Codependency and Addiction
In many cases, where addictive behaviors are present, one doesn’t have to look too far to discover codependency as well. Codependency is an unhealthy relationship pattern. A pattern in which one person puts another’s needs above their own. Often to the detriment of their own life, activities and other relationships.
Codependency is often associated with children raised in a home where abuse occurred, or where the child was forced to take on the ‘care taker’ role at an early age.
Codependents often struggle with their own feelings. They tend to downplay, change or even deny how they feel. Under the auspices of genuinely caring for the well-being of others, they position themselves as completely unselfish. Also they become the self-appointed ‘hero’ or ‘heroine’ in a relationship.
Further, the codependent believes that they are able not only take care of themselves, but that it is their obligation to take care of others. They often seek the recognition of others, even as they are enabling ongoing negative behaviors for those they are attempting to help.
Recipe of Codependency
Often during an addict’s recovery, they discover that their loved ones display certain codependent traits, requiring them to focus their attention and seek ongoing transformation.
It is common for addicts to struggle, not only with their substance abuse, but also at work, at home and with their closest relationships at home. This often leads to high-risk behaviors, financial difficulties and the constant need for emotional support.
These traits are the ingredients for the recipe of codependency. Codependents are drawn to people who need to be rescued, and under the belief that they are helping; they end up further enabling the destructive behaviors of the addict.
When codependents are also addicts, the potential for destructive behavior amplifies. One or both of the addicts involved are likely to lose their own sense of identity, self-worth and personal needs.
When care-taking becomes compulsive, the codependent often steps in and provides alibis, money and other concessions to make the addict feel more ‘comfortable’. By doing so, the codependent makes it easy for the addict to continue his or her lifestyle instead of seeking help for their disease.
These behaviors are intensified by the belief that if the addict achieves sobriety, the codependent will no longer be needed.
This vicious cycle of the compulsion to be useful, enabling the destructive behavior of the addict in order to fulfill the codependent’s role in their life is why treatment for addiction often includes addressing the codependency as well.
The Goal of Therapy
Therapy typically comes in the form of counseling, either for the individual or within the relationship unit. The goal of therapy is to first, acknowledge the codependent behavior. Then to understand the destructive effects it has upon both parties.
It is important to improve communication, establish healthier boundaries, and begin implementing behaviors that will be supportive to a healthy relationship.
For the codependent, therapy delves deep into the original issues, often stemming from childhood, that drive their current destructive behaviors. The need to recognize and be at peace with their own feelings and needs becomes the foundation of being able to say no to codependent behaviors.
It is our encouragement to associates, families and loved ones of addicted individuals to contact an addiction specialist about the most beneficial ways to support one going through recovery. Both the addict and the codependent should seek help in order to establish healthy relationships.
“There are almost as many definitions of codependency as there are experiences that represent it.” – Melody Beattie
A New Outlook Counseling services stands ready to help. Help those struggling with addiction and those who love them through the sometimes-turbulent waters of recovery. With four offices across the Denver metro area, getting help is easier than ever. The Healing Begins Here.
• Main Office – Highlands Ranch Robert J. Johnson, SAP, MAC, LAC
• Aurora Office– Alissa Zucker, MA, LAC
• Lakewood Office– Rick Shriner, CACIII
• Cherry Creek Office– Matthew Jarvis, MA, LPC, LAC, NCC, EMDR