It can be devastating to watch someone you love harm themselves by using drugs or alcohol. At the same time, that same person suffering from an addiction may unknowingly or unintentionally take advantage of others. Those being taken advantage of are known as codependents if they continue to allow themselves to be used. There is actually the potential to do more harm than good by granting a person with addiction permission to continuously take advantage of you. Protecting them from the consequences of their actions can be just as harmful, it is a form of enabling. It’s a tricky situation because you want to help those you love or protect them from foreseeable trouble, but this might actually prevent them from finding a healthy recovery.
At Texas Recovery Center, our team recognizes that codependency in addiction can have devastating effects. That’s why our family therapy program gives loved ones the tools they need to support a loved one constructively. Learn more about the effects of codependency in addiction by calling Texas Recovery Center at 844.230.5931 or completing our online form.
Definitions of Enabling and Codependency in Addiction
In order to define codependency and enabling, we must first recognize that they are similar concepts, and both are just as easy to miss if you don’t know what to look for. “Enabling behavior occurs when another person, often a codependent, helps or encourages the addict to continue using drugs, either directly or indirectly. Examples of individuals involved in enabling behavior are a spouse hiding the addict’s disease from neighbors or their children by lying for the addicted person and a so-called “friend” giving the addict money to buy drugs.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse – NIDA). [inline_cta_one]
Codependent Characteristics and Behaviors
Codependent behavior can be dangerous for a person suffering from addiction because it doesn’t ask them to change their behavior or give them a sign that addiction is ruining their lives.
Some of the most common types of codependent behavior are:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than their share all of the time
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- Lack of trust in self and others
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- Rigidity or difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy and boundaries
- Chronic anger
- Lying or dishonesty
- Poor communications
- Difficulty making decisions
(University of California Davis)
Examples Of Enabling An Addiction
It can be surprising to find out that you’re enabling someone to continue with addiction, and accepting that you have been supporting an unhealthy behavior is the first step to switching from enabling behavior to healthy behavior—and responding instead of reacting.
Some of the most common examples of unhealthy enabling behaviors from the Washington State Employee Assistance Program include:
- Taking over the responsibilities of the user
- Making excuses or covering up errors and accidents for the user
- Going along with excuses for using substances
- Helping the user get out of financial difficulty related to substance use
- Cleaning up after the user
Understanding that Addiction Is a Disease of Relapse
Relapse is defined as a deterioration of a person’s state after a temporary improvement. If an addiction skirts around the harmful consequences, there’s actually less of a perceived problem or no problem. For example, if someone else constantly picks up the broken pieces left by substance use, consequently, there will be less of a chance for enlightenment or recovery. Addiction can be hard to understand for an outsider and just as hard from the perspective of a person with an addiction.
“Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works.” Addictions can lead to further problems, “resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home” (NIDA).
What Causes Codependency in Relationships?
Codependency frequently appears in relationships where an addiction is present. This is also referred to as relationship addiction. This codependent relationship is often emotionally one-sided and can be destructive to both partners. The behavior of a person with addictionmight not change because, along the way, they have been led to believe that their behavior is acceptable.
It goes back to the idea that every behavior is learned. So, when a person doesn’t face the negative consequences of their actions, they are not able to mature and grow. So what does that mean? Is it always necessary to avoid helping someone with an addiction? Not always. There are two ways to care for people with addiction; healthy caregiving and codependent caretaking. Codependent caretaking is unhealthy and can lead to further dysfunction.
Who Does Codependency Affect?
Codependency affects more than just the person struggling with an addiction. It can affect their spouse, parents, colleagues, children, or anyone else in their lives. The unfortunate truth is that addiction can cause a person to do things out of character, and that might involve using those they love to help conceal, protect or accept their addiction. A dysfunctional family might unintentionally feed into an addiction. Thus, codependency can affect the person suffering from an addiction as well.
“A dysfunctional family is one in which members suffer from fear, anger, pain, or shame that is ignored or denied.” The members of a dysfunctional family don’t let on that they have a problem with their loved one’s choices or “addiction…to drugs, alcohol, relationships, work, food, sex, or gambling” (UC Davis).
How to Set Boundaries and Stop Enabling a Loved One
There’s no doubt you have the best intentions when helping your loved one out of a bind. All you really want to do is keep them safe by protecting them from perceived danger, but sometimes intervening or refusing to bail them out leads to a healthier outcome. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that as long as someone is there to come to their rescue every time they get into trouble financially or criminally, they might not learn from their mistakes and continue using drugs or alcohol as a result.
It can be important not to take responsibility for a loved one’s problems and to always keep in mind your needs. It’s also good to admit that you didn’t create their problems, so it isn’t your duty to fix them either. It can just as well be unhealthy for both parties to coddle or marginalize an addiction. One of the most important things you can do, as a friend or family member of someone suffering from addiction, is to tell them how serious you think their addiction is and suggest that they seek treatment.
Codependency Addiction Treatment and Recovery
A codependent person often tries to fix others. This can be dangerous and lead to instability or further substance use. Treatment works best if it’s left to the professionals. Addiction therapists understand coping behaviors, codependency, and substance use and can help a person dig down to understand the depth or root of their addiction.
In a recovery setting, a person struggling with addiction can get the care and attention they need. Group therapy, family therapy, peer support, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy are just a few of the treatment programs that can help a person understand that their behaviors are hurting others.
Explore the Link Between Codependency and Addiction at Texas Recovery Center
Codependent relationships aren’t always easy to recognize. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction in a codependent relationship, we can help instill healthy behaviors and teach you how to live an addiction-free life. Texas Recovery Center understands addiction and has treatment programs that focus on mindfulness and therapies that promote healthy behaviors. Contact us at 1-888-683-1406 today to speak to an addiction specialist or reach out to us online about a treatment program tailored to your needs.