Codependency and addiction are two co-occurring issues, and both need to be addressed during treatment. Codependency can occur between a couple that use together, parents and children, friends, and it can also mean a person just doesn’t know how to exist independently and constantly seeks out relationships, even if they may be harmful to their wellbeing.
Codependency is defined as excessive reliance on a person, typically a partner who requires support due to an illness, poor mental health, immaturity, or addiction. It’s a form of enabling a person, like for example a mother who continues to allow her daughter to live at home and might even give her money while she abuses drugs and doesn’t receive any consequences. Codependency tends to occur when a person lacks self-fulfillment and confidence in themselves.
In a relationship, codependence and addiction occur frequently because one person might abuse drugs or alcohol, and the other person enables them by justifying their behavior. Unfortunately, the second person often ends up falling into addiction themselves, and a vicious cycle is born.
In codependent relationships, a person’s individual identity is lost and their own wellbeing and happiness rely on someone else. This is seen a lot in parents and children. The parents become completely consumed by focusing on their addicted child, and may even be unwittingly enabling them to continue using drugs or alcohol. Parents usually want to protect their children, but in some cases, protecting addicted children from the consequences of their behavior only creates a downward spiral of further addiction.
No one said it will be easy to change codependent behaviors, but it can be and needs to be done in order for addicts and their families to heal and move forward. Tough love is key – realizing that the kind, comforting, and enabling behavior actually does more harm than it does do good. Seeing someone you love suffer is difficult, but it may be just what they need to get a wake-up call before it is too late.
Codependency can be corrected with awareness and professional treatment. If you think you might be in a codependent relationship with an addict, or vice-versa, Willow Place for Women can help.