Can loving someone too much prevent her from getting the medical help she needs? Codependent relationships keeps thousands – perhaps even millions – of people from getting the help they need for substance abuse problems.
Codependency is a pattern of behavior in which someone’s self-worth and identity are dependent on the approval of another person.
“Now that he is sober, will he reject me?”
The patterns of codependency can hold a person in a perpetual state of drug addiction and dependence. As an emotional and behavioral condition, codependence is an unhealthy relationship between two or more people. Codependency frequently occurs when one or more people in the relationship have a drug or alcohol problem.
Codependency is a learned behavior, often passed down through generations. People usually learn this behavior from their parents, as one parent gave too much of themselves to the other. Sometimes people develop codependency out of abuse or neglect during their teen years. While many people learn codependency from a parent, anyone can develop this unhealthy behavior at any time.
Psychologists sometimes refer to codependency as “relationship addiction” because people with the condition tend to seek out only one-sided relationships that are often emotionally destructive and potentially abusive. A drug-addicted person may enter a codependent relationship because his partner will never ask him to sober up. A codependent person may seek out a drug-addicted person because they are too anxious or lack the self-confidence for a normal, healthy relationship.
“How would she survive her drug habit without me?”
Other scientists refer to codependency as the “disease of a lost self” because of the way the codependent person organizes his entire life around another person. The codependent person makes unreasonable sacrifices for his partner’s happiness and asks nothing in return. In cases of codependent relationships with a drug-addicted partner, the codependent person makes excuses, hides drug abuse, ignores the problems caused by drug abuse, and may even work extra hours to earn drug money for his partner.
Codependency and Living a Drug Free Life
In order for codependency to work, both parties must remain the same forever. The addicted person must remain addicted and the co-dependent person must always facilitate, or at least ignore, the substance abuse. Personal growth of any sort, including detoxification and sobriety, throws off the unhealthy balance of codependency.
“How do I know the difference between love and codependency?”
Signs of a codependent personality in a relationship with an addicted person include:
- Low self-esteem – may be afraid of rejection from a drug-free partner
- People-pleasing – suffers anxiety about saying no to the addicted person
- Poor boundaries – feels responsible for other people’s feelings or substance abuse problems
- Reactivity – overreacts to the thoughts and feelings of the addicted person
- Caretaking – putting the wants and desires of the addicted person ahead of one’s needs
- Control – the need to have the addicted person remain drug-dependent
- Dysfunctional communication – reluctance to communicate one’s wants and needs out of fear of upsetting another’s ability to do drugs
- Obsessions – spending too much time thinking about the other person’s drug problem
- Dependency – fear of rejection or abandonment if the addicted individual were to sober up
- Denial – refuses to face up to the truth about his own codependent personality or the other person’s drug habit
- Problems with intimacy – creates emotional distance out of fear of rejection or abandonment
- Painful emotions – codependency creates negative emotions, such as stress, shame, low self-esteem, fear of rejection or abandonment, which can hold a drug-dependent person in the grips of addiction
Codependency prolongs substance abuse and prevents a drug-addicted person from living a drug-free life. To feel secure, the codependent person needs the drug-addicted person to remain on drugs. To avoid the challenges of a drug-free life, the addicted individual seeks out and remains in codependent relationships.
Detoxification breaks the cycle of an unhealthy relationship because it evens the playing field. The formerly addicted individual can make healthy relationship decisions rather than merely associating with people who tolerate drug abuse. To continue the relationship, the codependent person must relinquish control and accept this new relationship dynamic or face rejection.
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