Overcoming Co-Dependency in Relationships During Recovery

Overcoming Co-Dependency in Relationships During Recovery

What is co-dependency? Why is it harmful? Do you know how to identify co-dependent relationships? Unfortunately, many people with substance use disorder (SUD) develop co-dependent relationships long before they realize it. Co-dependency is not conducive to sustainable recovery because it reinforces unhealthy relationship dynamics. Individuals in recovery must learn to stop co-dependent behaviors if they hope to maintain sobriety.

Co-Dependency and Social Learning

Human relationships are complex. A relationship may shape both parties in a mutually-beneficial way, or it can create lasting psychological harm. Most people do not realize the depth of changes that have taken place within themselves due to being in a particular relationship. How can these people determine how certain relationships have changed them for the better or, the worse? 

People learn much about themselves through relationship dynamics. For example, individuals develop the most common emotions, such as fear, shame, and love, through relationships. In unhealthy, co-dependent relationships, shame may become deeply destructive, leading to fear and anxiety. Common signs of co-dependency also include the following:

  • Use of controlling words or behaviors
  • Highly emotional reactions
  • Perfectionism and frustration at imperfect solutions

A co-dependent person may appear loving and helpful, but their actions blur the boundaries between personal responsibilities and interpersonal assistance. They may make excuses and even lie for their loved ones. While sacrificing personal values for the other person, they can become demanding and intolerant of free expressions from the other person.

Co-Dependency and Substance Addiction

Substance addiction often co-occurs with co-dependency because they share common traits. Such traits include a lack of boundaries, dependency, blaming, and patterns of emotional control. This is also why co-dependency is known as a type of “relationship addiction.” Below are a few common co-dependent or enabling behaviors:

  • Shielding a loved one from facing the natural consequences of their actions
  • Refusing to adhere to boundaries
  • Shifting blame or responsibility away from a loved one
  • Attempting to control things outside of one’s control
  • Responding with verbal or emotional abuse when a loved one reacts poorly

People on the receiving end of these relationships also tend to develop specific behavioral patterns, including low self-esteem and self-worth, avoidance of talking about their feelings, trouble setting clear boundaries, the tendency to ignore or deny problems, and other mental health issues.

During recovery, the co-occurring conditions of addiction and co-dependency can be challenging to tease out and heal together. If untreated, co-dependency can be a kind of dual diagnosis that may sabotage recovery progress. Take teen addiction, for example. Even when a young person completes residential treatment successfully, once they get home to live with co-dependent parents, that environment may lead to relapse.

Practical Advice on Overcoming Co-Dependency

Co-dependency is often deeply rooted in childhood trauma and can involve a lost sense of self. Unfortunately, this condition is hard to detect and stubborn to reverse. As a result, rather than waiting for a crisis to happen, individuals may need to proactively work with mental health professionals and recovery experts to manage the issue. 

Some practice advice for people healing from substance addiction and co-dependency includes developing relationship skills to maintain good boundaries. Instead of focusing on the needs of a spouse or a child, one should prioritize their own needs and mental wellness. 

Healing from co-dependent relationships should begin with viewing oneself in a positive light. Individuals can work with a professional therapist to achieve this goal. With the help of health professionals and positive relationships, individuals can reflect on who they are outside of the dysfunctional relationship dynamics. 

Once they accomplish this mindset shift, individuals can achieve more of what they desire in life. This is a crucial self-care practice because many individuals in co-dependent relationships lose their sense of self. Therefore, relearning what one wants out of life is so important. 

Self-Love in Healing From Co-Dependency

Self-approval, self-affirmation, and self-love are ways to reverse co-dependency. The challenge is how to achieve these with healthy coping techniques. People often look outside of themselves for love. The truth is self-love is the origin of contentment in relationships. Self-judgment, discontent with who one is, and poor self-image lead to problems within oneself and one’s relationships.

An individual’s value or self-worth does not lie in their appearance and behavior. People are valuable because there is only one of every individual on this planet. Individuals deserve to be loved and to be free. Choosing to love oneself for everything they are—past, present, and future—can be empowering.

Restoring self-love can be transformative for people who are recovering from both substance addiction and co-dependency. It motivates them to practice self-care and good boundaries. Self-love also means embracing oneself for being an imperfect member of humanity. This self-compassion may not happen overnight, but it can settle into an individual’s heart with time.

Do you want to heal from co-dependency and find yourself again? Healing from co-dependency takes deep self-inspection and humility in reaching out for professional help. If you recognize dysfunction in one of your relationships, that is already a good start. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know how to help you achieve wellness. We have helped many recovering individuals restore relationships while maintaining sobriety. Our recovery experts will walk alongside you to offer support and guidance. It is never too late to learn about self-care. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community. For more information, call (954) 329-1118