Help us both! The Addict and Codependent

It is the beauty of human nature to find joy in helping others. However, this willingness to help others can sometimes become self-destructive. If you are in a relationship with a family member who is struggling with addiction, whether that individual is a parent, a child, a significant other or even a friend, it is no easy role to be in. Of course you want to help the people you care for. But, it is extremely important to understand that just as an addict cannot control his or her drug addiction, neither can you control an addict’s behavior.

When helping another turns self-destructive, it is clear that a codependency has developed. Codependency can be described as an overwhelming desire to control another person’s behavior and to be significantly affected at a deep emotional level by another’s behavior. This is a particularly common feature of relationships that involve drug and alcohol addictions. In a relationship with a drug addict, an individual’s urge to help the addict becomes focused on controlling the addictive behaviors of the loved one. This intent to “fix” a loved one is well-intentioned, but a dangerous losing battle. Overtime this pursuit can lead to a loss of self and an obsession with the addict’s behaviors. Resentments will naturally develop for both individuals in the relationship, turning the relationship into a self-destructive nightmare.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the term “codependency” was coined in the ‘80s to describe the negative impact that drug abuse and alcohol abuse has on family relationships. The term has since been expanded to include a myriad of behaviors that result from a dysfunctional relationship.

Common signs of codependency include:

  • Controlling behavior
  • Excessive caretaking
  • Lack of trust in others
  • Loss of personal interests
  • Inability to maintain healthy boundaries in a relationship
  • Extreme avoidance of confrontation

If you are in a relationship with an drug addict, these signs may sound familiar to you. Does your behavior revolve around controlling situations to prevent your loved one from abusing drugs and alcohol? Please know that there is help for you too. Support groups for codependency are offered through recovery centers like 12 Keys and nationwide groups, such as Al-Anon, a support group for families of alcoholics. To find a group near you, please visit the Al-Anon website at

If you think you might be in a codependent relationship, take steps now to regain your mental clarity and self-control. There is nothing you can do to force someone to stop abusing drugs and alcohol. And someone else’s drug addiction is not your fault. The behavior of the addict in your life is not your responsibility. You, and you alone, are your primary responsibility.

What can you do to begin to break the cycle of codependency?

  • Recognize you are responsible for your behavior, and only your behavior.
  • Forgive and love yourself.
  • Get back in touch with your emotions and what you want out of life.
  • Join a support group.
  • Evaluate your relationship boundaries.
  • Read any and all of Melody Beattie’s books, a renowned expert on codependency and self-help. Her most popular titles include: Codependent No More, The Language of Letting Go, Beyond Codependency.

For more information on codependency, visit or call 866.331.6779.

The Addiction Blog