Codependent relationships are never healthy, but they are particularly dangerous when one partner is addicted to drugs and alcohol. Essentially, there are two addictions going on in the relationship. One partner is addicted to being needed and the other is reliant on drugs or alcohol. Unless each partner gets help, the relationship will continue to be emotionally destructive, harmful, and in some cases, deadly.
How Codependent Relationships Form
Codependency is a learned behavior that can be passed down from one generation to the next. Often times, it’s a child witnessing this behavior in their own lives and then going on to form the same relationships in their future. But codependent relationships can occur even in people that did not learn the behavior. The person may have a need to feel wanted and valued, and these feelings drive an unhealthy relationship.
Codependency can affect anyone: spouses, parents, siblings, friends, or even co-workers. Years ago, the term was used to describe partners in a relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol, but now the term has been broadened to describe any type of relationship where one partner is the enabler of the other’s unhealthy behavior.
Codependency Fuels Addictive Behavior
As you can imagine, The River Source sees a lot of codependent relationships because this is what often allows the abuse to continue without any consequences. The addict or alcoholic is busy thinking of themselves and how to get their next fix, while the other person is busy enabling this behavior. It’s a recipe for disaster, yet the arrangement can appear to be what both people need at the time. The enabler feeds their own needs by caring for someone else and the controller is able to get what they want, when they want it.
For instance, a parent may pay the bills, supply their child with a vehicle, and give them spending money all while knowing where the money is going. A wife may be scared of losing her husband and lies to work and family to cover up his behavior. These individuals would defend their choices, but the actions allow the abuse to worsen, and also put others in danger.
Typically, codependent relationships are not established in manipulative ways; the enabler often believes they are acting out of love. But the harsh reality is that their own needs are driving their behavior. The codependent person may be attempting to control the other person, determine their fate or give them a reason to return. The enabler is likely to become depressed over time because it’s exhausting to constantly care for someone else’s needs to satisfy their own.
Codependent Relationships Can be Repaired
Fortunately, codependent relationships are not doomed. They can be repaired with professional help. Otherwise, the enabler can “love” an addicted person to death – literally. A person cannot keep using drugs and alcohol without suffering consequences.
At The River Source, we work independently with the addict or alcoholic to help them see how they are contributing to the relationship. It helps to get the patient clean and sober so that they are able to think clearly and acknowledge the relationship for what it is. Family therapy is strongly recommended in these instances so that the individuals can work together to see how their relationship is damaging each other. New, healthy ways of relating and responding can then be learned.
Like addiction, a codependent relationship has many layers and cannot be “fixed” during a short stay in treatment. These relationships need a lot of attention and work, which is why we encourage our clients to continue participating in family and individual therapy and self-help groups. Codependent tendencies are often deep rooted and include an exploration into childhood issues and relationships that can only be done by talking with a professional.
If you suspect that you or someone you love is in a codependent relationship fueled by a chemical addiction, it’s time to step up and get the help that is needed. Call The River Source today.