According to Mental Health America, codependency is a learned behavior that is passed through generations. It is learned by watching family members who demonstrated codependency in relationships, where one person took the caretaker role, and the other person took advantage of that. Codependency is often present in relationships affected by addiction.
Types of Codependent Relationships
Codependency can enable addiction in many types of relationships. It is not only seen in married couples or those involved in a romantic relationship but in any relationship:
- Relationships with co-workers
- Relationships among family
Recognizing codependency in a relationship, no matter what type, is important when in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. Staying in an unhealthy relationship can put a person at an increased risk of relapse.
Recognizing the Signs of Codependency
People who are codependent are often seen as loving, helpful, and caring. A codependent partner may constantly make excuses for or cover up the addicted person’s behavior. They may need to be with their partner constantly and take on the burden of that person’s well-being. Signs of codependency include:
- Striving for perfection
- Being controlling
- Being emotionally reactive
- Being unaware of boundaries
- Having a strong desire to please others
- Being willing to take the blame for others
How Codependency Enables Addiction
While a codependent relationship may not appear problematic at the surface, it can be harmful to someone struggling with addiction because it gives them no boundaries and does not require them to be accountable for their actions. Some examples of how codependency enables addiction include:
- Constantly making excuses for the person if they are unable to attend a social function or gathering due to their drinking or drug use.
- Apologizing to others for the person’s behavior while they are under the influence.
- Rationalizing the person’s substance use by saying it’s needed to relax after a long and stressful day.
- Supporting the person financially due to problems caused by their substance use disorder.
Stopping the Cycle
Both people involved in the codependent relationship are part of a cycle that can cause harm. There are several ways to stop the cycle of codependency and move towards a relationship that is healthy for both people involved:
- Understand the harm a codependent relationship can cause by educating yourself about the reasons that it occurred. You can read books, talk to a therapist, or attend a support group meeting such as Al-Anon where you can meet others who have had similar experiences.
- Establish firm boundaries for yourself and your loved one. If you no longer allow the enabling behavior to occur and stop covering up for your loved one, they may be motivated to get help.
- Get help from a professional family therapist so you can understand what steps to take to stop the codependency cycle. Family therapy has endless benefits for everyone involved.
- Be selfish and give yourself time to be alone to break the cycle of codependency. Find ways to focus on yourself more than on the relationship, such as by finding a new hobby, meditating, staying fit, or enjoying time outdoors.
Keep in mind that while stopping the cycle of codependency may make your loved one feel neglected or hurt, it can be helpful over time. The vicious cycle of enabling the addiction to continue will stop and your loved one can get the help they need to become sober.
Contact Us For Help
If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, contact Twin Lakes Recovery Center for help. At our facility just outside Atlanta, GA, we offer treatment options for substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and co-occurring disorders. Our experienced staff of medical professionals is available to help you or your loved one on their path to recovery. To find out more about our programs and services, fill out our contact form online.