Are you a codependent? Have you wondered if you could be? As a loved one of a person who is struggling with addiction, you may feel like you have to do everything in your power to help that person. However, sometimes what may seem like helping can often make the situation worse.
When a person is codependent, there is an underlying expectation that their help and the need to please their loved one or others will make things better. It is easy for the codependent to feel as though their efforts will be recognized and their loved one’s behavior will change.
However, this behavior only makes it easier for the addict to control and manipulate the codependent and continue their drug and/or alcohol abuse. The codependent often becomes the enabler and acts as the “co-addict” without even realizing it.
Codependency and Co-addiction
Are You Codependent?
Codependents often get pleasure out of pleasing others to the point where it becomes a co-addiction. Once the codependent feels like they are fixing things, this actually stimulates dopamine, the reward center of the brain.
These good feelings help the codependent feel more secure and less anxious and stressed, but they often cover up underlying emotions such as fear, shame and guilt, which often leads to control and attachment issues.
Signs of Codependency
So what are some telltale signs you may be a codependent? Codependency often includes:
- Having an extreme fear of abandonment
- Accepting full responsibility for other’s actions
- People pleasing without considering your own needs
- Struggling with setting clear boundaries
- Thinking the addict is incapable in order to feel valued
- Constantly making excuses for the addict’s behavior
- Neglecting your own needs or responsibilities to help others
Most of these behaviors stem from shame and guilt and fear of being out of control and not being able to protect their loved one from addiction. While it may seem like these behaviors are out of genuine concern, they end up as defense mechanisms to feel more secure.
When the codependent sacrifices their own needs and constantly feels the need to give more and more, it becomes an impairment for the codependent and the addicted loved one. Yet, codependents can improve their enabling behavior by learning healthy coping strategies.
Helpful Ways to Deal with Codependency
Since codependents often lose sight of their own needs, it’s helpful to create healthy boundaries. By learning to establish clear boundaries, the codependent is giving the addict the responsibility for their own actions. This suffering is a big part of the recovery process and can actually help an addicted loved one seek treatment and begin the road to long-term recovery.
If you think you are a codependent and you’re struggling with setting boundaries, the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved one is attend therapy. Individual therapy sessions with a licensed therapist or group therapy sessions such as 12-step meetings, Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or a family program can improve your relationship between you and your loved one in recovery.