Codependency is a term which describes a double-sided relationship in which one person enables and the other controls. This relationship can happen between just two people, as in the husband/wife relationship, but sometimes it can be seen in the family unit as a whole. When a loved one has a drug or alcohol abuse problem, the spouse or family members will often respond by attempting to hide the fact from outsiders. Enablers believe they are acting in a loving way when, in fact, they are merely deepening the abuse habit.
Given enough time, someone struggling with an addiction will become more focused on getting and using drugs to the neglect of responsibilities and relationships, even the closest ones. The codependent person(s) in the relationship will try to cover for the neglect by taking on added responsibilities themselves. They may take on extra work in the home, make excuses at the loved ones place of employment and lie to others when the abusing person does not show up for important events.
Addiction also often leads to high-risk behaviors. It can lead to driving while drunk or high. Someone abusing drugs may begin to associate with unsavory people or steal from loved ones to buy drugs and more. The codependent enabler will usually act in a couple of ways through this time. They may loan the person money to try and keep them from stealing or they may go to great lengths to hide money from them. They will also usually become hyper-vigilant about keeping tabs on the drug abuser as well. They will exhaust themselves with questions, checking up on whereabouts, plans and activities.
The codependent enabler believes they are protecting their loved one, but the truth is that often their own needs are driving their behavior. The codependent person is not happy with him/herself but does get satisfaction from taking care of other’s needs. The enabler is usually attempting to control the other person. As the codependent person begins to realize the futility of what they are doing, they often become depressed.
Codependency and drug or alcohol abuse frequently go hand in hand but it is possible to change the relationship dynamic. It will usually takes a crisis in order to get the person(s) to realize that they also have a problem. Sometimes the hospitalization of the drug user will bring on the realization, other times drug rehab is the place where the unhealthy relational habits are uncovered. Fortunately, family therapy is an integral part of rehab. Therapy offers everyone concerned the opportunity to see their own contribution to the problem and to learn new, healthier ways of relating and responding.