Codependency and Addiction—A Connection That Complicates Recovery

Codependency and Addiction—A Connection That Complicates Recovery

As we all know, addiction is a multi-headed beast that is born through the complicated relationship of familial, genetic, psychological, and social factors. When people are addicted to drugs and alcohol, there is a myriad of factors that can keep them stuck in their addiction and make treatment difficult. One of the most common obstacles that compound addiction is codependency. In this article, you will learn the definition of codependency and its relationship to addiction.

What is the Definition of Codependency?

Most of us have heard of codependency and have a basic grasp of this phenomenon. However, it can be challenging to understand what it truly is and its implications regarding addiction. Codependency is defined as a relationship where one person puts the needs and wants of another person over their own needs and wants. In a codependent relationship, the person that sacrifices their own needs and wants assumes a caregiver role and becomes the primary decision-maker.

In general, human beings have a deep-seated desire to help those they love in times of crisis. When those situations arise, people will spare no expense in trying to get their loved ones the help and support they need. With a codependent relationship, people may have nothing but the best intentions in mind in trying to help. While this is admirable and even “heroic,” the dynamics of a codependent relationship create feelings of helplessness and resentment—and the relationship as a whole turns toxic over time.

The Relationship Between Codependency and Addiction

The relationship between codependent behaviors and substance abuse is often complicated and messy. In a codependent relationship where someone is addicted to substances, the “caretaker” will display enabling behaviors. Codependent relationships can be defined, enabling is the act of fixing or solving another’s problems without them working through things on their own or experiencing consequences. Examples include paying for one’s rent, groceries, or covering for their destructive behavior.

When codependency co-occurs with addiction, the harm for the person in the caretaker role is immeasurable. For those who are codependent, they will do anything and everything to keep a relationship moving forward. Even though the “caretaker” knows they are enabling their loved one, and it is causing them more profound harm, they are afraid of being alienated by that person. Not only does this come at the expense of the addict, but it also comes at a high price to the “caregiver” as they neglect their own physical and psychological wellbeing.

People who assume codependent roles often come from families with a history of substance abuse. Those who display codependency may have been forced into a caregiver role at an early age and not of their own volition. To make matters worse, those who are codependent may have undiagnosed mental health issues and may turn to substances to cope with the burdens of their relationships


Codependency in a relationship affected by addiction can be reasonably easy to spot. Symptoms include low self-esteem, difficulty in setting healthy boundaries, and poor communication skills. Codependent people often obsess unduly over what people think of them and have a considerable problem in displaying intimacy. For those who are codependent, they also run the risk of developing mental illnesses such as depression.

Questions to Ask.

Are you in a codependent relationship? If you suspect this is occurring, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you feel that your identity and sense of worth as a person is based on your relationship with an addicted partner/friend/family member?
  2. Do you have difficulty doing things for yourself, or do you feel empty because you are not with your partner?
  3. Are your moods and feelings depending on what your partner feels?
  4. Do you make excuses or cover for your partner when they do wrong?
  5. Do you have difficulty in being assertive and standing up for yourself?

Getting Help for Codependency and Addiction

If you are in a relationship that is marked by codependency and addiction, both you and your partner must seek specialized treatment. First and foremost, both you and your partner will need to undergo therapy to identify the scope of codependent behavior. Once those the underlying factors of the condition are indentified, your therapist can implement strategies to help you set healthy boundaries.

In addition to therapy, drug treatment will be needed to help the addict overcome their substance abuse issues. In the event, there are compounding issues such as mental illness; experienced treatment professionals can create a treatment plan designed to correct these issues. While the relationship between codependency and addiction can be complicated to untangle, many have been successful in recovering from this issue with the help of professional therapies and interventions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *