When someone is struggling with an addiction or beginning their life in recovery, family and other close relationships can be vital in helping to overcome struggles. They are there to provide support emotionally, motivation, and practical help throughout the process. Recovery is a journey and not a destination, and who you surround yourself with during this time will guide the direction in which you go. At what point does helping begin to hurt someone in recovery? When a person who is there to offer support begins to enable codependency. Today we’re taking a close look at codependency, including what it is, how it affects recovery, and what to do if you think you’re in a codependent relationship.
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Codependency in Recovery
According to the National Mental Health Association, codependency is an emotional and behavioral condition that can be passed down from one generation to the next. Also known as “relationship addiction,” codependent people typically develop relationships that are one-sided and emotionally damaging to both parties involved.
Codependency is where the addicted person relies on their loved ones to make life with their addiction easier. At the same time, the self-appointed caretaker unintentionally does things to feed habits because of their sense of duty. This is called enabling. Both parties suffer in this situation. The caregiver neglects their own needs and the unhealthy behaviours of the person with the addiction are reinforced.
Warning Signs of Codependency
The link between codependency and addiction was found a few years after the concept of codependency as relationship addiction was first discussed. The concept of codependence comes from the study of the alcoholic family and from Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon.
In the 1980s, addiction treatment specialists began to realise that the problems of addiction were not solely that of the addicts, but also issues of the family and friends who were all part of a network of unhealthy dependence. The definition of codependence was later broadened to cover the way in which a codependent person is fixated on the needs of others.
There are recognizable symptoms of a codependent person. These include:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. The co-dependent will do anything to hold on to a relationship; to avoid the feeling of abandonment
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
What Does Codependency Look Like?
Codependency is characterized by martyrdom, resentment, frustration and poor boundaries. Because of this, codependency has distinctive traits and recognizable behaviors.
Typically, one can notice if someone is codependent by a combination of the following characteristics:
- Becoming upset when people try to set boundaries.
- Feeling as if you need to submit to your partner’s demands or they’ll leave.
- An inability to set boundaries, or declare needs in a relationship.
- Manipulating others into taking care of them (acting helpless).
- Rationalizing poor behaviors or lack of responsibility.
- Taking advantage of people who care about the codependent’s wellbeing.
- Denial in relationships (justifying poor behavior).
- Low self-esteem in relationships.
- Making one’s self responsible for the problems of others.
- Attempts to control others.
- Feeling anxiety or depression due to relationships problems.
Are you Codependent?
It’s good to connect with people and have interdependence. Interdependence is healthy, codependency is not. The bottom line is that you should not have to give up who you are to be in a relationship. Any relationship could be deemed as having elements of codependency, but problems arise when codependent patterns develop early on in a relationship and the relationship becomes unbalanced, unhealthy, and eventually toxic.
Regardless of its roots, codependency is unhealthy in any instance and can be incredibly destructive when substance use issues are also involved. If you become codependent on someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, there’s a good chance you’ll enable their substance abuse rather than helping them stop it. Their problems may actually heighten your fears and insecurities, and in your desperation not to lose them, you’ll inadvertently support their addiction even when your intentions were to do the opposite.
Questions to ask yourself to identify codependency:
1. Do you keep quiet to avoid arguments?
2. Are you always worried about others’ opinions of you?
3. Have you ever lived with someone with an alcohol or drug problem?
4. Have you ever lived with someone who hits or belittles you?
5. Are the opinions of others more important than your own?
6. Do you have difficulty adjusting to changes at work or home?
7. Do you feel rejected when significant others spend time with friends?
8. Do you doubt your ability to be who you want to be?
9. Are you uncomfortable expressing your true feelings to others?
10. Have you ever felt inadequate?
11. Do you feel like a “bad person” when you make a mistake?
12. Do you have difficulty taking compliments or gifts?
13. Do you feel humiliation when your child or spouse makes a mistake?
14. Do you think people in your life would go downhill without your constant efforts?
15. Do you frequently wish someone could help you get things done?
16. Do you have difficulty talking to people in authority, such as the police or your boss?
17. Are you confused about who you are or where you are going with your life?
18. Do you have trouble saying “no” when asked for help?
19. Do you have trouble asking for help?
20. Do you have so many things going at once that you can’t do justice to any of them?
If you identify with several of these symptoms; are dissatisfied with yourself or your relationships; you should consider seeking professional help. Arrange for a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or psychologist experienced in treating codependency.
How to Break Free from Codependency
The power to change things lies within each person. As it changes, this provides the best option and opportunity to encourage positive changes for the loved one with an addiction.
Addiction affects the whole family. This is because the entire household takes on unhealthy behaviors. How parents enable children is similar to how spouses and partners also enable loved ones. Failing to set healthy boundaries can lead to enabling which will only make it easier to continue moving forward in addiction. Setting healthy boundaries is done out of love and making a stand for the sake of everyone.
Detach from the problems of addiction by learning to love without getting sucked into the storm of addiction with them. Learning to rise above the clouds and serve as a beacon of light and hope can be very helpful in building a healthy relationship.
When a codependent relationship occurs, it takes all a person’s energy and focus. Self care goes out the window and the only real control is over one’s own behaviors but that seems hard to manage in the midst of everything. Make a plan for positive self-focused change and follow through.
Don’t downplay the importance of reaching out for help. Al-Anon, support groups, and other places can offer help for families on a recovery journey with a loved one. There is hope and strength in numbers.
Growing in a new direction will build confidence and support for emotional detachment from addiction. It will be easier to live a life that feels full and healthy while focusing on a positive future.
Is Codepencey Affecting Your Addiction Recovery?
At Harmony Ridge Recovery Center, we believe everyone deserves a life free from the restrictions of drug and alcohol addiction. We are here to help you throughout your journey. The first step towards your new journey is giving us a call. Our team of admissions professionals are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Give us a call today! (855) 942-3797