Breaking the Cycle of Codependency and Addiction
Codependency is defined as an excessive reliance on a person, especially a partner who requires additional support due to an illness, mental health issue, general immaturity, or addiction. Within addiction treatment, codependency is often manifested by a strong force keeping a person chained to their drug of choice. Codependency and addiction go hand-in-hand and should be addressed during treatment. Loved ones close to addicts typically find themselves in a codependent role. What is disconcerting is the fact that these types of relationships can push the addict even further down their path of destruction.
What is a Codependent Relationship?
Codependency can happen within many different kinds of relationships. Within the parent-child dynamic, a parent may be too concerned with their child’s safety and wellbeing and unwittingly support their habit. This typically happens through money or a stable place to stay. In turn, the parent is dependent on the addict for their own happiness and peace of mind. Good intentions are present; but the proverbial cord needs to be cut in order for both parties to live happy, sober, and fulfilling lives.
The dynamic is often very one-sided in a codependent romantic relationship. One person constantly seeks approval from the other while indulging in drugs or alcohol. This can be a back-and-forth battle, with both people looking for constant approval because of a lack of personal self-esteem. Addicts may oscillate back and forth between a variety of different substances. Codependency tends to occur when a person lacks self-fulfillment and confidence in themselves.
Codependency, Addiction, and Enabling
Codependency essentially means excessive reliance on someone to feel good about yourself. Those who find themselves relying upon an addict may often go above and beyond what is logical or healthy to keep the addict nearby. This can come at a huge cost, because the addict will begin, in turn, to take advantage of the situation to their benefit.
This kind of behavior is called enabling. By depending on this other person for happiness, you are unintentionally fuelling their addiction by giving them resources they would not be capable of having on their own.
How to Know if You are Enabling Someone
Think you might be enabling someone? Here are some clear signs that you are an enabler and the behavior needs to stop.
- Providing money to someone even though you don’t know how it’s being spent.
- Not voicing your opinion or concerns, even though you may be unhappy with the other person’s actions.
- Placing too much focus on that one person, to the point of being uncertain of your own sense of identity.
- Recognizing unhealthy behaviors in your partner but regardlessly staying with them.
- Offering an addict a place to live, even when they blatantly disregard your needs.
These are all signs of a codependent relationship and reliance on another. Enablers should look at their own sense of identity and prioritize their own wellbeing to move beyond these issues.
In a Codependent Relationship?
There are way more people in codependent relationships than will ever admit to being in one. You may hear someone say, “but, I love them.” This feeling is understandable, particularly with regard to family members; but the chain still needs to be broken to make progress. Take the example of parents dealing with a child in addiction. It’s natural for parents to want to protect their children. In the case of addiction, offering money or a bed at home will only teach the child that they behavior comes without consequences. As difficult as it is, tough love is necessary.
Here are some things you can do if you have codependency and addiction in your life.
- Do not give money or a place to live to an addict, no matter what they say it is for. Drugs are their top priority. The chances are likely that they will leverage the money for their next fix, even if they must steal from loved ones.
- Learn as much as you can about addiction. Talk to professionals and get their opinion on how to approach the situation.
- Create some distance. As difficult as this may be, cutting ties, even if it’s just temporary, with someone in addiction may make them realize how serious their behavior is and convince them to fix things.
- Engage in tough love, and don’t let them justify their behaviors. If an addict approaches you with a topic they want reassurance on, especially if it has to do with their drug use, don’t back them up. As hard as it may be, tell them they are wrong and that using is never justifiable.
- Try to get them help. If you succeed, participate in family therapy sessions, learn about codependency, and work to change your own behavior.
Codependency can be corrected with additional levels of awareness, education, and guidance. It will not only help the addict achieve sobriety, it will also help codependent family members learn how to focus on themselves more than the addict.