Over time, people become accustomed to daily routines and behaviors and all the more so the longer these go on. People who abuse drugs and alcohol get comfortable being addicts and alcoholics, and families likewise get comfortable enabling them. Similarly, a person in prison eventually becomes more comfortable the longer the confinement continues. It is not uncommon for inmates to actually be afraid to leave prison because they have become accustomed to the daily routines of jail. Families doing an intervention raise an identical challenge to an addict or alcoholic entering treatment; until both of these happen, neither is truly ready to face change.

Codependents may:

  • Think and feel responsible for other people—for other people’s feelings, thoughts, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
  • Feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
  • Feel compelled—almost forced—to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
  • Feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
  • Anticipate other people’s needs.
  • Wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
  • Find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
  • Not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important.
  • Try to please others instead of themselves.
  • Find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves.
  • Feel safest when giving.
  • Feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
  • Feel sad because they spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
  • Find themselves attracted to needy people.
  • Find needy people attracted to them.
  • Feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
  • Abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else.
  • Over commit themselves.
  • Feel hurried and pressured.
  • Believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them.
  • Blame others for the spot the codependents are in.
  • Say other people make the codependents feel the way they do.
  • Believe other people are making them crazy.
  • Feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used.
  • Find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics.

Making the Addict Accountable

Below are examples of relationships:

Basic Effects of Relationships

Before we break down these roles, we must first understand some basic effects of relationships. It can be said that when two or more people become connected in a relationship of any form (work, romance, friend, or family), those in the relationship will do one or more of three things:

  • A person will assume some of the qualities of the other
  • A person will assume a role that complements the qualities of the other
  • A person will assume a role that acts counter to the qualities of the other

The most important thing to understand about the previous 3 statements is this: “When two people connect or enter into a relationship of any type, then both parties are changed as a result of that connection.” 

In other words, all parties have been changed to some degree as a result of being connected and/or in a relationship with someone who has become dependent upon drugs or alcohol. To make this a bit easier to understand, let’s replace a few words in the above “basic effects” to better fit our situation:

  • A family member will assume some of the unhealthy behaviors of the substance abuser
  • A family member will assume a role that complements the unhealthy behaviors of the substance abuser
  • A family member will assume a role that acts counter to the unhealthy behaviors of the substance abuser

If you take this a step further and replace the words “family member” with yourself, and then replace “substance abuser” with the name of your addicted loved one, things will become even clearer.

Remember, you have been changed as a result of your relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. The degree to which you have been changed is dependent upon the strength and length of time of the connection.