Have you ever heard the phrase, “don’t get into a relationship in your first year”? For many of us, there comes a time during our newfound sober life, where we begin to turn our once beloved comfort of drug and alcohol addiction into an addiction of love, sex, and people. It seems to be a pretty common theme throughout a majority of people that come into the rooms of a 12 step fellowship. Codependency, and often a misplaced addiction to sex and physical contact, stems from a spiritual malaise that is often tied hand in hand with our current spiritual malady. Many of those who suffer from codependency are often plagued by unfulfilled relationships, abandonment issues, and issues with self-esteem, aka, most people who come into the rooms. We are constantly looking for external validation, hoping that we will find the one thing outside ourselves to make us feel okay on the inside. Whatever the reason may be, studies do show that the rates of codependency and addiction, both before and after sobriety, are very closely tied, and can be extensively damaging to a freshly recovering addict.
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Most commonly, the pattern of codependency is a learned trait that many people adopted in childhood, usually as a defense mechanism after a traumatic experience such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment. For those of us who have experienced replacing our love of drugs with one of sex and people, we can often wonder why we do this to ourselves? Especially if we are constantly flip-flopping from one seemingly meaningless and empty relationship to another. As humans, we crave the feeling of being loved, wanted, and attractive. Some of us crave it so much that this desire in itself becomes a whole new addiction for us.
As with any other addiction, the feeling we get from acting out physically and emotionally (emotions for us usually equal sex) is fleeting and is often simply just a mask that we use to disguise the real underlying issues. We may use sex and love as a replacement for loneliness, anger, self-pity, and our lack of power. We are led by the media to think that we will be fulfilled entirely by the attention and the love that we get from others, regardless of whether we truly love ourselves. This thought pattern is extremely dangerous for a recovering addict. We have enough problems focusing on ourselves and our well-being, adding a whole other person into the mix for validation and half-hearted connection can often just leave us feeling worse off than we started.
The Different Types of Codependency
The lines of being codependent can often be blurred, and easily rationalized, especially for addicts and alcoholics. The definition of codependency, as it was first identified in the 50’s by therapists who noticed the enabling patterns of alcoholic’s partners, was considered to be “a person who repeatedly places the needs of others before their own.” Sound familiar? While yes, most of us just coming out of the depths of our addiction have to admit that we were pretty selfish most of the time, can we remember any running buddies who had money or connections that we might have led on for their value?
As for a more in-depth view on a codependent, research since the 50’s has classified it as a person who takes control over the life of another on the basis that they are helping the other person, when in reality, the enabling behavior actually hinders the growth and development (and sobriety in our case) of their loved one. For myself, and probably many others, my mother comes to mind. That woman loved me even when the devil would have turned me away, and she never stopped trying to help, even after I stole from her or called her every horrible, dirty word in the book.
When it comes to addicts who are codependent themselves, the scales are even farther tipped. First of all, we tend to want to control the environment around us, and all of the people in it. As described in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, we are like the producers of a play, we want to control the lights, scenery, and the exact role of everyone involved. When they don’t act how we wanted them to, we get resentful. We may press further into people pleasing to get our way, or we can manipulate through shame and anger.
Some Common Signs of Codependency in Addiction
Although everyone is a little different, there are usually some tell-tale signs that an addict is struggling with codependency, and while yes, everyone can fall victim to some of these traits, a true codependent will almost live by these codes.
- Controlling Behavior
- Low Self Esteem
- Denial of, or Inability to Identify Personal Feelings
- Lack of Personal Boundaries
- The Constant Desire for Perfection
- Having Difficulty Making Decisions
- Lacking Trust in Oneself
- Moods Often Mirror Their Loved One
- Having an Overwhelming Sense of Responsibility for Others
For those of us who struggle with codependency and addiction, there are a lot of options to help us break our patterns. First of all, it all starts with identifying that we have a problem, just like with our drug addiction. We must see that we have a pattern, and practice breaking it. We can attend CoDa meetings or Al-anon. We must practice loving ourselves, or else we will never be able to truly love another and be a part of a healthy and meaningful relationship. For those of us who have the option of attending treatment, there are countless of programs and centers around the country that specialize in dual diagnosis cases that can create a specialized treatment plan for a codependent addict or alcoholic.
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If you have found yourself or a loved one suffering from alcoholism or addiction, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then FindAddictionRehabs.com can help. We give you the jump start to recovery you need. Our holistic program is unique in that it doesn’t just treat the addiction, it treats the whole person. For more information on our program, call 1-877-959-7271 today.