The Role of Codependency in Addiction

  • By Paul Henry & Aaron Mills
  • 27 Dec, 2017

Take a guess at one of the top reasons men and woman in recovery relapse:

  • Is it the stresses of life without the drug they ran to for help? No.
  • Is it the living environments most men and woman are heading back to? No.
  • Is it the fact that Post Acute withdrawal lasts up to your first year of sobriety? No.
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.

Signs you may be in a codependent relationship

  1. You feel like your life is in the orbit of your partner's.
  2. You cancel plans to do what your partner wants.
  3. It doesn't matter how hard you work at anything, it's never enough.
  4. You will do anything you can to keep people happy and keep the peace.
  5. You might be sad inside, but on the outside you are smiling and cheerful. 
  6. You are the caregiver for your partner. You may also feel like their parent.
  7. You don't want anyone else to know what's going on inside of your relationship. 
  8. You want to leave your relationship, but you know it would make you feel guilty.
  9. You are only happy when your partner is happy, you are only sad when they are sad.
  10. Anxiety is the emotion you feel most often in your relationship. 
  • 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.

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By Jenny Hunt 22 Jan, 2018
So often I talk about the big blessings of sobriety – great job, great life, great friends, great relationship with my family, and that feeling of inner peace and contentment. Sometimes I forget about the little things. Little things that were so out of my reach in addiction, I didn’t even believe they were possible. So here are some of those things, in no particular order:
By Jodi MacNeal 22 Jan, 2018
By Aaron Mills 20 Jan, 2018
By Jodi MacNeal 20 Jan, 2018
Two days after the 1986 NBA draft, No. 2 pick Len Bias was dead of cardiac arrest after of a cocaine overdose.

Len Bias: Best player Maryland had ever seen (maybe the best Maryland player ever, depending on how you feel about Juan Dixon). The future of the Celtics. About to sign an endorsement deal with Reebok. Life was perfect.

Cocaine killed that. He was 22.

Bias hadn’t left home to play college ball; he was a home-grown talent who came up just outside D.C. and played ball in Maryland so he wouldn’t have to leave his family. He had a future as wide-open and promising as any kid, ever. Already a star, a freak of athletic power and poise, he might have changed the world of professional basketball. He’d fueled the dreams of a thousand city kids who wanted to play like him, be him. He swaggered, Len Bias did. His opponents couldn’t fathom him: “He’d jump and his knees would be in my teeth.” He dunked on guys, whether he needed to or not, just because he could. Len Bias could fly.

And then cocaine ended him.

Here’s how it went down: Bias and three buddies were snorting coke in a dorm room, suite 1103 in Washington Hall. Bias did a line, tried to get up, fell back on the bad and lapsed into seizure. One guy held his legs. Another one put the handle of a pair of scissors in Bias’s mouth, to keep him from biting his own tongue. The third somehow called 911 and mumbled, over and over, that his friend was in trouble. Kept saying his friend’s name, even when the emergency operator told him it didn’t matter. “This is Len Bias. You have to get him back to life. There’s no way he can die.”

But drugs don’t differentiate. Substance use, abuse and addiction have attacked athletes across the spectrum of sport.

By Emily Johanson 18 Jan, 2018
If a stranger in a gas station parking lot asks this question, it’s easy to assume what’s going on.

“Nope. I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yep, thanks.”

After working a full day, then sitting through a 4-hour class, the last thing I was in the mood for was to be pestered by a drug dealer at 11 p.m. All I wanted was to get my Marlboro Smooths and go home.

As I got into my car, annoyed by the fact that I had to start it with pliers (broken car keys aren’t worth the $200 replacement), something told me to stop.

I reversed, and rolled down my window next to the mysterious black Toyota.

“What are you selling?”

He told me that he had whatever I needed: Weed, percs, Xanax, heroin, flakka, oxies, you name it.

Addiction was too close to home to keep from speaking up.

“Do you realize what you’re doing? Do you realize what you’re selling?”

He was silent for a minute, staring at me. After what felt like eternity looking into this man’s eyes, I decided that I had the freedom to continue. What else do I say? I began to tell some of my story. I served him my heart on a silver platter.

“You don’t have to do this. There are other ways to make money.”

He looked down in shame. I encouraged him to take a few of my Desert Rose company cards in case he knew someone who needed help. He got out of his car, took the cards from my hand and stood there, shaking his head. With tears in his eyes, he said, “They’re for me.”

I sat there with this guy for 45 minutes while he poured out his heart and story.

Gary told me he’s 49 years old, works on classic cars by day, and sells drugs by night for extra money. He has a beautiful son who he loves with all of his heart. When he removed his hat and pulled his shirt collar aside, his bald head and IV port revealed his personal nightmare: Gary was also fighting stage four colon cancer. He made it clear that his cancer was not an excuse for his behavior, or for his personal drug use.

I was caught off guard when Gary squeezed my hands and began to pray. He prayed against forces of the enemy. He prayed for blessing over my life. He prayed protection and favor over his son. For himself, he prayed for wisdom and strength to do the next right thing.

As he walked back to his car, he turned around and said, “It’s time for me to go home and kiss my son good night. Thank you for reminding me of what’s important.”

Every day, we pass people by, like they’re just part of the scenery. We have absolutely no clue what kind of story, beauty, and pain lie beneath the surface.

If you're in pain, please know we understand and we're ready to help. Call us today at (844) 338-5587. 
By Jodi MacNeal 18 Jan, 2018
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By Jodi MacNeal 16 Jan, 2018
How do you carry your recovery into the world? Do you pin it on daily, like a badge of honor? Do you bring it out just for special occasions, or do you keep it well and truly hidden?

Last month, a longtime acquaintance told me (in slightly hushed tones) that he’s in recovery. 

I was glad that I didn't hear any traces of shame or guilt in his voice. His long-ago drinking and drug use? It’s just the life he was living at the time. He’s not afraid of being judged, or of any stigma attached to substance abuse and recovery.

It’s just that he’s moved on. He’s private about being in recovery and it’s not particularly relevant to the life he's achieved – husband, father, business owner, artist, athlete. He sponsors people, even quietly mentions that he’s a former addict when he thinks it might help somebody. He probably won’t bring it up with his kids unless they ask him point-blank, once they’re old enough to understand. It’s a crazy-healthy way to be.

For some people, declaring their recovery to the world is a part of staying clean. It gives them a sense of identity and a tribe – their own #MeToo community. They’re vocal, active, engaged. These are the folks going into the prisons, leading the meetings, talking to groups of high school students and their parents. Walking though recovery means talking about recovery. They have no secrets.

Then there are others who’ve closed and locked the door. The subject is not open for discussion, and if you happen to touch upon it, everybody’s going to feel a little uncomfortable for a while. This happened to me not long ago, with a pastor friend. Trying to find a way to refuse a glass of prosecco I offered, he made a joke about being an overachiever in everything – including, at one time, drinking. He made his point in a way that made it clear that was all he was planning to say on the matter. His right, and I respect that.

It seems to me that there are a million ways to navigate long-term recovery. What’s your way?
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