Codependent Relationships and Addiction
By: Lakeview Health Staff
Published: February 8, 2017

A codependent relationship is dysfunctional and one-sided, with one person heavily relying on the other who supports or enables unhealthy behavior. Codependency isn’t healthy for either person in the relationship, especially when addiction and active substance use are involved. A codependent relationship is obsessive in that one person allows another’s behavior to affect him or her so greatly they become fixated on controlling that person’s behavior. The attempt to control behaviors is misconstrued as being a caretaker. When it comes to addiction and codependency, when someone struggles with active drug or alcohol use they tend to be in denial and lack an honest view of their current situation. For example, a person who is actively using may deny or ignore that there is an issue or they may allow themselves to believe that their life and relationship are healthy. This can perpetuate the addiction cycle as they so heavily depend on others. If they’re let down, they might use that as an excuse to keep using their substance(s) of choice. A codependent person is often unable to make significant changes in their life that are beneficial to their health and wellbeing, especially when addiction is involved. The person who is struggling with addiction is often heavily reliant on the other person in the relationship to rescue or relieve them from dealing with the outcomes of their own actions. However, by doing so, this continues the cycle instead of breaking the patterns and maladaptive ways. Some people might not even be aware that they are in a codependent relationship, or that they themselves are actually codependent. While the following behaviors aren’t all-inclusive, they are good identifiers. Some codependent behaviors include:

  • Difficulty saying ‘no’ with a deep need to make others happy
  • Has trouble creating boundaries
  • Tries to please others instead of themselves
  • Feels like a victim
  • Expectations of perfection from themselves
  • Ignores problems and/or pretends they don’t exist
  • Lies to themselves and others
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Tries to control people through helplessness, manipulation, guilt, or domination
  • Allows other people hurt them

In addition to these identifiers, it might help to know the signs of a toxic relationship and using that information to assess the whole relationship. If any of these behaviors are hitting close to home, it’s possible that you, or people you are close to, could be in a codependent relationship. It’s important that both parties get help for their codependent and addictive behavior because while the other person may have felt like they’ve been helping their significant other, in reality, they’ve been enabling the maintenance of the addiction. The dysfunction within the relationship needs to change. The first step in getting help is being aware that there may be a problem and accepting that something needs to change. You can enlist the help of a treatment center that specializes in treating co-occuring disorders – such as addiction and codependency. In this type of treatment environment, the person who struggles with drugs or alcohol can get help for their addiction and both parties can receive therapy for treating the codependency. Realizing you’re in a codependent relationship doesn’t mean you’re doomed. You are not alone. There are professionals who are qualified to guide you and your significant other to a healthier, balanced relationship. Accepting the work that needs to be done and being willing to make the positive changes will make life happier and more enjoyable in the long run.