Family Roles & Codependency
Addiction Codependency in Families
Codependency With Family Relationships & Addiction May Prevent You From Independency.
Family members with substance use disorders can prevent others within the family from happily living their own lives. When we start to protect the feelings of another individual, we often realize at some point we were trying to protect our own feelings. Being emotionally connected to the ups and downs of another can take away our identity, integrity, happiness, and individuality we once had.
Family members who enable or are codependent achieve something from the behavior, otherwise, they would not do it. It may be helpful to ask yourself some questions. What are you being provided from this codependent relationship? What you need are you fulfilling from protecting the feelings of another? What comfort is provided when your feelings become parallel with someone else?
Attention to one Person’s Addiction Affects Many Other Relationships
Like addiction, codependency is not a moral failing or the characteristics of a bad person. It is often earlier or current trauma, life experiences, and learned behaviors that are the cause. It is almost never the current situation as the sole cause of the enabling and codependency. As with addiction, it is helpful to identify the reasons behind the behavior and learn new coping strategies.
To help begin the process, it could be beneficial to 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, friendship, 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 three 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 scenarios to better fit the situation of addiction:
- 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.
Another helpful way to look at it is If you replace the words “family member” with yourself, and then replace “substance abuser” with the name of your addicted loved one.
Most people do not realize the depth of change that has taken place within themselves as the result of their relationship with someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. People affected may not see the impact it has had on other members of their family. Many times as a result, there are misplaced emotions and resentment directed solely at the substance user over the family member who may equally be responsible for the continued circumstances.
Addiction Codependency can create the fear of change and letting go of old behaviors.
Alcoholics and addicts aren’t the only ones who avoid intervention and treatment. Families often avoid intervention and therapeutic confrontation. The reasons behind their behaviors are far and wide as are the various reasons families state “it will never work” or “they will never go”. The core reason families are fearful is, they see the intervention more about what they will be giving up over what it will be providing them and their loved one. With any other medical concern that requires immediate or near immediate remedy, families would not behave or respond the same way as they do with addressing an addiction.
The fear is not in the change itself; the fear lies in the unknown that comes with change. When a family acquires maladaptive coping skills over time, the coping skills often become the new normal. The longer the addiction is addressed with these coping skills along with codependency and enabling behaviors, the harder it is to change the dynamics. When families ask questions such as what is your success rate, what if they say no or make statements referencing they will never accept help, these are often fear driven questions. The underlying fear is driven by misplaced emotions that they may actually say yes. The thought of a successful intervention can paralyze certain family members depending on their role in the relationship. A person accepting help and going away to treatment can send a translated message to the family that they now need to do something different and change their behaviors. A successful intervention means there is no more hero, no more martyr, and no more codependency. The role of caretaker is now provided by the intervention team and the treatment center. To a codependent enabler who is providing something to another in exchange for comfort to themself can be threatened by an intervention and a successful outcome.
These behaviors and thoughts of family do not make them bad people, it makes them people who are caught in the grip of another’s addiction and various family roles of behavior. Family members who are emotionally attached and flooded rarely are able to see this is happening. In fact, the mere suggestion of looking at it from this perspective can cause some to be angered. Remember, anger is often brought on by fear.
Our goal is to help families into the balcony to see this from another perspective. If this were any other medical condition outside of an addiction, family and others close to the addicted person would most likely not address the situation the same way.
“The most formidable challenge we professionals face is families not accepting our suggested solutions. Rather, they only hear us challenging theirs. Interventions are as much about families letting go of old ideas as they are about being open to new ones. Before a family can do something about the problem, they must stop allowing the problem to persist. These same thoughts and principles apply to your loved one in need of help.”Mike Loverde, MHS, CIP
Interventions provide professional perspective
If you’ve avoided confronting your loved one with a professional intervention about their addiction and the need for treatment, it could be a result of you protecting your own feelings and role in the family system. When you look at all of the trouble, heartache, and consequences drug and alcohol abuse brings to someone, you may often ask yourself why they do it. Although the reasons people abuse drugs and alcohol are endless, the question is what is it providing that is so great that they would allow it to continue even in the face of extreme consequences? After all, the drugs and alcohol are providing them with something so powerful that they are willing to sacrifice anything and everything to get it.
Couldn’t the same question be asked of families who allow the devastation to continue for much longer than they would allow other problems to continue? What does the approach of allowing this to continue provide those who are in certain family roles such as hero, martyr, and codependent enabler? What does codependency and enabling provide for someone that they are willing to allow the chaos and confusion to continue and not seek professional intervention, counseling, or guidance? If the current approach did not provide something so needed internally to them, as the substance users need for drugs and alcohol, then they would not do it or would try something different. It is not what you are doing so much as why you’re doing it, or not doing it.