Becoming too entangled or enmeshed with another person can have serious consequences, especially if that person is struggling with substance abuse issues. Those who struggle with codependency can unknowingly create danger, cause harm, and continue the chaos with their loved ones and themselves. To understand the connection between codependency and addiction, let’s first look at the definition of codependency.
What is Codependency?
Codependency is basing your own feelings, thoughts, and actions on another person’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. For example, one might say “If my son is happy, then I am happy. OR I am worried for him.” Codependency can be characterized as finding your own self-esteem, worth, and value in relationship with another person. The codependent person may only feel of value if they are needed for a particular task or object. Codependency is like trying to listen to your own heartbeat on another person’s chest. Codependents can make extreme sacrifices for others usually at the expense of their own personal health and well-being.
Codependency can look like trying to make others happy when they feel sad. It can look like an interrogation of another person with lots of “why” questions. It can look like trying to control, rescue, or ‘fix’ your loved one. It can look like compromising personal morals, convictions, and safety in order to meet the requests of the other person.
Codependent behaviors can be used to cover any pain caused by the relationship. Codependency is feeling one way on the inside and portraying another facade to the outside world. It is often characterized as a disease as it can become progressive over time and is most often treated as a co-occuring disorder alongside trauma and addiction.
It can occur in any type of relationship such as friendships, romantic relationships, and parent-children relationships. Symptoms of codependency include but are not limited to anxiety, depression, insomnia, physical illness and pain. Usually what is behind codependency is childhood wounds and unprocessed trauma.
The Codependency and Addiction Connection
Codependency is a “relationship addiction” where the relationship is what the person is addicted to rather than drugs or alcohol. However, those who are addicted to substances like drugs and alcohol tend to also display codependent behaviors. With both codependency and addiction, individuals are trying to find their value and worth. There may be desires to feel included, noticed and wanted.
Often, there is a void that is present in a codependent and addictive relationship that is temporarily filled with drugs and alcohol. As is usually the case, drugs and alcohol only serve as a temporary mask of the deeper rooted problem. As the substance abuse escalates, the parents dependency with the child can intensify. Further, this pain is magnified when both parties of the codependent relationship are in active addiction together. Manipulation and deceit exacerbate codependency and the addiction. This cycle is vicious and can be extremely hard to break without professional help.
Because codependency and addiction typically develop from past traumas, exploring feelings and processing those traumatic memories through individual and group therapy can be very effective. Treatment can also include experiential processing, family therapy, education, and life skills training. Some of the goals include becoming more independent, developing self-respect, and breaking free from the codependency and addiction cycle.
Momentum Recovery offers a professional approach to treatment and therapy for young men suffering from alcoholism, trauma, dual diagnosis, and addiction. We specialize in encouraging passionate living and forward progress in the lives of young men who have struggled with addiction and co-occurring mental health difficulties. If you are in need of help, please reach out to us today to learn more.