You may have heard that people in recovery may develop non-substance-related addictions, such as sugar and social media addiction. Have you heard of “love addiction” or “relationship addiction”? These terms describe an unhealthy compulsion to prioritize a relationship with a significant other. It is also known as co-dependency.
Why Prioritizing a Relationship During Recovery Can Be Harmful
When someone’s life centers around a significant other, they want to prioritize that person and their relationship. It’s natural to desire to please someone a person enjoys spending time with. But when does it become an unhealthy co-dependency?
In a co-dependent relationship, individuals desperately desire to please the other person. They may do so much for that person that they begin to lose a sense of themselves or their needs. This person and their significant other enter a space where one cannot function without the other, and one person may burden themselves excessively just to cater to their loved one’s every whim.
Co-dependency can happen in all kinds of relationships, including between spouses, romantic partners, parents and children, siblings, friends, co-workers, and more. Unfortunately, co-dependent relationships are often one-sided, destructive, and abusive. They may even enable substance addiction. For example, a co-dependent parent may enable teen substance use by denying the problem, avoiding punishment for destructive behaviors, and even providing financial means to secure substances.
Recognizing Co-Dependency as Unhealthy
Unfortunately, most people in co-dependent relationships do not have the self-awareness to recognize the problem. Instead, they tend to believe that their love and security depend on their taking care of the other person. This belief justifies controlling and abusive behaviors.
Co-dependency can be hard to detect because it is often a “family disease.” Without external intervention, a family system develops its logic and reality without being challenged. In other words, co-dependency and intergenerational family dysfunctions may become a self-fulfilling cycle.
Co-Dependency and Addiction Recovery
Co-dependency can be a stumbling block to recovering individuals even long after achieving sobriety. If the same unhealthy relationship dynamics stay present, they can perpetuate the same stressors and triggers, leading to emotional, mental, and physical relapses.
Treating addiction without addressing co-dependency is not productive. The brain disease and the relational disorder need to be treated simultaneously. This requires open collaboration between a recovering individual and the therapist.
Co-dependency is not conducive to relapse prevention because there may be a fear of making positive changes. This is especially true if the changes mean prioritizing oneself and letting a loved one care for their own needs for once.
Individuals may lack the coping skills to navigate difficult relationship dynamics. Co-dependency suppresses the natural expression of emotions, leading to underdeveloped emotional management skills. This setback also sets the stage for a potential relapse.
Treatment Methods for Co-Dependency
After detox, there are several options for addressing co-dependency and its negative consequences. Ideally, a recovering individual remains in residential treatment, so they do not immediately transition back into the environment where co-dependency runs rampant. Because of co-dependency, a recovering individual is unlikely to put what they have learned into daily practice at home.
When co-dependent patterns are identified, health professionals may recommend family therapy, which helps family members see problems with fresh eyes. Additionally, a family therapist will help members understand and adjust the inner workings of the group dynamic to ensure healthy communication and functional relational capabilities.
Some families have been so entrenched in trauma that it may take a higher level of trauma-informed care to address underlying problems. Other regular treatment programs, such as 12-Step meetings, can provide coaching for healing from co-dependency. Participants can hear from peers about how they overcome unhealthy relational dysfunctions.
Reaching Out to Health Professionals
Relationship stress is real for people going through recovery and their loved ones. For example, if someone is going through recovery, chances are their loved ones need coaching to repair the relationship damage from their end. They may also need a support group to overcome unhealthy relationship habits. Change and growth in relationships cannot be one-sided.
Health professionals can offer guidance on improving self-image, self-worth, confidence, communication skills, and healthy expression of needs. Over time, their tendencies toward perfectionism and control may diminish. Ideally, this relationship can be repaired to reflect the following healthy traits:
- Both people can recognize their own needs and their inherent self-worth
- Both parties learn about each other’s needs and preferences, and the relationship is no longer one-sided
- Both are given the space to define and express their own emotions
- There are limits on each other’s behaviors as individuals and boundaries as relational partners
In sum, addiction recovery is full of relationship challenges. Co-dependency is one of the hardest lessons this journey presents. If you are determined to change this area, work closely with trusted health professionals on an intervention plan.
Co-dependency is a common but poorly-defined relational dysfunction. Its destructiveness on a person’s selfhood may pre-condition substance addiction to happen. During addiction treatment, co-dependency cannot be ignored. Treating addiction and co-dependency simultaneously is the only path toward sustainable recovery. Laguna Shores Recovery is a top choice if you are looking for a treatment center that offers this level of care. Our team has experienced recovery experts and mental health professionals specializing in simultaneously treating substance addiction and co-dependency. Get in touch with us today. Early intervention and family support are the keys to success. Hope and change are here. Don’t let addiction continue, and don’t let co-dependency sabotage your progress. Call us today at (866) 774-1532.