The Link Between Codependency and Alcohol Addiction

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Codependency and alcohol addiction occur together commonly, making it an issue that often arises during the addiction, as well as part of the recovery process. 


Defining Codependency

Codependency happens in a relationship in which one person develops an unhealthy reliance on the other person. The codependent person may lean on someone else for their emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual needs. The relationship can exist between parent and child, romantic partners, friends, and other closely bonded duos. 

These days, the label of “codependency” is often applied haphazardly to any strained or overly reliant pattern in a relationship. Its true definition lies in a relationship in which one person enables the self-destructive tendencies of another person. Many times this involves someone who struggles with addiction or mental illness and may also include an individual who does not take responsibility for their own actions or reach their full adult potential. 

Because of the prevalence of this mindset when it comes to substance and alcohol abuse, codependency and alcohol addiction often manifest together. A person who deals with this condition often has low self-esteem and difficulty setting boundaries and respecting those that others have established.

The codependent person is the “giver” and feels validated when they perceive themselves to be needed by the other person. The other person fills the role of the “taker” and receives a payoff from the devotion the giver demonstrates for them. The interaction between the two people in a co-dependent relationship often acts in a circular pattern. Each person’s role feeds into the other one. 

Recognizing Signs of Alcohol Addiction

People involved in a codependent relationship often are unable to recognize the fact that one of them is addicted to alcohol. The giver often makes excuses for the person with the addiction, blaming their situation on outside forces or even themselves. 

Signs of an addiction to alcohol can include: 

  • Unable to stop drinking or reduce the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Requiring larger amounts of alcohol due to building up a tolerance
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, including driving drunk
  • Neglecting family, work duties, and social situations in favor of drinking
  • Spending inordinate amounts of money on alcohol, even to the point of selling personal items or going into debt
  • Withdrawal symptoms when unable to drink alcohol
  • Legal problems, including being arrested for DUI/DWI
  • Developing health problems due to alcohol consumption
  • Changes in mood, including depression and anxiety
  • Violent behavior when under the influence

Signs That a Person May Be Codependent

Many people don’t know how to recognize signs of codependency, making it difficult to know when they are in a codependent relationship. Some of the symptoms of codependency include:

  • Focusing on trying to rescue another person or convince them to change bad habits or end an addiction
  • Assuming responsibility for how another person acts
  • Making excuses and apologies for them
  • Apologizing to the person even when not in the wrong
  • Putting the other person’s needs ahead of theirs
  • A sense of self-worth that hinges on other people liking them
  • Avoiding responsibilities, goals, and pastimes in order to devote time to the other person
  • Difficulty defining themselves unless it’s in relation to someone else
  • Trying to avoid conflict at all costs

Who Becomes Codependent?

A person may become codependent because they learned it at an early stage in life. Children who witness codependency in their parents or other influential relationships may assume this is how people act. Even if they realize how damaging that dynamic can be, they may not recognize when they repeat the pattern in their own relationships. 

People who suffer from physical and mental health issues can be prone to codependency. Individuals who suffered abuse as a child or as part of a marriage or romantic partnership often live a life of codependency.

Codependency and alcohol addiction often correlate. The initial use of the term applied to people with a spouse who was an alcoholic. Often the spouse covered up their partner’s excessive drinking and made excuses for why they could not stop. This relationship dynamic became so commonly discussed in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings that it necessitated having a formal description. 

Can Alcoholism and Codependency Be Treated Together?

Many treatment programs and professionals treat both codependency and alcohol addiction. Often a person with addiction also suffers from a co-occurring mental health issue. When an individual receives treatment for both addiction and codependency, they often experience a reduction in certain mood disorder symptoms. Common ones include depression, stress, and anxiety.

The “giver” in the relationship can benefit from having their own therapy. Learning who they are separate from the other person can help establish boundaries and a desire to extinguish their need to constantly try to save their loved one. In the case of a marriage or partnership, couples counseling often helps both people step away from their own roles and become more independent.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment in California

Clear Recovery Center offers a well-rounded program that helps people dealing with alcohol abuse. We treat substance use disorders and understand how to help people stuck in a co-dependent relationship. We provide detox and residential programs, outpatient assistance, and a host of types of therapy designed to help you embrace recovery and change your life. 

If you or someone you care about suffers from addiction to alcohol, we can help. Contact Clear Recovery Center today to find out more.

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