Learn About Codependency and How It Relates to Addiction

Codependency is extremely common. The first step to changing codependent behavior is understanding it. Codependency often co-exists with a substance use disorder.

What Exactly is Codependency???


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When you see someone you know or care about struggling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, it’s normal to want to comfort them in any way you can. However, when clear boundaries are not in place, help can quickly become a codependency. Many parents and spouses struggle with codependency by putting their own needs before the efforts attempting to save their loved ones from the grips of addiction. The intentions of the parent or spouse are coming from the place of love; however, this codependency makes any problem worse for all involved parties. One of the best ways to establish clear boundaries and reduce the risk of codependency when attempting to get addiction support for your loved one is to reach out to a substance abuse treatment NJ that offers intervention services and family therapy.

Does Codependency Exist Within Your Relationship?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you feel solely responsible for your loved one?
  • Do you feel your loved one can’t get through this without you?
  • Does being without your loved one leave you feeling worthless?
  • Do you place your own life on the back burner to care for your loved one?
  • Do you keep your concerns to yourself to prevent your loved one from becoming upset?

Causes of Codependency

The term codependency was first used in the 1950s but mainly described a weak person who was codependent on another individual that struggled with drugs or alcohol. By the 1980s, with the advances of AA, NA, Al-Anon, and addiction treatment centers in NJ, we had updated the term to describe an individual who was regularly attracted to or in a relationship with an addict or narcissist. A main contributing factor behind this attraction is that the person was raised in a dysfunctional family, perhaps the child of an alcoholic or addict, or lived with someone struggling with a mental illness. When the individual has had early childhood trauma or a more challenging upbringing, they are more likely to respond to a loved one struggling with addiction in an unhealthy way.

Dysfunctional Families

In many families, there are things you just don’t talk about. For some, it’s based on religion; for others, it’s things that aren’t considered socially acceptable or an old-school upbringing. Not talking about things that are bothering you creates pain, stress, fear, anger, and repressed feelings. For example, if you want to speak up to your Dad about not wanting to go to college for Engineering because you want to be a contractor and your Mother tells you not to because that will upset him, you were taught to put your feelings aside and keep going, later on in life this leads to built-up resentment. When you face a situation where your child or spouse is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you will once again place your feelings aside and immerse yourself into the other person’s problems.

Classic Behaviors of Codependent Individuals

If you’re afraid that you or someone you know may display these behaviors, rest assured that it is treatable. A family therapist at a codependency treatment center can help you establish healthy boundaries and learn to communicate positively. Take a look at the signs of codependency below.

  • Low self-esteem, represented by frequent self-deprecation and shame
  • Making excuses or lying to your addicted loved one
  • Eliminating your hobbies and interests
  • Difficulty maintaining boundaries, especially saying no to people
  • Obsessively trying to second-guess how your addicted loved one feels.
  • Extreme highs and lows of emotions- deep love to intense anger
  • Making consequences that you will never enforce.
  • Feeling guilty when you go somewhere or have fun without your loved one
  • Taking the blame for the actions of your loved one
  • Constantly looking for approval

How Do Substance Abuse and Codependency Work Together?

Alcohol and drug abuse can make a codependent relationship even more unhealthy. For example, let’s take a household where the teenager is a heroin addict, and the Mother is the enabler. The Mother doesn’t want to upset her child by asking him to get professional help at an inpatient substance abuse treatment. She is worried about him getting into trouble with the law if he steals the money to get the drugs he needs, so she gives him a set amount of money per day. She justifies it as a safer alternative and protects him in the long run. There are many days when he convinces her to give more money than the amount she had set. She is not admitting to herself that whether he steals to obtain the money or she gives it to him, he is still buying and using drugs that could potentially kill him. She is so invested that she feels she makes the best possible choice to keep him safe, at home, and with his family. In the example above, the son has become dependent on his Mother as a provider for his addiction. The Mother depends on the son’s love and willingness to stay home while he is using drugs; to her, his compliance reiterates that she is doing the right thing to give him money for drugs.

This longtime cycle of codependency will continue to continue until something happens to stop it, usually something drastic such as an overdose or death. If any of this sounds familiar to you, whether it’s your relationship or that of a friend or loved one, what can be done to break the cycle?

Let Us Help You

If you can identify with codependency or worry about family members, Avatar Residential Detox Center can help you with codependency addiction. We offer an excellent family intervention program. Call our admissions team today at (973)-774-7222.

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