Codependency and the Addict

The recent explosion of addiction in the United States has caused for a heavy investigation into the “Why” and “How” addiction arises. While some research points to genetic predispositions, other studies show that the phenomena can be completely random in a family. That being said, most of the research has shown a strong correlation between addiction and other mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and especially codependency. The latter of the three has proven to be extremely detrimental to the well being of a recovering alcoholic, and can often be a learned behavior through family members and loved ones.

What is Codependency?

Defined as the need to continually place the needs of others before your own, codependency has proven itself to be woven throughout the behavioral patterns of a majority of addicts and alcoholics. First identified in the 1950’s and named “Co-alcoholic”, it is believed that codependents use people as an addiction, rather than drugs or alcohol.

When a sober alcoholic or addict places too much desire for control over the life of another, it can become a crutch in their own sobriety. When someone feels the need to control another person’s actions, thoughts, and emotions, with the belief that they are “helping”, it can become just as much of an addiction as one can have to booze and drugs. Many people use codependency as a replacement to their chemical addiction once they become sober.

This is one of the reasons why so many people advise against entering into a relationship in early sobriety, as it is very common for newly recovering addicts to place the needs of others before their own.

While it is largely unknown why people start in engaging in codependency, there is evidence that it may stem from a lack of self-love, a desire for approval, abandonment issues, and perfectionism. If the reader is familiar with many of the underlying traits of an alcoholic or addict, it is plain to see why these predisposed characteristics can lead to such a heavy prevalence of codependency among recovering addicts.

Often times, people who engage in codependency will often take part in “people pleasing” behaviors. This is a conscious or unconscious way for them to manipulate and control their environment. By engaging in acts that get others to like them, they will be able to affirm their belief that they are valued. In lieu of these acts, they often place expectations on those people, and when their expectations are not met, they create resentments.

For example, selfless acts of love are done with no intention of receiving something afterward. However, people pleasing acts are done with the unconscious notion that they will be able to call on that favor later on. The dangerous aspect of these expectations and people pleasing behavior is that they lead to unwarranted resentments. For a sober alcoholic or addict, to hold onto these resentments can equal an impending relapse. The importance of forgiving others is a cornerstone to recovery. If there is constant unmet expectations, or the need to control the lives of others, an alcoholic or addict will be unable to focus on bettering themselves.

Codependency and the Family

The prevalence of codependency and addicts and alcoholics has been shown to entwine itself not just through the addict, but through their family members as well. Even if the alcoholic or addict is the only one who suffers from the disease in the family, research shows that family members can usually be just as guilty of codependent behaviors as the addict can.

These behaviors can most often arise out of the same need for control and perfection that the addict feels, and can present themselves in many different areas of the codependent's life. Some examples of a codependent family member are

  • Constantly making excuses for their addicted loved one (covering up for them with work, their friends, legal systems, other family members, etc.)

  • Consistently loaning them money - no matter how many times they have failed to pay back.

  • Letting them “walk all over you” emotionally, physically, financially, etc.

  • Getting upset when the addict doesn’t behave how you want them to.

Some of these examples may seem a little obvious in black and white, but when it comes down to it, it can be hard to notice that you may be doing them in the moment, and even harder to rationalize the behavior when it comes to protecting a loved one.

The problem with codependency in families is that there is often a misunderstanding of how the disease of addiction works. Many people may live under the impression that they can save an addict or alcoholic, if only they could get their loved one to listen to them. This desire to control and “save” someone else, despite the negative consequences it can have on the self-acclaimed hero, will eventually prove to be more work than reward.

The disease of addiction is not something that can be saved by human acts. The problem is, once the addiction has gone far enough, no one can help the addict quit except themselves. This is one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking aspects of addiction, and the reason why many families fray apart. Everyone wants to help, and it is devastating when, despite everything the parents or the spouse could do, the addict never seems to get better.

Usually, it is only once the addict has lost everything, or has hit an emotional rock bottom, that there can be growth. So regardless of whether the codependent behavior is that of the addict or the person who loves an addict, the danger lies in the fact that no matter what, humans can never allow themselves to think that they can control (even if it’s out of love) the life of another. The more that a person demands others to align with their needs and their desires, the more they will end up being hurt.

Finding the Right Treatment Center For You

If you believe you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and want to seek help, then call the professionals at Evolutions Treatment Center today at 1-800-795-8527. We can help you find the right treatment you need in order to finally overcome your addiction and get you on the path to recovery. Our trained staff knows exactly what you are going through and can give you the tools you need in order to finally overcome your addiction. So don’t delay, call us today.