Whilst it is a well known fact that addicts do not realise the damage they are having on the people around them, this is not the only thing that causes serious problems in families touched by addiction. It is actually more common that you might realise for the people closest to the addict to change their own behaviour and cause issues in the recovery of their loved one.
One of the things that most commonly causes issues is codependency. An addict who is living with or is close to a codependent person might struggle more to quit, as the codependent person enables them in their addiction. They might also make it harder for the addict to stick to a post-treatment recovery plan.
What Is Codependency?
Codependency refers to a relationship in which one person has extreme needs, and is very demanding, whilst the other constantly adapts their own behaviour to respond to that person’s needs. Often this will be to the detriment of the codependent partner, who is just trying to keep the peace.
Because of the nature of addiction, this is a very common issue in relationships with addicted people, and it is also one of the major roadblocks in the addict’s recovery. A codependent partner or loved one, in trying to maintain a peaceful atmosphere, often minimises the behaviour of the addict or makes it easier for them to continue repeating dangerous patterns without consequence.
Symptoms of codependency can include:
- People-pleasing. For a codependent person, the opinions of other people are very important and they will often do whatever they can in order to ensure that people have a good opinion of them and their loved ones. They may also struggle to say “no” to others.
- Low self-esteem. Codependent people often have quite low self-esteem and rely on their interpersonal relationships to give them their sense of self.
- Struggling with boundaries. A codependent person may not have many boundaries or may not realise what healthy boundaries actually are. They may overshare or offer unwanted advice or feel the need to manipulate other people.
- Feeling needed is often extremely important to those with codependency issues. They will put themselves out again and again in order to care for other people.
- Being obsessive about relationships. People who are codependent are often very fixated on the relationships they have with others, to an unhealthy level. They may feel defined by their relationship with another person and thus go too far out of their way to maintain it.
Codependency in Addiction: Different Forms and Behaviors
Codependency takes many forms in many different types of relationships. A codependent mother will act differently from a codependent boyfriend, for example. This is no different when it comes to addiction. There are many forms that codependency can take in addiction, including:
- Partners or family members who protect the addict from the consequences of their actions by covering up for them. People may do this because they feel shame about the situation, or because they love the addict and don’t want them to face embarrassment or punishment.
- Loved ones who have gotten used to the addict causing a scene or embarrassing them publicly may isolate themselves or avoid situations where they could be put under the spotlight because of the actions of the addict. Partners or children may avoid making friends so that they don’t have to worry about introducing them to the addict.
- Codependent partners and loved one might also make excuses for the actions of the addict. This is particularly common when it comes to the parents of addicts. This may be because they themselves have rationalised the behaviour, or they simply might be covering for the addict out of embarrassment.
Risks Of Being A Codependent Partner
Although people often turn to codependency as a way to minimise the behaviour of the addict and ‘keep the peace’, there are actually far more risks to the codependent partner in the long term, if they allow the toxic relationship to continue in the way that it has been.
A codependent relationship can slowly chip away at the mental health of the codependent partner, and might even begin to affect their physical and mental health. Some of the risks for codependent partners are:
- Increased risk of addictions of their own
- Social isolation as their entire focus goes onto the codependent relationship
- Not keeping up with other responsibilities
- Neglecting their own physical needs resulting in poor health
- Putting all of their mental energy into another person, leading to depression and other mental health issues.
What Are Enabling Behaviours?
One of the most dangerous areas of codependency for both addict and codependent partner is enabling. This behaviour is detrimental to the mental health of the codependent partner, but can also be seen to be keeping the addict in their addiction, not providing them with any reason why they would quit.
If you are paying an addict’s rent so that them and their children don’t end up homeless then you are enabling their behaviour. Similarly, if you have an addicted partner and call in sick to their work when they are using, you are enabling them to continue to use. It is not as simple as just not enabling them, especially when your own life and health is at risk, so it is understandable that codependent people do not know where to turn.
At Cassiobury Court we provide a range of advice and support services, as well as a safe and comfortable rehabilitation centre where addicts are given the full care and resources that they need to get out of their addiction.
For loved ones we can offer family and group therapy sessions to help you to discuss your relationships and learn more about how to support your loved one when they get out of rehab, without enabling them or falling back into dangerous codependent patterns.
We offer residential rehab of up to 90 days to ensure that your partner, family member or loved one has the treatment that they need to get them clean and sober, and to give you and the ones around you a chance to heal and strengthen your own health ready for the next step.
Call us today to discuss your options. We can be reached on 01923 369161 or you can text HELP to 83222