The Ugly Side of Substance Abuse: Codependency
Codependent Scenario: The husband is an alcoholic and his wife decides that, in an effort to control his drinking, she will purchase beer for him to keep in the home. She believes that this will eliminate his desire to go to a bar, leaving her alone. She also believes that she will be limiting his alcohol intake.
What Is Codependency?
Some professionals define codependency as an addiction to people. When someone is codependent, they put others ahead of their own feelings, neglecting their own needs and desires. In the scenario above, the wife tries to control her husband’s drinking instead of confronting him about it. She ignores her own emotions about feeling lonely, building resentment and bitterness toward her husband. Her husband is unable to meet her emotional needs due to his alcoholism.
Resentment and anger build in the hearts of codependents because their needs are not being met. Managing feelings around the addict’s behaviors is self-destructive. Codependents believe that they are helping when they are actually making the situation worse. This is referred to as enabling.
Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More, defines codependency as an “emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”
Unhealthy Codependent Rules:
- Put other people’s feelings above their own feelings
- Take care of others, regardless of whether or not they ask for help
- Neglect their own needs and desires to avoid upsetting the apple cart
- Be in control
3 Steps to Eliminate Codependency
Codependents are active participants in their own misfortune. They are in denial and assume that they are victims, rather than seeing themselves as part of the problem. They can recover from codependency by taking responsibility for their behaviors and stopping their enabling ways.
Steps for Codependency Recovery
- Take responsibility for your behaviors and feelings
- Stop enabling – attempting to control the addict’s substance abuse
- Get ongoing support from organizations like Co-Dependents Anonymous
When taking the steps to eliminate codependency, it is inevitable that those around you will be upset that you are no longer enabling them. Please don’t get discouraged by this and always offer information about addiction treatment.