Addiction recovery literature is rife with mentions of codependency with little on what this term actually means or how patients and their support networks can recognize and work toward alleviating the problem of codependency. To better clarify, codependency can be any form of imbalanced relationship—with a partner, family member, friend, or even illicit substance—in which members rely on another for support and self-esteem to such an extreme that they cannot function independently. An active codependent relationship appears in actionable contexts much the same as enabling when it comes to addiction recovery. For example, substance misuse in a patient will be downplayed and not recognized as a problem with their partner which will, in turn, promote the viewpoint that continued addictive behavior is not only acceptable but condoned as well. In this scenario, patients will find themselves drawn toward these types of people as the relationship condones their continuous substance misuse. This example highlights one of the main dangers of codependency in that it often transitions into a comfortable but unhealthy relationship.
Codependency generally involves people pleasers with low self-esteem or untreated mental health issues of their own. Researchers have traced the root of many codependent relationships to either dysfunctional family upbringings or untreated mental health disorders. Many of these individuals find comfort in developing a reliance on another in their formed relationships to enable their actions through gratification and improved self-worth. In many codependent relationships, the patient diagnosed with an addictive disorder plays just as much of a role as the loved one. Codependency is a prime example of how addiction can be a family disorder with both parties needing this interconnected, unhealthy behavioral pattern to exist in their relationship. The unfortunate aspect of such relationships is that if left untreated, a codependent relationship has the potential to bring both participants into a downward spiral. Addiction recovery patients will not empathize with a partner’s struggle to stop enabling the patient, and the partner can become so consumed with absorbing a patient’s problems as to prevent them from addressing their codependent issues, as well.
Defining Different Types of Codependency
Codependency is usually characterized as imbalanced relationships where one person enables another person’s addiction. However, a codependent relationship does not always have to involve another individual. By definition, substance misuse is directly a codependent relationship for addiction recovery patients. There are plenty of different types of codependency that apply to various mental health disorders, but these are the three essential codependent relationships that relate to addiction recovery. Patients generally will have developed a codependent relationship with either themselves, another person, or even their substance misuse.
Probably the best way to determine whether a developed relationship is codependent or not is to differentiate between need versus want. If a patient finds themselves in a scenario where they catch themselves in need of another to function, then chances are the relationship is imbalanced with a high potential for codependency. Both participants in a codependent relationship will then need to address the reliance each individual has on the other and how their actions enable or further perpetuate unhealthy living habits. Aside from need versus want, we have also listed some of the top signs for codependent relationships below.
Top Signs of Codependent Relationships:
- Previous relationships with individuals with mental health or addictive disorders
- Pleasing people constantly
- Self-perpetuating low self-worth
- Seeking outside gratification
- Viewing self as a victim
- Failing to hold a partner accountable
- Taking on others problems as own
- Lacking any form of boundaries
These are some general signs to look for in the present to begin treating any codependent relationships and avoid developing any form of codependent relationship in the future.
Recognizing/Separating from Codependent Relationships
For addiction recovery patients, seeking treatment will be the first step in separating from the main codependent relationship that they have developed with substance misuse. Self-awareness will be the primary form of treatment when attempting to heal from any codependency. Many patients will also begin learning the necessary skills to identify and cope with past trauma that may have previously contributed to their reliance on codependent relationships through individual and group therapy sessions during treatment. For members of those patient’s support network, treatment may have to involve outside counseling as well as educational self-help books, group sessions like Al-Anon, and individual and group therapy sessions that allow members of co-dependent relationships to recognize unhealthy relationship patterns as they rediscover their independently-run identities.
The process of unraveling a tendency to form codependent relationships will take time and repetition as all members affected learn how to create healthy living habits. Probably the best part of the healing process will be learning about one’s self and finding old and new habits that can be independently enjoyed.
Codependency is often difficult to recognize, especially while actively misusing drugs or alcohol. Seeking out help with an addictive disorder can be the first step in self-identifying a primary codependent relationship—the one that patients have developed with illicit substances. With further counseling and abstinence from substance misuse, patients will be able to better recognize their unhealthy co-dependencies and forge ahead to create healthier relationships with other individuals and themselves in the future. If you or someone you love has developed a codependent relationship with drugs or alcohol, then Choice House has dual-diagnosis treatment services that can help. We help men achieve initial sobriety and teach them through a variety of therapeutic modalities how to maintain that sobriety once they re-enter their independent sober lifestyles. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our addiction recovery treatment services include a 90-day inpatient program, an intensive outpatient service, and the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus. For more information regarding Choice House’s facilities or our addiction recovery treatment program, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.