Healing and maintaining recovery from addiction is difficult for every addict. When addiction and codependency occur together, recovery can seem even more challenging to achieve.
Defining Codependency and Enabling Behavior
Codependency and enabling behavior are similar ideas, and both are easy to overlook if one doesn’t know what to look for.
Codependency is a relationship pattern that results when one person consistently puts others’ needs before their own. Codependents are those who are knowingly or unknowingly taken advantage of by others. Codependency happens with an unfortunate frequency where addiction is concerned. There is actually potential to do more harm than good by codependents granting a person with addictive behaviors permission to take advantage of them or the situation continually. The codependent person is also known as an enabler.
Enabling behavior occurs when another person (often a codependent) helps or encourages the addict to continue using drugs. This encouragement can be either direct or indirect. Some examples include hiding the addict’s behavior from others or giving an addict money to buy drugs.
What Causes Codependency?
Knowledge of codependency and its relationship to addiction has been around since the 1950s. It was first noticed by psychotherapists working with alcoholics. Researchers noticed that a spouse or partner often helped maintain addictive behavior through various means, such as helping procure alcohol or supplying money to purchase alcohol.
There is a wide range of factors that can “cause” one to be codependent. These can include chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatic childhood experiences, current life situations, addiction history, and past relationships.
Recognizing Codependency Symptoms
People who have codependent behaviors often display specific symptoms. They can include some or all of the following:
- Low self-esteem-this can result from feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy resulting from previous or current life events.
- A need to make others happy or the inability to say “no.”
- Challenges establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries.
- The need to control situations, people, or their own feelings.
- Poor communication skills
- Fear of and/or difficulties with intimacy
- Negative and painful emotions such as depression and resentment, which are often dulled by “helping “others.
- Obsessive concern about others anxiety or fearCodependency and Addiction
Codependent behavior can be dangerous for a person suffering from addiction. The presence of this behavior doesn’t ask or encourage the addict to change their behavior or, in any way, indicate their behavior has negative consequences.
People with a drug or alcohol addiction often exhibit a range of difficulties stemming from their addiction. A few examples may include financial struggles, issues at work or maintain employment, or engaging in high-risk behaviors.
For relationships involving codependency and addiction, the codependent partner often does what they can to support the addict regardless of any adverse consequences. The codependent will often help the addict engage in harmful behaviors, clean up after, and cover for them in the face of questioning from family or friends. They may also provide money and other support to help the addict continue feeding their addiction. Some of the most common examples of unhealthy enabling behaviors often shown by codependents.
- Taking over responsibilities of the addict when they cannot or will not complete them.
- Making excuses or “covering up” for the addict when they have accidents or make errors.
- Helping the addict get out of financial difficulties related to substance abuse
- Cleaning up after the user
- Glossing over the addict’s actions and bad behaviors
Addiction and Unhealthy Relationships
Codependency (or a person who acts as an enabler) is often found in relationships where addiction is a concern. This is also sometimes referred to as relationship addiction. Usually, this relationship is emotionally one-sided and can be destructive to both the addict and the codependent person.
Despite knowing it is necessary, the addict’s behavior may not change because they have been led to believe for so long that their behavior is acceptable. This follows the idea of learned behavior. If a person (the addict) does not face negative consequences related to their actions, they cannot mature and grow as they do not see a “problem” with what they have done or are doing.
Who Does Codependency Affect?
Knowing how addicts react to the perceived support from a codependent person, one may wonder if they should always avoid helping someone struggling with addiction. The answer is, not always. The goal is to ensure healthy caregiving is provided as opposed to codependent caretaking.
Codependent caretaking is unhealthy and can lead to further dysfunction.
Codependency affects more than just the individual struggling with addiction. It can have an adverse impact on their children, parents, spouse, colleagues, or anyone else who is part of their lives. Unfortunately, addiction can lead someone to do or say things that are out of character. Also, they may attempt to (or successfully) use those they care about to help hide, protect, or accept their addiction. This can lead to dysfunction within their family unit.
A dysfunctional family may unintentionally feed into the addiction. Consequently, their codependence (or enabling behavior) may affect the person suffering from addiction as well. The members of the family unit struggle with fear, anger, pain, or shame related to their loved one’s addiction, but these emotions are ignored or denied. Eventually, the members of the dysfunctional family also try to hide what is happening. They don’t let on (and often actively try to hide) that they have a problem with their loved one’s choices or their addiction.
Ending Codependency-How To Set Boundaries
Enablers or codependent companions certainly have the best intentions at heart when they help their loved ones or friends out of a bind related to their addiction. Their goal is to keep them safe by protecting them from perceived danger or emotional struggle. However, it is essential to keep in mind that refusal to help can be equally (if not more) beneficial. Unfortunately, the truth is as long as someone is there to rescue the addict every time something goes wrong, they will never learn from their mistakes. They will also not see any reason to address the adverse consequences of their actions. They will likely continue to use drugs or alcohol without regard to the difficulties it could be causing.
It is vital for the enabler not to take responsibility for their loved one’s problems. It is also necessary for the codependent individual to admit that they did not create the addict’s problems. Therefore it is not their responsibility to fix them when they become overwhelming.
Marginalizing or minimizing the effects of addiction can be equally as unhealthy and damaging for both parties. One of the most valuable things that can be done for the addict is to tell them how much their addiction concerns them and suggest they seek treatment at a substance abuse treatment facility such as The Hills here in the Los Angeles, CA area.
As previously mentioned, a codependent person often tries to fix others, even when professional treatment would be best. This can be dangerous and lead to further substance abuse. Addiction treatment works best when it occurs in a treatment facility designed to address addiction and any co-occurring mental health disorders or medical complications that may arise as part of withdrawal. Addiction treatment providers understand how addiction results in maladaptive coping behaviors. They also have experience with how codependency and addiction are often co-occurring.
At a treatment facility such as the hills, our experienced addiction treatment providers can help the addict learn how to understand the depth of or the root of their addiction. In a treatment setting, a person struggling with addiction can get the care and attention they need to achieve sobriety and recovery.
While in treatment at an addiction treatment facility such as The Hills, family therapy is often part of an addiction treatment program. During sessions like this treatment, providers can work with both the addict and codependent family member(s) to help those operating in an enabling capacity to understand the impact their behavior may be having. Although the addict is indeed engaging in harmful or dangerous behavior, the enabler (or codependent individual) needs to understand that their actions only further the potential for adverse or even detrimental consequences. If a codependent person continues to cover up for, supply financial backing, or even encourage the addictive behavior, the addict is unlikely to seek treatment or get better.
It is also imperative that the codependent individual receives some form of therapy in conjunction with the addict’s therapy program. It is likely the addict will return home to the same family dynamic after treatment is completed. If the family members who have been acting in an enabling capacity do not understand how to avoid codependent behaviors, the chances for relapse are more significant.
If you or a loved one struggles with addiction and has decided treatment is the best alternative, look to an inpatient residential treatment facility such as The Hills in Los Angeles, CA. Our evidence-based treatment programs can help you get to the root of your addiction And understand triggers and coping mechanisms that may impact your ability to stop using. Our team consists of highly skilled medical providers, therapy providers, and staff who can help create a treatment program to meet Both needs related to your addiction and any other mental health or medical concerns that may arise during treatment.
It is not safe to detox from many substances on your own without medical supervision, so seeking treatment at the Hills is the safest and most effective option. If you are in a relationship where you are the codependent or the enabling party, don’t underestimate the benefits of partaking in family therapy at the Hills. Understanding how codependent or enabling behaviors are only furthering addictive behaviors for your loved one or family member can be integral to their recovery and ongoing sobriety.