Why Does Codependency Enable Addiction?

doctor with patient

Do you have a loved one who is struggling with drugs or alcohol and wonder if you have enabled them down that path? This is an important question that family members and parents rarely ask themselves. Addicted individuals may have used deception or coercion to get you to inadvertently further their addiction problems. This is known as “codependency,” a common pattern that has contributed to the progression of addiction in many families.

What Harms Does Codependency Bring?

A codependent or enabling parent might think that unconditional love and acceptance are what an addicted child needs. While they do need love and support, not confronting the behavior causes parents to succumb to the demands of the child without realizing that doing so can be harmful. They may hope that doing so can change a child’s mind and stop the behavior. This irresponsible parenting style may actually worsen substance abuse. Even after detox treatment, codependent parents may still operate in this unhealthy caregiving mode which is not conducive to a child’s recovery.

Enabling behavior can also happen when family members cover up the problem because of the stigmatization around this issue but hiding the problem can’t erase it. Both the addicted person and their loved ones need to be honest about the situation. Otherwise, they may miss the opportunity for early intervention.

Codependent family members operate in a kind of ignorance about how addiction works. They think that it is up to one’s choice or willpower to use or to quit. They don’t realize that addiction is a progressive disease, and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to stop it.

How Do I Quit Codependency?

Quitting a pattern of codependency requires the same kind of commitment as quitting drugs and alcohol. Family members must consider sobriety a top priority in their loved one’s life. They should not provide money or assistance for the addict to keep using drugs and alcohol. Refuse to buy the lie that they need it. Similarly, loved ones should help keep the individual away from situations that would entice them to use or drink. One way to have an understanding of addiction is through education. Parents and family members should take the matter seriously and consult a health professional in the field of recovery.

Those around the person struggling with addiction should practice tough love by not giving in to their demands. When codependent and enabling behaviors stop, the addicted individual may seriously consider quitting substance use on their own because they are out of choices. As long as they are enabled to acquire substances, they have no incentive to quit. Loved ones should remain tough, communicate to the addict that they are doing this out of responsible love, and compassionately educate them on the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. Reason and be persuasive in these conversations.

How Do I Become More Recovery-Supportive?

Although it is important to ask if behaviors are helping or enabling, eliminating codependency is not enough. One should take a proactive stance to help loved ones break free of substance use. This means building a recovery-supportive relationship. It is also important to seek professional help and get educated on being more recovery-supportive.

First, learn as much as possible about substance use disorder, especially how addiction reshapes the brain. Understand the severity of the issue and how mere willpower or choice won’t make lasting change. Secondly, re-establish healthy boundaries in your relationship with the addicted individual. Reflect on what triggered substance use for them and communicate these reflections in a constructive way to them. Loved ones can show how much they care and their desire to do whatever possible to get the one struggling through this disease.

To stop any enabling behavior, allow the addicted person to deal with the consequences of their actions. This is an important lesson in accountability and a manifestation of tough love. If these involve legal and financial repercussions, allow them to deal with them on their own.

To better support a loved one in recovery, family members should consider therapy themselves. This will be helpful in the post-sobriety phase when unrepaired dysfunctions in relationships might trigger a relapse. Trained therapists can coach friends and family on how to create trusting communication, transparency, and accountability in their loved one’s social and familial relationships. Caring for a recovering person can be demanding and it is a marathon, not a sprint. Learning alongside them will go a long way toward removing codependency and assisting in long-lasting sobriety and recovery,

When your loved one is addicted to drugs and alcohol, you naturally want to help them. But there is a fine line between helping and enabling. The latter is also known as “codependency.” You can educate yourself to make sure you’re not creating codependency that would only harm your loved one. Fortunately, there is professional help available to walk you through this process. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we coach you on how to identify and overcome codependent patterns. Our goal is to help you better support your loved one for sustainable recovery. We have a team of licensed mental healthcare professionals and therapists who can educate and counsel you. They can also design custom-made treatment plans for your loved one. Our residential facility offers a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, and 12-step programs. Your support is key to your loved one’s recovery, and we can be your support too. Call us at (866) 906-3203