Family members of individuals struggling with a substance use disorder often are on the receiving end of collateral damage related to their loved ones’ addiction to drugs or alcohol. When a person goes into treatment, their family can benefit from understanding their roles in the initial addiction, including codependency and enabling. This provides them a way to understand how to break the cycle and use a fresh perspective to help while their loved one navigates recovery.
Family Programming for Addiction
Many times codependency functions as part of a relationship between someone who has a substance use disorder and a loved one. It can be a relationship between family members, parent and child, romantic partners, or close friends. In a codependent relationship, one person enables another person to maintain irresponsible, addictive, or underachieving behavior. The relationship is often one-sided and emotionally destructive.
The codependent person often shores up their own identity by relying on the relationship in order to meet their emotional needs. They identify as a “giver” and enjoy feeling needed by the person they rely on, even when they provide things that are ultimately unhealthy for them. The person with the addiction, and often accompanying mental health issues, fills the role of the “taker”. They find it easier to continue their addictive behaviors because the codependent person offers them excuses and protection.
Ryan Potter, MSW, MCAP, ICADC, and Director of Clinical Development for Ambrosia Treatment Center explains further:
“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. 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.”
Recognizing if codependency exists provides a significant jumping-off point for a family to begin healing. Symptoms of being codependent can include the following:
- An exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
- Making the other person’s needs a priority over their own
- Providing excuses and apologies for the other person’s behavior
- Remaining focused on attempting to rescue their loved one
- Avoiding responsibilities and relationships in favor of the other person’s life
- An unhealthy dependence on the relationship
- 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
Enabling a Loved One
When someone a person loves is in trouble, the natural inclination is to want to offer help. It crosses a line when a person has the best of intentions but instead ends up enabling the person. What initially feels like being helpful actually helps protect someone from consequences that could be real incentives for them to make a change and seek treatment.
If you are unsure whether or not you enable a loved one, ask yourself if you do any of the following:
- Ignore things they do that are dangerous and sustain their addiction
- Keep their problems a secret from others
- Lie and offer excuses for the person
- Blame other people and situations for the person’s addiction or behaviors
- Avoid talking about drugs or alcohol with them
- Provide drugs or alcohol to them
- Prioritize their needs over your own
- Act out of fear of what may happen if the loved one has to take responsibility for their actions
- Feel resentment towards the loved one but still enable them
- Hope or assume that the situation will get better on its own
Family Programming For Addiction in West Palm Beach
Anyone can learn to break the cycle of enabling their loved ones. Getting guidance and support from professionals or other families in the same situation helps you recognize and make changes. You can get started now by calling or texting (888) 492-0489 for free advice from our Family Wellness Counselors or learn more about our admissions process. We also offer our Family Meeting Finder to help you find local help.