When someone you love is in the throes of addiction, it is easy to think they are the only one with a problem. But often times, although well meaning, loved ones can be caught in an addiction paradigm with the addicted person. Much like a bicycle, the two wheels of addiction and codependency can work in a sick kind of harmony with one another, keeping both people stuck. How can you know if you are codependent? Below are some questions that can help you determine whether you should seek help and where to turn if you need it. The questions are taken from a book, titled, Some Sat in Darkness, by Mike and Brenda Leatherwood, Declan Joyce and Joanne Randall.
Do you try and get your loved one to stop drinking or using drugs by hiding their liquor or drugs, marking bottles or throwing away drug paraphernalia? Do you cover for them if they have missed work due to their use? Do you scurry around doing different tasks to make sure they are not upset with you, to the detriment of your own health or appearance?
Are you in a continuous state of panic over what they will be like once they get home or even make it home? Do you lose your temper after your significant other has been drinking or using drugs and take it out on your children? Are you happy and “in love” with your spouse when they make promises and bitter and angry when they don’t follow through on those promises?
Do you believe that “it” (whatever the latest painful episode is) will never happen again? Do you feel a sense of “numbness” after all you have been through with your loved one? Do you feel confused, wondering if you might go crazy? Does your spouse blame you for their bad behavior and you think it might be your fault?
If you answered yes to even two or three questions, codependency is probably an issue for you. A person who is codependent is someone who prevents others from feeling the consequences of their using through control, manipulation, enabling and rescuing. A typical scenario for a codependent person is to first, rescue an addicted person from a natural consequence of their using. Then, the codependent person feels like a victim for enabling their behavior to continue. After that, they usually feel angry at being taken advantage of and then persecute the addicted person in some way. The persecution generally drives the addict to do one of two things: either drink or use to deal with a loved one’s anger OR make empty promises to the loved one. Neither of these options affects change, and the persecuting the addict can often lead the codependent to feel guilty and then rescue again and round and round the circle they go. The only way off the bicycle is to stop rescuing the addict.
So where can we turn for help? A great option for those dealing with codependency is to check out a local Alanon meeting. Alanon is a 12 step meeting for those who have a friend or family member with an addiction. Alanon is not someplace where you will learn about how to stop your loved one’s use. It is an environment where you can learn your piece of things and how to find peace and serenity in the midst of someone else having a substance abuse problem.
To learn more about Alanon visit: al-anon.org
Another great resource for learning about codependency is to read the book “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie.