If you’re using drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to support yourself and meet your own needs while sustaining your substance use. Addiction is a disease — it can affect anyone, and no one is immune to the damage it does.
On the other hand, leaning too hard on the people around you for help can be unhealthy for everyone involved. In this piece, we’ll discuss how to overcome codependency, a common variable in relationships affected by addiction.
What Is a Codependent Relationship?
According to Mental Health America, a codependent relationship is one that’s one-sided, where one party puts the other’s needs and feelings before their own. The person in the equation who sacrifices their own needs is sometimes referred to as a relationship addict — they put themselves second to cater to their significant other or loved one.
But from the perspective of the person using drugs and alcohol, slipping into codependency can be easy or even natural. If there are people in your life eager to support you in your time of need, it can almost seem like they want to be taken advantage of.
This can easily lead to a situation where one person lends you money, or provides shelter or unconditional forgiveness, for the things you do to hurt them. In turn, this allows you to fuel your addiction and continue on, insulated from the reality of your problem with substance abuse.
The important thing to remember is that a situation like this isn’t healthy or constructive for either party. You’re never going to be able to stand up against addiction, and your partner or loved one will become further detached from their own needs in life.
Examples of Codependent Relationships Involving Addiction
What types of relationships become codependent most often in the face of one party’s addiction to drugs and alcohol? These are the most common:
- Intimate relationships. Codependency is very common in relationships where one person takes advantage of their significant other during a difficult time. This can manifest in a variety of ways, but it’s a major reason people in recovery are encouraged to focus on themselves and get to a stable place before pursuing a romantic connection with another individual.
- Familial relationships. Codependency can also damage relationships between family members. For example, if a parent supports their addicted child no matter the circumstances, they can not only hurt themselves but keep their loved one from getting the help they need.
- Friendly relationships. Friends can exhibit codependent behavior with each other as well. A person might lend a close friend money for drugs, for example, because they feel that they may ruin the friendship if they refuse.
Understanding Codependency From Other Perspectives
If you’re in a codependent relationship, you may fail to understand that the other person might be behaving a certain way out of pressure, obligation or the urge to put their own needs second. What may seem like a willingness to do anything to support you and your substance use could actually be a sign of a dysfunctional relationship that harms everyone involved.
This is why stopping codependent behavior is so important. It can damage a relationship to the point where, even after you get the help you need, it may be too late to fully repair it. Relationships are built on years of trust, and that trust can be broken when one party repeatedly takes advantage of the other and signals that their needs come first no matter what.
How to Set Boundaries So You Don’t Abuse Your Friendships
To overcome codependency, you need to have enough respect for your significant other, family member or friend to understand that just because they care for you and are willing to sacrifice their own needs for yours, it doesn’t mean you should force them to. This is important, because codependency hinges on one party’s willingness to take advantage of another because they know it’s an option.
This is easier said than done, however. Often, the person in a codependent relationship who continually relies on the other’s approval for their self-worth makes this behavior a pattern. If it persists, it becomes increasingly familiar until it’s all they know.
If You’re in a Codependent Relationship, What Do You Do?
It’s not easy to recognize and remedy a toxic situation. Here are some tips to help you learn how to end codependency in an addiction-affected relationship:
- Recognize when you’re taking advantage of the other person and stop. It’s likely your friend or loved one will continue to lend you money or bail you out of trouble or support your addiction, either directly or indirectly. This is a mark of a codependent relationship, and it’s your responsibility to end it. If you truly care about the other person, you’ll stop putting them in that position.
- Stop using your loved one as an unwilling therapist. Another mark of a codependent friend, family member or significant other is the willingness to absorb the stress and negative emotions you project on them as a result of your struggles with controlling your drug and alcohol abuse.
- Put some distance between you and get the help you need. Often, codependency won’t end until both parties get help. For your codependent partner, this means seeking therapy to understand their behavior and reclaim their independence. For you, it may mean finding an addiction treatment program that allows you to get clean and reorder your priorities in life and in your relationships.
How to Overcome Codependency With FHE Health
Solving codependency in a relationship can be difficult, but cutting out the source of the issue can make it easier. This means that when you’re actively addicted to drugs or alcohol, you need help.
If you’re in active addiction or hurting your relationships, therapy can help you organize and resolve your codependency. However, the only true resolution is to enter an addiction treatment program and make a larger change in the way you’re living your life. To learn more, contact FHE Health today.