mother is definitely codependent, well, when she’s not waffling between that and stonewalling hostility.

Soooo…I may have picked up a lot of these behaviors not due to adoption but because of my home life.

But I think adoption played a huge part and here’s why — the adoptee as an infant and child has a biological drive to be kept, or die. Paraphrasing Paul Sunderland, they are thinking “what does a person have to do to get on around here…I’ll do that” and “that was traumatic, I’m bloody well not going to let that happen again.”

If codependency is a preoccupation with what others want to the point that their own lives get pushed back, I think adoptees fit the bill.  It would take a very special, highly aware parent to even notice this was happening, let alone try to stop it.  Adoptees often morph their behavior to please their parents, cater to their parents needs over their own.

In my own life, I was a super good girl. Any time my parents were mad at me, I was in a total panic and truly felt like I was going to die.  My parents derided me for being so sensitive, but shoot…who wouldn’t cry if you were worried that the C you got on your report card might just be that final thing that got you sent packing.   It definitely wasn’t a conscious thought, “I’m going to die” but looking back I can remember how my body would react.  Severe anxiety, heart pounding, that feeling like your going to wet your pants.  I thought that was just how people felt when their parents got “that look in their eye” but I don’t think all children feel that way now!

So of course I didn’t WANT to feel that way and walked on eggshells around my parents to avoid it. I was obsessed with their behavior, I was codependent. Since it was since I was a tiny baby, my sense of self is nil, I’m always just “whatever the other person wants.”

Unfortunately I’ve taken this into many other relationships.  Trying to climb out of that mess now.

Do you feel this way as an adoptee?


4 thoughts on “Adoptees and Codependency

    • Thank you for your comment! So sorry it has taken me a month to reply. 🙂 I’m glad it made sense to you…but of course sorry as well that it is your experience. At least we know we are not alone.


  1. You hit the nail on the head. I am a 48 year old adoptee and was beginning to wonder if I was losing my mind. Thanks for reassuring me I am not alone.


  2. Amazing – your words express my thoughts. I wasn’t “told” until I was 25 but I had a strong feeling I was “different”. A lot of puzzle pieces didn’t make sense and I often felt like “why did you have never” and found myself becoming a people pleaser and had lost much confidence by the time I was an adult. My Doer became a Don’ter and I was always meeting a parents needs and playing their promise game. I’ll say I officially ran away after I found out and now it’s caused me bigger problems.

    Thank you for your post as I travel my healing journey alone. It was enlightening.


It's lovely to have you here. Please keep comments respectful of the adoptees who read here. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

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