The correlation between codependency and recovery

Missing Puzzle Piece

One of the fundamental ideas of both 12-step programs and most addiction therapy is that alcoholism and drug addiction are only symptomatic of greater underlying problems, and that to treat the disease of addiction in whatever form it might come in means addressing all the problematic feelings, beliefs, and behaviors that accompany the substance abuse. One of the serious co-occurring issues with addiction is Codependency.

Codependency is in essence when someone feelings are emotions are solely or almost completely determined by another person. A person can have a codependent relationship with a wife or husband or significant other, other a family member such as a parent or child. Individuals in codependent relationships typically are dependent on needing or controlling the other person in that relationship. They are often either manipulative themselves, or manipulated by that other person, depending on what role they fulfill in the codependent dynamic. They have a preoccupation with meeting the perceived needs of the other person they are involved with, and place their own needs below those of the other person

Issues with codependency often times go hand-in-hand with problems of substance abuse and addiction. Both are usually characterized by the codependent / addict or alcoholic having issues with low self-esteem. Individuals with self-esteem problems are more likely to find that esteem through a relationship or another person, the same way they are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol, or some other escape like gambling or food, to temporarily alleviate that feeling of being less than others. To that end, both co-occurring disorders also share issues with identity disturbance, where the addict or codependent use drugs, or relationships, or both to define who they are. Many people seeking treatment for a substance abuse problem are enmeshed in a toxic relationship they are reluctant to relinquish, where one or both of the people involved are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some individuals also suffer from denial, about how toxic their codependent relationship is, just as they might about how bad the extent of their addiction or alcoholism is.

In the same way that that codependency can feed into someone’s drug addiction or alcoholism when they are still actively involved in substance abuse, so too can codependency derail an otherwise promising path to recovery. Without the crutch of mood-altering substances, people in early sobriety experience intense, sometimes even overwhelming emotions, as they learn to cope with the guilt and shame for things they done or had done to them when they were in their active addiction. Issues with codependency can also rear its ugly head during these turbulent times. Anyone with an addiction problem, but especially those with a past history of codependent relationships, may latch onto to another person as a means of getting out of themselves, and avoiding the focused internal work that is uncomfortable but necessary for establishing long-term sobriety. Another potential pitfall is that codependent relationships are inherently dysfunctional, so being in one places undue stress on one or both of the persons involved, making them more likely to relapse. In the event that one person relapses in an unhealthy relationship, his or her partner is much more likely to follow suite, rather than to make the difficult but required decision of cutting ties with the one who has resumed drinking or using drugs.

If you believe that you have been or currently are in a codependent relationship, it is important that you speak to a professional in the treatment field. Those past relationships may have played a role in your problems with substance abuse, and need to be addressed in the proper environment to prevent them plaguing you later in life. There are programs that offer specialized therapy for addicts and alcoholics with issues of codependency, so that you can break the entire unhealthy cycle at once and give yourself the ability to be independent, set healthy boundaries, and feel good about you again.

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