Addiction and Codependency

Addiction and Codependency: Breaking the Cycle of Enabling

Drug and alcohol addiction affects the addict and everyone around them. It’s this circle of influence that plays a key role in either enabling the drug or alcohol addiction, or encouraging recovery. That’s why it is crucial to understand the fine line between encouraging your loved one to get help – or becoming codependent and helping to maintain the addict’s destructive behavior.

What is Codependency?

A ‘codependent’ is someone who has developed an extreme dependency on someone else – in this instance, on the addict. They are often spouses, children or other relatives of the addict.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, codependents “become codependent because they have learned to believe that love, acceptance, security, and approval are contingent upon taking care of the addict in the way the addict wishes.”

Sound familiar? If it does, it’s because it is an all-too-common scenario. It is important to determine if any of the addict’s circle is codependent, because codependency frequently leads to denial and enabling actions. How? Codependents tend to seek out and relationships with people they see as victims. They take unrealistic responsibility for others’ actions, and their acts of kindness are a result of their belief that they can manipulate the addict to bring about positive change.

Codependency can be detrimental to recovery because the codependent’s actions unintentionally help maintain the addict’s destructive behavior. Many codependents also move from unintentional actions to enabling. Instead of helping the addict confront their addiction, they will make excuses for them and either directly or indirectly encourage them to continue the substance abuse.

Here are some additional characteristics to help identify if you or someone in the addict’s circle may be codependent:

  • judge themselves harshly
  • takes on the shortcomings of others
  • have a constant need for approval
  • have no empathy for themselves
  • have continuous feelings of guilt
  • minimize personal achievements and talents
  • personal criticism makes them feel scared, shame or embarrassed
  • tolerate hurtful behavior

Being a family member or friend of someone with an alcohol or drug addiction can be difficult; you want them to know they are loved. But it is important to remember that the most loving thing you can do for an addict is encourage them to get help. You need to do what’s best for them by supporting the person, not the addiction.

At 12 Keys Rehab, we understand that addiction rarely affects only the individual struggling with dependency. We know that a successful addiction recovery also involves working with family members like you. Our group counseling programs support and educate you and your family about the process of addiction, while acknowledging your pain and offering you an opportunity to heal, too. We provide a safe, confidential environment to discuss your feelings, understand how your loved one’s addiction is impacting you and your family, and give you the tools you need to help repair relationships and create an emotionally healthy family environment again.

The Addiction Blog