Codependency is a term used to describe a relationship that has become entangled and dysfunctional due to the presence of an addiction. There are many manifestations of codependency, but it is generally considered a condition associated with the non-addicted person in the relationship.
First Things First
This is not technically true. If one person in a relationship is codependent, then it follows that the other is, too. However, it is widely considered far more critical for an addict to break the addiction first, by default making codependency an issue they should address farther down the road. For the codependent partner, codependency is a more immediate issue. Codependency is often described as “being addicted to another person.” While “addiction” in this case may be a bit overstated, codependent people feel seriously trapped in a downwardly spiraling dynamic.
There is no clear template for describing codependency, but you can assume it starts with compassion for the person in the relationship who turns out to be addicted to a destructive substance or behavior. The first impulse is to help the addict, which may take the form of “enabling” which means helping the addiction to continue by protecting the addict from the consequences of their addiction. This could be someone making excuses for a spouse’s drinking problem or calling an employer and telling the employer the spouse has a cold when that is untrue. It could take the form of allowing the addict to compromise the family’s finances.
Over time, the frustrations, anger, and resentment build up, but the more a codependent partner tries to help an addict, the more they feel invested in the outcome. They are trying to control something they cannot control. The more they rationalize helping the addict, the crazier it feels to continue.
Sacrificing Independence And Self Worth
Codependency has many manifestations, but the clear outcome is a lack of independence, buried anger and resentment, a sacrifice of personal values, a feeling that the craziness is building up.
Helping someone you love who struggles with addiction is a tricky business, especially when personalities, moods, and thinking become entangled together. Helping addicts absolutely confirm the notion that you cannot help others when you are not healthy and strong yourself. The cure for codependency is, in fact, learning to take care of yourself first. Make yourself the top priority of your life again.
Support, Support, Support
Support groups, therapy and a wide offering of self-help books can help partners struggling with codependency issues. But don’t try to tackle codependency on your own. Combining the books with support groups or therapy will allow you to expand your personal support system and end feelings of isolation.