Why Families of Addicts Should Seek Counseling for Codependency
When a loved one struggles with addiction, the disease affects everyone around her. Family members become used to filling in the gaps and making excuses — they may even rely on the feeling of being needed by the loved one with an addiction.
Since it is a brain disease, the symptoms of addiction affect a person’s personality and behavior. When addicted to drugs or alcohol, a person has trouble meeting day-to-day responsibilities and devotes extensive time to making sure she has her next fix. For everyone living with an addicted family member, there are unwelcome consequences. One unfortunate consequence could be the development of a codependent relationship.
Codependent relationships occur when one person is controlling another person through negative behaviors, such as addictive behaviors. A sober person may become dependent on an addicted person because he believes love and acceptance are only possible by taking care of the loved one in the way she wants to be treated. Through a caregiving process that goes to extreme measures, the addicted person also becomes dependent on her caregiver. Codependent relationships often include enabling behavior. A person enables another when he makes excuses for the person, lies for her to keep her out of trouble or even gives her money to cover her rent while she spends her own funds on drugs. It’s common for a person to be in more than one codependent relationship during a lifetime, such as an adult child of an alcoholic parent, who believes love is only possible by bowing to another person’s wishes.
Exploring the possibility of a codependent relationship is a good idea for anyone who lives or works with an addicted person. Codependent relationships are dysfunctional and harmful and keep the people in the relationships from living happy and fulfilling lives.
Identifying Codependent Relationships
There are several characteristics of a person who struggles with codependency, according to the self-help group, Co-Dependents Anonymous. A person may exhibit one or more patterns of codependency. The patterns include denial, low self-esteem, compliance, control and avoidance. Following are descriptions of the characteristics of each pattern:
- Denial: a person in denial has trouble identifying his own feelings and may use anger, humor or isolation to avoid feeling pain; he also may be negative or aggressive in an indirect and passive way
- Low Self-Esteem: a person with low self-esteem is uncomfortable making decisions and dismisses his own ideas and feelings; he relies on others to make him feel loved and safe; he also may lie or do other things to get recognition
- Compliance: a person who is compliant is loyal even in the face of a harmful situation; he puts aside his own desires to do what others want and is fearful of expressing his own opinions; he will sacrifice many things to get approval or avoid change
- Control Patterns: a person who wants control believes others cannot take care of themselves and is willing to manipulate others to have his needs met, he must be needed by someone to be in a relationship with the person
- Avoidance: a person who avoids situations and others deliberately acts in such a way to get others to reject, shame or express anger toward him; he will allow almost anything to get in the way of a healthy relationship
No matter what pattern of codependent behavior a person expresses, it stands in the way of developing healthy relationships with others. When a loved one is struggling with addiction, it is difficult to have the elements of a healthy relationship with her. Healthy relationships include honest interactions with others that are based on mutual respect and a desire to understand the other person.
Healing from Codependency
A person with an addiction is really in a relationship with her drug of choice. This focus on substances, or a behavior such as gambling, dramatically affects her relationships with sober people. When a family member is codependent on an addicted loved one, both people are living in a harmful situation. It’s important to seek help when characteristics of codependency are seen in a relationship. A supportive friend or counselor offers a safe place to express deeply held feelings and overcome past feelings of shame and self-hate. When a person overcomes negative feelings about himself he can work on healthy relationships with others, a positive step that could dramatically affect everyone in his life.
Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?
There are several effective treatments for addiction, and the best response is to get help as soon as possible. The most successful programs combine psychological services with practical solutions to handle daily problems.
If you or a loved one suffers from addiction, reach out today for help. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to guide you toward the best treatment options. Don’t spend another day suffering with addiction, call today and get the help you need.
 Mercer, Delinda E., Woody, George E. (1999). “Chapter 9-Maintaining Abstinence.” Therapy Manuals for Drug Abuse: Manual 3. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2015 from https://archives.drugabuse.gov/TXManuals/IDCA/IDCA11.html
 Co-Dependents Anonymous. (2010). Recovery from Codependence: A Brief Introduction. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2015 from http://coda.org/index.cfm/newcomers/recovery-patterns-for-codependence/.
 Lancer, Darlene. (2012). Shame: The Core of Addiction and Codependency. Retrieved Nov. 22, 2015 from http://psychcentral.com/lib/shame-the-core-of-addiction-and-codependency/.