A guest article, by Sonia Tagliareni – a writer and researcher for DrugRehab and who is passionate about helping people, started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia also holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology. Today we focus on the most commonly understood phenomenon of codependency in a relationship where one of the partners may be challenged with substance addiction. It is worth maintaining an open mind, however, if you have a challenging relationship. Codependency is also highly observable in relationships outside of addiction!
Codependency, an emotional and behavioral condition that often afflicts the family members of a substance abuser, occurs when a person cannot function in a healthy manner without another. The codependent individual becomes obsessed with their family member’s substance use disorder and allows the disease to take over their lives.
Codependent relationships are unhealthy, one-sided and often self-destructive. They usually affect a significant other, a parent, a sibling, a friend or a co-worker. Despite having good intentions, the codependent people take on the role of “benefactors” to the addicted individual. They enable the substance user by making excuses for the person’s addiction and negative behaviors.
Ask yourself these questions to determine whether you are codependent:
- Does my identity depend on what someone thinks of me?
- Does someone’s approval of me boost my self-confidence?
- Is my sole focus making someone happy or ensuring they are safe?
- Does solving someone’s problem boost my self-esteem?
Characteristics of Codependency
The substance user relies on the codependent individual to fuel his or her addiction, and the latter feels rewarded for being needed. When the relationship develops into a compulsive one, the codependent caretaker may feel trapped and helpless. Some characteristics of codependency are:
The caretaker becomes obsessed with the substance user’s alcohol and drug consumption to the point where their lives revolve around the addict’s activities.
The caretaker refuses to acknowledge that their loved one has a problem and keeps making excuses and lies to protect the substance abusing person and develop an irrational sense of responsibility for the his or her actions.
3. Mood Swings
The caretaker’s moods depend on the substance user’s mood, causing them to have difficulty identifying their own feelings.
4. Irrational Behavior
The caretakers puts themselves at risk by acting impulsively, such as following their loved one to an unsafe location. They also become controlling toward the addict and others around them.
When the caretaker becomes too invested in the addiction, they may lash out at the substance user in aggressive ways.
Stemming from the unhealthy and one-sided relationship, the caretaker develops hate toward themselves because of their loved ones’ addiction.
7. Displaced feelings
The codependent fails to deal with their feelings and takes their stress out on people other than the substance user.
8. Hidden Emotions
As a result of denial, the codependent caretaker refuses to deal with their real feelings and instead substitute them with activities such as work, eating, cleaning and exercise.
Codependency can be treated by exploring its causes, which are usually rooted in an individual’s childhood experiences. The key to treating codependence is to recognize the early signs and stop the behavior. With the proper education, individual therapy sessions and group counselling, the codependent individual can learn how to function on their own.
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