Codependency is not uncommon for those who are in a relationship with or have a close loved one who has a substance use disorder. While having some dependency in any relationship is normal and healthy, a person with codependent tendencies may have adapted extreme, unhealthy behaviors that can be straining on their relationship. If you are a friend or family member of someone who has a substance use disorder, you may be experiencing symptoms of codependency, and you are not alone. It is important to help your loved one on their journey to recovery, but it is also important that you take care of yourself, and avoid developing codependent tendencies.
Characteristics of Codependency
Usually, a codependent person works so hard to care for their loved one that they neglect their own needs. This can lead to other symptoms such as:
- feeling like your life’s purpose revolves around your loved one’s happiness or needs
- being obsessed with your relationship
- fear of being abandoned or alone
- being unable to feel happy, healthy and whole without the approval of your loved one
- low self-esteem
- hiding your loved one’s addictive behavior or making excuses for them
Remember that it is not your responsibility to protect your loved one from feeling the full consequences of their substance use disorder. In doing so, you are actually only encouraging them to continue indulging in their addictive behavior because they believe that you have accepted their actions. Some ways in which people enable their loved ones to continue in their addictive behavior is by making excuses for them, covering up the fact that they have an addiction, or giving them money to get them out of a financially difficult situation, or bailing them out when they get into trouble. Instead of doing any of these things, you should discuss with your loved one how serious you think their disorder is and encourage them to seek professional help. When you stop defending a person, they are able to see how their addictive tendencies affect the people around them, and it gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions.
Being in a codependent relationship is problematic, but being in a codependent relationship with someone who has a substance use disorder can be self-destructive, and you could end up harming rather than helping your loved one.
If this describes a relationship that you or someone you know are in, there is hope. Professionals helping those with substance use disorders are also experts in codependency. Even if your loved one is not seeking active addiction treatment, these professionals can help you change your behavior so that you can feel more in control of your own life. Reach out today.