When referring to addiction and recovery, we often spend our time talking about the person that is using, but not much about those around them. I want to start by saying that I have been in this situation before and understand it is hard when someone you loved is struggling with addiction. Nothing about the situation is easy and this blog aims to help equip those that struggle with addiction and their loved ones with recovery. Many times, without realizing it, people develop into codependents when their friend or loved one is an addict. I am sure many have heard that term, but what does that really mean?
According to Dictionary.com, codependent (adj.) means “of or pertaining to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent to the first in an unhealthy way”.
Many times this starts because one person has an addiction and the other person feels the need to take care of them and protect them from themselves. The non-addict will make exceptions for the person with the addiction, over compensating for them in attempt to convince others that everything is OK. Unfortunately, while the codependent person thinks they are helping their friend overcome addiction, they might actually be encouraging the drug and alcohol abuse, pushing their friend further from recovery without knowing it. Usually, in codependency situations, both people feed off each other. The codependent has the need to take care of the person with addiction and the addict needs to be taken care of. As the person with the addiction makes excuses for their drug and alcohol use, the codependent sometimes absorbs responsibility.
In some situations, this may exist in a parent-child relationship. For examples, if the child struggles with addiction, the parent could be convinced that it is their fault and that the child just needs more love, care and support. The child continues to misuse drugs and alcohol and may play on the parent / codependent’s emotions. Imagine the situation is flipped. The parent has an addiction and the child has to take care of the parent, thinking if they just act better and help take care of them that they will get better. The child is forced to be the parent and becomes the codependent – forcing them to feel unnecessary stress and pressure. So how do we prevent this codependent relationship? If you are struggling with addiction – seek help. Don’t allow friends or family members to convince you they can handle your addiction or they need you to wait to seek help. If you read this blog and feel like you are the codependent in a relationship, have an honest conversation with your loved one struggling with addiction. There is no better time for you both to develop a healthier relationship than now.