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-What does codependency look like in active duty military members?

-How are codependent traits and patterns beneficial in the military?

-What are the consequences of unaddressed codependency in the military? And how can we begin to address them?

Welcome to Episode 134! This week, I sat down with Austin Koestner, Associate Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Retired Air Force Veteran with 17 years of service. Austin and I take a deep-dive into what codependency looks like in active duty and how many codependent traits/characteristic are beneficial while serving our country. We discuss self-sacrifice, people-pleasing, passive communication, etc. and how they truly have a function in military life. But how can codependency harm mission, morale, and the mental health of military members? We investigate these questions and conclude with initial steps Austin recommends to his active military clients to break codependent paterns. It’s a must-listen!

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Austin Koestner, Associate MFT and Air Force Veteran, practices in Monrovia CA. He is working towards his AASECT licensure (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) and focuses on serving the LGBTQ population, artists and those who struggle to find meaning, own their identity, and fly their unique flag high without apology.

Deets on the episode:

We begin with hearing Austin’s definition of codependency: an excessive reliance on others. He describes how codependents often lack their own self worth, have an inability to validate themselves, often meet the needs of others above their own, and are ever ready to please others.

Austin opens up about codependency in his own life related to his time in the military and how he sought his father’s approval after every medal, ribbon, and award he received. He felt like the baby bird in Dr. Seuss book, Are you My Mother? “I couldn’t inherently validate myself.” It took him having a break-down to finally wake-up to how detrimental his codependency was.

We shift focus to codependency in military life. Austin describes how codependency looks like having no sense of self, seeking validation from authority figures, self-sacrifice, people-pleasing, enmeshed boundaries, passivity to commands, and defining one’s existence through others. We learn that many of these traits are necessary in order to succeed in the military but, to an extreme, they can be harmful.

Austin shares about the impact of codependency on mission, morale, and the mental health of service members. While home in between tours, military members will maintain their codependent traits which leads to self-medicating, suicidal thoughts, angry outbursts, feeling embittered, avoidant behaviors, and self-sacrifice.

Unaddressed codependency in military life is not sustainable. Austin’s experience demonstrates how his own codependency “almost broke me.” So what can one do to make changes while in active duty? Austin suggests: seek help through base mental health squadron, stop comparing, validate yourself, talk to others, seek resources from local veteran centers (active duty members qualify for services!), and don’t let fear stop you from seeking help.

Thanks for coming on Austin! And thank you for listening, my dear listener!
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