Addiction affects families in different ways. Sometimes a family member is actually enabling an addiction, even if they want it to stop. Codependency is an effect of addiction that can occur when a sober family member alters their behavior to accommodate the addict. This behavior can be visualized in a yin and yang like image. Where one causes problem, the other is there to balance it out. Then the addiction persists due to the unhealthy relationship between the two parties.
Being in a codependent relationship is a vicious cycle that is difficult to break. Oftentimes unhealthy behavioral patterns take shape and make both parties feel a sense of normalcy. When this starts to become the norm, the dysfunctional behavior solidifies and becomes increasingly unlikely to escape.
For example, an addict may become accustomed to a family member exercising constant care over their life. He or she may need their loved one to closely monitor them, set things in order, or constantly hound them about tasks. On the flip side, even though the family member knows the addict is in trouble, he or she needs that dysfunction in order to fulfill a void in their own life. Instead of providing their suffering loved one with the help he or she needs, the family member facilitates this behavior as a means to feel normal or accepted.
Alcoholics often skirt responsibility. They do not hold themselves accountable for their actions and how they affect others around them. But someone needs to take responsibility. If not the addict, this falls onto the shoulders of the codependent family member. Both parties will make excuses for the addict’s behavior, but oftentimes the codependent will admit blame for the addict’s transgressions as this is a role he or she has fallen into.
Perhaps the most problematic component of a codependent relationship is the lack of consequences. Codependents act as a buffer for the addict. If an addict never has to take responsibility for their actions because of a lack of consequences, then he or she will never get help.
Codependency prolongs addiction. So even if it’s publicly known that there is an addiction problem in the family, no help will be sought. The codependent might openly state they want to help their family member, but their actions are ultimately preventing the family member from seeking proper help. This behavior gives the addict a false sense of invincibility, which will not move the needle toward addiction recovery.
We often say that the first step to addiction is admitting there is a problem. This holds true for codependency as well. Not only does the addict have to admit there is a problem, but so too does the codependent family member.
Prominence Treatment Center has extensive experience working with families who are in a codependent relationship. This is a key component of our non-12 step process. Codependency must be addressed before addiction treatment can be truly successful. If you or someone you know may be in a codependent relationship, please contact us for more information.