Codependency and Enabling
Many Christians put a big emphasis on relationships with others, and this is Biblically sound. God does call Christians to love one another and live in fellowship, supporting each other in various ways according to the movement of the Spirit and the examples of Jesus. But when a relationship is raised to the status of an idol — meaning someone puts relationship above everything else, even their own spiritual, physical or mental health or the health of someone they love — problems will occur. Often, this can lead to a codependent relationship, and in the context of a relationship that involves someone with a substance abuse disorder or addiction, codependency can actually hinder recovery or support addiction.
Christians are not immune to being caught in codependent relationships, and in some ways, their desire to love and care for one another unconditionally could even put them at greater risk. If you're dealing with a codependent relationship with someone who is struggling with addiction, then it's important to seek assistance. First, seek intervention for the person who is caught in addiction, but it's also critical for family to engage in counseling and education so they understand how to break the cycle of codependency and best support someone in recovery.
If you or someone you love is dealing with addiction, don't wait until things get worse to reach out for help. You can call The Road to Freedom at (844) 402-3605 anytime to speak to caring, professional counselors and find out more about treatment options. If you're not sure whether you're involved in a codependent relationship and possibly enabling someone in their addiction, read on for signs and information about how treatment can help.
What is codependency and what does it mean to enable someone?
Codependency typically occurs when someone looks outside of their self for validation and worth. They may have low self-esteem or simply have poor relationship habits that were learned throughout the years; this causes them to look to others to make them feel better. Instead of wanting others to do things for them, though, codependents often work to do things for the other person because it makes them feel better or fulfills some unnamed emotional, mental or spiritual need.
The result is that codependents often develop one-sided relationships wherein they do much of the heavy lifting for the seeming benefit of the other person involved. In reality, codependents may be causing more harm than good to the other person, because they often enable them in poor or even dangerous habits. This can range from something relatively innocuous, such as a husband enabling a wife in her absent-mindedness or procrastination, to more dangerous relationships wherein one person enables another in his or her drug addiction.
Signs of codependent behavior
Helping someone else doesn't mean you're engaging in codependent behavior. Typically, codependency does involve an ongoing relationship, and some signs that you might be engaging in codependent behavior include:
- You experience feelings of responsibility for others that are exaggerated or outside of normal boundaries; you cannot be fully responsible for the actions of another adult or even a teenager
- You regularly carry more than your fair share of the weight in the relationship
- You cover for someone's poor behavior, mistakes or addiction
- You cannot imagine yourself outside of relationship with this person, and you would go to any length to remain in the relationship
- You feel compelled to control other people, yet you experience guilt when you assert yourself or attempt to control situations
- You become very hurt if people do not seem to recognize the efforts you went through for them
Some other characteristics of people engaging in codependent behavior might include:
- Issues with anger
- Lying, especially for other people or to control other people
- Struggles to trust others or themselves
- Struggles in making decisions
If you see yourself in any of the symptoms above, consider reaching out to a counselor for assistance in overcoming your codependent behavior. Even if you aren't enabling someone in an addiction, you could be putting your own happiness at risk. Mental Health America notes that codependent behavior is often something that is learned or develops over time; that means that it's something that can be unlearned.
How is drug addiction exacerbated by a codependent relationship?
Codependent relationships can have especially dire consequences when one or more of the people involved are also dealing with addiction. Someone who is codependent actually has some addictive behaviors too — some experts refer to codependency as relationship addiction for this reason. No matter how bad the relationship is, codependents will stay, for example. Dealing with some of these addiction symptoms themselves, codependents aren't always in a position to fully recognize the danger of addiction in others and help someone seek appropriate treatment.
Beyond this issue, a codependent may exacerbate drug or alcohol addiction by enabling the other person to engage in the addiction without feeling the full consequences of their actions. For example, a codependent person may lie to cover up someone else's drug abuse. They might also stand in for that person at work or during social or family obligations, making it less likely other people will become angry with or place consequences on the other person.
The codependent person doesn't do these things because they want to cause harm to their friend or loved one. In fact, they often believe in some way they are helping the other person. Codependents may even convince themselves that they are the only person who can save this other person, and they will cling to the relationship even if they have to deal with negative consequences.
The result is that the person in addiction keeps using and may even get deeper into substance abuse, because they don't have a compelling reason to stop.
Codependency Treatment Programs Can Help
If you're looking for information on how to stop being codependent, especially in a relationship that includes addiction, it's time to reach out for professional help. Facilities such as Road to Freedom offer comprehensive approaches to addiction treatment and counseling that can include treatment for codependency.
Often, the codependency comes from a person who isn't in addiction, which means the codependent individual isn't the one who is admitted for treatment. That doesn't mean we can't help, and family therapy plays an important role in identifying such issues and helping everyone involved learn and implement healthy coping mechanisms for the future.
The Role of Faith in Codependency
At The Road to Freedom, we believe that faith and God play an important role in every person's recovery. This is definitely true in codependent treatment. Through treatment, counseling and Bible study, individuals come to understand that God can help them overcome addiction and codependent behavior, and they also learn to put God first in their lives. By doing so, many people with codependency issues find they fill a hole within themselves and they are able to begin putting the healthy habits they learn in counseling to work.
For more information about how The Road to Freedom can help with your family's struggle with addiction, call us now. Counselors are waiting to take your call at (844) 402-3605.