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Codependency: Addicted to an Addict

Updated on December 11, 2012
Two glasses of beer
Two glasses of beer | Source

Definition of Codependency

A codependent person is in a relationship with or supports an individual who is also dependent on something or someone else.

A codependent relationship can form with a friend, co-worker, spouse or partner, parent, child or other family member.

The most common codependent relationships involve alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers or people addicted to food.

These relationships certainly aren’t the only scenarios that involve codependent people. A codependent person may also attach themselves to people who have an obsession to a third person. In this case, an individual may have an unhealthy attachment to an addicted family member or maybe the memory of a lost loved one.

The codependent person helps to make it possible for the person they are involved with to continue the unhealthy relationship.

How Someone Becomes Codependent

Frequently people who seek out this type of relationship do so because they have had similar experiences in their past.

Even though it is dysfunctional and highly toxic most of the time, it is what they are familiar with and therefore, they are comfortable with it on some level.

The codependent person usually doesn’t value themselves highly and has extremely low self-esteem. The person they have become dependent on isn’t able to give them the validating, intimate companionship that a healthy partnership is based on.

Most often, the codependent person carries the weight of the relationship by themselves and receives very little participation or even cooperation from the individual they are attached to.

The other person isn’t motivated to hurt the person who is dependent on them, but they are addicted to their own vice and do not have the tools necessary to reciprocate in a productive, healthy relationship. Frequently the codependent person is verbally or physically abused in the relationship and is always emotionally blackmailed and shamed by their partner.

Participation in these types of relationships is confirmation that they are in fact unlovable or undeserving of being treated well.

No One Wins

Codependent people spend their time and emotional energy talking care of the other person and their addiction. This causes them to avoid their own needs and desires as well as the needs of other people in their life who may depend on them.

The codependent person will justify these choices by viewing themselves as selfless and a martyr. The truth is that the codependent person isn’t acting out of love, nurturing, or any other reason that they want the outside world to believe.

If their behaviors were actually motivated by love for the person they are in the relationship with, they wouldn’t help them destroy themselves.

Physical Affects

Someone who is codependent is, by description dependent on another person for their psychological and emotional wellbeing.

However, this dependency is frequently detrimental to their psychological and physical health. The stress and behaviors of a codependent person can often cause many physical ailments such as ulcers, dramatically impaired immune system, high anxiety levels, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure, and many other stressed induced illnesses.

Some common signs of codependency are:

Avoidance of Social Situations

A codependent person will avoid taking the addicted person to social functions or even out to eat for fear of an embarrassing outburst or meltdown.

This causes both people to miss family parties, school functions, ceremonies, and many other important life events. Eventually, the codependent person and the addict are isolated and just spend time alone while life passes them.

Someone Who Makes Excuses For The Addicted Person


A codependent man with a drug addicted girlfriend may excuse her verbally abusive behavior in front of his family by saying the doctor has her on a medication that doesn’t agree with her, or he may say that it’s his fault because he shouldn’t have made her upset.

When Someone Lies For Their Addicted Partner or Family Member


If a child is a codependent of an addicted parent they will lie about almost everything to everyone. They will lie to their friends about why they can’t come over to their house, lie to teachers about why they are late or unprepared, lie to coaches and friends parents about why their parent isn’t there to pick them up or support them in an activity, etc.

Unfortunately the list is very long.

Chicken Wings
Chicken Wings | Source

They Often Provide The Necessary Items That Make The Addiction Possible

This may include numerous things like: alcohol, food, drugs, money, a ride somewhere, or even cleaning up after them.


A father who is codependent on their daughter who is addicted to food will consistently provide whatever unhealthy meals she requests on a daily basis. He will do this even though he knows what she is eating is killing her. In this scenario, the dad’s need to give her the food is more important that the needs of his daughter.

Other’s Needs and Well-Being Are Secondary


If mom is codependent on dad who is an alcoholic, she will let her son stay the night at his girlfriend’s house or engage is other dangerous behavior. These decisions are made so dad doesn’t get upset over any arguing.

This scenario is terrible for the son and is giving him numerous wrong messages but, the codependent mom needs to keep the person who is addicted appeased. The addict’s needs and comforts supersede everyone else’s.

Help Is Available

There are many amazing support groups designed to specifically help people who struggle with codependent relationships. These groups can make a huge difference in helping people change the way they view themselves and how they define relationships. Support is the key in breaking the dependent cycle.

These groups can be found on-line or at any Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Al-anon meeting.

Do You Know Anyone Who Is Codependent?

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    • LaurieMaxson profile image

      Laurie Maxson 2 years ago from AL

      I also am a co-dependent of an alcoholic. For years I simply didn't know that my behavior was enabling this person, instead of helping. I joined Al-Anon and found that I too have the right to have a life and not babysit. It is difficult as you love your family, friends, co-workers, but they will drain you if you let them. I love the Serenity prayer as it has truly made a difference in my life. As a Personal Development coach, I find that there is normally an underlying issue with the addict, even though I do not work with people with mental or behavioral health issues, I see that there is usually a self worth issue. My passion in life is helping individuals find their value, as I believe it helps people see how amazing they truly are, and what they are able to accomplish, if they believe. Addiction on both sides can be devastating. We cannot help someone until they hit their bottom, and desire to be helped.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Shawn, my best wishes to that person who is stuck in this distructive cycle. It is very common unfortunately so hopefully they can find some support.

    • Shawn May Scott profile image

      Shawn May Scott 5 years ago


      This is a very acurate disription of a co-dependant situation and the actions that take place. I have someone in my life that does this often. It is very sad. Thank you for filling in some blanks and Blessed Be.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Darlene, thank you for your very thoughtful comment and information on a wonderful resource!I'm going to add that as an option through the amazon program so people are aware of it! :)

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      What a great hub topic and so very interesting to read through. I have known some people who were co-dependent upon others. It makes for such a "prison" for the one they are draining in the relationship. I am glad to see that there is support out there to help with this addiction.

    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Thank you for sharing a very personal part of you life with us! Being in a codependent relaionship is very common but not discussed because it carries unnecessary shame. If most people out there realized how many people could relate and support them, it would be a much easier cycle for people to escape from. I was a codependent child of two addicted parents so I know how lonely it can be.

      Thank you again! :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Roxanne...."Co-dependent." I fit that bill for many years, before I even knew that "label." How could I be co-dependent?

      I was just a young, busy Mom, trying desperately to make everything work...keep everyone happy and healthy. I even developed quite a talent for denial.

      When my day of awakening arrived, I also learned a very powerful question..."WHAT was I thinking?"

      This was many many years ago and this journey literally changed me from a pathetic victim to one strong, "smart," champion.

      Moral? There is a positive, definite purpose to everything in our lives. Another life lesson down, one million to go.

      Superb HUB!! You get a Huge UP!! Thank you for writing this.