- Mental Health
Codependency: Addicted to an Addict
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.