Table of Contents

Nearly 90% of Americans are codependent. Does this fact shock you?

Codependency and substance abuse, go hand in hand. It is difficult for those who battle with substance misuse and addiction and it is equally difficult for their families.

So, what does it mean to be codependent in a relationship? A healthy mix of give and take is needed in all relationships. An excessive imbalance may indicate codependency. Codependency is an unhealthy reliance on another person or an unhealthy readiness to compromise one’s own goals and wants to please another or to simply make things work.

Codependent relationships occur in a variety of situations: chronic illness, excessive rigidity, or dysfunction like abuse or addiction being present. It is particularly prevalent in families when on-going stress or dysfunction is present. This dysfunction or stress could be a result of substance use disorders or abuse.

Codependency and addiction behaviors become a cycle and pose long-term consequences in this symbiotic relationship.

What Is Codependency?

Codependency consists of both behavioral and emotional components. It impacts a person’s ability to establish a balanced rewarding connection with another person.

Codependents relationships frequently take on certain attributes:

Within a codependent relationship, there are two distinct sorts of personalities. These personalities are the manipulator and enabler.

The Dependent (Addict)

When only one person in a codependent relationship is abusing substances, it is most likely to be the Dependent. This individual has a history of consciously or unconsciously manipulating individuals who help them in obtaining what they desire, whether it be:

The Dependent may be well aware that they have power over their partner, and may use this information to their advantage. Codependency was initially found in the families of people suffering from alcoholism but extends to people with all substance use disorders. Indeed, codependent behavior is typical among those in a personal relationship with an addicted person.

Codependency can manifest in various ways, including:

The codependent person does not necessarily have to be a partner or significant other in a codependent relationship. Codependency is common among children of drug and alcohol addicts. This happens when the child has to share in their parent’s responsibility for their own well-being.

The Enabler

An enabler is someone who, by condemning or rescuing an addict, makes it easier for them to continue their self-destructive habit. Codependency is a symbiotic relationship. In this relationship one or both parties enable the other to act in dysfunctional ways.

The enabler’s behavior often satisfies a need for the codependent. This is because their activities generate demand in the other person or persons in the relation.

To enable the addict, the dependent person makes apologies and lies for the addict, allowing the addiction to continue. A person’s urge to be needed reinforces codependency. The enabler believes he/she can keep healthy relationships by their own brand of manipulation and control. Of course, this is irrational.

The enabler then thinks he can accomplish this by avoiding conflict and cultivating dependency. Is it fair to think one can keep a healthy relationship continuing by avoiding problems? What about control by lying to free others of their responsibilities?

It is possible to manage people and situations around a codependent person. For example, a codependent household avoids confrontations and problems while justifying harmful conduct.

Signs of Codependency

People who are in codependent relationships are often unaware that they are in one at a time! Denial, such as we speak of for people who are addicted, also exists with codependent individuals.

Codependency is not healthy for either partner in the long run. In this situation, one partner can continue to sink deeper into addiction. The other partner, in the meantime, forces themselves to forego their wants and needs to provide care for the other.

Let’s look at some signs of codependency:

People Pleasing

It’s natural to want people to like you, and we all want our friends and families to be happy. However, there’s a distinction to be made between these natural instincts and constantly trying to please others, at a loss of meeting our own needs.

People pleasers often believe they have no choice except to keep others pleased. They dislike saying no. This is especially true when pleasing others interfere with their wants and needs.

Lack of Boundaries

People who play both roles in a codependent relationship frequently struggle with recognizing, respecting, and strengthening boundaries. Having limits implies respecting the other person’s right to their sentiments and autonomy. Setting your own boundaries means accepting that you are not responsible for the happiness of another individual.

People in codependent relationships frequently have a dilemma where one person does not recognize boundaries, and the other does not insist on limits. As a result, one person is dominating and manipulative, while the other is submissive and fails to exert their own will. Thus, one of the most crucial skills that families may learn in family counseling is setting and maintaining boundaries.

Low Self-Esteem

Neither person in a codependent relationship typically has a well-developed sense of self. To have a sense of purpose, one person requires the approval of the other or must be of service to the other.

The other person suffers from low self-esteem due to having to rely on someone else to meet material requirements and require validation from that person. The dependent person is frequently domineering out of a basic fear that the other person will leave them.


Feeling like you have to always take care of everyone, is an indication of codependency. This usually originates from unmet childhood needs.

