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Codependent Relationships with an Addicted Loved One

>> Dec 15, 2018

Watching a family member or loved one struggle with addiction can be extremely difficult and emotionally taxing. More often than not, we feel responsible for protecting the people we love. In the case of drug addiction, however, this protection can cross into the territory of codependency and enabling, which only puts you and your loved ones safety and well being at risk.

What is codependency?

The impact of substance abuse on the well-being of families can lead to stressful factors such as financial security and a diminished sense of self worth to those whom addiction touches. When a family member is struggling with addiction, codependent relationships commonly occur. Codependency is defined as a relationship in which one person is controlled or manipulated by another who is suffering from a condition, such as addiction or alcoholism.

In this type of relationship, you may feel like it is your responsibility to care for the emotions and actions of your loved one. For example, if a loved one insists on driving to the liquor store while drunk, a codependent person may take on the responsibility of driving this person to the store to prevent them from getting a DWI. In addition, if this person does get a DWI, the codependent person may feel obligated to bail this person out of jail instead of letting them face their own consequences.

If you are participating in a codependent relationship, you may find yourself experiencing feelings of diminished self-worth, anger, and uselessness. You may feel like you are being used and unappreciated because you are doing so many things to keep your loved one safe, but they may disregard any or all of your actions. Not only does this type of relationship harm you, but it also enables your loved one to continue abusing substances.

What does enabling an addict look like?

Codependency and enabling go hand in hand. If you have ever found yourself telling lies for your loved one, such as calling into their work making excuses as to why they cannot show up for their job, you are enabling your loved one to continue drinking or doing drugs without facing any consequences.

Enabling also looks like providing your loved one with money and shelter without them giving anything in return. This is not limited to finances and shelter, but it includes doing anything for the person that they are capable of doing for themselves. Enablers may also place the other person’s needs ahead of their own, have difficulty expressing their own emotions, and blame other people or situations for behaviors of an addict.

You might see that your loved one is hurting and want to shower them with love and support, but people in active addiction will only manipulate that love to use it to their own advantage. This kind of behavior can lead to fierce resentments on your part, which only harms you in the long run.

How do I help my loved one?

After recognizing that you are involved in a codependent relationship, you must take steps to end this codependency and cease to enable your loved one who is abusing substances. This involves showing the addict tough love.

If your loved one does get a DWI or does not go in for work, do not bail him or her out of the situation. It may hurt to do this, but it is essential to ending these enabling behaviors. Remember, it is not your responsibility to lie for them. Sometimes, facing extreme consequences is the only way an addict or alcoholic will choose to seek help for their problem. When a person with the disease of addiction realizes that people have set boundaries and will no longer enable them to use drugs or alcohol, they usually become fearful of losing their family and are more likely to take actions to get sober.

You must stick to these boundaries once they are firmly set in place. If the addict learns that you will eventually give in to their needs, they will begin to manipulate you into protecting them once again. If you stick to your boundaries, the addict may eventually accept help that you can offer him or her. You can then begin to help by referring your loved one to a treatment center, outpatient counseling services or a twelve step fellowship when they are ready to accept the help.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida.  She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

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