The harm from drug or alcohol abuse can extend far beyond the person who becomes addicted. Through reckless and selfish behaviour, that person becomes a danger to themselves and their loved ones. For this reason, it is important for friends and loved ones to consider asking: am I a co-dependent?
The physical threat caused by compulsion and addiction is serious indeed, but there are psychological consequences that may also afflict those who care for addicted individuals. Many people, in their desire to help a loved one who is clearly suffering, will do almost anything to help them – including becoming an accomplice to their addictive behaviour.
What is a co-dependent relationship?
Co-dependency describes a dysfunctional relationship where one person – the co-dependent – supports or enables another person’s addiction or harmful behaviour.
Also known as relationship addiction, experts consider the condition to be a learned behaviour which an individual can acquire by observing and imitating other people, often members of one’s own family. This form of co-dependency can affect anyone in close relationships: a parent, child, spouse, sibling, friend, or colleague.
In a relationship, the co-dependent relies excessively on caring for their loved ones, usually family members, which leads to unhealthy results. The problem becomes more serious when the co-dependent provides unconditional support, such as helping an addict deal with work, money or other problems. Before long, the co-dependent may begin to feel overwhelmed by the stressful situations that can result with increasing frequency. Eventually the co-dependent could become incapable of taking care of themselves.
Co-dependents continue to place themselves in this vulnerable role, partly because doing so makes them feel needed and validated. By offering unlimited emotional support, however, they fail to help their loved one seek treatment for potentially urgent conditions such as alcohol addiction, drug addiction or mental illness. When enabled in such a way, addictions can grow to even more serious levels, causing the relationship between the addict and co-dependent to spiral even further out of control.
Take this quick test to help identify if you or a loved one are living in a co-dependent relationship.
The following questions and accounts describe life for many people in co-dependent relationships. If you find yourself answering YES to any of these questions, it may be worth speaking to a professional relationship expert for assistance.
- Do you support someone with an alcohol or drug problem? People addicted to alcohol or drugs often neglect their own responsibilities, but you take over these duties as though they were your own.
- Are you constantly worried about what your loved ones think of you? Perhaps your decisions are based on the need to be liked by others.
- Do you have trouble turning down others who ask for help? You feel it’s your responsibility to help – whether you want to, or you don’t know how to say no.
- Are you unable to find satisfaction in life, apart from doing things for another person? Other people around you can enjoy recreational shopping, eat meals out together, or treat themselves in other ways. In contrast, your main source of happiness comes from keeping others happy.
- Do you stay in the relationship even when your partner does hurtful things? You may secretly enjoy suffering at the hands of a loved one’s aggressive treatment, or thrill at being part of an emotional rollercoaster. You might feel that you cannot live without them.
- Do you do anything and everything to please the person you care for, no matter what the cost or burden on you? These burdens may be financial or more focused on your psychological well-being.
- Do you constantly feel anxious about your relationship, due to your desire to always make the other person happy? No matter how hard you try, you perceive that what you do is insufficient for the other person.
- Do you use nearly all of your time and energy to give your loved one everything they ask for? You may find yourself making sacrifices to help feed the other person’s addiction, and then making additional sacrifices to help clean up the consequences of their behaviour.
- Do you feel guilty whenever you think of yourself, and are unable to express any personal needs or desires in the relationship? You try to repress your emotional needs, neglecting to tell others what you want.
- Are you willing to ignore your own morals or conscience to do what the other person wants? Perhaps you are willing to break the law or disobey your personal principles to satisfy their needs.
How co-dependency affects your life
By focusing only on the happiness of their loved one, the co-dependent indulges the other person’s needs at the expense of their own. In most cases, people who display symptoms of co-dependency suffer from underlying trauma themselves. This experience stems from a dysfunctional home environment, including toxic relationships with family members who may be abandoning, abusive, addicted or have a mental illness.
Due to their own deeply-ingrained subconscious beliefs, the co-dependent gains fulfilment and validation through a degree of mutual dependence with their partner. However, this will increasingly resemble the standard and unhealthy relationship that the co-dependent has had with their original family members.
The unconditional support from a co-dependent only allows the destructive behaviours of an addict to continue. The addict continues to control, manipulate and take advantage of the co-dependent. The co-dependent feels the need to save them – and the cycle continues.
Guiding you on the path to co-dependency recovery
This complex set of issues is too difficult to tackle alone. At The Dawn Medical Rehab and Wellness Centre, we offer the care, experience, and resources to address co-dependency as well as treat any childhood trauma or psychological issues suffered by the co-dependent.
We sensitively explore potential issues from the past, to assess potential sources of the trauma. Once we have identified the areas of concern, we begin treating the current behavioural symptoms to move you toward a healthier balance.
Adjunct services, included as part of our inpatient programme, include dual diagnosis for those with more complex issues needing attention. Our 1:1 staff to client ratio allows us to tailor each session to meet your need for a focus on family therapy, or couples therapy.
The role of our specialists is to guide you in the right direction towards rehabilitation and recovery. At the end of our treatment programme, you will have a new and sustainable framework to follow for healthy everyday life.
To find out more about how to overcome co-dependency, addiction or other psychological issues, contact us today. Our trained staff maintain the strictest standards of confidentiality and are here to help. You can also reach us at one of our toll-free numbers.