Codependency Within the Family Unit

When a family member struggles with addiction, it is a natural response to want to help them. Well-intentioned as they may be, family members offering support can unknowingly create codependent relationships that ultimately hamstring the recovery journey of their loved one.

Concerned family members may enable their loved one without realizing it, allowing for the addiction to worsen over time. Many are unaware that codependency and enablement even exist, let alone that they are engaging in it.

By learning about codependency in the family unit during addiction, you can recognize these behaviors in yourself and take steps to stop them. Then, you can learn how to properly support your loved one so they can get the help they need.

What Is Codependency?

Codependency is a type of emotional and behavioral condition that stems from a lack of firm boundaries and proper prioritization of one’s own needs. Many times this leads to frustration and resentment. Everyone has some form of codependent tendencies, but some individuals are prone to more severe behaviors.

For example, an individual might constantly feel the need to save others or develop an attraction to others who are struggling emotionally or physically. Codependent relationships typically involve one person, often unintentionally, supporting another person’s destructive behaviors.

How to Spot Codependency

The main characteristics of codependent relationships include resentment, martyrdom, frustration, and a lack of boundaries. However, there are other indicators that a person may tend towards codependent behaviors. Some examples include:

  • Feeling angry when someone tries to set boundaries
  • Not being able to set boundaries in relationships
  • Micromanaging others
  • Denial or rationalization concerning bad behavior
  • Taking responsibility for other’s actions and problems
  • Manipulating others into caring for them by acting helpless
  • Constant submission to one’s partner
  • Constant anxiety or depression related to the relationship’s problems

Codependency and Addiction

Unfortunately, many codependent relationships occur when someone is struggling with addiction. The codependent individual will enable the person to continue using drugs and alcohol with virtually no consequences.

This is especially true with families, as members often want to keep their loved one from getting into trouble. Parents may deny that their children are struggling with addiction, or children may make excuses for why their addicted parents are never around.

At times, those in codependent relationships will supply their loved one with money for drugs or alcohol themselves. Doing so keeps their family member stuck in the cycle of addiction. It also causes the person providing care to continue feeling needed as they take care of the person suffering from addiction.

The Dangers of Codependency

People in codependent relationships will usually excuse their own actions or defend them, saying they are helping their family members. However, codependency is actually quite dangerous to everyone involved.

For example, many may try to get the person struggling with addiction to go to rehab or attempt to stage an intervention. People in codependent relationships will usually want to avoid confrontation and any type of change. They may say that their loved one will never go to rehab or that the intervention will not work. Doing so keeps the person struggling locked in the cycle of addiction, enabled by codependent norms.

However, codependency does not only have consequences for the person struggling with addiction. The codependent person is usually so hung up on their family member’s needs that they neglect their own physical and mental health.

Self-care is non-existent to the codependent individual because they are more focused on serving their family member’s every want and need. Over time this can take its toll on the entire family unit, causing more problems than there were to begin with.

Stopping Codependency for Healing

For both people to heal, codependent behaviors must stop. Usually, this will involve the person struggling with addiction going to rehab and the codependent partner seeking therapy. It is especially vital for both partners to get help, as the likelihood of relapse increases if the family member struggling returns to a codependent partner.

There are multiple treatments for individuals struggling with codependency in a relationship where a substance use disorder is present. For example, many treatment centers offer family therapy or programs that educate members on codependency, enabling, and how to properly support their loved one in treatment.

Others keep family members updated regarding their loved one’s progress. They offer recommendations as to what they can do to help support their loved one when they come home.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be stuck in a codependent relationship, the best thing you can do is educate them or yourself. Education allows individuals to see their behavior in a new light and move towards treatment to facilitate healing. Do not give up; help is available for everyone involved.

Codependency is common in environments where addiction is present, especially between family members. There are numerous consequences to these kinds of relationships, both for the person struggling and for the codependent themselves. The best way to stop codependency is to seek help for all individuals involved. There is no shame in seeking help, and it will stop long-term consequences before they happen. At the Detox Center of Colorado, we believe in facilitating healing for everyone. While providing a safe, comfortable place for your family members to detox, we can educate you about addiction and codependency. It is our hope that education facilitates more healing through understanding. Located in beautiful Denver, CO, our program offers comprehensive detox for substance use and mental health disorders. No matter your background or needs in recovery, we can provide you with the tools for healing. Call our facility today to learn more at (303) 952-5035.

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