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Codependency

People with codependency form or maintain one-sided relationships that are emotionally destructive.

Often called a ‘relationship addiction,’ codependency describes any relationship that enables another person to maintain irresponsible, addictive or underachieving behavior.

“They have good intentions — trying to take care of a person who is struggling…but, the caretaking becomes compulsive and defeating. When codependents place other people’s health, welfare and safety first, they lose contact with their own needs, desires and sense of self. While the addict, who can (and should) be taking care of themselves, has less confidence in their own resiliency and capabilities and less motives to change their behavior. Ultimately, tough love is critical to support recovery, not addiction.”

– Ryan Potter MSW, MCAP, ICADC • Director of Clinical Development

People with codependency form or maintain one-sided relationships that are emotionally destructive.

Characteristics of Codependents

Many codependent people come from homes where their emotional needs were not met. Their parents did not provide the attention, warmth and responsiveness that children need. They grow up feeling that their needs do not matter. Even worse, codependent behavior is also mirrored by children, continuing a cycle of unhealthy relationships.

The following symptoms are deeply ingrained habits that are difficult to identify and change. Awareness is the first step (followed by acceptance and action).

  • An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • A tendency to do more than their share
  • An unhealthy dependence on relationship (doing anything to hold on to a relationship to avoid feelings of abandonment)
  • An extreme need for approval and recognition
  • A sense of guilt when asserting themselves
  • A compelling need to control others
  • Lack of trust in self and others
  • Difficulty identifying feelings
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Problems with intimacy
  • Poor communication

Real-Life Examples Rehab Reviews Highest Rated
7.5K+ Clients Helped
Ambrosia Treatment Center
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Regina D. <small><noscript><img src=
Treatment Center
My son is an addict and I couldn't stand to say or even think those words in the beginning. Because I denied what he was going through, I prolonged the inevitable. Because he had lost his job and his apartment, I moved him into my house. Soon enough he began stealing from me and pawning my jewelry. I should have been more aware, but I couldn't see him doing that to me. I was in denial. He still couldn't find a job and I still picked up after him. I realized that even though I thought I was helping him, I was actually making it worse. I showed him tough love and I had to let him find out the misery for himself. Today, I have my son back. I’m not locking the doors or hiding my purse. He has become a young man with a bright future, as long as he stays the path.
July 16
4 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Tonya P.
Treatment Center
I would wake up in the morning and find him strung out, laying in a pile of dirty clothes and the house was a wreck. Every night he came home was like a hurricane: furniture would be thrown, screaming would ensue and it was emotionally and physically exhausting. I don't know how I survived all those years. After a blacked out rage, I finally called it quits. I'm no longer picking up after him, I'm no longer making excuses for why he is late or why he doesn't show up to work or other obligations. I treated him as a child and that was my fault. But since leaving him, he's cleaned up a bit. His place is pretty spiffy and he holds down a full-time job. I'm proud of him and I'm grateful he's finally worked on himself. As for me, I finally feel free and I know what I deserve in a relationship.
July 19
5 5
Ambrosia Treatment Center
4.5 7500
Ambrosia Treatment Center
Riley G.
Treatment Center
My three year relationship with my girlfriend ended brutally. Although I couldn't see it, I was heavily addicted to substances and her. I drove under the influence, put other peoples lives at danger, and I wasn't faithful. I've put her through a lot, but she stayed with me through it all. I thought if I toned down the drinking, the relationship will drastically change for the better, but there was fear and resentment in the way of us actually having a healthy relationship. I always joked that she had control issues, but she was honestly afraid I was going to die without having someone to rely on. She was scared for my life. But because she called the relationship off, she saved my life in the end. I'm thankful that she finally stopped fixing what I broke. Without that lesson, I wouldn't be alive or sober today.
August 12
5 5

Everything Else You Need to Know...

Codependence is an illness. Codependence is the result of a developmental delay and is not an illness. Developmental delays are a pause on the individual’s brain, stopping the process of growth. Once you become aware of your codependent behavior, you can develop new ways to live.

Only weak people are codependent. Anyone can fall into the trap of codependency. Submissive codependents need someone to be in service of, while dominant codependents need someone that they can overpower.

