Addiction used to be seen as a weakness of character and will, selfishness and inconsideration of others. Over time, we’ve come to realize that alcohol and drug addiction is a chronic, progressive, relapsing disease of the brain, causing individuals to become obsessively and compulsively fixated on the seeking and consumption of chemical substances. What’s more, the physical and even psychological dependency that comes with addiction causes individuals to become irrational and even dangerous in their patterns of thought and behavior.
Oftentimes individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction with resort to criminal behavior—stealing, burglary, forgery, and so on—in order to obtain the money needed to sustain their substance abuse habits, damaging or sacrificing important relationships along the way. In fact, addiction is often referred to as a disease that doesn’t merely affect individuals, but rather all the family members, friends, and other loved ones in the addict’s life; addiction is a family’s disease.
When an individual suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs, often times they surround themselves with circumstances and people that support their substance abuse habit. This can mean having only friends that alcohol partake in substance abuse, living in neighborhoods where drug use is widespread and common, seeking and having only jobs that don’t require drug screening and a number of other scenarios. When it comes to family and friends, addicts are typically elusive, unpredictable, and unreliable.
Therefore, it’s not uncommon—especially among loved ones who live with an addict—for individuals to either turn a blind eye to an addict’s harmful behaviors, or even helping addicts to continue to abuse alcohol and drugs. These individuals are called enablers, who enabling addicts for any of a variety of reasons; one of those reasons is due to something called codependency. As you will soon see, the first step to real recovery begins with codependency treatment.
Codependency and Substance Abuse
Relationships can be dysfunctional for any number of reasons. There are instances of physical or verbal abuse, for example, which is most common in parent-child relationships as well as in domestic or romantic relationships. Codependency is a very specific form of interpersonal dysfunction characterized by one person being an enabler to the other.
In a codependent relationship, the enabler can enable a variety of other harmful behaviors or circumstances for the other individual, which can include things like alcohol and drug addiction, immaturity, poor mental health, being an underachiever, irresponsibility, and so on. According to specialists, the idea of codependency owes much of its conception the twelve-step method in that it recognizes that the problem of dependency is not solely due to the addict him or herself, but can also be attributed—at least to some extent—to the addict’s network of family members, friends, and other loved ones.
Put another way, codependency refers to a type of a dysfunctional relationship in which one individual’s thinking, behavior, and emotional state are organized around another individual, or perhaps even a process or substance as in the case of chemical dependency and addiction. In fact, alcohol and drug addicts can also be considered codependent, but their relationships are with their drug or drugs of choice rather than another person.
In the case of codependency between addicts and loved ones, the codependency relies on one person being physiologically addicted to alcohol and drugs while the other person is psychologically dependent on that individual’s behavior; by enabling the addict’s behavior, the codependent individual is able to sustain the addict’s approval, validation, and minimize or eliminate the possibility of the addict abandoning him or her. For this reason, codependency treatment is absolutely necessary to break the cycle of addiction and to truly begin the recovery process.
Identifying Codependency in Relationships
Based on the core attributes of codependency, individuals who are codependent tend to be enablers for one or more of several key reasons. More often than not, codependency stems from a fear of abandonment in which the individual who is codependent enablers out of fear that the other person will abandon him or her if there is any resistance to the harmful behaviors.
Codependency can also occur in individuals who have an excessive reliance on the approval or validation of others, deriving a sense of self-worth and positive self-concept by the codependent relationship; in turn, the other party can behave as he or she wishes without the fear of consequences, repercussions, or resistance.
According to a social and psychological theory, the tendency to be codependent is learned through an individual’s experiences but can be reinforced when an individual can become easily attached to others. When codependency occurs in a number of an individual’s relationships, he or she might suffer from a condition called dependent personality disorder, which is characterized by a number of criteria such as helplessness, denial, fear of separation, a tendency to be submissive, a need to be taken care of, and a tendency to be clingy.
Conversely, studies have indicated that low self-esteem and feelings of shame correlate with codependency, making individuals more likely to enable others in order to safeguard themselves from abandonment or rejection.
In determining whether a relationship is a codependent, there are a number of symptoms of codependency for which one can look. Codependent relationships are often very intense, but also incredibly unpredictable, volatile, and unstable.
In codependent relationships, one individual has a tendency to avoid being alone at all costs, which often results in their ongoing frantic efforts to meet the other person’s every need or request. As such, this often means sacrificing one’s own needs for the sake of the other person, which is done willingly and often.
Individuals who are codependent also suffer from an overwhelming and compulsive need for validation, acceptance, and affection, which often accompanies low self-worth. What’s more, codependent individuals are usually unable to see or accept the truth, often being in denial or even completely dishonest with themselves or others.
From an outsider’s perspective, codependency can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a caring, empathetic relationship. The primary distinction is that in the case of codependency, the codependent individual’s behaviors are compulsions rather than conscious decisions in which the consequences of the decision are weighed appropriately; instead, codependency causes individuals to enable an addict’s behavior despite the fact that it could result in harm for the addict, the enabler, or others. Fortunately, counseling and psychotherapy have proven to be effective in treating individuals who enable others, allowing them to overcome codependency in order to sustain healthier, more balanced relationships.
Learn More About Addiction and Codependency Treatment Today
If you or someone you love suffers from addiction to alcohol or drugs and would like to discuss codependency treatment options, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. We have a team of recovery specialists that has helped countless individuals achieve sobriety through evidence-based, time-tested addiction treatment programs. Call us today so we can help you find your way to a healthy, sober life.