Codependency and Addiction

By December 20, 2018 Food for thought
codependency and addiction

Codependency is a condition that is learned. It is often learned from parents, family members and significant others. Codependency is a behavioral and emotional condition. It affects one’s ability to develop mutual, satisfying, and healthy relationships. This condition is known as the relationship addiction. The reason for this name is because those with the condition often have relationships which are emotionally damaging. The relationships are also usually one-sided or even abusive. Codependency is often found in families where addiction is present.

Codependency and Who it Affects

Many people can be affected by codependency. Some of the people it can affect include co-workers, friends, siblings, parents, spouses, and others in a drug or alcohol addict’s life. When this term originally came about, it described partners of those who were dependent upon harmful chemicals and substances. It also referred to those who were living with an addict. Codependency patterns are also seen in those who have a relationship with someone who has a mental illness or a chronic illness. Today, codependency describes a broader set of people. It includes anyone who is codependent in any type of family dysfunctional dynamic.

Defining Dysfunctional Families and How They Connect to Codependency

Dysfunctional families have family members who suffer with pain, anger, shame, or fear. The feelings are often ignored within the family. Some of the problems associated with these feelings include:

  • A family member who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, work, relationships, sex, gambling, or food

  • A family member who has experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

  • A family member who has a chronic physical illness or mental health illness

In a dysfunctional family, the family members don’t talk about the problem. They may even pretend it isn’t real. Family members do not have any confrontations with the person who has the issues. Due to this, family members repress their own emotions. Doing this stops the family members from taking proper care of themselves. They survive in the family, while pretending the truth doesn’t exist. Family members stop communicating, start detaching, and stop trusting each other. The emotional and identity development for family members are negatively affected.

The energy and attention of the family is focused on the person who suffers from the addiction or mental health disorder. Family members who suffer from codependency will sacrifice their own needs to care for the person who is ill. Codependent people put the ill person’s health in front of their own personal health. They forget all about their desires, goals, needs, and self as well.

Behaviors of Codependent People

Codependent people lose their self-esteem. They find outside factors to feel better about their own life. Most codependents can’t be their true self. Many people with codependency will become addicted to nicotine, drugs, or alcohol. Some will act out compulsively through sexual acts, gambling, or workaholism. They do their best to care for the ill person with all the best intentions. However, with time, taking care of this person becomes debilitating.

Most codependents act as the family martyr. They suffer or put themselves at risk in order to take care of the person with the addiction or mental health disorder. For example, a husband might cover for their wife, by calling into their work after a drunken night. A father might defend their child by bailing them out of jail and making excuses for them.

These things become big issues. Attempting to rescue someone with a mental health illness or addiction is destructive. The person who suffers from the issue becomes more reliant on someone to save them at all costs. The codependency gets worse because that person feels needed. They may feel the person who is ill can’t live without them. The codependent person acts compulsively. They start feeling helpless because they just can’t “fix” the ill person. Most codependents think of themselves as a victim. They can’t seem to get out of the cycle and even seek out friendships where the other person always needs them.

Codependent Characteristics

People who suffer from codependency often share a wide set of characteristics. Some of these symptoms of codependency could be the following:

  • Tendencies to help more than necessary

  • Tendencies to confuse pity and love (loving people who they are able to rescue and pity)

  • Tendencies to feel hurt when others don’t see how much they are trying to help

  • Compelled to control what others do or feel

  • Strong need for recognition and approval

  • Difficult time making healthy decisions

  • Feel guilty when thinking of themselves

  • Exaggerated feelings of being responsible for how others act

  • Don’t trust others or self

  • Dishonesty and lying

  • Difficult time identifying what they truly feel

  • Unhealthy relationship dependence (try to hold relationships together at any cost)

  • Difficult time with any change

  • Issues with boundaries and intimacy

  • Chronically angry

  • Avoid feeling abandoned at all costs

  • Lack of proper communication skills

These are some of the most basic characteristics among those who suffer from codependency. If you see these in yourself, treatment may be needed to help overcome the condition.

Problems Living with Codependency and Addiction

If you are in recovery from substance abuse and are in a codependent relationship, it is wise to step away even if it is temporary. Codependency symptoms can cause someone to rely on drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. In other cases these symptoms can put someone in recovery from addiction in jeopardy. When in early recovery someone must focus on themselves and understanding who they are before they can be in a relationship that might be unhealthy. Codependency problems can put someone at risk for a relapse because he or she is still trying to learn how to cope with emotions and every day life without drugs. Lastly, if someone is living with codependency and addiction their partner may enable and prevent them from getting the help needed.

Treatment for Codependency and Addiction

Codependency usually stems from one’s childhood. This means that treatment generally involves going into early years of childhood. There are probably issues present that relate to the destructive actions and behaviors you have now. Some patterns may stem back to when you were younger and others may have developed as you got a little bit older. Codependency and addiction treatment might include the following:

Through treatment, the codependent person can discover their true self. They can identify any self-destructive patterns of behavior in their life. In addition, the treatment for codependency will focus on helping the patient to acknowledge and be aware of their true feelings. These feelings may stem from childhood. The patient will need to relearn healthy family and relationship dynamics. The main goal of codependency treatment is to let the patient experience all their feelings, without denying them.

Living with Codependency and Addiction

Before anyone can do something about their codependency and addiction problem they must understand what they are up against.The best thing you can do while living in recovery and struggling with codependency and addiction is to seek help and look into support groups in your community. If someone is going to overcome codependency, personal growth and healthy changes must occur. The family will have to adjust as well. Behaviors of caretaking or enabling throughout the family will need to stop. The person who has codependency and addiction issues must learn to identify their feelings. A codependent person will need to become more self-reliant, learn tough love, and be able to tell others no sometimes as well.

 Recovering from codependency takes time. However, when in recovery, many learn how to gain more serenity, love, hope, and freedom in their life. Finding out more about codependency and addiction will help you cope in a healthy manner. If you suffer from codependency you should look into ways to help manage your feelings thoughts and behaviors. It could allow you to live a more meaningful, fulfilling, and happy lifestyle.