Recently, we’ve talked a bit about enabling an addict – that is, protecting your addicted loved one from the consequences of his or her actions. Another common, similar behavior that can develop between an addict and their loved one is codependency.
A codependent is a loved one of an addict who puts the addict’s needs ahead of their own, to the point they are allowing themselves to be taken advantage of. In many cases, codependency and enabling go hand in hand. A codependent may be a spouse, partner, or parent.
Symptoms of Codependency
An exaggerated sense of responsibility – Maybe you feel like your loved one’s behavior is your fault, or you think you can change him or her by showing that you care. Maybe you also take on more than your fair share. Perhaps you also feel like you need to please everyone.
Fear of being abandoned – It can be scary to be firm with your loved one if you’re worried they may leave you. You may feel dependent on your relationship or have issues around intimacy.
A difficulty in creating boundaries – Perhaps you feel a sense of guilt when you try to assert yourself to your loved one, and you have a hard time saying “no”.
Remember that acting as a codependent in a relationship with an addict is a common thing. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s harmless.
Why is Codependency Bad?
Put simply, codependency can be harmful because, just like enabling, it doesn’t send the message to the addicted person that their actions are harmful. It also doesn’t ask the person to change their behavior. When you fail to hold an addict accountable for his or her actions, you’re sending them a subconscious signal that what they’re doing is okay. Allowing things to stay the same may actually make things worse.
If your loved one is suffering from an addiction, it can be very hard to deal with, so codependent and enabling behaviors are often a natural response. Of course, you want to protect your loved one from any harm, but it’s important not to do so at the expense of their potential for recovery.
If you find yourself acting as a codependent or enabling your loved one’s addiction, try to take a step away from the situation and try to speak with your loved one about getting help. Consider setting boundaries for yourself as well – this can help protect your relationship and ensure it isn’t damaged by the addiction.
No matter how bad things seem, with the right treatment program, your loved one does have the opportunity to fully recover from his or her addiction.