Within the addiction recovery world, you may hear about codependency or codependent relationships. The term ‘codependency’ is used to describe a person who becomes a caretaker or enabler of an addicted or troubled individual.

A codependent relationship consists of enabling, denial, rescuing, or making excuses for the affected person.  The affected person may be troubled by a physical or emotional illness as well as an addiction.  Whether the addiction is to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex, a codependent relationship has all of the same principle:  the addicted individual will rely on a loved one emotionally, financially, psychologically, or physically.

What are ways in which codependents allow their affected loved ones to continue living with their disease?

Typically, codependents will:

  • Enable or allow the person to continue his or her self-destructive or troubled behavior.
  • Rescue the person who has gotten into trouble from things such as an arrest, accident, being absent or late for work.
  • Make excuses for the person’s behavior.
  • Deny that the person has a problem.

There are many different roles that a codependent might play, too, such as:

  • Rescuer: Saves the person from unpleasant situations, such as putting an alcoholic to bed after he or she passes out.
  • Caretaker: Takes care of all household and financial chores that hold the family together.
  • Joiner: Rationalizes that the person’s behavior is normal by simply allowing it to occur or by taking part in those same behaviors as the addicted or troubled individual.
  • Hero: Becomes the person to preserve the family image.
  • Complainer: Blames the person and makes him or her the scapegoat for all problems.
  • Adjuster: Withdraws from the family and acts like he or she doesn’t care.

Can I be a codependent and not know it?

Yes.  In fact, most codependents are unaware they have a codependency problem at all.  They focus more energy on another’s actions and needs than on their own.  They think they are actually helping the troubled person, but they are not.  You may not be truly codependent, but your behavior may be enabling an addicted or troubled individual, and you need to be aware of that.

How can I stop codependent behavior?

There are several ways in which you can help alleviate codependent tendencies, however, many find these ways difficult to execute without the help of a professional.

  • Remember, you did not cause the other person’s problem, you can’t control the other person, you can’t cure the problem.
  • Don’t lie, make excuses or cover up for the abuser’s drinking, drug or other problem; admit to yourself that this way of living is abnormal, and the abuser or troubled person has a serious problem that requires professional help.
  • Know that there are many support groups that help codependents — self-help groups for family and friends of substance abusers such as (Al-Anon, Alateen and Children of Alcoholics Foundation); other self-help and support groups are offered through community health education programs.
  • Focus on your own feelings, desires and needs; negative thoughts may be brewing just below the surface, and it’s important to vent them in healthy ways; begin to do what is good for your own well-being.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and others in the family to live a better life regardless of if your loved one recovers.

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction and know that it’s time to make a change, Stonewall Institute can help.  We offer an array of services and always make it a priority to get our clients the superior help they deserve.  Call us today at 602-535-6468 to get started.  You’re not alone.