It’s sad but true, thousands of people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or other behaviors have codependent spouses or loved ones who support and enable the situation to continue. Codependency can be very damaging to the health, happiness and quality of life for both the addict and the codependent spouse or loved one, but this doesn’t stop thousands from being addicted to an addict.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is a situation that can occur anytime addiction is a problem in someone’s life and it is the result of a spouse or loved one overlooking addiction, helping the addict to control their drug or alcohol use, and rescuing them from the consequences of their addiction. As a result of these behaviors, the codependent loved one feels like he or she is needed by the addict and the addict justifies his or her drug or alcohol abuse because of this implied feeling of being needed.
The end result of codependency is a losing battle that leads to many consequences. Codependent behaviors are often learned when growing up, especially when the individual grew up in a dysfunctional home. Children of alcoholics and children of addicted parents are not only more likely to become addicts when they grow up, they are also more likely to duplicate codependent behavior models that they exhibited in their parents when growing up.
Signs of Codependency
If you show any of the following signs, or if you know someone who is showing the following signs of codependency, you should seek immediate help:
- Accepting responsibility for the actions or poor behaviors of others. This includes taking responsibility for the problems that a parent or loved one may have caused. You may think that you are making an honest attempt at helping but in all actuality, the self-sacrifice will often lead to anger, resentment, additional mental health problems and a lack of self-esteem.
- Allowing others to feel first. This is placing the feelings of the addict before your own feelings. Codependency will cause you to think more about the addict and their own happiness than about your happiness and what matters to you. You may forgo values, beliefs and otherwise sacrifice your happiness for the sake of the addict.
- Extreme fear of abandonment. Many people become addicted to their addict loved one simply because they have a fear of abandonment. This can be the result of having been rejected as a child or it may have to do with adult related circumstances. Regardless, desperate attempts to make others happy and to keep a partner despite their addiction and the trouble that it causes can be a sure sign of codependency. Many will go through extreme measures to keep their relationship despite the negative aspects surrounding the codependency.
- Your emotions are not really YOUR emotions. Codependent partners or loved ones tend to take on the emotions of the addict because they become so engulfed and wrapped up in the emotions of the addict. In fact, you may think that you are having your own emotions and making your own decisions but in retrospect, every decision you make is first dependent upon the feelings and desires of the addict whom you are codependent on. Your emotional health can suffer greatly from codependency.
- You think you can fix the addict. You can not fix an addict who does not want to be well. Addiction is a frightening situation and despite your desire to make your loved one get well, you cannot mistake your enabling for help. Enabling a partner to use drugs or alcohol and taking the blame for their actions will only make matters worse.
- You can’t set your own boundaries and when you do, you break them. Just like an addict who may attempt to set boundaries on their drug or alcohol use and then break those boundaries, a codependent partner will often do the same. You may say yes to the addict despite your desire and commitment to your other family members or friends, or yourself, to say no. You may take charge of a consequential situation for the addict despite their ability and NEED to accept the blame and take charge for their own consequences.
If you are codependent on an addict, there is help available. Just like your loved one, partner or friend who is addicted to drugs or alcohol will require treatment to get well, you too can get the help that you need. Support groups and counseling options are available to provide effective treatment for codependency. Your recovery is about restoring your faith in yourself, restoring your own health and learning how to love yourself first.