Addiction is a complex disorder that has several origins. People who struggle with addiction may have a family history of substance abuse or may have experienced abuse in childhood. Substance abuse is a complex web of social, economic, and biological factors. But one factor often takes a backseat when we talk about addiction and substance abuse, and that is codependency.
We hear the term “codependency” tossed around a lot – we may think we know a codependent couple or a codependent friendship, even a codependent caretaker. We use this term so often that it loses its meaning. At The Treatment Center, we explain what codependency is, how it can hinder someone in recovery, and how it may have enabled behaviors that made it easier for a loved one to be addicted.
What is codependency? Let’s explore the term, its role in addiction, and how to tell if you’re codependent.
What Is Codependency?
From a psychological perspective, codependency is any relationship between two people who can’t function independently. The other person defines a codependent person’s mood, identity, and happiness. In a true codependent relationship, there is generally a passive party who can’t make decisions without the other’s approval and a dominant party who gets satisfaction or reward from controlling the other person.
A common example of codependency in substance abuse is one person abusing substances and relying on the other to provide food, shelter, and money. While this is one working definition, codependency can be – and often is – much more complex.
Though codependency is common in substance abuse, it doesn’t necessarily involve drugs or alcohol. Take, for example, a relationship in which one partner is extremely possessive and jealous. They may shower the other partner with gifts to convince this person of their affection, and then hide their partner’s car keys so they can’t leave the house. In other words, they get satisfaction from controlling the other party, who becomes afraid of leaving.
Codependency And Enabling
Another common form of codependency is enabling. We may all enable our significant others from time to time, but in codependent relationships, enabling is problematic. We describe enabling as actions that reinforce one partner’s bad behaviors to ease relationship tension. Common examples of enabling include giving repeated chances, accepting excuses, coming to the rescue, or ignoring the problem altogether.
Enabling prevents someone with a substance abuse problem from feeling the consequences of the addiction. For instance, a partner might take on extra hours at work to make up for a partner’s lost income – income spent on drugs or alcohol.
How To Tell If You’re Codependent
People may have a natural disposition to codependency. Codependent personalities display behaviors that are consistent and interfere with a person’s emotional health. Depending on which kind of codependent personality you have, you may have a preoccupation with caretaking, controlling, or letting others decide without interference.
Other signs of codependency may manifest as having difficulty making decisions in a relationship, identifying your feelings, or communicating. The passive parties in codependent relationships may value approval more than autonomy. Controlling parties may lack trust or have an exaggerated sense of responsibility, especially when it comes to the actions of others. Both parties usually have fears of abandonment and an obsessive fear of disapproval, and an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even if they have negative costs.
Is Codependency Always Bad?
Some people may not understand why codependency is such a bad thing. After all, don’t we all rely on our partners to some degree? While there is an amount of give and take in any healthy relationship, codependency refers to the idea that you seek out unhealthy relationships.
In terms of substance abuse, codependent relationships can be not only unhealthy, they’re also dangerous. By enabling a person to continue using drugs by providing, money, shelter, or excuses, you’re not only endangering your partner, but yourself.
What Can I Do About My Codependent Personality?
If you think you’re in a codependent relationship, here’s the good news: Often, recognizing codependency is the hardest step. Once you’ve recognized your codependent tendencies, you can begin to treat them. Counseling is the first step – in relationship counseling, you’ll begin to realize what drives your codependent personality and rebuild your sense of self.
Reconnecting with friends and family can also help you rebuild your sense of self. Codependent relationships often lead to feelings of isolation, so being around others who love you can be beneficial. Finally, carve out some “you” time, returning to hobbies you enjoyed before you became enmeshed with another person.
Is There Hope For My Relationship?
Codependent relationships are often rooted in love and concern. While the nature of the relationship is unhealthy, not all codependent relationships are doomed – in some cases, you can save them by reducing codependent behaviors.
If you or your partner is suffering from substance abuse, talk to us. The Treatment Center offers professional intervention for addiction. No relationship is healthy when one or both parties are abusing substances. We have support groups for friends and families of those who struggle with addiction. With targeted therapies and self-discovery, you can reduce codependency behaviors that sabotage addiction recovery. You can both regain your senses of self, paving the way for a brighter future.
Are You Ready to Learn More About Codependency and How You Can Prevent It?