What Are the Signs of Codependency in Addiction?

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What are the Signs of Codependency?

Certified Intervention Professional Mike Loverde Explains Codependency

Mike Loverde has performed interventions with families from Washington and California to Florida and Maine, and the issues of codependency and enabling are present in in nearly all cases of addiction. Recovery from addiction is a process that is difficult for both the addict and families. In the video below, learn what to expect in addiction interventions for codependency and Family First Intervention’s tips for overcoming roadblocks in recovery.

The Relationship between Codependency and Enabling

Codependency is like enabling – they kind of feed off one another. People who are codependent feel better when the other person feels better, and they feel worse when the other feels worse.

Some of the biggest behaviors we see in codependency – and some of the main reasons (codependent) people don’t intervene is they are needed in the relationship. They (as enablers) feel that it is now their role to take care of the addict or alcoholic loved one and if it weren’t for them, the addict would die.

Enablers think that the enabling – and fueling of the codependent relationship – is helping the addict, and it is not. It’s making them more comfortable, and it’s making it easier for them to stay sick.

The Addict or Alcoholic Doesn’t Want Help because They Don’t Need Help

Enabling occurs in most addictions, and that is how the addiction is allowed to continue. People often say, addicts don’t want help. However, it’s not about whether they want help, but whether or not they have to get it.

If you’re taking care of everything, if you’re codependent and enabling, why would the addict give up on that comfortable situation to go to rehab? It is easier to continue the addiction at this point than to get help.

An Addiction to Being Needed

When it comes to codependency, being needed is another humongous point in the relationship. I say this to families all the time in intervention consultations, and nobody’s ever disagreed. Some do get angry, because that’s fear – I am hitting on that EGO (See Ego and Addiction).

Codependency Scenario: The Logic Behind a Codependent Loved One Allowing an Addiction To Continue

A hospice nurse cares for a man for 20 years – 7 days a week her job is to wake up, go to work, care for this man who is sick. That is her entire purpose in life. All she does is care for a sick person who can’t care for himself.

One day comes, she goes to work, and the man is not there. It’s not that he died, he got better. The sickness that kept the man in need of care had been cured, and he no longer required the type of care he needed before.

The nurse cares deeply about the man she had taken care of for so long, but is not truly happy. Why? Because now the codependent relationship has switched, and we just took away her purpose, her reason for being, and we just hit her ego. That man got better without her and that crushes her.

That man was her normal – that was her routine. For 20 years, caring for another was this woman’s routine. Change is difficult, and the woman yearns for her routine, and no longer feels needed.

The Takeaway

The story of the hospice nurse is used to illustrate the fact that codependency is rooted in empathy, and even though the logical outcome is to let the man get better, she wishes to what she knows and what is comfortable.

If we choose to stay where we are, we will never know anything better. Take a look at your situation right now. Do you want better? Then change the situation now.

Families Forget What it Was Like Before the Addiction Started

In drug and alcohol family interventions, we ask families, ‘What was it like before the addiction?’ Families will tell us stories of the great times before the addiction, and you can see their happiness. Then we ask, ‘what is it like since the addiction?’ Likewise, families tell us on and on about how bad it is now, and they are obviously hurting and in pain. When we ask, ‘why do you let it continue,’ families never have an answer.

The obvious course of action is to make the change for the better. The enabler needs to change and stop their enabling behaviors, while the addict needs to stop using and start the recovery process. Neither side wants to budge, because change is uncomfortable.

Why Do Families & Friends of Addicts Let the Addiction Continue?

Simply because the cycle of addiction and enabling is now all that the family knows. We become a product of our environment, and we are not perfect. Our egos tend to not let us see how imperfect we really are, but we make bad decisions all the time and become a product of that environment and become afraid to change.

  • We stay in bad marriages because of the fear of being alone.
  • We stay in bad jobs for the fear of being rejected or fear of presenting yourself in an interview

We tell ourselves other things to justify why we stay in situations when we are simply afraid of change.

  • We stay in bad marriages because of the fear of being alone.
  • We stay in bad jobs for the fear of being rejected or fear of presenting yourself in an interview
  • Fear Allows Enabling Behaviors
  • Enabling Allows the Addiction to Continue
  • Enabling Behaviors Create a Codependent Relationship
  • A Codependent Relationship Allows Addiction to Continue
  • Fear of Losing Control of the Codependent Relationship (By the Enabler) Prevents Change
  • Lack of Change Locks the addict and Enabler in a cycle of fear and Allows Addiction to Continue
  • An Intervention is needed to Break the Cycle

“Enabling is Disabling an Addict from Helping Themselves”

That’s codependency! You’re attached to someone else’s way of being, and you feel that you have to do certain things to help them, when what you are really doing is disabling them from helping themselves.

The Change Formula and Addiction

There are hundreds of theories on how to treat addiction, but no one stops using drugs and alcohol when things are going well, the stop and things are going bad and its not working.

The Change Formula and Addiction

Addiction and the Fear of Change

There are hundreds of theories on how to treat addiction, but no one stops using drugs and alcohol when things are going well, they stop when things are going bad and its not working. That’s when someone is truly ready to make a change, when the continuing the current situation is scarier than the fear of change.

