Alcoholism is one of the most prolific types of addiction in America today. It does not discriminate — the grip of alcoholism can take hold of almost anyone, no matter their social status, race, or gender. Many alcoholics in today’s society have codependent relationships. For an alcoholic, these types of relationships only add fuel to their addiction in the unhealthiest way possible.
What Does Codependency Look Like?
Codependency in any relationship is not healthy. These types of relationships are dysfunctional at their core and do not serve either partner in a positive way.
Codependency is based on each partner’s self-esteem and emotional needs being dependent on the other person. Codependency can lead to unhealthy behavior in a relationship that can become extremely toxic for both partners in the long run.
The hallmark of codependency is relying on another person as your only source of happiness. You may also have low self-esteem, have weak boundaries with others, and aim to please others to the point of self-harm.
When you add a person who is struggling with an addiction to the mix, codependent partners quickly become their enablers.
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How Does Codependency Develop?
There is a distinct connection between alcoholism and codependency. So much so that this phrase was actually created for the purpose of referring to the partners of alcoholics.
However, codependency and alcoholism are not mutually exclusive. A codependent relationship can develop between any two people — even the happiest and healthiest partners.
But it’s important to note that being codependent on another person is a learned behavior. Generally, this type of behavior is learned during childhood, especially if a person is raised with an alcoholic parent.
However, codependent behaviors from childhood can also be learned through other instances. This includes childhood abuse, a chronically ill parent, or growing up amidst a dysfunctional marriage.
Supporting a Codependent Alcoholic
The premise of alcoholism or any other addiction is based on codependency. A person becomes dependent on a substance in order to find relief or fulfillment etc. But what comes first — alcoholic or codependent behavior?
Codependent behavior stems from mental health issues. This then manifests as an addiction, i.e. alcoholism. When a person battling alcoholism meets a person with their own codependency issues, this is where a relationship becomes toxic.
People with codependent behaviors tend to be drawn to one another. This is because both partners recognize a need for help and nurturing in the other. These personality traits draw these types of people together.
If a person is already struggling with an addiction, this can be even more of a drawcard for a codependent partner as they aim to ”fix” or ”save” the other person.
So, what are the typical behaviors of a codependent relationship?
As a codependent partner, your aim is to ”rescue” people, and take full responsibility for their actions
- You constantly make sacrifices for your partner, even if it’s not reciprocated
- Making sacrifices for your partner boosts your self-esteem — it makes you feel worthy
- You do more than your fair share in the relationship, including chores, emotional support, and financial support
- You cling onto your relationship, even if you know it’s unhealthy
- You feel like you would not survive without the relationship / would feel completely worthless
These tend to be the markers of a standard codependent relationship. But what about behaviors with a partner who is battling addiction? Just some of these include:
- You make excuses for their inappropriate behavior, i.e. getting drunk when it’s not appropriate
- You absorb responsibility for their poor behavior and often feel like you caused your partner to act out, too
- You purposefully accept their poor behavior in order to avoid conflict
- You don’t do anything to discourage their addictive behavior in order to avoid conflict
Codependent partners are always looking for approval, recognition, and emotional support from the other. They may feel worthless, depressed, and anxious without it. You may also struggle to find satisfaction from anything else besides your relationship. As a result, hobbies, personal interests, and friendships fall to the wayside.
Of course, all of these behaviors work in a vice-versa swing of the pendulum. An alcoholic spouse feeds off this form of enabling while offering the same toxic form of ”nurturing” to their spouse.
What to Expect From Treatment
Being in a codependent relationship does not mean the relationship is not loving. But if you are the codependent spouse of someone with alcoholism, you are doing more harm than good, for both you and your partner.
It’s important to know the signs of codependency. And also come to terms with the reality that your relationship may be fueling your partner’s addiction. It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but it’s the only way to break the cycle of addiction and codependency.
When a partner seeks treatment for alcoholism, you will be treated together to assess your relationship. Professional treatment can help you both come to terms with the nature of codependency and its cause.
Treatment for alcoholism and codependency also includes separate, one-on-one therapy. This is so that you can develop your self-esteem, separate from your partner. This is the most important aspect of growing as individuals and learning to depend on yourself for your own sense of self-worth.
Find Your Way to a New Life With Renewal Lodge
If you live with and support a codependent alcoholic, there’s no time like the present to seek treatment for you both. At Renewal Lodge, you have access to an intensive 30, 60, and 90-day recovery program. We specialize in all forms of substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.