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What You Need to Know About Codependency and Addiction

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By April 27, 2019
codependency and addiction

Addiction is one of the most harrowing and difficult things a person can experience in their life, and it affects millions of people. 

Addiction is made all the worse by codependence. When codependency and addiction come together, it causes the person suffering from addiction to keep doing their drug of choice. 

However, there are ways to break the cycle of codependency and addiction. Nobody’s lives have to depend on a substance or another person. 

So read this guide carefully to find out if your relationship exhibits codependency symptoms, and how you can free yourself and your loved one from the vicious cycle. 

What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Codependency and Addiction? 

To tackle and learn about codependency in addiction, you need to learn what addiction you’re dealing with. Depending on what substance a person is addicted to, the symptoms of their addiction can vary. 

As a general rule, if a person hides their habit from the majority of their friends and family and feels incapable of functioning like normal without it, they’re addicted to it. 

Some physical signs of addiction can include slurred speech, drowsiness, lack of coordination, and a host of other things. 

If you notice that a person is experiencing uncharacteristic mood swings or is more irritable than usual, they may be having cravings, or suffering from early stages of withdrawal. 

There are many signs of addiction, and withdrawal signs can also vary. To learn about what substance a person is addicted to, you can read more here.

Codependency is a pattern of behavior where someone puts the needs of someone else ahead of their own. In a relationship where someone is abusing a substance, this usually manifests in one person being a “caretaker”.

The person in a caretaker role will often enable the addict’s behavior.

Codependency symptoms include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • A fierce, unnatural desire to be liked
  • Difficulty saying no, especially to their partner 
  • A strong drive to take care of other people
  • Feeling the need to always be in a relationship 
  • Feeling like loved ones need to be controlled 

If you are in a codependent relationship, it can be harder to help someone else overcome their addiction. 

What’s The Difference Between Codependence and Being Supportive?

It is possible to support someone with a substance abuse problem without enabling their behavior. Addiction and codependency can be overcome, and it starts by knowing how to be supportive. 

The first step to ridding yourself of codependence is to practice self-care and put your own needs first. 

This can feel difficult at first, especially given the compulsion many codependent partners feel compelled to take care of others at all times. 

The next thing that needs to be done to break codependency is to stop covering for the mistakes an addict makes.  

If an addict messes up and makes someone angry or hurt with their actions, they need to face the consequences of doing this.

By shielding them from consequences, they’ll feel more inclined to take risks and be reckless with their habit because they feel they’ll always have someone to protect them from their own mistakes. 

Codependency can also be as simple as financing a person’s drug habit. Paying for a visit to a methadone clinic to make withdrawal easier is a good thing. 

But paying for someone’s fifth bottle of vodka in a week is just hastening the demise of the addict. 

Codependency and drug addiction will hasten the demise of any drug user because the caretaker will enable their behavior, which will lead to them doing more of the drugs that were harming them. 

How To Stop Enabling Behavior 

Feeling a strong need to take care of someone else makes breaking off from a codependent relationship harder. 

But these feelings can be channeled into something positive. Once you learn what codependency and its symptoms are, you can focus on more than just the addict. 

Many people become addicted to a substance because their life is not going well and they feel that their drug of choice is the only thing that makes their life worth living. 

But by identifying the external circumstances that make someone’s life harder and taking steps to fix them goes a long way in being supportive, and helps an addict ick their habit. 

When To Get Professional Help

Many people wait until a particularly dangerous and traumatic event or until they reach their lowest point, also known as rock bottom. 

But it doesn’t have to get that bad. Addicts can turn their lives around before their addiction becomes life-threatening.

All it takes is for them to know that their circumstances will change and that they have people willing to support them throughout that change 

You Can Take Your Life Back 

Although it can feel like the world around you is collapsing and the only worthwhile thing is codependency and addiction, you have to realize it doesn’t have to be that way. 

And there are treatment options that take into account that someone only got addicted because their life was in shambles and drugs are the only positive they have. 

Abandoning your life to addiction is not sustainable. It might feel good at the moment, but soon enough it will take over. But turning your life around starts with cultivating a healthy relationship and letting go of the addiction. 

If you or someone you know needs help getting rid of addiction and fixing their codependent relationship, contact our admissions center today. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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