Co-dependency is a common condition experienced in families dealing with substance abuse or addiction. A co-dependent family member values his relationship with the addict more than his own well-being. Spouses, children and parents can all be co-dependent. In its own way, co-dependency is as addictive as any substance.
Symptoms of Co-Dependency
Co-dependent family members enable a substance abuser’s behavior. The intent is well-meant; the family member tries to protect their loved one from the consequences of substance abuse. In practice, however, enabling behavior only encourages continued substance abuse.
Enabling behavior includes lying to cover up substance abuse. The co-dependent family member may call in sick on behalf of their loved one who is struggling with addiction and meeting work requirements. They also make excuses to friends for their loved one’s behavior. To avoid confrontation, co-dependents may provide money to purchase drugs or alcohol. In some cases, co-dependents join in substance abuse — a desperate attempt to keep the relationship alive.
No matter how co-dependency presents, the results are the same: the co-dependent partner takes on their loved one’s responsibilities and tasks. Far from improving the situation, removing personal responsibility gives free rein to your loved one, allowing them to continue self-destructive behavior. Freed from the constraints of personal responsibility, your loved one is unlikely to seek the help that’s desperately needed.
It’s not uncommon for co-dependents to experience feelings of shame, resentment, guilt and depression. Addicted family members may play on these feelings to encourage more co-dependency. Neither family member is really in control of the situation, and both need help to break the cycle.
At Clarity Way, we understand co-dependency is as much an addiction as substance abuse. Co-dependency is an emotional and behavioral response to a bad situation, and it self-reinforces over time. Family members require counseling as much as the addict. Clarity Way works closely with family members during addiction recovery. Making positive behavioral changes at home encourages continued sobriety after treatment.