The Dangerous Cycle of Codependency and Substance Abuse

Much of the time and attention when it comes to addiction is focused on the people who are addicted. They aren’t the only ones suffering though. Family members can also suffer greatly as a result of having an addict in the house. One of the biggest dangers for a partner of an addict is codependency and alcoholism or drug addiction. 

Partners of addicts often become codependent. This is because they feel a sense of obligation to protect their husbands, wife, or partners at all costs. Some partners of addicts will even go to great lengths to protect their loved ones from judgment and disappointments due to their addictions. 

Such a codependent relationship isn’t healthy for the partner of the addict. It also isn’t healthy for the addict. This is because such a codependent relationship empowers the addict. Thus, it allows the addict to think that what he or she is doing is ok. That is why there is such a dangerous cycle of codependency and alcoholism and drug addiction.

The relationships with drug addicts can be very complicated, especially when it comes to codependency. While codependency can exist without addiction and substance abuse, it commonly develops as a result of these things. Let’s take a deeper look at the connection between codependency and substance abuse. 

What is Codependency?

Before we can truly address the connection between codependency and alcoholism and substance addiction, it’s important to understand what exactly codependency is and how it works. 

Codependency is not just an emotional thing. It’s a behavioral one as well. Codependency can affect a person’s ability to have a normal and healthy relationship. Furthermore, codependent relationships are usually one-sided and can be emotionally destructive or even physically abusive. 

Are There Different Sides of Codependency?

When it comes to codependent relationships, there are two different “players”. They are:

  • The Manipulator
  • The Enabler

Let’s take a look at what each side does and how they contribute to the codependency of the relationship.

The Manipulator

The manipulator is the person who is the one pulling the proverbial strings. The manipulator also tends to be the one who is suffering from addiction. 

The manipulators will manipulate those around them, usually their partners, in order to get what they want. Manipulators that suffer from addiction will use their powers to do things like get their partners to cover for them or get them to give them more money for drugs and alcohol. 

The Enabler

The enabler is the passive person in this equation. They are the ones who are being manipulated by the manipulator. In some cases, enablers might realize that they are being manipulated. Oftentimes though, they are either unaware it is happening or choose not to believe that it is happening. By complying with everything that the manipulators say and do, the enablers often sacrifice their own identities and their own needs in order to satisfy those of their partners. 

Are There Different Types of Codependent Relationships?

Codependent relationships can vary based on the behaviors of both the manipulator and the enabler. While oftentimes codependent relationships are purely mental, there are times where they can take on a physical component as well. 

When codependency is linked with substance abuse, it can take on a whole new meaning as well. There can be many different variations of codependency in a relationship. For the purposes of this blog though, we want to focus on two main types: codependent relationships involving substance abuse and codependency involving mental and/or physical abuse.

Codependent Relationships and Substance Abuse

When a husband, wife, or partner is suffering from chronic abuse of alcohol or drugs, it can wreak havoc on the other person in the relationship. This is because the other person in a relationship often feels helpless because he or she is watching someone that he or she loves deeply sinking further into addiction without there being much that one can do about it. In addition, people might even be told by the people suffering from addiction that they are going to stop using or that things will change, only for those words to end up being all lies and broken promises. 

The people who aren’t suffering from addiction might think that helping their partners by doing things such as covering for them or getting them more drugs or alcohol is beneficial. In reality though, it will just make matters worse and continue the cycle of codependency.

Codependent Relationships and Mental and/or Physical Abuse

Another unfortunate consequence of addiction or substance abuse in the household is the increased chances of mental or physical abuse that the person suffering from addiction can perform on his or her partner. This type of abuse, whether it be physical, mental, or both, can create a power imbalance in a relationship. This, in turn, can lead to codependency. 

Unfortunately, especially when it comes to mental abuse, many times the one being abused might not even be aware that it is happening. However, they are made to feel as if they are nothing without their partners. 

What Are Some Symptoms of Codependency?

As we have touched on, in many cases the enablers might be unaware that they are being manipulated. Or they also might just want to believe it isn’t happening. Either way, they can be right in the middle of an unhealthy and codependent relationship and not even realize it. 

Knowing what to look for when it comes to codependency in a relationship can help the person in the relationship identify that it is happening so he or she can seek help. It also can help loved ones identify what is going on and reach out to the enablers. 

Some of the common signs and symptoms of an unhealthy codependent relationship include:

  • Chronic anger
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of being alone
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Lack of trust in yourself and others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of guilt when trying to assert yourself or put your needs first
  • The inability to say no
  • Putting others wants and needs before your own
  • Worrying about other people’s happiness instead of your own
  • Poor communication skills
  • Intimacy problems
  • Negative emotions

What Is the Connection Between Codependency and Addiction?

The connection between codependency and addiction can be a tricky one. In some cases, having a person in the house suffering from substance abuse and addiction can lead to the development of a codependent relationship. In other instances, the existence of a codependent relationship can lead to one of the people in the relationship abusing drugs and alcohol as a way of dealing with it. 

Addiction Leading to Codependency

When someone in a relationship is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, it can oftentimes leave the people who aren’t suffering feeling helpless or wondering what they did to cause their partner to start drinking and doing drugs. Through these feelings of helplessness or guilt, they might think that they need to do whatever their partner wants to make things better. 

This can lead to the development of codependency in the relationship. To make matters worse, while people might think that they are helping their partners by making their addictions easier on them, they are actually making matters worse because they are letting their partners believe that their addictions are ok and that they can continue without any consequences. 

Codependency Leading to Addiction

Codependency can lead to a lot of mental struggles. For example, people who are codependent might feel a lack of self-worth. People who are codependent might also need to put the well-being of their partners ahead of their own. 

When this happens, they might turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate and forget about all the stress associated with being in a codependent relationship. While in the interim self-medicating might work and allow the person to feel better and feel a sense of relief, in the long run, it can lead to a substance abuse issue and even addiction. 

Can I Get Help For Codependency and Addiction?

Whether you are someone stuck in a codependent relationship, someone who is suffering from substance abuse or addiction as a result of a codependent relationship, or all of the above, the good news is there are options out there for you to get the help that you need. 

For those who are in a codependent relationship and have a partner who is an addict, things like family therapy and al-anon meetings are great ways to discuss the things that are happening in your life. That way you can get help with addressing your issues. 

Talking to people who have gone through similar things in al-anon or speaking with a psychologist in family therapy can help you identify and address issues with your partner. Talking with other people can also teach you ways to get your life back and go back to putting your needs first. 

For those suffering from both codependency and alcoholism or substance addiction, there are a variety of therapies and treatments available to deal with co-occurring disorders such as these ones. Behavioral therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy have been proven to be effective in addressing both the substance abuse issue as well as the codependency issue.  

Want To Know More About Codependent Relationships with Drug Addicts?

Here at Harmony Ridge, we understand the difficulties of being in a codependent relationship, especially when it involves drug addiction. That’s why we offer treatment programs to not only help the person in the relationship who is suffering from addiction, but to help the other person as well. If you or someone you know is suffering from codependency and alcoholism or drug addiction, contact us today.