Addiction and codependency are, unfortunately, observed on a regular basis. Addiction is a chronic disease that affects brain function. It causes the sufferer to prioritize substance abuse higher than logic or reason dictates. Sadly, it’s all too easy for spouses, parents or any other family members to fall into the cycle of codependent behavior.
For some reason, perhaps as a result of the stigma attached to addiction, lots of people try to sweep substance use disorders under the rug. Don’t attempt to deal with addiction — which is a diagnosable mental health disorder — in the family. Seek professional help for the codependent person and an addiction recovery program at rehab for the person engaging in drug or alcohol abuse.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency is where the addicted person relies on their loved ones to make life with their addiction easier. At the same time, the self-appointed caretaker inadvertently does things to feed this habit because of their sense of duty. This is called enabling. Both parties suffer in this situation — the caregiver neglects their own needs and the unhealthy behaviours of the person with the addiction are reinforced.
Even though the family member is trying to improve the well-being of their struggling loved one, they’re actually making it worse. This cycle can continue for years, destroying both people’s self-esteem, until they seek help from addiction treatment services. In most cases, it’s also helpful for the affected family members to attend group meetings at a place like Al-Anon so they can learn the importance of healthy boundaries and self-care.
What Is Enabling?
Enabling can come in many forms, but it’s usually from a spouse or parent. In these situations, the person with the addiction knows how to push the other individual’s buttons. The way substance use disorders affect the brain means that people who are suffering from the condition are inclined to go to any lengths necessary to get their fix. This means lying, dishonest behaviour and manipulation — even if these weren’t traits the person ever possessed before.
When the two people involved have a fraught relationship, the back and forth of arguing is another form of enabling. In this case, the individual with the addiction unwittingly seeks arguments and then uses the pain they feel as an excuse to reinforce their unhealthy habit. In both cases, no matter how challenging a relationship has become, family therapy can help you to make the necessary changes.
Codependency and Drug Addiction
The link between codependency and drug addiction was found a few years after the concept of codependency as relationship addiction was first discussed. At its most basic, it describes the process by which one person gets their self-esteem vicariously through another person. Codependent individuals usually have low self-worth and require counselling to help them learn how to form healthy relationships. Most people who struggle with it grew up in dysfunctional families and potentially witnessed a similar cycle of alcohol and drug abuse growing up.
Substance Abuse Affects Mental Health
If you’re the family member who’s attempting to fight someone else’s battle, it’s crucial that you understand you’re dealing with a medical diagnosis. Addiction isn’t a choice, a moral failing or something that you can talk or bribe another individual out of — no matter how hard you try.
Most people require professional guidance from a mixture of addiction specialists, including doctors, counsellors, therapists and case managers. It’s not fair for you to take on caretaking responsibilities that should be addressed by a full team of professionals at rehab.
What Are the Signs of Codependency?
The symptoms of codependency cause damage to the individual with the addiction and the person trying to take care of them. This pattern of unhealthy behaviors usually includes:
- Struggling to make decisions in a relationship
- Finding it difficult to pinpoint your own emotions
- Communicating poorly
- Having difficulty establishing healthy boundaries
- Not trusting yourself and experiencing pervasive low self-esteem
- Gaining more from the approval of others than from yourself
- Having an obsessive fear of abandonment
- Putting other people’s needs before your own
- Feeling an exaggerated sense of responsibility for other people, to your own detriment
Is It Possible to Overcome Codependence?
There are treatment programs that address addiction and codependence as a co-occurring disorder. It’s also vital that the family member seeks professional help for themselves so they can learn about the importance of boundaries, self-care and appropriate levels of emotional support. Once both parties have received treatment, you’ll be able to come back together and communicate in a healthy, constructive way.
Encourage Your Loved One to Seek Professional Help
If you’ve read through this article and it resonates with you, you’re probably wondering what to do next. The most important thing you can do is seek professional help for yourself from an organization like Al-Anon. When it comes to your loved one, encourage them to get into rehab. Stop engaging in any arguments with them, stop trying to heal them or make them better alone and put an end to lending them money or paying their way.
As long as you’re giving the addiction a comfortable place to rest, it’s not going to go away. Seek guidance from a professional about the next steps you should take. You don’t need to turn away from your loved one or put them in danger, but direct all your energy into getting medical guidance for yourself and encouraging them to do the same.