The path to recovery from addiction is often complex. It is not uncommon to focus on the struggles faced by the individual who needs help to overcome addiction. But, it is essential to remember that the addict is not the only one who faces emotional challenges linked to a friend or loved one’s addiction. Addiction is often called a family disease because it affects the addict and those around them. This can include children, parents, spouses, significant others, co-workers, and close friends. Those who care about the health and safety of someone struggling with addiction often want to “help” but are not sure where or how to start. Unfortunately, this confusion can often lead to a different challenge related to addiction recovery: codependency.
What is a Codependent Relationship?
When people think of codependency, they often think of romantic relationships. But, codependency can occur in other situations as well. Codependent relationships are more than someone being clingy or needy. Depending on the situation, codependent relationships can evolve into something more dangerous and more extreme than what most people think of when talking about a friend or loved one who is codependent.
A codependent relationship is best explained as a situation or relationship where one partner (friend, co-worker, etc.) needs the other, but they also need to be needed as well. This cycle is known as a cycle of codependency. When someone is stuck in such a cycle, it frequently leads to struggles with self-worth and self-esteem for the codependent member of the relationship. It is important to mention that codependent relationships frequently include emotional and physical abuse. When someone is codependent, they often struggle to acknowledge or see the potential problems in their relationship or find ways to get out of it before it is too late. Often, seeking help from a treatment center to address codependent habits may be the safest and most effective way to break the cycle of codependency.
Signs of Codependency
Recognizing the signs of a codependent relationship can be difficult, especially if addiction struggles are part of the relationship dynamic as well. When addiction is involved, the codependent person feels a strong urge to please others to avoid potential rejection. Also, they are more likely to enable their loved one’s addictive behaviors (again in the effort to please) rather than encourage their loved ones to seek help to overcome addiction.
While codependency may look different from relationship to relationship, there are a few warning signs of codependency to watch for. These may include:
- An overwhelming need to please everyone
- Feeling as though you need to “fix” others
- Giving up your own needs and wants to accommodate the needs of others
- Struggling to set boundaries
- Turning a blind eye to problems and conflict
- Feeling responsible for the thoughts, actions, and feelings of others
- Experiencing low self-esteem and self-worth
- “Doing” things for others that enable their harmful or dangerous habits
How to Break Codependency Habits
Breaking the codependency habit can be difficult for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that it is difficult to recognize that you might be codependent on another person. It can also be challenging to put aside codependent behaviors when you believe your behaviors are helping someone else. The line between healthy and supportive behaviors and enabling or codependent behaviors is rarely straightforward. The first thing you can do to stop codependent behavior is to set clear boundaries for yourself. This is certainly not easy, but it is a vital first step in breaking the codependency cycle.
It is also important to remember what you can and cannot control. The actions of others (even if they are loved ones) are outside our immediate circle of influence. Although we can make suggestions and offer help, we cannot force someone to change their feelings or behaviors. When you are frustrated with the perceived failures that accompany codependent behavior, remind yourself that the only person you have control over is yourself.
Also, remember that codependency is often accompanied by behaviors that appear helpful yet accomplish the opposite. When you are involved in a codependent relationship with someone who struggles with addiction, it is not uncommon to want to support them. Under the premise of helping, codependents often unwittingly help struggling addicts remain addicted. They do so by doing things for them, such as cleaning up their messes, obtaining drugs or alcohol, giving them money, and making excuses for poor behaviors.
Finding Treatment for Codependency
Codependent behaviors can, in time, become deeply ingrained in one’s personality and behaviors. Eventually, you may struggle to recognize the difference between codependent behaviors and behaviors that could benefit yourself or a loved one. If you are ready to overcome codependency, seeking help from a professional treatment center like Liberty House Recovery is an excellent first step. Therapy can help you learn more about codependency and how to recognize potentially harmful codependent behaviors. Understanding and overcoming codependency can be a complex process, but with help, you can begin working towards healthier, more productive relationships with friends and loved ones. Contact us today to learn more about how programs at our Michigan treatment center can help.