Codependent Relationships & Substance Abuse

Codependent Relationships & Substance Abuse

When family members of those who have an addiction become overly involved in helping the substance user, it can quickly become a codependent relationship.

Substance abuse does not just affect the person who is using, but also their spouses, children, coworkers, and any person who loves or cares for them. Family members of those who have an addiction can become overly involved in helping the substance user. They begin putting the needs of the substance user ahead of their own. The unhealthy relationship that forms between an addict and their loved one is referred to as codependency.

Within an addictive relationship, codependent individuals often develop a caretaker mentality. They think that they are helping their loved one by controlling their behaviors, oftentimes this leads to enabling the addict. Enabling is behavior the codependent does in order to protect the addict from the natural consequences of their use, for example calling in sick for them if they are too intoxicated to go to work or paying for their substances, or allowing substance use at home to protect them from legal consequences.

These characteristics and traits can cause severe health risk for the codependent.

Codependency has been described as chronic, like substance abuse without intervention. A codependent relationship can cause stress-related disorders, for example: depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, and muscle fatigue. A codependent may also develop a substance use disorder, neglect other important relationships or responsibilities.

According to Co-Dependents Anonymous these are just a few of the many common traits or characteristics listed below:

  • Boundary Issues
  • Lack of self esteem
  • Has trouble identifying personal needs
  • Difficulty identifying and managing emotions
  • Happiness is dependent on others
  • Minimizing problems
  • Loss of values
  • Self critical
  • Perfectionist
  • Anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Passive aggression
  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Enabling behavior
  • Care-taker mentality

It is often hard for family members of addicts to identify codependent traits within themselves because they feel they are doing what they have to, to keep the family unit functioning with the least amount of damage. Anyone who has these characteristics or traits can attend Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA) or Al-anon; both of these meetings are based on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

In conjunction with the meetings listed above, individual and group therapy for family members are also available. The treatment would be to help members understand the disease of addiction, recognize roles within families of addiction, enabling behaviors, and healthy ways to support oneself and loved ones.

If you or a loved one want to know more about addiction recovery, call and schedule a screening assessment with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate counselors: (630) 402-0144