Once, our clients have been detoxed and we’ve addressed their main addiction, we often discover co-occurring conditions as we peel back the layers and can see through to the core of their being. Many times, addicts who are also codependent have cocooned themselves in low-self esteem and the critical feelings they have about everything they do.
For codependents in addiction treatment, this condition of needing another person for validation is serious and should be explored in an effort to gain understanding to fulfill their needs in long-term. Addiction is the dominating result of this condition of low self-esteem and loss of one’s identity.
So what exactly is codependency?
Codependency is a psychological condition that involves a person being emotionally and psychologically dependent on another person. The codependent focuses on this individual and creates a life completely enmeshed about what the other person needs. They no longer recognize their own needs, and forget themselves completely. Most people in addiction recovery that are also codependent have learned these behaviors early, perhaps in childhood where they may have observed this behavior in their parents. Codependency is typically a learned behavior, supplemented by the fact that codependents feel as though they are worthless without another person. This type of thinking often opens the door for addictive behaviors to find a way into their lives.
Relationships for people suffering from addiction and codependency are complicated, because they may come from an entire family that supports these behaviors, perhaps believing they have to focus on the addicted person all the time and forgetting themselves in the process. Codependency is where family dysfunction is created, fostered, and then passed on to the next family unit. We look to break this cycle in addiction recovery and end this dysfunction. We look at codependents and the relationships they build, because this can set the stage for the rest of their lives. When codependents seek romantic relationships, they seek individuals they can change and those that seem to need them.
The biggest issue with those that are codependent is that they forget how to live for themselves, or view their own purpose in life. When dealing with an addiction and a codependency issue, we see it on both sides of the equation, where an addict with codependency pairs with a codependent partner. The one with the addiction feels that they need to hide themselves away to make this person happy, and struggles with their inner critic that says they can’t do anything right. Any relapse or difficult situation such as an argument regarding substance use is internalized, and they feel responsible for everything. This process further pushes this person into their addiction because they are unable to cleanse themselves of this toxic thinking, and continue using substances for comfort so as not to upset their partner.
There are other instances when the codependent addict becomes involved with a person who takes more than they will ever give them. This person allows the codependent to give support and love, money or stability. Codependents often find themselves attracted to narcissists. A narcissist is someone that may never change through therapy. Once a codependent person progresses through treatments and spends time on their own, they begin to see these patterns. In treatment, we focus on the things that you have the ability to change and also those areas that will case you to regress. Relationships that are healthy do not have a codependent dynamic, and it should be at the top of your list to get well and surround yourselves with people and situations that will enhance your recovery.
A codependent partner may have their own issues, where they feel the need to cover up the addict’s indiscretions and lie for them to avoid embarrassing their addicted family member. They may also threaten to leave that person, but cannot bring themselves to follow through with ultimatums because they would feel guilty and responsible for any negative outcomes. The codependent partner may believe they’re helping, but they’re only making it worse – if the addict doesn’t deal with the consequences of continuing to engage in their addictive behaviors, the situation only gets worse for both parties.
How to Spot a Codependent:
- Someone with fears of abandonment
- Someone who puts their needs second
- Low self-esteem
- Allows themselves to be abused emotionally and physically
- Distrusting of people
- Expresses guilt
- Controlling and dominating
- Need for approval or validation
- Chronically apologetic
- Can’t be alone (always jumping into relationships)
- Has difficulty expressing themselves to define their feelings
- Someone that never speaks up
Treatment at Enlightened Solutions for Codependence, Family, and Addiction
Addiction is a family disease and all persons are effected by this illness. The enabler holds the keys to recovery for the addicted person. Support persons are educated on how to develop and maintain healthy boundaries and structure while discontinuing their enabling behaviors. Remaining supportive and loving and essential, however allowing unacceptable behaviors to continue only allows the addict to continue using substances. Our goal at Enlightened Solutions is to expose all individuals, client and support persons, to the idea of becoming completely independent and joining into interdependent relationships. This concept will eliminate dependence and codependence in order to strive for healthy and happy relationships.
If you feel you may be codependent or that your family member is suffering from addiction and may also have codependency, then it’s important you recognize that fact so that you can both focus on building a healthier home environment. Primarily, treatment for their addiction to substances will be addressed providing a medical detox and a dual diagnosis. A professional behavioral health team will then assist to define issues, and include family members for further treatment at the appropriate time. To completely heal from the addiction and support a healthy relationship with another person, the addict will understand their feelings and identify interpersonal relationships that are unbalanced. As they learn to fulfill their own happiness, they will learn to share this with their loved ones. Loving people give and receive love with a full heart that is free from guilt and other burdens, including addiction.