The Relationship of Codependency and Addiction


What can happen when you begin prioritizing your partner’s needs over your own? Codependency in a relationship can be harmful, especially for those aiming for total and sustained sobriety. 

Codependency is a relationship in which one spouse has excessive physical or emotional demands, while the other partner spends the majority of their time ministering to those needs, often to the cost of both parties. 

It has you devoting all of your energy on helping the people in your life who mean so much to you that you neglect to make time for yourself. Codependency hinders you from embracing a healthy life and becoming the best version of yourself. 

Many individuals, however, who grow up in households with addiction can exhibit signs of codependency even if they don’t develop addictions themselves. 

Cultivating healthy boundaries and respecting your own needs begin with understanding what codependency actually is and how to recognize its symptoms in your behavior.

Source: Roots Through Recovery

Understanding Codependency 

According to Vicki Botnick, a marriage and family therapist in Tarzana, CA, codependency is a sense of forgetting “where you end and your partner begins.”

It’s the strange and depressing feeling of being loved but lost, desired but unwanted, and found but abandoned all at once. The more you dedicate yourself to providing the help you perceive people require, the more strongly they may rely on you. It gets progressively harder to unravel yourself over time.

Characteristics of Codependent Relationships 

According to Codependents Anonymous, codependents often…

  • Have difficulty recognizing and admitting their true emotions 
  • Believe they are entirely selfless and committed to the welfare of others
  • Hide their suffering in various ways such as humor, rage, and isolation
  • Look on others for a sense of security and safety
  • Obsess over relationships to the extent of compromising their own principles so as to avert humiliation and disappointment

Historical Perspective: The Evolution of “Codependency”

Codependency is not always linked to substance use, but according to Mental Health America, it was first identified in relation to families of alcoholics. In fact, codependency was first recognized among spouses of individuals with alcohol addiction in the 1950s.

Early on in the process of treating addiction, a behavioral pattern emerged that ultimately resulted in the recognition of codependence. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provided treatment for alcoholics, whereas Al-Anon, a non-therapeutic peer organization, provided support for their spouses. This later demonstrated that the spouses shared a bond and that an alcoholic’s marriage can have an impact on their recovery.

People who care for their alcoholic spouses in their addicted state, for example, may feel a sense of purpose and dignity. It can make you feel wanted and significant to be able to take care of them during those trying moments. But by providing care, your partner is able to ignore the issue and continue their addiction.


How Codependency and Addiction Intersect

Codependency and addiction are two closely related concepts that often coexist and reinforce each other. They are both rooted in dysfunctional patterns of behavior and can have a significant impact on individuals and their relationships. Here’s an overview of their relationship:

The Recurring Cycle 

Codependent individuals often engage in enabling behaviors that allow the addicted person to continue their destructive habits. This can include making excuses for the addicted person’s behavior, covering up their mistakes, or providing financial and emotional support that enables the addiction.

Both aspects also imply an unhealthy emotional reliance. In codependent relationships, one person may be emotionally dependent on the other for their sense of self-worth and identity. In addiction, the person becomes emotionally dependent on the substance or behavior to cope with negative emotions or stress.

Codependency and addiction are closely intertwined and can perpetuate each other in destructive ways. Recognizing these patterns and seeking help is crucial for both the codependent individual and the addicted person to achieve healthier, more fulfilling lives and relationships.

Shared Dynamics

Codependent and addicted individuals often share common dynamics, such as the lack of autonomy, denial, avoidance of problems, external validation-seeking, and difficulty in expressing emotions. Furthermore, they may both engage in dysfunctional coping mechanisms to deal with stress and conflict. 

The Role of Family Systems 

Codependency and addiction can affect entire families. Family members may develop codependent roles to accommodate the addicted person’s behavior, perpetuating the dysfunctional dynamic within the family system.

For instance, children raised in environments with addiction are 4 times more likely to develop addiction themselves. However, they are also more prone to entering codependent relationships as adults.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms 

There is an increased likelihood that you are codependent if you are in a relationship with an addict. However, that isn’t always the case. Codependence can manifest in a relationship in other ways besides having a recognized addiction. Some of these include: 

  • An insatiable desire for other people’s acceptance and recognition 
  • Self-worth or behaviors that are influenced by what others think or perceive about you
  • You believe that you cannot be truly content unless your partner is around, and you find it impossible to envision your life without them.
  • You constantly put your interests last and feel bad when you answer to your own desires
  • An inclination to make amends or take accountability in order to maintain peace 

The urge to help others in codependency extends beyond what is usually considered as healthy. You are always present for others but you consistently fail to show up for yourself. 

Source: Roots Through Recovery

Breaking the Cycle: Steps to Healing and Recovery 

It is crucial to remember that codependent relationships can contain intricate and sophisticated emotional attachments, making them difficult to identify and even harder to escape from. 

To break the cycle of codependency and addiction, both the codependent and the addicted individual must get therapy. Individual and family counseling, peer support, and addiction treatment programs can all help with recovery by providing the essential tools and resources and catering to one’s unique needs. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological care that has proven to be successful in treating a variety of conditions, such as severe mental health disorders, alcohol and drug use issues, marital problems, and other similar issues.

Co-Dependents Anonymous 

Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA) is a 12-step program and global support organization for people who seek to build meaningful and healthy relationships. It offers an organized and encouraging environment for personal development, recovery, and self-exploration. 


When Codependency Hits Home 

To effectively address a problem, one must first understand how it first transpires. It’s critical for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves on the roots of addiction, its cycle, and how it affects their interpersonal relationships. 

Codependency is a taught trait that is transmittable from one generation to the next. It is a psychological and behavioral disorder that impairs a person’s capacity to form wholesome, mutually beneficial relationships.

Although they frequently coexist and support one another in unhealthy relationships, codependency per se hardly evolves into addiction. Instead, they typically develop separately or concurrently within the same person or relationship. 

In your relationships, learn to set and maintain healthy boundaries. This includes articulating your demands effectively, saying “no” when required, and protecting your mental and physical well-being. The co-dependent must come to terms with his feelings, and forgive himself for all the times that he fell short. 

Keep in mind that codependency treatment is a personal trajectory that can come with hurdles and defeats. As you endure this process, be kind and gentle with yourself. 

Recovery from codependency is a long but rewarding process. The purest freedom, love, and tranquility will be there with you whilst you wander, guiding you as you go.

Tangled in codependency or struggling with addiction? Discover freedom, love, and peace with Roots Through Recovery’s specialized treatments.

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