It is relationships. Relationships are one of the top reasons people go back to drinking or drugs. Sponsors and therapists alike will often encourage a year or two without relationships for this very reason. Think about it for a minute. Immediately your brain is looking for the dopamine and serotonin those drugs were giving you. Fewer things in life give you those senses and emotions than the intimacy of relationships. People, along with caffeine, nicotine, steroids, and non-narcotic drugs, will be what people in early recovery use as the “replacement drug.” The other fact is that it's often a lonely process. Often people relocate for aftercare therapy or are separated from family and spouses due to the behaviors of their use. It's natural to want someone to walk along with you in your journey.
We are social creates by nature. We don’t want to do life alone, and having a companion is as natural as breathing and eating. In times of struggle or hardship, the people around you experiencing life with you become even closer. The bonds people make in hard times are often uniquely strong and enduring.
The thing people in early recovery don’t realize is that people are a drug. Those who were the users, both drugs and emotionally, are set up to become the used. Whether it's guilt, shame, or just the nature of the recovery process, codependency will be a habit most will experience. It's just up to them how far they will let it go. Low self esteem, depression, guilt, and shame can make someone who is working a great program go on an emotional roller coaster that eventually ends in drug use. We will tell you signs to look for and steps to take that will 100% help you through this as long as you FOLLOW THE ADVICE!
Wikipedia phrases codependency as “an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.”
Dr. Scott Wetzler says, "Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person doesn't have self-sufficiency or autonomy."
Relapse begins well before you actually ever ingest a drink or drug into your body.
Behaviors are underlying factors that present themselves long before the relapse occurs. Often times you will see people with 10+ years of sobriety speak about this or admit to relapsing with old behaviors. They point to things like overeating, lying, risk-taking behaviors (such as gambling road rage) or even just skipping social events or meetings, which they know is part of their program.
Relationships absolutely fall under this category, and a common theme in all behaviors is chaos.
Chaos becomes normal, a safe place for people who have never know stability. Often chaotic, up-and-down relationships make people in recovery feel alive again or give them the thrills scoring dope or paraphernalia would. Rituals, like all other underlying factors, can be subconscious, which makes this tricky. This is why sponsors and therapists will just go with a 2-year "abstinence from relationships rule," because there never is a good time. You can’t predict other people’s intentions or actions.
Dating is a healthy thing to do and most adults who are single would have this at the top of their priority list. But you must be healthy yourself before you look to add a companion.
Unhealthy, unfortunately attracts unhealthy. Unresolved abandonment, abuse and trauma rears its ugly head when seeking a mate. Issues with parents come out through triggers that may have been non-existent during use. Now that you are feeling the long-marinating feelings more intensely than before (because you don’t have drugs to run to ), you become impulsive.
Triggers are anything that cause your brain to go to a place of fight or flight and to want that drink or drug that will make it all go away. The problem is, it doesn’t all go away. It hides subconsciously for years or until you're ready to face those demons. Spouses bring out triggers, because how many people can say they had a healthy mom and dad? If mom was gone using, what do you think the son thinks about his new wife when she takes too long at the store in early recovery? If a woman in recovery never had a father to lean on, do you think she’s more prone to look for a man who may be abusive but gives her attention and cares a lot about her, even in an unhealthy way?
These aren’t mysteries, but we only know what we present and don’t know where someone else is coming from. We can protect ourselves by being mentally stable and by doing the things we need to do to be healthy and strong enough to know when enough is enough. Every person in recovery needs a strong support group filled with people who will be honest and say the truth, even about our romantic relationships. If we are doing those things and being healthy enough to hear that feedback and not become defensive, crisis avoided. If not, the triggers caused by codependent behaviors will eventually lead to a relapse.
Don’t find a spouse until you can look in the mirror and see past all the scars and things that made you lose yourself. When the real you is looking back, then it’s time to find a companion.
- Are you struggling to find meaning in your life outside of a specific person or relationship?
- Do you see your partner doing unhealthy things, but you choose to ignore them instead of confront them, or leave them?
- Are you giving support to someone at the cost of your own health or mental and emotional wellbeing?
- Likewise, are you requiring so much from someone that it is costing them emotionally and physically to continue to be with you, but you hold on to them anyway?
Often the level of selfishness in a co-dependent relationship is very clear to anyone looking at the relationship from the outside, but from within the relationship it is very hard to see.
People in a codependent relationship get a sense of purpose and value from the sacrifices they make for their partner. This often involves covering up or cleaning up after a partner's issues with drugs and alcohol.
Codependency can stretch beyond just a romantic relationship. Other family relationships and friendships can be codependent.
Some relationships can and should be healed instead of abandoned. Space and separation are often needed to help people in codependent relationships find what they need to have a more balanced relationship.
This can be as simple as finding a hobby or activity to engage in outside of the relationship. A codependent person should try and spend time with supportive family or friends.
For those who are new in recovery from addiction, a support network of other people who have already been through can play a positive role.
Individual and group therapy is recommended for people who are in a codependent relationship. People who have suffered from abuse need to begin to feel their own emotions and take care of their own needs.
For a codependent relationship to be truly healed both parties need to be aware of the patterns of behavior that need to be addressed. This can help both parties have a balanced relationship.
No one should continue to exist in a relationship where self-worth and identity are based on the approval of another person.
In recovery, it is easy to find people with codependent personalities because they are naturally drawn to those who are emotionally unavailable and needy.
If you are the codependent enabler of another person you must become aware of the imbalance in your relationship and take action, like seeing a therapist, to correct it if you hope to have a healthy relationship in the future.
If you are in a situation where you are emotionally unstable, unavailable, and needy, you may find yourself taking advantage of just such a person without even realizing it.
Remember, healthy love is about creating a relationship that functions as an equal partnership. You should depend on each other inside of the bounds of both mutual respect and honesty. Healing is possible through learning about yourself, your identity, your feelings, and redefining the way you value yourself.