How Do Addiction and Codependency Go Together?
At first glance, codependency doesn’t necessarily look like a bad thing. You may naturally want to help the people in your life that you care about, and this is especially true when someone you love is struggling with their mental health. While a caring nature is a good quality, it can run into dangerous territory when it leads you astray while you’re trying to help someone with an addiction.
People with an addiction can sometimes take advantage of others. While they may do so unknowingly, the effects are often the same. For example, someone with an addiction might call you for help with money or legal problems. If you are a person with codependency, then you might put your own financial or emotional health at risk to help them get what they think they need. Over time, your helpfulness can feed someone’s addiction while taking a serious toll on your mental health. Understanding what codependency looks like can help you take the steps you need to be emotionally ready to help your loved one overcome their addiction.
What Are the Characteristics of Codependency?
Codependency is marked by several traits and behaviors. Although the characteristics can vary from one person to another, it is worthwhile to check if any of these seem familiar:
- Fearing that someone will leave if you don’t do what they ask or demand
- Finding it hard to set boundaries in relationships
- Experiencing a sense of martyrdom
- Rationalizing someone else’s negative behaviors
- Having low self-esteem
- Using controlling behaviors
- Dealing with depression and/or anxiety
What Issues Arise From Codependent Relationships?
A codependent relationship is one that often feels one-sided, but it actually involves at least two people playing off one another’s emotions. In a typical codependent relationship, a person with codependency engages in enabling behaviors that allow a person with an addiction to continue to use drugs or alcohol.
Codependency can impact any type of relationship. In many cases, it can lead to a dysfunctional family where spouses, parents, and children are involved. Codependency can even become a multigenerational issue if children identify as survivors and go on to engage in enabling behaviors as they grow up.
When these types of behavior patterns play out too long, each person can develop anger, resentment, guilt, and other negative emotions that impact their relationships. Someone who is codependent may inadvertently be feeding their own anxiety and low self-esteem. In fact, codependency and depression are sometimes related, and people who are in these types of relationships may find that they need help to overcome both mental health conditions.
What Is Enabling Behavior?
People often find it hard to know where to draw the line with someone who has an addiction. At Granite Recovery Centers, our treatment program is designed to help loved ones identify patterns of enabling behavior so that they can set healthy boundaries that make it harder for someone with a substance use disorder to take advantage of them.
An enabling behavior is anything that someone with codependency does that allows the addiction to continue. For instance, you could be enabling your loved one if you’ve consistently bailed them out of jail or paid for their lawyer without insisting that they seek treatment for their addiction. Another example would be offering your best friend rent money that you know they might use to buy drugs or alcohol. If you’ve ever done something to help someone with an addiction, only to be met with surprise or discouragement from others, then it is possible that you’ve been engaging in enabling behaviors. This could also be true if the same issues seem to keep arising in a never-ending cycle. People with codependency often experience frustration when it seems like the addiction continues no matter how much they try to do to help someone with a substance use disorder.
How Does Enabling Apply to Addiction?
Most people who develop challenges with an addiction don’t mean to be selfish or take advantage of the people they love. Sadly, some people begin to use drugs to relieve feelings of guilt or anger that they develop after they try so hard to help someone else. People with a substance use disorder may also feel desperate because they fear having severe withdrawal symptoms if they quit using drugs or alcohol. The sheer fear of being unable to buy their drugs or alcohol could cause your loved one to demand that you provide them with money or allow them to live with you without contributing to the household expenses. This can begin a cycle of anger and resentment in your relationship.
Addiction treatment works best when a person with a substance use disorder is surrounded by people who are mentally healthy and capable of providing them with support. The right type of support for someone with an addiction involves setting and enforcing healthy boundaries. Learning how to set healthy boundaries is something that people with codependency can learn in a mental health program that is designed to apply to addiction.
How Can You Overcome Codependency?
The first step to overcoming codependency is to recognize that you are engaging in enabling behaviors. This step is notably difficult since it is sometimes hard to gain that level of insight into your own behavior. If you suspect that you are in a codependent relationship, then our team at Granite Recovery Centers can help you find out if this is true. If so, then you’ll be able to participate in several different types of programs that can help you learn how to set healthier boundaries and address your emotional needs.
Steps To Take as a Person with Codependency
Many people with codependency find that working through their challenges using the 12-step model makes it easier to begin having healthier relationships. Talking to a counselor can help you to learn more about possible early influences in your life that led to you developing codependent behavior patterns. Going to your counseling sessions on a regular basis helps you to build upon the progress that you make in each one. You might consider going to meetings of Co-Dependents Anonymous for peer support as well.
As someone who is codependent, you may also benefit from family therapy. You might need to explore things that happened in your childhood or work with your other family members to develop new behavior patterns that allow you to live in harmony. During therapy, you work closely with your counselors to identify boundaries that need to be set in your relationships. At first, this might be hard, but it is important to stick it out to make sure that you are able to begin the process of ending negative relationship patterns.
Things People with an Addiction Can Do to Help
People with addiction and codependency will find that these mental health conditions go hand in hand. You may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with painful emotions such as resentment if you are constantly let down by someone who feeds on your codependent tendencies. In this case, you’ll want to work with your counselor on learning how to find healthier coping strategies when painful emotions arise.
You will also need to begin to set clear boundaries with people who abuse your compassionate nature. In many cases, this will involve separating from people who take advantage of your willingness to help. Although this might be temporary, you may need to permanently exit from relationships that cause you emotional harm when the other person is not willing to do the work toward healing.
Working Toward Change
If you are a person with a substance use disorder and are in a relationship with someone who is codependent, then there are some things that you can do to help them change. As you begin to stop using drugs and alcohol, their willingness to enable your addiction could cause you to spiral down into a relapse. You need to know that you can depend on them to uphold their boundaries and refuse to let you use their kindness to have a slip-up.
The first step that you can take as someone with an addiction is to ask the person with codependency to accompany you to counseling. We offer family and individual counseling sessions that allow you to involve the people that you are closest to. By doing so, it is our goal to make sure that you leave your inpatient or outpatient treatment with a strong support system at home that will not falter when it comes to maintaining boundaries that stop enabling behavior.
Keep in mind that you may need to start the process off first. If the person that you love is not yet ready to get help for their codependent behavior, then move forward with your treatment process anyway. Family and friends often follow their loved ones into therapy after they see the positive impacts that it has on those individuals’ lives.
Is It Possible To Heal a Dysfunctional Relationship?
Healing dysfunctional relationships takes hard work and persistence to reach the point where you no longer engage in negative behavior patterns. As a general rule, you can expect it to take a similar amount of time to heal as it did to reach the point where you are now. However, you should begin to see gradual improvement once you begin your mental health treatment.
At times, you may find yourself relapsing into old behaviors, but this can be a good thing if you use those moments to reinforce what you learn in your treatment. You may need to increase your therapy sessions or reach out to a counselor for more support during life changes that cause you to risk falling back into codependency.
The connection between codependency and addiction is so strong that it is common to identify at least one person in someone’s life who feeds their substance use disorder. Whether you believe that you might be codependent or feel like you are taking advantage of someone who is, it is important to know that help is available. Reach out to our team at Granite Recovery Centers today to start the process of figuring out which mental health services can help you start enjoying healthier relationships today.