Historically speaking, you or someone you know might have struggled with an addiction of some sort, and had treatment. Moreover, you or someone you know may have become demoralized, confused or even devastated by the effects of being in a relationship with an addict. That being said, addiction treatment centers understand that a large part of treatment includes helping the family members, or these “co-addicted” individuals. Co-addiction or codependency deals with some of the problematic coping traits that can arise when one is in a close relationship to an addict. For example, some with co addictions, or codependency, become over functioning caregivers, and ultimately emotionally sick themselves, in an effort to help a friend or family member with an addiction. Although these “helping” patterns may be beneficial at first, this pattern of over functioning, and ultimately codependency, quickly becomes destructive and toxic in a family system.
In my work with family members who have codependent patterns, the most important first step is clarifying what is destructive/unhelpful about focusing on the family member with addiction. The challenge for sure, is helping the codependent understand that their efforts at controlling, or trying to change the addict, may be causing more harm than good. In some therapy centers, this includes helping the codependent move away from beliefs related to the “3 C’s” (that is, beliefs that one is responsible for Causing others’ choices, that one is responsible for Controlling others’ bad habits, or the belief that one is responsible for Curing diseases/addictions).
Due to addictions’ traumatic stronghold on family systems, I view codependency as best addressed though a multi faced lens, including individual therapy, support groups, and psycho education. If you are feeling stressed by a family member with an addiction, please feel free to reach out and ask about potential solutions through psychotherapy.