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Moving From Codependency to Healthy Relationships Through Therapy

Moving From Codependency to Healthy Relationships Through Therapy

The Case of Sarah and Mary

Sarah’s mom Mary hesitated outside Sarah’s bedroom door. She leaned her head against the door and lifted her hand to knock softly. Mary waited for a few beats and then turned and walked away. She picked up the phone and gave yet another pitiful excuse to her daughter’s employer about why she had missed work again. She said Sarah would call when she was feeling better and quickly got off the phone. With a sigh, she headed into the kitchen to make her daughter’s favorite pick-me-up food, a grilled cheese sandwich. Mary knew she should have Sarah move out until she would come to terms with her struggle with heroin. Mary’s significant other had moved out of the house when she refused to make Sarah leave. He grew tired of canceled date nights and money stolen out of his wallet. He couldn’t bring his 9-year-old daughter over during his custody times. Mary’s other daughter stopped bringing the grandkids by the house. Everyone wondered why she catered to Sarah. How did she get into this mess of a situation?

The Case of John and Tamara

Tamara rushed in the door, barely pausing to thank the sitter who hurried out the door because she had stayed late. While her kids called out to talk about their day, Tamara closed off her ears and focused on getting dinner on the table (takeout again) before John got home. “What kind of mood would he be in?” she wondered while setting out plates and silverware. [inline_cta_one] The last few days had been a careful choreography to keep the kids occupied and off his radar as she sensed his anxiety and growing anger. She stopped for a moment to catch her breath and give a wavering smile to the kids. Tamara hoped if she had dinner on time and kept the kids distracted, John wouldn’t be so irritable. She heard the sound of the car door slamming and felt herself relax as he approached the house whistling. Everything would be peaceful. Tonight, at least.

The Case of Anna and Tony

Tony gripped the steering wheel a little tighter the closer he got to home. Since leaving work, his thoughts turned to Anna just like they always did these days. She had started drinking more, he knew, but mostly blamed himself. Work was always distracting him and his travel was causing a strain on their once-happy marriage. Anna would grow cold and distant and rarely smile. Unless she was drinking. Then she would be her usual charming self he fell in love with. He could look past the sound of bottles clinking in the trash can. Or ignore the growing worry he felt when he came across a wine bottle hiding behind the detergent in the laundry room. If she were happier she wouldn’t be drinking, he said to himself often. When he came in the door, he saw Anna quickly place her wine glass behind a picture frame on the table. For a moment, he paused and she held her breath. “What’s for dinner?” he said. “It smells great.” Anna jumped up and headed to the kitchen to set out the dinner she prepared, hoping it would distract him from the money missing from their checking account and the wine she bought with it. They ate dinner together and talked about which show to watch that night. Anna fell asleep before it started. More like passed out, Tony thought.

What is Codependency in Mental Health or Substance Use Situations?

You may have heard of the term enabling, which is used to describe making excuses and ignoring someone’s often out-of-control behavior, like Mary earlier. Oftentimes a person will take more responsibility than the person causing the poor choices and behavior. The person in the caregiving role begins to sacrifice his/her values by covering up their loved one’s mistakes. Like Mary, in the story above, hobbies, friends, and other family members get pushed aside as the caregiver and the person coping with addiction or mental health challenges become entangled as a unit. Loving someone, however, does not mean excusing their actions, as in the case with Tony. The Oxford dictionary defines codependent as “excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, typically one who requires support on account of an illness or addiction.” There is much more to this term than everyday clinginess. Life becomes centered around one partner who is dependent on someone’s help and the other partner who plans their activities completely around that person, according to This is often referred to as a cycle of codependency. [middle-callout] When this is looked at under a medical lens, this emotional cycle disrupts the much-needed goal of treating the person’s mental health or substance disorder. The partner subconsciously thrives off this dependence, the pair remain in a state of limbo, and no progress is gained.

What Codependency Looks Like

Perhaps you surround yourself with people who are always in some form of crisis but make excuses to avoid responsibility or change life choices. This could be shown by a string of failed marriages or even family members who consume your daily activities. While seemingly intended to help another, your actions may be driven by a need to have a sense of purpose when another avenue for aid might be better. You play a rescuer role like Mary because it makes you feel good, but are unaware it can cripple a loved one’s opportunity to get expert resources. Worry, guilt or low self-esteem are the driving factors in your decision process to look beyond the behavior of a loved one who needs mental health care or is struggling with a substance use disorder. In each of these examples, the focus is more on your needs, and without meaning to be, less on the person who needs assistance. It is possible to love someone while setting boundaries and helping them find recovery resources.

How Some People End Up in a Codependent Relationship

Perhaps you grew up in a dysfunctional family and, as a child, had to take on the caregiver role in the family. You were the one everyone turned toward to make sure your siblings made it to school on time or your parent with addiction ate something, anything, that day. As you grew older, you kept giving of yourself to make others happy or to try to control a situation that was spiraling downward. This made you feel needed, even if nothing ever changed for the better. You felt ashamed of the secrets you were hiding about the reality of your situation. At the same time, you felt frozen to ask for help for yourself. After all, you have solved everyone’s problems. This became your way to show love. What may have worked for you as a child was only putting a bandaid on a problem. As an adult, it is time to rethink your strategies for handling hard times and others’ struggles. That begins with getting the help you deserve.

How Family Therapy Can Help Move a Relationship to a Positive Place

Healthy relationships and positive family interactions are the end goals for successful treatment and recovery. Recovery doesn’t end when you walk out the door and go home. It is important to consider how to complete treatment on-site while continuing the journey after to avoid relapse. Why do people relapse? Oftentimes people are more prone to relapse if they enter a program on the defensive and in denial that there is a problem. Being on the same supportive page, each family member and their therapy team can fully embrace a recovery program. When a family and its loved one learn to manage stress, avoid high-risk situations, and identify the many warning signs of relapse, therapy can be a strong foundation for success. Family therapy is both healthy and helpful during the recovery journey, while also addressing consequences the loved one may have caused through their mental struggles or substance use disorder. [inline_cta_one] Family therapy and support are designed to create an encouraging and communicative shelter in which a person can recover from addiction. Texas Recovery Center includes a wide variety of treatment methods, including detoxification, psychological analysis, behavioral adjustment, and interaction with family members to build a solid support group.


What are the Signs of a Codependent Person? There are many factors that can indicate codependent behaviors which include a history of dysfunction in the family, low self-esteem, and trouble communicating with friends or family. Other signs include feeling anxious, craving to be needed, and wanting approval at the risk of your own happiness. What Causes Codependency? Codependency is often seen in a relationship where one person struggles with mental health or substance use. The other person steps into a caregiver role to meet their emotional and physical needs. This is usually a sincere attempt to help a situation, but neither party is getting proper help from outside resources with therapy and counseling programs. What is an Example of Codependency? In the cycle of codependency, the caregiver often acts to cover the real behaviors of the person with mental or substance disorders. If an employer calls about a missed workday or a concerned family member wonders about absence from a special event, the caregiver will make an excuse on their loved one’s behalf. When seeking to find a way out of the codependent cycle, you can turn to Texas Recovery Center team as a resource for your loved one that provides compassionate care. Here, we offer individualized counseling in a program tailor-made to fit your needs. Call us today at 888-759-5073.

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