Codependency and addiction have an interesting relationship to one another and go hand-in-hand on many different levels. For starters, codependency, in and of itself, is a form of addiction and is often referred to as “relationship addiction”. Then there’s the relationship between codependents and addicts, specifically drug addicts and/or alcoholics. The reason these two “addictions” go hand-in-hand when it comes to relationships is that the addict and the codependent each fill a void in one another’s’ lives. In other words, the addict “needs” the codependent, and the codependent “needs” the addict, and while these “needs” are dysfunctional no matter how you cut it, this relationship dynamic is very common.
Let’s start with some common traits of (and similarities among) codependents:
Codependents often thrive on dysfunctional, one-sided relationships. They tend to have very low self-esteem and the need to achieve perfection because it gives them something (more specifically, someONE) to fix, and codependents have an insatiable need to fix people. It gives them a feeling of purpose. On the flip side, they need to feel needed. For this reason, the relationship dynamic between a codependent and an alcoholic or addict can actually become quite destructive. While the codependent may try and pressure the addict/alcoholic to change, it can also wind up becoming their biggest fear when the addict does actually seek help. Codependents may fear that the addict/alcoholic will no longer “need” them or the relationship once they get clean, so codependents often continue to enable their addict/alcoholic partners.
Enabling and caretaking are also common for codependents. Because codependents already tend to have very poor boundaries, they put others ahead of themselves. They need to help and can often feel rejected if someone they want to help doesn’t want or accept the help. Again, this goes back to them wanting to feel needed and relevant. It can be particularly problematic in relationships with addicts or alcoholics because alcoholics/addicts generally don’t want to be “fixed”, helped, or told what to do. A codependent trying to tell their alcoholic or addict partner or spouse what to do can lead to some pretty destructive arguments and often will drive the addict or alcoholic to drink or use even more excessively. This is in direct contrast with what we’ve already addressed about codependents also not wanting their partner or spouse to get help because they fear becoming irrelevant and unneeded. It’s a vicious and chaotic cycle, and it’s unfortunately extremely common.
Bottom line: Codependency and addiction both lead to painful emotions
Codependency creates stress and can lead to very painful emotions. Alcoholism and addiction also create stress and lead to painful emotions, so it’s no wonder why this relationship dynamic is so destructive.
While it’s unfortunate that these types of destructive relationships between codependents and addicts are so common, it also means a lot of research has been done on the topic. As a result, there’s a lot of help out there. Psychologists and therapists, particularly those who specialize in addiction, tend to be very well acquainted with the codependent-addict relationship dynamic. Thus, they have a lot of experience in treating patients who struggle with this type of relationship. There’s also a lot of free support out there through groups like CODA (Codependents Anonymous) and Al-Anon (a program of recovery for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking).
You never have to do this alone
If you or someone you know or love is having a hard time getting or staying clean, dealing with codependency issues, or is struggling with anything else related to addiction, reach out to Kembali Recovery Center today. We’re here to answer your questions and address your concerns. You never have to do this alone.