As a result, one may feel forced to care for others, especially a partner, not out of love, but fear. Most people can manage independently, and worrying that everything will fall apart if you don’t take care of them is a sign of codependency.

Poor or Unclear Communication

Codependents have difficulty expressing their feelings and thoughts. When the caregiver is conscious of their wants and needs, they may still be reluctant to speak to them. He or she may feel that showing concern for the other person is paramount, or may dread offending them by exerting their own needs.

The dependent individual may communicate dishonestly to preserve control rather than to communicate. Families need to master communication skills. Both parties must learn to communicate appropriately.

Dependency on Each Other

Of course, reliance is an essential factor in codependency. Each person is dependent on the other in some way. One person needs material assistance since addiction or other challenges have hampered their independence. Taking care of someone provides the other person with validation and a sense of purpose. It is, in some ways, a bargain, though not a healthy one.

Stresses In A Relationship

Any of these issues can put a lot of strain on a relationship. When people are unable to communicate or respect boundaries, problems are unavoidable. The caregiver frequently feels stressed about doing everything correctly, whereas the dependent person frequently feels insecure about being neglected by the caregiver.

Both the manipulator and the enabler are terrified of being alone, yet neither is very happy. There may not be many disagreements because one partner is usually dedicated to keeping the other content, but both are likely to be stressed.

Approaches to Understanding Codependency

According to a recent study conducted by the scientific journal Substance Use and Misuse, a history of alcoholism in parents could have a strong contribution to the development of disruptive behavior that’s seen in adolescents.

Alcoholics may not learn how to manage intimate relationships until they are adults if they grow up in such a family. Therefore, they are unlikely to develop the social skills required for success in social settings.

Many psychiatric researchers believe that codependency is caused by hedonistic responses to traumatic childhood events.  Some people believe people who live with someone who abuses substances or drinks excessively may not be able to separate themselves from these people because they may not be able to resolve codependency issues between them.

Unfortunately, when addiction is in full control its makes bad decisions more likely for everyone. If an individual themselves does not have an addiction, non-addicts may feel compelled to take over the addict’s life to resolve the problem.

The Risks of Codependency And Substance Abuse

The loop of enabling behaviors and substance misuse in a codependent relationship will continue indefinitely unless something interrupts the cycle. In many circumstances, the event is sad, such as an overdose, a vehicle accident, a job loss, or a divorce.

According to Mental Health America, codependency is not always associated with drug usage, as previously stated. Codependency is widespread in persons who have personal relationships with people who are addicted but can also occur in homes where there are rigidly defined boundaries (as in militaristic families), where there is physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or where there is a long history of chronic physical illness. 

It can appear in a variety of people:

In families, the evidence of family codependency shows itself as family roles become stratified, and readily identified roles of Hero, Scapegoat, Mascot, and Lost Child appear in addition to the adult Enabler. In addition, many alcoholism researchers and counselors identify that rules, roles and rituals become adapted to accommodate the alcoholic in the family’s needs. Children of drug and alcohol addicts are frequently codependent, especially when the addiction has progressed to the point where the child experiences the need to take on a caregiver role with the parent.

The codependent partner in the relationship does not have to be the spouse. Indeed, Psychology Today describes how to identify codependent behavior in youngsters. However, did you know that more than eight million children under 18 live with at least one adult who has a substance use disorder? That is one in ten!

A codependent relationship is further harmed by substance usage. For example, consider the case of a couple in which one person is a drug addict, and the other is an enabler. They’ve been together for years, and one partner has never attempted to assist the other in overcoming their addiction.

Instead, the one supplies the other the drugs they sorely need, suggesting that the partner will if they do not. The partner is so emotionally involved that he thinks he’s doing the correct thing to get others’ affection and attention.

As can be shown, the one partner or manipulator has gotten dependent on their partner to help their reliance. The leading partner, often known as the enabler, is entirely reliant on the other for love and self-esteem.

Avoiding supportive behaviors and codependency adds to the relationship and family’s troubles. The only way to stop codependency and addiction is to treat both problems and modify the addicted person’s thoughts and behavior.

Who Is at Risk of Becoming Codependent

Growing up in an emotionally stressful, negligent, or abusive household teaches a youngster that caring comes with conditions. Others may develop a fear of rejection, which can weaken their self-esteem and cause them to doubt their worth. This can result in codependent behavior later in life.

