How to Break the Cycle of Codependency
If you’ve ever tried to quit an addictive substance and experienced painful withdrawal symptoms, you already know that dependency and addiction are physical realities. Effective treatment programs start by addressing that physical dependency with medically supervised detox, but they don’t stop there.
In order to break free of addiction once and for all, it’s important to understand and address the underlying emotions and beliefs that contribute to destructive behavior.
For example, codependent relationships can sometimes lead someone to try and ultimately abuse an addictive substance.
Read on to learn more about codependency, how it affects addiction, and how you can break the cycle of codependency in your own life and family.
What is codependency?
Mental Health America defines codependency as “an emotional and behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to have a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship.” To be trapped in a codependent relationship is to be in a relationship that is largely one-sided and emotionally destructive. This may be with a boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, or even a co-worker.
In many cases, a codependent is trying to please or take care of someone to the extent that they play the martyr and neglect their own mental and physical health along the way. They may also be enabling the other person to continue destructive behaviors of their own. Codependency is also sometimes called a relationship addiction, because codependents can become addicted to the sense that they are needed in the other person’s life, even if that “need” is abusive.
Codependency is typically a learned behavior that is passed down in dysfunctional families.
In other words, if you lived with and observed a codependent family member as a child or teen, you could later exhibit those same unhealthy tendencies as an adult—and ultimately pass them on to your children. This is why we call codependency a cycle.
How do I know if I’m in a codependent relationship?
It can be hard to be objective and honest about our own relationships, behavioral patterns, and beliefs. If someone close to you has expressed concern over your relationship(s) as one-sided, unhealthy, and/or abusive, it’s a good idea to listen to their concerns and closely examine the reality of those relationships.
WebMD recommends asking yourself the following three questions to help gauge if you’re in a codependent relationship:
- Are you unable to find satisfaction in your life outside of a specific person?
- Do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in your partner but stay with him or her in spite of them?
- Are you giving support to your partner at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical health?
If you are experiencing a great deal of anxiety over a particular relationship in which you are trying to change or please the other person, you could be in a codependent relationship.
How does codependency affect substance abuse and addiction?
In a codependent relationship, there is typically one person who is manipulating while the other is compliant with the first person’s manipulation. Both people can be at risk of substance abuse and, ultimately, addiction.
If you are the manipulator in the relationship, you may pull strings to get the other person to enable your substance abuse. You may use your power over your partner, family member, or friend to get what you want, whether that be money, drugs, alcohol, or simply the permission and space to continue your destructive behavior.
On the other hand, if you are the one being manipulated, you could be contributing to or passively supporting your partner’s behavior—or you could turn to drugs or alcohol to help you face your own feelings of guilt, anxiety, and frustration.
How can I break the cycle of codependency?
The first step in breaking the cycle of codependency in your own life or family is to recognize that it is a problem that needs to be addressed. By making it this far into this article, you’re off to a good start.
It’s important to realize, however, that you can’t simply “will away” codependent habits or relationships. Because codependency is typically a generational cycle in which you learned unhealthy habits and behaviors from a family member, therapy is often needed to break free of this cycle and re-establish healthy relationships.
Therapies like EMDR and CBT have often proven helpful for individuals who need guidance understanding and correcting patterns in their behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.
With the proper tools, it’s possible to restore a codependent relationship to a healthy state without ending it all together, but this does typically require professional guidance.
If you are in a codependent relationship where you or the other person is turning to substance abuse or addiction, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A good rehab program is one that will dive into these emotional triggers to substance abuse to guide you or your loved one towards a holistic recovery.
Treating Codependency and Addiction at Hawaiian Island Recovery
Here at Hawaiian Island Recovery, our focus on dual diagnosis allows us to treat addiction alongside any mental or emotional conditions that are contributing to that addiction.
Through intensive group and individual therapy, we can help you or your loved one break free of the cycle of codependency and addiction to live a life of holistic health of the body, mind, and spirit.