That’s the change-formula of life: when do we change? When the current situation becomes worse than the fear of changing the situation.

The Change Formula can be used in recovery but can also be applied to other situations in life. It can even be used to avoid getting stuck in negative situations, habits, and relationships. If you feel your situation worsening, use the Change Formula to preemptively change your situation before fear disables your ability act.

The more you use the change formula in your life, the more you will see that the rewards of change outweigh the temporary fear and anxiety you might have had about the change. The more positive experiences you bank, the easier it is to see that change is beneficial.

Codependency and Fear of the Unknown

One of the first questions families have about interventions is, ‘what if we do an intervention and they say no?’ No is easy – you just carry on as you have. No change to be afraid of… What you are afraid of is, ‘what if they say yes?’

What if the addict says no?

"No is easy, you just carry on as you have."

What if the addict they say yes?

When an Addict Says Yes to Treatment, That’s When Change and Fear of Change Begins

When we do an intervention and the addict says no, it’s quiet. When the addict says yes, the enabling and codependent family members – within 5 days – begin to attack and lash out. They verbally attack the interventionist, staff, they lash out at the treatment team, and they lash out at other family members.

Fear and negative Feelings will come change, you can’t avoid it. The negative feelings and emotions come out and there will be fighting and manipulation and all of the worst sides of our personalities get exposed. This is all a part of the process of change.

We fear change. Change is uncomfortable, and we outwardly emote that fear. Families and addicts can kick and scream during the change and while they grapple with their fears, but those fears cannot derail the intervention and the subsequent recovery process.

The recovery is the most important thing, and it takes an interventionist to keep that goal in sight.

What an Intervention Means to Families

What does an intervention mean for a codependent, enabling family member? An intervention means: ‘I lose my purpose, I am no longer needed in this relationship, I have to look at myself and my behaviors in the relationship, my family needs to find a new role, we have no more drama and chaos, we have nothing more to talk about… and when things get quiet – things get uncomfortable.

When the addict goes off to treatment, and things get quiet at home, family often doesn’t know how to act. The family is used to the dysfunctional codependent structure, and things have gone this way for so long that they’ve adapted to it. We take away that structure – for the better, mind you – and the family is uncomfortable, and in pain, and must deal with the prospect of changing their behaviors as well.

Codependent Family Members and Addicts Will Try and Return to the Enabling Codependent Relationship as Soon as Treatment Begins

This is something we, as interventionists, will warn families about. We try and tell them this will happen, but forewarning doesn’t do much good, since denial plays its own part in the nature of the codependent relationship. As soon as treatment begins, both sides will try and return to the more comfortable way things were before – even by trying to sabotage the recovery process.

On Cutting off the Enabling & Codependent Relationship

The addict and enabling family members will lash out. Because things have gone this way for so long, they’ve adapted to it; and when we cut that off in one fell swoop (for the better), families attack the interventionists, the treatment center, etc.

An addict or alcoholic will lie and manipulate the situation to try and get out of treatment and return to their lifestyle of addiction. The lifestyle supported by the family members for so long. Believe it or not, family members believe these lies and manipulations because they too are sick and want to return to the codependent relationship and the familiar comfort just as much as the addict.

Enabling Family Members Are Sicker Than the Addict or Alcoholic

In many cases, the family are far sicker than the addict or alcoholic – and they don’t see it. This is a critical point in addiction recovery, where the entire family structure needs help. It is an interventionist’s job to keep the family on track to recovery and keep everyone motivated.

Advice for Family Members of Addicts Suffering from Codependency

The best thing a family can do is educate themselves. You can’t overcome a problem you don’t understand. If your loved one had cancer, you would dive in and learn everything you could about the disease. With addiction, you must do the exact same thing.

How to Stop Enabling in Addiction Recovery

The following are great tips to help you deal with enabling during addiction recovert. They may sound stern, but remember that it will take discipline and commitment to change  before you will see positive results.

Don’t allow yourself and your loved one to stay in the comfort zone where the addiction is thriving.

Complaining allows you and the addict to be victims. With addiction, there are victims and there is sympathy and empathy. Sympathy and empathy is comforting and allows you to become comfortable in your situation.

Everyone will ask, ‘How are you? How are you handling everything? Are you okay?’ and a codependent person will feed off this sympathy. Don’t allow the cycle to continue because you are receiving comfort from others due to your own struggles.


Where Do You Go from Here?

Learn About Family Systems
Contact Us to Speak with a Certified Interventionist

Mike Loverde

As a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP), member of NAATP, NAADAC, and accredited by the Pennsylvania Certification Board, Mike Loverde knows first-hand what it’s like to live life with addiction. By overcoming it, he had a calling to work with others who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions—the people who use and the families who feel helpless watching them decay.

With thousands of interventions across the United States done and many more to come, Loverde continues to own the intervention space, since 2005, by working with medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and others who need expert assistance for their patients who need intervention. To further his impact on behavioral health and maximize intervention effectiveness, Loverde is near completion of a Masters in Addiction Studies (MHS) accreditation, as well as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor (LISAC), and is committed to attaining the designation of a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).

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