The same is valid for growing up in a home where alcohol or drugs was abused. According to one study, women whose parents were alcoholics were more likely to engage in codependent behaviors.
A depressed person may become prone to codependency.

All of the factors above can impact the codependent’s physical health, personality, or other health and mental concerns.

Helping an Addicted Partner

Addicts who never have to face the consequences of their addiction will never know that they need help. Enabling an addict causes medical, financial, and relationship concerns in the family and allows the addict to avoid those consequences. Self-neglect is common in codependent households.

Some of the dangers linked with codependency and enabling are as follows:

While it is pretty normal to want to support someone you care about, in the long term, this serves no one. The first step in assisting a loved one who is addicted is to set boundaries. Confront them with the facts about their addiction and the ramifications of their conduct.

To accomplish this, you can:

Enabling will harm the addicted person’s efforts to obtain help both before and after treatment. Codependency must be addressed as part of an addict’s recovery process.

How To Treat Codependency

One person must admit that there is a problem in the codependent or dependent relationship to rebuild. The help, direction, and support of friends and family are often required, even though the tendency of codependent
people is to want to do it on their own.

To understand the roots of codependent behavior, the enabler should seek treatment. At the same time, the dependent/addict may gain the most from drug abuse treatment to recover from their addiction.

With the correct treatment and support, you can conquer codependency and substance abuse issues. A 90-day drug and alcohol detox rehab program helps the addict address the emotional, behavioral, and social elements of your addiction. A comprehensive drug rehabilitation program will also treat any co-occurring problems and behaviors, such as codependency.

Because many codependent relationships occur while addiction is present, family counseling is an excellent place to start healing.

At Bridging the Gaps, our family program is designed to:

If you or a loved one is addicted to a substance and are involved in a codependent relationship, to discover more about drug and alcohol rehab, as well as family programs, contact us today.

Medical experts and counselors regularly give emotional and behavioral counseling. The codependent person’s self-image and capacity to set realistic expectations, identify desires and establish limits improve. Family members learn how to grow and support each other as a team.

It will be much easier for a codependent to have stronger self-esteem with this form of treatment
and foster positive emotional participation and preserve healthy relationships. Forming supportive relationships via clear communication, healthy boundaries, and utilization of an organization such as 12 step organizations will enable the family as well as the dependent (addict) to enter and continue in recovery.

Get Hold of Your Life and Steer Towards a Better Future

A few variables can create a happy, balanced relationship. Change takes time. Small changes lead to bigger changes in the long run. Spend time with loved ones that support you.

Individual or group counseling can help persons struggling with codependency and addiction. An expert will help you better understand and express your feelings. Our program begins with education for families then moves to Family Aftercare as residential treatment family members are moving on to their later stages of care.

Codependency and substance abuse patterns, such as needing to be needed, will be learned and understood by all codependent partners. Families will grow in understanding together and will seek additional help as needed. The value is in teaching both parties how to engage and create a balanced relationship.

If you or someone you love needs help, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us right away. Our team will answer any questions with confidentiality, kindness, compassion, and understanding!


  1. Beatty, M. (1987). Codependent no more: How to stop controlling others and start caring for yourself. Hazelden.
  2. Ben LesserBen Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health. (n.d.). Ben Lesser. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
  3. Co-dependency. Mental Health America. (n.d.). Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
  4. Counseling center: Codependency. JMU. (2021, November 12). Retrieved from
  5. Family life matters: Combating codependency. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  6. HC;, L. L. T. (n.d.). Hedonic responses, variety-seeking tendency and expressed variety in sandwich choices. Appetite. Retrieved from
  7. Lander, L., Howsare, J., & Byrne, M. (2013). The impact of Substance Use Disorders on families and children: From theory to practice. Social work in public health. Retrieved from
  8. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Codependent relationships: Symptoms, warning signs, and behavior. Medical News Today. Retrieved from
  9. Panaghi, L., Ahmadabadi, Z., Khosravi, N., Sadeghi, M. S., & Madanipour, A. (2016, April). Living with addicted men and codependency: The moderating effect of personality traits. Addiction & health. Retrieved from
  10. Tough love. Urban Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  11. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Substance use disorder: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from
  12. Windle, M. (1996). Effect of parental drinking on adolescents. Alcohol health and research world. Retrieved from
  13. Wong, B. (2016, December 17). 6 signs you — yes, you — are the enabler in a toxic relationship. HuffPost. Retrieved from