What Is the Role of Addiction in Codependency?

Addiction is a complicated, difficult disease. It affects not only the user but everyone around them. Sometimes, they might be involved in a codependent relationship that’s making their addiction worse. In some ways, codependency involves an addiction to another person. It’s intrinsically linked to identifying and treating addiction.

The term “codependency” was coined when Alcoholics Anonymous began addressing the family and friend network of an addict and the ways in which other people might be enabling their substance use. Today the term is used much more broadly, but the relationship between someone suffering from substance abuse disorder and the person who enables their lifestyle is classically codependent.

What is codependency?

Codependency is an emotionally one-sided relationship. These kinds of relationships are often abusive and destructive. The codependent person enables a manipulator’s unhealthy behaviors, including substance abuse. The enabler gets all their self-worth from the other person.

There is frequent boundary crossing, and the two are mentally and emotionally wrapped up in one another. The enabler takes on all the responsibilities, worries, anxieties, and problems of the other person. They take on the role of a “caretaker” and therefore the manipulator rarely sees consequences for their actions.

Symptoms of a codependent relationship

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Difficulties with intimacy and identifying feelings
  • Emotional dysregulation
  • Fear of abandonment and rejection
  • Poor communication skills
  • Inability to say “no” and maintain boundaries
  • Putting others’ needs first
  • Chronic anger and resentment
  • Obsessing over others’ emotional states

Codependency doesn’t need to have addiction present. It doesn’t even need to be a dynamic between intimate partners. Codependency can manifest in family relationships, friendships, and even coworkers.

How do addiction and codependency overlap?

Codependency is a relationship pattern that is severely detrimental to addiction. When an enabler is supporting an addicted manipulator’s lifestyle, the person suffering from drug addiction has no reason to change. The enabler may even be afraid of their person getting sober for fears they might lose them or become abandoned.

It can be difficult for a codependent enabler to advocate for treatment, because they value the intimacy of their relationship as it stands. Those in codependent relationships are also at a greater risk of relapse. Therefore, as part of their addiction treatment, both the codependency and the substance abuse must be addressed. When this type of relationship goes uninterrogated, treatment is much less likely to be successful. Both people need to seek counseling.

Sometimes substance use starts out as an unhealthy coping mechanism for stress and anxiety. A codependent person may turn to drugs and alcohol to numb their worries or feel like “themselves.” It can be a way of escaping the prison of the codependent relationship.

As with all unhealthy or unsafe coping mechanisms, this can evolve into incredibly problematic behavior. The codependent person is at risk of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol when they consistently use it to cope with life’s stressors. This can lead to a cycle of addiction and abuse among both partners.

Seeking professional help

If you feel you or someone you love is in a codependent relationship involving substance abuse, please seek professional help. Addiction is very difficult to overcome without the help of therapists, medical professionals, inpatient programs, and sober communities. A counselor may use a specialized form of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), targeted trauma therapies, or family counseling to treat addiction and codependency. Overcoming addiction involves everyone around the addict seeking help.

To learn more about how addiction treatment can help you overcome a codependent relationship and substance abuse, please reach out to me to see how addiction