One of the challenges for friends, family members, and loved ones of those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol is codependency.
The general traits of being codependent are excellently defined by the division chief the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Dr. Scott Wetzler, who said that codependent relationships “signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person doesn’t have self-sufficiency or autonomy. One or both parties depend on [another] for fulfillment.” In practical terms, the most notable sign is when one feels that their sense of purpose revolves around another person’s happiness or needs.
In relationships where substance use is present, codependency can be a form of enabling. It can also involve every member of the family unit. One of the main traits of this kind of situation is when the family members or loved ones are frequently hiding addictive behavior traits from outsiders. Instead of protecting them, like they think they are doing, they are actually creating a wider space for the person to indulge their addictive behavior.
In addition, as the addiction worsens, codependent friends, family members, and loved ones can frequently take on more of the friendship responsibilities or household duties in an effort to cover for the neglect. If you are finding yourself making excuses for someone with other people or even their employer, there’s an excellent chance you are in a codependent relationship. High-risk behaviors by people with substance use are known to increase, and a codependent person may find themselves in situations of financial difficulty to make up for acts of stealing, or trouble with the police. In fact, it is a common scenario for a friend, family member, or loved one to keep closer tabs on those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol to attempt to shield them from themselves.
Naturally, being in a codependent relationship is self destructive, but when that relationship is with an addict, it can be much, much worse.