Codependency is a behavioral pattern in substance abusers and addicts. Almost all people who abuse drugs or alcohol are codependent.
Codependency is sometimes referred to as love addiction, or relationship addiction. It’s an ingrained habit where a person focuses on other people rather than themselves. The problem with codependency is that it can be dangerous. It alters our thoughts and turns them into obsessions. Our behavior becomes compulsive and we become ridiculously possessive.
Codependency and addiction are similar because they both foster dependency. An addict is dependent on a substance. A person who is codependent is dependent on another person.
Codependency can be described as a behavior in which a person neglects their own well-being, and focuses their energy in the needs of others.
Drug addiction is a product of someone’s obsession with a mind-altering substance. Their thoughts, energy, and resources are centered around obtaining their drug of choice. Nothing else is important. In essence, substance abuse and addiction are examples of codependency.
When a person becomes obsessed with a substance, a friendship, a partner, or even a sibling, the result is a one-sided relationship. This is because the person’s actions are centered around satisfying the desires and needs of another, while neglecting and sacrificing their own.
This is why codependency is dangerous: when you neglect your needs, you harm your physical and mental health. You jeopardize your financial stability, and you become dysfunctional and compulsive.
Codependency can also impact your work, social relationships, and hobbies. Nothing that is important to your own success is nurtured, because most of your time is spent thinking about satisfying someone else’s needs.
Symptoms of Codependency
You are in a codependent relationship when:
- You suppress or neglect your feelings
- You hide your pain or anger
- You exhibit passive aggressive behavior
- You judge yourself too harshly
- You find it difficult to make decisions
- You lose your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth
- You feel you are unlovable
- You are constantly seeking praise
- You believe that other people are better than you
- You try too hard to maintain appearances.
Codependency and Addiction
Codependency exacerbates addiction. When you have a loved one who is struggling with substance abuse, you’ll naturally go out of your way to help them. The problem comes when you find that instead of helping them, you are enabling them. Having a relationship with an addict, more often than not, leads to enabling behavior patterns.
You may believe that you are helping an addict whenever you go out of your way to save their job, pay their bills, keep them out of jail, and so on. Although these acts may seem helpful, they couldn’t be more opposite. Instead, you are making it easy for the addict to continue their destructive behavior by showing the person that the consequences of their actions are not bad enough to require them to stop.
But if you let the addict take responsibility for their actions, the addict will learn and this may be enough to convince him or her to seek help. You can love a person who has a substance abuse problem without enabling their addiction. One way you can do this is by educating yourself about addiction. Learning how to treat the addict with respect by offering encouragement and hope is great support.
One problem with enabling is that it is centered around denial: you deny that your loved one has a substance addiction, and the addict denies they have a problem.
When you refuse to admit that your loved one has a problem, this can cause serious damage to your relationship, bring about financial issues, and intensify the addiction overall. Denial gives way to rejecting the idea that a problem actually exists. As the addiction worsens, your denial worsens as well. This gets to the point when the problem is so evident that denying it becomes impossible.
Overcoming Codependency and Establishing Self-Dependency
If you find that you are in a codependent relationship, whether you are the user or the enabler, you are in an unhealthy relationship. It is natural to want to protect a loved one with a substance addiction from the consequences of their behavior. But your strategy should not be covering for them every time they get into trouble. You should have the courage to disengage from their unhealthy habits by encouraging them to seek help.
Foster positive attitudes that will help the addict become independent. Help them build their self-esteem and self-confidence. Give them hope that they can make better decisions and live a better life, and still have you in it.
If you are in a codependent relationship with an addict and you don’t know how to help them or yourself, please contact us. We have counseling programs that address addiction and codependency issues that can help you and your loved one.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 602-346-9142.