When you are struggling with addiction and dependence on drugs or alcohol, there are many other issues to deal with aside from the actual addiction itself. While that is a big reason people go to treatment and enter recovery, other things will likely be uncovered on the journey through rehab. This includes discovering some codependent behaviors that have been passed down, impacting relationships and possibly causing harm to others. People with codependency often see one side (theirs) as the side of the relationship that matters and struggle to see the impact on other people outside themselves.

Impact of Codependent Behavior

Siblings, parents, friends, and co-workers may be impacted by codependent behaviors. This is a term often used to describe partners in chemical dependency or the people who they are in relationship with, but can happen to anyone. Typically, dysfunction is seen across the family spectrum when looking at how addiction impacts everyone. This may occur among people who struggle with addiction within the same family or simply have dysfunctional behaviors.

Behavioral Context

Dysfunctional behavior is anything that is not healthy and may even cause harm to themselves or others. It can be both emotional and physical. With codependency, a person often lacks self-esteem and has a hard time looking outside themselves to try and feel better. They may look for validation from others, or they might be neglectful and harmful towards others with behavior like addiction. Many times, a codependent person may take on the role of martyr and become a ‘benefactor’ to someone else, covering for their alcoholism, making excuses for them, or trying to do too much to help a child suffering from delinquent behavior. A destructive path can occur where unhealthy caretaking goes on for awhile and one person continues to ‘need’ the other for support while the other feels drained doing more than they should for that person. It becomes a compulsive act, rewarded by a desire to feel needed. Both people begin to feel helpless and without a choice of what to do because they may feel they are suffocating eventually under the weight of the relationship. Some typical characteristics of codependency include:

  • Doing more than your share all the time
  • Unhealthy dependence on relationships to avoid feeling abandoned
  • Feeling hurt when people don’t notice or reciprocate efforts made
  • Need to control others
  • Difficulty identifying how you feel
  • Difficulty adjusting to change
  • Dishonest behavior
  • Poor communication style
  • Hard time making decisions

Treating Codependency

When looking at codependent behavior, it is hard to avoid it until you identify what you are dealing with. Treatment often explores underlying issues like addiction and pairs it with exploration of early childhood issues including trauma or neglect. Even things that seem innocuous to you now may come up as being destructive behavioral patterns now. Treatment will include therapy in groups and alone, treatment and recovery for addiction, and mental health support where needed. This will be combined with focusing on getting in touch with yourself and understanding family dynamics. The goal is to work towards a healthier understanding of yourself, dynamics of addiction and dependency, and seek to separate yourself from others who exhibit this behavior by knowing the signs and yourself well enough to stay back when possible. The first step is to understand it, then work to heal it. By doing this, you are working towards living a more fulfilling life in recovery, one where you feel free to be yourself and express who you are in the world.

It is hard to break free of codependent behaviors when you are living in the middle of it. Dysfunction across the family is one area we help focus on in treatment. We believe in a holistic approach of including everyone in therapy, along with providing individual counseling and addiction services. Our recovery program is staffed by people who understand the power of addiction. For more information sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call (877) 377-3702.