Codependence is a behavioral pattern characterized by over-reliance on or over-attachment to another person. It can be understood as a relationship addiction. Because people with substance use disorder (SUD) often find it challenging to build and maintain healthy relationships and have fallen prey to chemical dependency, relational codependence often co-occurs with substance addiction.
Dual Disorders: Codependence and Addiction
Just as mental health issues tend to be closely associated with SUD, the relationship between codependence and addiction is also a two-way complication. It is often hard to determine which came first, as one disorder tends to perpetuate the other.
Both conditions may share the same root causes, such as family history, genetics, traumatic experiences, and more. Codependent relationships among family members tend to be dysfunctional even before SUD enters the conversation. For example, if a family member constantly lies or keeps secrets for a loved one, even to the point where they pick them up from a bad situation or give them money to bail them out, it may only be a matter of time before this already codependent relationship involves drug or alcohol abuse.
Root Causes of Codependence and Addiction
Codependence is a condition marked by an unequal sharing of power. Codependent individuals tend to be people-pleasers who prioritize relationships above their own interests, even when the consequences are personally detrimental.
Deep inside a codependent individual is a sense of self-doubt and insecurity. These destructive self-images and emotions breed fear, anxiety, and desperation for control, making people cling to relationships to feel important and affirmed. However, the same shame and guilt never go away, and they can sabotage themselves in the relationship.
Codependence often co-occurs with addiction because of these emotional and relationship issues. A lack of healthy boundaries enables addiction. A codependent person may put up with a loved one’s addiction as long as this person remains in a close relationship with them. In doing so, the individual struggling with codependency is sacrificing this loved one’s health for relational security.
Recognizing Codependency in Overcoming Addiction
Similar to many other co-occurring mental health conditions, codependency and addiction need to be treated simultaneously to not only restore a healthy relationship but to maintain long-term sobriety.
Some signs of codependency include controlling words, emotional reactions, a strong desire to please others, a strong need to fix other people’s problems, a lack of boundaries, perfectionism, self-blame, and more. These negative patterns may hide behind a loving and helpful façade. That is why codependency is often difficult to identify.
Sometimes codependency may be triggered by a relationship with a person suffering from SUD or other adversities in life, such as accidents, severe injury, infidelity, extreme mental illnesses, and more. It may begin with these incidents and then develop into a pattern.
The Importance of Self-Examination and Self-Esteem
If you are in a relationship with a loved one who is suffering or recovering from SUD, you are at risk of becoming codependent, especially when you desire to help and take care of this person at the cost of your own health. Reflect on your own behavior to determine whether you’re behaving codependently. One person’s SUD almost always affects close relationships, and that is another reason to take a moment for self-examination.
People who put their partner’s or children’s needs before their own tend to have low self-esteem. They feel they fulfill their personal purpose and meaning in life through caring for others’ needs. In doing so, they not only sacrifice their own well-being but also the chance for their loved ones to grow in personal responsibility.
Rebuilding Safe Relational Pathways
It is natural and commendable to help a loved one in pain, whether from SUD or another situation. However, be aware that this desire to help may easily turn into enabling and codependent behaviors. For example, if your loved one loses their job or home due to addiction-related issues, you may want to offer them a place to stay. There is nothing inherently wrong with doing so, but if bailing them out becomes a pattern, you may be enabling them or becoming codependent.
To support your loved ones in addiction recovery, you can help them face consequences while supporting them but not enabling them. The key is to evaluate your urge to help and assess whether you’re pairing assistance with healthy boundaries.
To avoid becoming codependent, you need to learn how to say no. Do not position yourself to be someone’s rescuer. At some point, you may have to tell them that you are no longer available as an aide until they’ve sought and entered treatment. The help you can provide now is by taking this person to detox and offering support in their recovery journey.
Create space between your own life and your loved one’s recovery process. Put yourself first because your own health and well-being matter. You cannot help them if you don’t first help yourself. You cannot be the sole supporter of your loved one. Gather a group around you for support and accountability.
Codependency often develops in relationships involving someone with a substance abuse issue. Laguna Shores Recovery has the expertise to help people heal from codependent relationships. If you or a loved one is looking for a good addiction treatment center, consider one with the mental health expertise to address codependency. This way, you have a higher chance to rebuild relationships that positively impact you in the long term. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of peer support. We will walk alongside you or your loved one to offer support and guidance. Helping loved ones become supportive without becoming codependent is just as important as helping our clients get sober. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is key to recovery. For more information, call (954) 329-1118.
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