Codependency is characterized by involvement in a relationship in which one person has extreme physical or emotional needs and the other person spends most of their time responding to those needs, usually to the point of disregarding their own needs. Codependent people tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how to “fix “other people. They often derive their own sense of self-worth from their feelings that others need their protection and intervention to survive. One example of a common codependent behavior is enabling. Enabling occurs when we do or say something that softens the consequences for the substance user/abuser. This behavior prolongs the disease and hides the symptoms from the user/abuser. Since the alcoholic/addict is often in denial of the problem, well-meaning attempts to "soften the blow" only strengthen that denial and make it easier for that person to maintain the destructive behaviors.
Having a codependent loved one can actually make it more challenging for someone struggling with a substance use disorder to quit. Because the codependent person derives their own sense of worth from caretaking and protecting the addict/alcoholic, it may be very difficult for them to accept the shift in dynamics that occurs when that person begins to get better. This may lead to feelings of anger or resentment which could trigger the addict/alcoholic to relapse and return to harmful behavior.
What can you do?
- Alateen, Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, and other community support groups are available to help you understand your needs.
- Limited funding is available through the Drug and Alcohol office for outpatient counseling services. Professional counseling can help you understand the illness of addiction and cycle of codependency and how they can affect you and your loved ones.
Visit the following online resources for more information on codependency: