Codependency is a controversial concept for a dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.
Have a loved one with an addiction? You could be doing more harm than good!
No one can dispute the connection and deep emotional love you have for your loved one is unlike any other love that you have ever experienced. What you may not realise however is that the same love you share with your loved one can have a negative impact on them if they have an addiction and your love takes the form of codependent behaviour.
The effects of co-dependency can not only be dangerous but also long lasting, as it forces reliance on another person rather than self-reliance. There are many people who experience codependency as a result of their loved one’s addiction.
In this article we are speaking directly to you, the loved one of an addict, so heads up. Don’t take offence as the following conversation we have to have with you won’t be easy, but will give you the information to ensure you and your loved one doesn’t endure the negative effects of codependency.
Firstly what is a co-dependant?
Codependency is a type of learned behaviour which can be passed down from one generation to another. It is a behavioural and emotional condition that affects a person’s ability to have a normal healthy, mutual relationship. It is therefore no surprise that it is also known as “relationship addiction” because people with codependent behaviour often form relationships that are one-sided, often abusive and mostly emotionally destructive. Codependent behaviour is learned by watching and imitating other loved ones who display this type of behaviour.
Here is a list of some of the characteristics of co-dependent people:
- Difficulty identifying feelings
- A tendency to do more than their share, all of the time
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Chronic anger
- A compelling need to control others
- Poor communications
- Lack of trust in self and/or others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, with the tendency to “love” people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to become hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships.
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
- Fear of being abandoned or alone
- Rigidity/difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with intimacy/boundaries
- Difficulty making decisions
Right, so what are the negative effects of codependency?
When your loved one is an addict, you may not know how to give them the life that you always dreamed for them. Instead, you try to do what your instincts as a loved one tell you. Although “natural,” these instincts, if listened to and acted on, can cause you to enable your loved one’s addiction more than it can lead to them finding sobriety and treatment.
Here are a few examples of the negative effects your behaviour can cause your loved one:
When your loved one has an addiction there is a good chance that they will (if they have not already) make some really big life-altering mistakes while under the influence of a substance. As a loved one when you make excuses and try to cover for your loved one and their behaviour you are preventing them from being held accountable for the consequences of their actions, which in turn teaches them that they can use a substance without suffering any personal side effects.
A massive and common mistake you may make (or perhaps already have made), is giving your loved one money or providing any financial assistance. You may think that by giving your loved one money to buy drugs or alcohol that you are stopping them from committing a crime like theft. Often people with an addiction get involved with groups or people which do dangerous and illegal things to make money to pay for their habit. In certain respects you are right, you may stop them from committing a crime but you are also sending your loved one the very loud message that their addiction is okay to you, pushing them farther away from getting needed addiction treatment.
Your loved one is most likely going to go through a rollercoaster of emotional mood swings that can result in negative behaviours such as recklessness, violence and aggression. If you the loved one choose to look away or ignore these behaviours by say, walking away from confrontation or not allowing your loved one to be held accountable through consequences from their actions, you are enabling them to act in that manner. You might instinctively think that you need to stand down and back off from your loved one because you believe that they will run away or desert you or do something to hurt themselves. This is a massive red flag of codependency.
There are several factors leading to codependency:
- Lack of love and nurturing
- Rejection and abandonment
- Family addiction
- Any and all forms of abuse (sexual, physical and emotional)
- Mental and/or physical illness.Let’s be really frank here for a minute. Codependency in many ways is similar to an addiction. You feel the need to constantly feed your needs with your loved one by doing things like giving them financial assistance, hiding and covering their mistakes or backing off to avoid losing them. These are all traits of an addict.
If you are battling with codependency tendencies and behaviours which is allowing your loved one (note: enabling them) to continue their downward spiral with addiction then we suggest you find treatment to address the codependency treatment. By getting treatment you can learn how to cope with your impulses and find new ways show your loved one love without enabling them.
The first step in changing unhealthy behaviour is to understand it. It is important for co-dependents and their family members to educate themselves about addiction and how it extends into relationships. Bottom line is, if you put an end to your codependent behaviours, you are closing the door on your loved one’s addiction, one small step at a time.
For more information on dealing with codependency or addiction or any other form of abuse and getting yourself into rehab to start a new life, call Houghton House now:
office hours: 011 787 9142
24/7 emergency help line: 079 770 7532
Family Support Group for patients of Houghton House occurs every Saturday at 12.30
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