Codependent people should ‘get over it.’ Changing behavior is hard. (Consider the difficulty of dieting). You can alter the way you think about and respond in relationships over time, but there is no quick fix.

1. Become self-responsible. Taking care of yourself is not selfish. Loving yourself means learning to manage and regulate your own feelings and to define your own worth. Work on tuning into your mind and body. Grow your ability to make your own decisions. Listen to and trust your own feelings and intuition. Observe what you are feeling and thinking and remind yourself that you are allowed to have opinions and judgments.

2. Stop reacting, start responding. Reacting to something someone said or did is sporadic and emotional. Responding is thoughtful and guided by logic. A response can change the direction of interaction, whereas a reaction only fuels a fire.

3. Practice communication. Express yourself honestly by saying what you think and feel. Ask for what you need. However, also learn to really listen. Pay attention and let the other person talk without interrupting.

4. Face the truth about your relationship. Ask yourself, “What will happen when I displease this person?” If the person will reject, humiliate or punish you in some way, and your behavior centers around ways to avoid this reaction, realize you need to make changes. A addict should not be made comfortable in their addiction.

5. Pay attention to how you talk to and treat yourself. Much of low self-esteem is self-inflicted. Train yourself to speak gently and encouraging rather than telling yourself what you should or shouldn’t be doing or what’s wrong with you. You should not feel guilty or responsible for a loved one’s addiction.

6. Have some fun and pursue hobbies and interests of your own. If you spend your efforts attempting to protect and keep the love of another, you’re probably not spending sufficient time developing yourself.

7. Let go of control and the need to manage other people. Remember, you cannot change or “fix” someone else. Only they have the power to do so.

8. Reach out for help when you feel low. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re self-sufficient and can manage alone. That’s a symptom of codependency, too. Remind yourself that it’s healthy to accept help from others and a sign of strength rather than weakness.

9. Establish boundaries. One of the most important ways to stop codependency is to establish boundaries. You can — and often should — say “no.”

10. Make changing a priority. Challenging yourself and genuinely change. Start by outlining destructive behaviors. Then, find alternative, healthy behaviors and actively implement them.

The first step in changing unhealthy behavior is to become aware. You must identify and embrace your feelings and needs, which includes learning to say “no.” Because this is so difficult, the resources below can provide support.

Support Groups

Codependecy is hard to self-identify. Getting guidance from peers in the same situation can help you see and change your negative behaviors. You learn from their experiences and are reminded that your life, feelings and happiness are important too. The groups below are available across the country.

  • Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOAs)
  • Al-Anon/Alateen — for friends and families of alcoholics
  • Co-Anon — for friends and family of addicts
  • Nar-Anon — for friends and family of drug addicts
  • Codependents Anonymous (CODA)
  • Ambrosia’s Family Group — for anyone near Medford, NJ
24/7 Recovery Helpline

No one should suffer through the addiction of a loved one alone. If you are struggling with setting boundaries, need advice or just need someone to talk to about your loved one’s addiction, call anytime (888) 492-0489. The helpline is free and open to the public.

Clinical Treatment

Clinical treatment for codependency focuses on helping you become self-aware to make tough, yet healthy choices in the future. Often the therapy involves exploring early childhood, as codependent behaviors are learned by example.

Ambrosia’s California and Florida alcohol rehab programs involve both the individual and their loved ones in the codependency recovery process.

  • A codependent individual takes responsibility for their loved one’s behavior, believing if they get their loved one sober, it will bring them happiness and fulfillment.
    For example, they might become their caretaker, spending endless time worrying about them. They might assume it’s their responsibility to clean up after and apologize for their loved one’s behavior. However, no one else can get someone sober besides the addict themselves.
  • Codependent people who believe they can’t survive without their partners do anything they can to stay in their relationships, however painful.
    They might unknowingly even help their loved one continue to use alcohol or drugs by giving them money, food or even drugs and alcohol, for fear of what would happen if they did things differently.
  • Codependent’s sense of purpose in life wraps around making extreme sacrifices to satisfy their loved one’s needs.
    For example, many neglect other important relationships because of the amount of time and energy that is focused on their codependent partner.
  • Codependents prevent their codependent loved one from learning common and needed life lessons.
    For example, a mother who constantly cleans up, protects, and shelters their child hinders their loved one from learning to do their own laundry and fight their own battles.
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