What it is: La Wik states, “‘Codependent No More’ was the debut book of self-help author Melody Beattie. It was originally published in 1987 by the publishing division of the Hazelden Foundation. The book became a phenomenon of the self-help movement, going on to sell over eight million copies, six million copies of them in the United States.
‘Codependent No More’ introduced the word ‘codependent’ to the wider world. The term ‘codependent’ originated as a term to describe people who use relationships with others as their sole source of value and identity. These people often end up in relationships with-either drug- or alcohol addicted spouses or lovers. In the book, Beattie explains that a codependent is a person who believes their happiness is derived from other people or one person in particular, and eventually the codependent becomes obsessed with controlling the behavior of the people/person that they believe is making them happy.
Rather like Bill Wilson’s Alcoholics Anonymous five decades earlier, Beattie’s early work took the previously complex object relations and interpersonal theories of psychological theorists like Heinz Kohut, Wilfred Bion, and Otto Kernberg, and put them in language laypeople could easily grasp. ‘Codependent No More’ also re-phrased many of the notions expressed in the Al-Anon Twelve Step movement into more modern language, and made the notion of addiction to a person part of the western cultural lexicon.”
Description: The book is about learning how to have – wait for it – no more codependency. Beattie worked as a professional writer while she wrote it, so it’s an extraordinarily smooth read, mixing examples with theory, and making deep concepts clear and easy to grasp. Some general themes are cultivating boundaries, a healthy sense of separation, solid self-respect, saying “no”, paying attention to one’s own business, and being able to strong and brave in walking one’s path. It’s also about finding balance and general emotional health, and cultivating the ability to love and care for others for real (in a way that isn’t draining).
Anecdote: My copy of the book is from the original printing. A friend bought it around the time it first came out, and I borrowed it a couple years later. I was a little weirded out seeing my friend’s number rankings (from one to five) of herself next to the multi-page list of codependency symptoms. Anyway, after reading it a few times through, I asked if I could keep it, and she said yes, and I still have her old copy. I think I bought her a copy of a later printing a few years later.
Potential Turn-Offs: I like listening to books on audio, but, whisky tango foxtrot, could they have found an more mawkish and weepy sounding actress to read this book. Avoid. (although, honestly, the book itself will reach out and break your ass bone with a firmly placed kick if you tell it that you think it’s “weepy”. Or, actually, come to think of it, it’s more likely that it would just tell you firmly that it doesn’t appreciate your comment, and, calmly and with self-respect, turn and go about its business.)
What You Got Out Of It: I find this book to be deep, honest, personal, intense, relevant, and practical. I have complete trust in it. Growing from being a relatively anxious, scared-of-people kid, repeated readings of this book gave me a powerful sense of self-respect, of my own worth, and of my own path and core. It’s funny that they got Ms. Weepy to read it for the audio production, because they could have just as easily gotten a Marine Corps sergeant major. Yes. Drop and give me fifty, recruit – that’s just how it do.