What Is Codependency in Addiction, and Why Is It Harmful?
Codependency in addiction is almost as serious as addiction itself, and therapists believe that it has many of the same contributing factors. Chemical imbalances in the brain, traumatic experiences in the past, trying circumstances and rocky relationships can all lead to codependent behavior.
Let’s talk about what codependency is and what it isn’t.
It starts out understandably enough: A caring individual becomes concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse. They intervene and encourage the addict to seek help. They might even research treatment centers, enlist prayer support or abstain from alcohol themselves to lead by example. All these initial efforts are commendable.
However, when their loved one balks at checking into rehab or relapses one too many times and gives up on treatment, the codependent kicks into caretaker mode. It becomes more about adjusting to the problem than about helping the addict find healing. It’s about managing symptoms and minimizing consequences rather than getting to the bottom of a chronic brain disease that sometimes affects multiple generations in a family.
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Codependents take on a lot. They do all the designated driving. They drag their spouses out of bed and into the shower each morning. They carefully rearrange the social calendar to avoid unpleasantness or embarrassment or make excuses if an awkward situation does occur. In doing so, they unwittingly enable the addiction to continue and worsen.
Before too long, their own emotions, which include anxiety, stress, depression, resentment, loneliness and fear of the future, are sadly neglected. They tend to withdraw from others and focus all their attention on keeping up appearances. Not surprisingly, the substance abuser is happy to go along with this arrangement; he or she can continue to drink or use drugs knowing that the codependent will take care of everything.
Here are some common symptoms of codependency in addiction:
- Difficulty saying no
- Difficulty asking for help
- Reluctance to let loved ones face consequences
- Feeling pressured to hold the family together
- Feeling indispensable
- Feeling guilty or selfish when you see to your own needs
- Complete willingness to change in order to please others
- Unwillingness to let others know you intimately
- Low self-esteem caused by feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy or perfectionism
The worst thing society can do to an enabler is shame him, but that’s what has happened in recent years. Codependent people have been made to feel like they’re stupid or that the addiction is somehow their fault. Of all the negative emotions they’re grappling with, guilt and shame usually top the list.
The best remedy for poor self-esteem from codependency is the word of God. The Bible says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. You are God’s child. In Christ, with whom you are a coheir of all the treasures in heaven, you are full, complete and one with him in mind and spirit. You are set apart, chosen, holy and of royal lineage. You’re a child of the king. That same king also calls you his friend.
Some mental health experts have even implied that over-loving an addict adds fuel to the fire. Biblically, it is impossible to love someone too much. Just ask Jesus.
However, God intended relationships to be mutually supportive and beneficial. Each partner’s strengths offset the other’s weaknesses. Neither one gets all the attention. And sometimes acting in love means saying, “no.”
Treatment for Codependency
The idea is not to ease the suffering of one who is on the path to self-destruction. It is to see that they get on a better path.
If you suspect that you might be enabling addiction, you need help just as urgently as the addict does. You can’t keep up these exhausting behaviors forever, and your loved one might never confront their own disease without your good decision-making and composure.
Don’t wait until life spirals out of control to seek help. Don’t wait for your loved one to have an accident, lose a good job, experience financial crisis or face legal or physical health problems.
We at St. Gregory Recovery Center can show you how well-intentioned expressions of love become codependent behaviors. Through Bible-based addiction and family counseling and proven treatment methods, you’ll learn to view your attitudes and behaviors objectively. You’ll get guidance on healthy changes that will positively impact your child or spouse. You may have an emotional disorder, such as depression or anxiety, that encourages codependency. We’re equipped to diagnose and treat issues together, which is far more effective than tackling them separately.
God longs to heal addictions and broken relationships. Contact St. Gregory Recovery Center today to find out how you can be useful and supportive during your loved one’s upcoming journey to recovery.