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Codependency and Addiction: What’s the Link?

The process of healing and maintaining recovery from addiction is uniquely challenging for every addict. When addiction and codependency occur together, an entirely new set of challenges occurs, making achieving sobriety and long-term recovery all the more challenging.

Defining Codependency

Codependency defines the relationship pattern that results when someone constantly puts others’ needs before their own. Codependents are people who are knowingly or unknowingly taken advantage of by others. Codependency happens with an unfortunate frequency where addiction is concerned. There is potential to do more harm than good by codependents granting a person with addictive behaviors permission to take advantage of them or the situation continually. The codependent person is also commonly referred to as an enabler. Enabling behavior can be either direct or indirect; however, it inevitably encourages ongoing addiction. Some examples include helping to hide your behavior from others or giving you money to buy drugs. 

There is a wide range of factors that can “cause” people to become codependent. These can include chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatic childhood experiences, current life situations, addiction history, and past relationships. To better understand how someones codependent behavior could impact your treatment and recovery (or your behavior could affect a loved one), it is essential to understand what codependent behavior looks like.

Someone who has codependent behaviors often displays specific symptoms. They can include some or all of the following:

  • Low self-esteem possibly resulting from feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy resulting from previous or current life events
  • A need to make others happy or the inability to say “no”
  • Challenges establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries
  • The need to control situations, people, or their own feelings
  • Poor communication skills
  • Fear of and/or difficulties with intimacy
  • Negative and painful emotions such as depression and resentment, which are often dulled by “helping “others.
  • Obsessive concern about others anxiety or fear

How Does It Affect Relationships With Addicts?

The presence of codependent behavior can be dangerous for someone suffering from addiction. Unfortunately, having a codependent person present in your life while you are deciding to seek treatment doesn’t ask or encourage you to change your behavior or, in any way, indicate that your behavior may have negative consequences. Conversely, a codependent person as part of your support structure typically encourages ongoing use. When your relationship involves codependency and addiction, a codependent partner often does what they can to support your addiction regardless of any adverse consequences to your health, their health, or your relationships. 

Someone who is codependent will often help you engage in harmful behaviors, clean up after, and cover for you in the face of questioning from family or friends. They may also provide money and other support to help you continue feeding your addiction. Some of the most common examples of unhealthy enabling behaviors often shown by codependents often include some or all of the following:

  • Taking over responsibilities of the addict when they cannot or will not complete them.
  • Making excuses or “covering up” for the addict when they have accidents or make errors.
  • Helping the addict get out of financial difficulties related to substance abuse
  • Cleaning up after the user
  • Glossing over the addict’s actions and destructive behaviors

Bayshore Retreat Is Here to Help With Addiction Recovery

Codependency affects more than just the individual struggling with addiction. It can hurt their children, parents, spouse, colleagues, or anyone else who is part of their lives. Unfortunately, addiction can lead someone to do or say things that are out of character. They may also attempt to (or successfully) use those they care about to help hide, protect, or accept their addiction.

Codependency can add an extra challenge to the difficulties already associated with addiction treatment and recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and is ready to seek treatment, please contact Bayshore Retreat for information about our addiction treatment programs today.