Codependency & Substance Abuse


holding hands - codependency & substance abuse

Addiction doesn't only affect the individual using substances. It can create a heavy burden on family members as well.


When a family is trying to cope with a loved one who is struggling with an addiction, they tend to want to provide him or her with support, love and encouragement. Some family members might take on some of the responsibilities the addicted person has stopped doing, or may provide financial support to the addicted family member.


But when does supporting someone turn into enabling them and allowing them to become codependent on you?



What is Codependency?


In healthy relationships, it’s natural to rely on each other for support. However, there’s a difference between relying on someone for support and being codependent.


Codependency is an imbalanced relationship where one person assumes responsibility for meeting another person's needs, which can lead to enabling the other person's self-destructive tendencies.



Difference Between Support & Enabling


What is the difference between supporting someone and enabling their addiction? It can be difficult to see because even when your intention is to help, it can have the opposite effect of enabling bad behavior.


The difference is this:


  • Supporting is assisting with things they are incapable of doing for themselves.

  • Enabling is keeping someone from dealing with the negative consequences of their actions.


An example of enabling can be giving someone a place to live, paying for a cell phone, or paying for a car. Allowing yourself to believe someone to be incapable of paying for a cell phone, for example, simply because they spent all of their money on an addiction is not supporting them - it is allowing them to be codependent on you.



Signs of Enabling & Codependency


1. Caretaking


Feeling responsible for the feelings, thoughts, choices, actions, and ultimate destiny of the addicted individual. This may include taking over the addicted individual’s responsibilities.


2. Weak Boundaries


Often saying you won’t tolerate certain behaviors from the addicted individual and then slowly increase your tolerance until you are accepting behaviors you said you never would. This is often accompanied by making excuses for the addicted individual - either to yourself or others.


3. Lack of Trust


Distrusting yourself, distrusting your feelings and decisions, as well as other people. Trust is an ongoing battle when you try to trust untrustworthy people such as an addicted individual - especially if you find yourself lying to protect the addicted individual.


4. Fear of Abandonment


A deep-seated fear that the addicted individual is going to leave you, or leave the safety and security you are trying to provide for them. This can include sacrificing your own mental, emotional, and physical health to protect the addicted individual from the consequences of their substance abuse.



Other Signs


Some other signs of enabling are, lying for the others addiction or consequences of their addiction to others, keeping secrets for the addict, protecting them from the natural consequences of addiction. Other signs of codependency would be ignoring the problems or denying they exist, feeling responsible for the other person's feelings and actions, refusing help because you don't think the problem is bad enough, low self esteem or depressive symptoms, the need to control or fix others problems.




Support and love from family is an integral piece of the healing puzzle, they are not enough to fight addiction on their own - and they may be hurting the situation.


If you or a loved one are struggling or need help for an addiction or alcohol problem, call us at: (630) 402-0144.