Codependency and Addiction 

Finding Yourself in Recovery
May 26, 2021
Inclusivity in Addiction Treatment
June 16, 2021


What is Codependency? 

Codependency is a relationship dynamic in which one person has an excessive dependency on a relationship. It’s usually an imbalanced relationship with an addict or someone struggling with their mental health. A codependent person may put everything into the relationship without receiving the same in return. It’s a learned behavior, usually by family members, in order to adjust to dysfunction such as neglect, addiction, and physical or emotional abuse. Oftentimes, someone that is in a codependent relationship grew up in a home where there was an addict, codependent parent, or have had other relationships where codependency was present. 

The correlation between codependency and addiction 

Codependency and addiction go hand in hand. Codependency was first acknowledged in family members and close ones of alcoholics. Where there is an addict, there is usually a codependent person trying to be a caretaker for them. It’s not uncommon for a person that is in a codependent relationship with an addict to start drinking or doing drugs as well in an effort to gain the addict’s approval. A codependent person may try to fix the addict or try to keep them safe by covering up their addiction and mistakes that they’ve made. Someone who suffers from substance abuse can also be codependent on another person, which may feed their addiction further. 

Enabling and Codependency 

Enabling is often a sign of codependency. The codependent often has good intentions for helping the addict. An addict may lose their job, their home, have financial struggles, or feel hopeless. It may make the codependent/enabler feel good about themselves to help and be a caretaker to the addict. In the end, it does more harm than good though, for both parties. Resentment and guilt may grow in the enabler for doing more for someone else than they do for themselves or get in return. Although it may be hard to not help someone in need, it is harder for the addict to seek help if someone is catering to their needs and fixing the problems they’ve made for themselves. It’s also taxing on the person doing the giving and can negatively affect one’s life and mental health. 

Signs of Codependency 

Codependency can leave you feeling depleted. It can be emotionally and physically draining to pour your self-worth, emotional energy, and overall wellbeing into someone else. Below are some of the traits that are commonly seen in someone that is codependent. ● Problems making decisions on one’s own

  • Lack of communication 
  • Trouble navigating one’s own emotions 
  • Not being able to set healthy boundaries with the people in one’s life 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Needing approval from other people 
  • A fear of abandonment 
  • Putting other’s needs before your own. 
  • Feeling like you’re responsible for others 

Seeking treatment 

Being in a codependent relationship can be exhausting and is unhealthy for our overall wellbeing and mental health. With support, willingness, and self love the dynamics of a codependency relationship can be changed. In order to change them, one must look inward first. Instead of focusing on someone else’s needs, start focusing on your own. Know that your feelings are valid. It is just as important for someone who is codependent to seek treatment as it is for the addict. Therapy is a great option to help work through the codependency tendencies and talk through the things that may have led up to where you are in the relationship. Attending a support group is another great option to talk about where you are at and find support in the community. Oftentimes, it’s when the codependent person stops enabling the addict when they seek treatment for their substance abuse. Below are some things you can do to take a step back and take some time from the codependency aspect of the relationship. 

  • Instead of reacting, stay calm 
  • Take into consideration your own feelings and needs 
  • Don’t engage in arguments 
  • Don’t enable unhealthy behaviors 
  • Listen rather than try to fix the problem 
  • Set boundaries