Codependency

Understanding Codependency

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For Family Members Of Addicts And Alcoholics – Understanding Codependency: Part One

This is part-one of a two-part series about codependency and how it affects families of addicts and alcoholics.

The Complex Condition Of Codependency Explained

Codependency is very common among family members who have a loved one with an addiction problem. The dictionary definition of co-dependency is, “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner. Typically a partner who requires support due to an illness or addiction.” However; this simplistic definition does not do an adequate job of explaining the complex nature of this emotional and behavioral condition.

If you have someone in your life who has a substance abuse problem. It’s very easy to fall into a co-dependent cycle and become enmeshed with that person. Enmeshment is what happens when boundary lines get blurred. It becomes difficult to determine where you start and the other person stops.

When you take on the role of constant caretaker at the expense of your own health and well-being, you are engaging in co-dependent behavior. Codependency is characterized by an extreme need to make sacrifices to satisfy the other person’s needs. It is also identified when your emotions are so entangled with the addicted person, you become reliant upon them to define how you are feeling.

Family Members Of Addicts And Alcoholics Often Develops Among People Who Have An Addicted Person In The Family

Here’s how co-dependent relationships develop among people who love an alcoholic or an addict:

  • A chemically dependent person inevitably creates messes he or she cannot clean up without help. This means people who care about this person feel a sense of obligation to run around and clean up those messes.
  • Someone with an addiction problem can easily become financially dependent because they spend on their money on drugs or alcohol. Someone with codependency issues will take responsibility for making sure their bills get paid.
  • Addiction takes center stage in family dynamics. It runs the show. Family members and people who care about an addict or alcoholic often tip-toe around the addiction. This allows the addiction to dominate day-to-day living.
  • People with a drug or alcohol problem can become emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive. A co-dependent person will internalize this abuse and take it on. They will tell themselves it is their fault and begin to change themselves in every way possible to make the abuse stop. They will fail to realize they are not the problem, but that the abusive/addicted person is.
  • Those who have a substance abuse problem will often demonstrate embarrassing behavior that brings shame to the family. Someone with co-dependency issues will take it upon themselves to apologize for their family member’s conduct and make excuses for their outbursts and outlandish antics.
  • When a person has co-dependency issues and they have an addict or alcoholic in they family, they will tell lies to cover for them. A good example is the wife who calls her husband’s job to report that he is sick when he is actually hungover. Another example is the concerned mother who lies to other family members to cover up the fact that her son is using meth.

Be sure to read For Family Members Of Addicts And Alcoholics – Understanding Codependency: Part Two.

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Anne -

Anne Lazarakis joined the DARA Rehab team from Sydney, Australia. She writes about addiction and mental health on a global, local and community level. She also relays personal accounts of substance abuse and recovery through the stories of our clients, their families and our own team members.
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