You care about your friend, your family member, your child or your romantic partner. You want to be there for them through good and bad. You want to make things better and easier for everyone. However when it comes to drug addiction, “helping” doesn’t always help. Sharing the burdens of addiction can cause problems. Drug use can cause one person to become addicted and his or her loved one to become codependent.
Addiction Has Personal Consequences
Addiction takes over a person’s life. Getting drugs and using drugs becomes the most important. Others concerns, interests and values fall by the wayside. As addiction runs its course, people with addiction may do the following as a result of this change in priorities:
- Lose their jobs
- Get arrested for possession of drugs
- Drive while impaired, and face lawsuits
- Spend their life savings on drugs
- Become homeless
Addiction has consequences. But even as a person becomes to experience them, he or she keeps using drugs or alcohol. This shows how fully addiction can take over a person’s life. Addictions cause individuals sacrifice all they have and all they once loved in order to support something that quickly stops bringing them any pleasure. Addiction is clearly a mental health issue, not a matter of willpower, morality or choice.
Addiction Has Interpersonal Consequences
The consequences of addiction begin with the individual. They quickly spread to family and friends. Loved ones may find themselves picking up the slack. They may start doing more around the house or lending money or working longer hours to make ends meet. It’s hard for a friend to sit idly by and watch a loved one struggle.
It can be almost impossible for a family member. However the same actions that keep a family together can also help a person with addiction avoid facing truths that would otherwise push him or her towards treatment and recovery. There’s a fine line between help and hurt, between concern and codependency.
How Does Codependency Develop?
- Coming up with excuses for the behavior
- Apologizing to others for the behavior
- Amending any negative consequences for the behavior
- Reassuring the addict
This can include calling into work when a loved one is high, hungover or out all night. It can include paying bills. It almost always involves minimizing, lying about or denying the problem. If these actions take place only once or twice, they can be part of how a family chooses to approach addiction and its effects. However when they are not part of an overall plan for creating change, they are signs of emerging codependence.
Codependency Complicates Emotional Situations
A codependent can’t, doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to create real change or make things better. He or she may feel helpless. They may begin to tie their own emotional health to that of the individual with addiction. People who are codependent may begin to define their entire self-worth in reference to their loved one’s addiction.
When the person doesn’t use, the codependent person feels happy and elated. When the addict does use, the codependent person feels despondent and guilty.
Consequences of Codependency
Tying emotional health to another person is dangerous, especially when that other person uses drugs and alcohol. No one can control another person’s thoughts, words or actions. This loss of control over personal mental health and lead to even more concerns. Mental Health America explains that codependent individuals may experience the following:
- Chronic anger
- Poor communication skills
- Fear of abandonment
- Lack of trust
- Need for approval or recognition
- A tendency to do more than their fair share
- Hurt feelings when their efforts aren’t recognized
- An augmented sense of responsibility for others1
Additionally family members may come to view a dysfunctional and unhealthy living situation as normal. The thought of changing the relationship may fill them with panic. They may subconsciously begin to support the addiction even as they take outward steps that seem to “help.” By being able to continue supporting the addicted individual, they continue to have a role or sense of power or importance. They may resort to controlling behaviors in their attempt to keep things the same.
- Taking responsibility for all of the household duties
- Controlling the details of the home life to ensure they are handled in a specific way
- Not allowing the person struggling with addiction to have access to any money, privacy or personal freedom
- Restricting his/her own activities in order to supervise the person abusing drugs and make sure all of the rules are followed
- Becoming extremely distraught at the idea of losing access to the person struggling with addiction and fearing abandonment
Codependency symptoms and behaviors may also show up in family finances. Individuals with codependent traits may spend an increased amount of money on gifts or clothing for the person struggling with addiction. They may spend no money on their own needs. They may use money to hire lawyers for the person struggling with addiction, or bail them out of jail instead of allowing the them to handle the consequences of addiction.
They may also spend lavishly on the home, keeping everything looking perfect in order to maintain the illusion that all is well within the home. As with all and any mental health concern, codependency can take many forms. People who are codependent may not share all of the same symptoms or the same unproductive coping skills.
Who Becomes Codependent?
Women are often seen as caregivers and therefore as those most likely to become codependent. However as Psychology Today shares, there are, “small or no differences between men and women on codependence measures. Some studies even find that men score higher on codependence than women.”2
Factors like low self esteem, eating disorders and other mental health concerns can contribute to codependence or stem from it. Personal biology, a history of neglect or emotional abuse and more can also play a role. There is no particular type of person who becomes codependent.
Treating Addiction and Codependency
Codependency and Addiction Interventions
No one can “fix” someone else, but there are healthy ways to encourage treatment and support a loved one seeking recovery. Holding an intervention can be an important part of the healing process. Family members and friends can come together to create positive change. Interventions allow for communication and professional support instead of trying to fix addiction alone or repeating cycles of unproductive behavior.
Interventionists help families set real rules and consequences that let addicted individuals know that drug-related behaviors simply must change. Ideally a loved one will agree to get help for addiction. Regardless of whether or not the individual does, this is an opportunity for a codependent individual to take a stand and get help for themselves. It is an opportunity to change relationships, family dynamics or friendships for the better.
Healing from Addiction and Codependency
You don’t have to stay stuck in a loop of addiction and codependency. Reach out to Skywood at 269-280-4673, and let us help you find the therapists, interventionists and other addiction professionals you need. Recovery happens, and with our help it can happen for you and your family too.
1 “Co-Dependency.” Mental Health America. Accessed 15 Aug. 2018.
2 Burn, Shawn. “Are Women More Codependent Than Men?” Psychology Today. 9 Sep. 2017.