When I created the prodependence model, I was primarily looking to move treatment for betrayed partners and loved ones of addicts away from the blaming and shaming of codependency treatment and toward a more affirming approach that celebrates their desire to love and stay connected. In fact, when I introduced the concept of prodependence on Prodependence.com (in conjunction with the publication of Prodependence: Beyond the Myth of Codependency in 2018), I wrote:
Prodependence is a new concept in addiction healthcare. It is intended to improve the ways we treat loved ones of addicts and other troubled people, offering them more dignity for their suffering than blame for the problem. With its attachment-focused view, prodependence pushes aside the flaws of the codependency model, which generally suggests that family members of addicts need to “detach with love,” and if they don’t, then neither the family member nor the addict will change or grow. That advice typically leaves loved ones of addicts feeling confused and misunderstood rather than supported and validated. Prodependence approaches the matter differently, choosing to celebrate and value a caregiving loved one’s willingness to support and stay connected with an addicted family member, while promoting healing for the entire family.
But even then, I realized and even wrote and spoke about the fact that prodependence, as a replacement for the outdated codependency model, had a far greater reach than just loved ones of addicts and other troubled individuals. Most notably, addicts themselves can benefit from the prodependent approach.
Codependence implicitly tells addicts the following, “If the people who love you had just been healthier, more insightful, and less codependent, they would have walked away from you a long time ago.” Or worse, “If your spouse had grown up with less trauma and emotional damage, they never would have chosen you in the first place.” Or, worse still, “Once the people who love you have recognized and worked on their codependency, they may not want to remain in relationship with you.”
Well, I’ve got to tell you, those are messages that would keep me in my active addiction. When you’ve been told, “You are too sick to be loved by anyone who is healthy enough to leave you,” you expect to be left behind, so why bother to make changes?
Think for a moment how these messages might be interpreted by a newly recovering addict. To them, these words say: As your loved ones heal from their own issues, they will see how you have harmed their lives. So, if you want them to stay around, you’d better fix yourself quickly and in the right way or they will kick you to the curb.
Prodependence, by carrying a message of strength, hope, and healthy attachment, sends addicts a completely different message. What prodependence says to addicts is: Despite all you have done, your partner stuck around when others might have simply gone away, so maybe, just maybe, your partner can still see the good in you, despite your addiction, and they are certain that goodness will return if you get sober.
Needless to say, the prodependence message offers a whole lot more hope for the future of all concerned than the message of codependence. Implicit in the prodependent message for the addict is that no matter how badly you feel about the way you’ve lived, those who know and love you best have stuck around because they still see the good inside you. They are holding on to the person they love despite the addiction and its consequences.
This redemptive view of addiction is part of the game-changer that prodependence brings. Telling addicts that despite their problems and the pain they have caused others, they are good people who deserve love is exactly the right message to inspire recovery. In treatment, as in life, themes of hope and love will always resonate more strongly than messages that imply deserved abandonment.
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If you or someone you care about is struggling with sex, porn, or substance/sex addiction, help is available. Seeking Integrity offers inpatient treatment for sex, porn, and substance/sex addicts, as well as low-cost online workgroups. At the same time, SexandRelationshipHealing.com offers a variety of free webinars and drop-in discussion groups, podcasts, and more.