Codependency and Addiction

At Vita Recovery, we provide our clients with a treatment plan for their specific conditions. We understand the differences in our makeup and that two individuals born alike manifest differently with similar conditions.

Codependency and addiction often coexist and so the treatment is usually holistic. For instance, this research established that codependency is the root of most addiction patterns.

What is codependency

Initially, experts reserved codependency to describe the behavior patterns of family members of a person suffering from alcohol abuse. However, scholars have expanded and modified the term to describe relationships where one partner is excessively emotionally attached to the other.

Today, researchers are yet to agree on a universally-accepted definition of codependency. However, a thematic analysis of 11 published definitions identified external focusing, self-sacrificing, attempting to control other people and suppressing one's emotions as the markers of codependency.

Although debates continue, many studies agree that codependency is a toxic or unhealthy emotional or psychological reliance on another person. This situation is common in relationships, which is why it is tagged 'love addiction' or 'relationship addiction.'

Codependency doesn't qualify as a mental health diagnosis and studies aren't conclusive about the causes. But a 2012 study established that participants who suffered depression, low-self esteem, and childhood trauma are more likely to be codependent.

According to the National Mental Health Association, codependency is a learned trait that can be passed down the family line.

The condition can manifest in different ways. For instance, a person may put their needs aside to prioritize their partner's. In another case, the person may feel like they can't live without their partners in the literal sense of the statement.

You're right to think these instances should be normal for relationships. You should be able to put your partner's needs over yours sometimes. You should be able to feel that you need your partner in your corner safely.

That's why codependency isn't only about 'what' you do; it's majorly about 'why' and 'how' you do it. The lines are blurry when defining codependency, but once motives and actions become extreme, it's time to watch out.

When relationships feature codependency, they become unhealthy and not mutually satisfying. Such relationships are often one-sided, abusive, and emotionally destructive. Experts reveal that the situation arises mainly because the codependent wants to alleviate their pain or feel relevant. So, they ignore their problems, feelings, opinions, etc., to cater to their partners.

If left untreated, codependency grows, takes a life of its own, and eventually becomes a default compulsive behavior, ultimately leading to dire consequences. Hence, quickly recognizing codependency is vital.

Signs of codependency

Recovery from codependency begins when a person can identify the problem by its signs and seek help.

If there's no one to call the codependent to attention, the situation may continue till it becomes extremely damaging. Before getting to that point, here are signs to help detect codependency:

  • Inability to express one's feelings and emotions
  • Feeling the need for everyone to like you
  • Finding it difficult to create strict boundaries
  • Looking to ignore the existence of a problem
  • Feeling depressed and withdrawn
  • Low self-esteem
  • The compulsive need to fix and control other people
  • Always putting what others want over your interest
  • Being too loyal to a detrimental point
  • Inability to communicate properly
  • Not saying how you feel because you're scared and feel guilty
  • Not seeing the above as a serious problem and refusing to get help

If a person exhibiting these behaviors has a partner suffering from addiction, failing to recognize their codependency won't help their partner or themselves. To be clear, if A has an addiction problem, and B exhibits the signs above (codependency), B not seeking help for their problem (codependency) makes A's situation (addiction) worse. Ultimately, the relationship will grow unhealthy and destructive to both A and B.

Codependency Relationship and Addiction

The discovery of codependence was during the early days of addiction treatment. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was trying to help those suffering from alcohol addiction. Al-Anon gathered as a support group to cater to the spouses of such people. Al-Anon was a non-therapeutic peer group, but the group soon noticed that the spouses of those undergoing alcohol recovery treatments exhibited similar traits.

As much as anyone would naturally expect spouses of those struggling with an addiction to 'need' their partners to quit the substance, Al-Anon noticed a somewhat direct contrast. Subconsciously, spouses of those undergoing treatment 'needed' their partners to remain addicted.

This was because of the sense of self-worth and purpose they got from having to care for their partners. Having to care for someone who gets drunk or stoned may cause you to feel important to their lives – which is a bad motive. Getting the feeling of importance from such caring activities not only affects you but also gives the person suffering from addiction a reason to continue.

This dynamic seems weird, but it's very common. Though, it's important to know that being a codependent person doesn't mean you are responsible for your partner's addiction. They are responsible for their actions, and you should also consider curing yourself of codependency.

Being a couple, you can help each other get better. This should be the goal. Not working towards this goal means you're exhibiting – subconsciously or consciously – some detrimental long-term behaviors.

Why do Codependency and Addiction go hand in hand?

Studies show how a codependent's actions may reinforce a person's addiction. Here are reasons why this statement is true:

Taking responsibility

The unhealthy need to take responsibility for the decisions and actions of others plays right into the codependency book. Codependents go as far as offering unsolicited encouragement and advice. As such, the codependent aims to solve the addiction problem of their partner, either by manipulating or controlling them.

Unfortunately, in the real sense, the person suffering from addiction is the one doing the manipulation. 'A' drinks too much, and 'B' is codependent and always offers encouragement. B thinks they are helping by trying to control A. But in reality, A is the one unconsciously manipulating B. The manipulation is, however, possible because B has an unchecked desire to feel relevant and needed.

Maintaining the relationship at any cost.

Because the codependent can reach whatever extreme to maintain the relationship, the person with the addiction feels comfortable in their actions. Ultimately, this is an unhealthy relationship.

Fear also contributes to this compulsion to maintain the relationship at whatever cost. The fear here may not be the fear of man. It's most likely a fear of being alone, abandoned, or rejected. This fear is close to wanting to be relevant and wanted.

Inability to express oneself

Those suffering from this condition are most likely people who can't easily express themselves. Many people suffering from codependency will deny this, as will anyone. But there's a gap between what they want to say and what they say. A codependent's focus is always on their partner, burying their reasoning, feelings, needs, and more.

The inability to express oneself trickles down to not being able to establish clear boundaries. Hence, they open themselves to abuse and danger.

Most times, codependent upbringing results in this inability. Having parents who suffered from addiction and an inability to express how their actions affect you can result in growing up to be adults that condone whatever their partners do.

How to Safely Help Your Addicted Partner

It's alright to care for your partner if they suffer from addiction. But when your caring involves getting them off the floor when drunk, lying to your children about an out-of-character action or protecting them from the consequence of abusing drugs, you're aiding and abetting. This isn't good.

You must understand that their actions aren't about you. Also, you aren't responsible for their shortcomings; they are. Furthermore, you can't cure addiction. When you understand these, here's how you can safely help your addicted partner:

  • Get help for yourself and your partner. Get them into therapy.
  • Don't always rescue them. Don't protect someone doing drugs. Don't get your drunk partner out of the doorway. Experiencing the embarrassing aftermath of their action may help them heed your clamor for seeking help.
  • Don't give them money. Anyone suffering from addiction will always want to get their substance of interest. Withholding financial support, irrespective of their pretense, will help them take the first step towards recovery – being clean. Detoxification is vital to the recovery process.

Reach Out Today

Codependency and addiction are heavy conditions to handle on your own. It would help if you found the confidence to reach out for help. At Vita Recovery, we have facilities and human resources to help you and your partner heal and build a healthy relationship.

If you're ready to get help for yourself and your partner, visit our website or call us at (786) 686-1488. Don't keep yourself away from living a full, beautiful life. Contact us now!

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