What is Codependency?
Codependency can be defined as any relationship in which two people become so invested with each other that they cannot function independently anymore.
Being codependent with someone who is addicted to drugs can be very painful. It can leave someone feeling helpless and alone. Many people with codependency issues will often only be/feel OK if the addict is OK.
Signs of Codependency
Many codependents become so obsessed with the addict and the addict’s behaviour that they abandon themselves and their own needs. They lose interest in their hobbies and reduce time spent with family and/or friends. They have difficulty setting aside time for themselves because they feel that the addict is more important than them. This can leave the codependent feeling isolated and alone.
Fear of Abandonment
Many codependents have a fear that they will be abandoned resulting in them not knowing where the addict is or what they are doing. This can cause the codependent to feel very anxious. Due to this fear, the codependent will do anything not to be abandoned by the addict, such as adjusting their once rigid boundaries to blurred or weak ones.
Many people who have codependency issues have weak or blurred boundaries with the addict they are codependent with. Boundaries are weak or blurred in areas such as feelings, thoughts, needs, money, and belongings.
A person may start out with rigid boundaries but then as they go deeper into the codependency they move the goalposts further apart. An example of this is that a codependent may start off with very strict rules about not lending money in case the addict uses the cash to buy drugs. However, the codependent person will buy them food or clothes. Then as time goes by, they will eventually start lending money but limit the amount. Before they know it they are lending more and more money possibly without having it repaid to them by the addict all the while knowing that they are paying for the addict’s drugs.
They may fall into the trap of convincing themselves that they ‘have’ to lend them the money because otherwise, the addict may begin obtaining the money using other means such as stealing and possibly ending up in prison. The codependent is led to believe that they have no choice in the matter because they need to ‘save’ the addict from the consequences of their actions.
Other Symptoms of Codependency
There are many other symptoms of codependency such as:
- People pleasing
- Low self-esteem
- Poor self-care
- Lack of trust in others and themselves
- Poor decision making
Help for Codependency
If you think or know you might be codependent there is help. Counselling can offer you the space to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour around the addict. Counselling can also give you the tools to cope with codependency. There are also 12 step support groups such as Al-Anon and Families Anonymous that offer a space to share safely with a group of people who will be able to relate to you and your feelings.